I wish I could say I was surprised that Showtime's Gothic masterpiece Penny Dreadful wasn't nominated for any major Emmys, but outside of Game of Thrones and American Horror Story, the Emmys have a major blindspot when it comes to genre TV. Seeing Tatiana Maslany sneak into the Best Actress race for her multiple performances on Orphan Black gives me hope that the times they are a changin' for genre fare. Since Penny Dreadful has only been on the air for one season, I can forgive the Emmys for not recognizing the brilliance of the Victorian monster mash. I'm not going to lie, Eva Green was at the top of my nominee wishlist for her eerie and beautiful work as the haunted Vanessa Ives. Still, if Emmy voters didn't see Green's electrifying séance scene, then how could they know it was powerful enough to earn Green a Critic's Choice Award nomination?
Luckily, there is always next year for Emmy voters to right this wrong. They have a whole year to catch up on Penny Dreadful and admire the intricacies of its plot. Penny Dreadful is doing something no other genre show on TV is doing, it is steeping itself in the history of the classic horror genre. The story of Frankenstein's monster, of the wolf man, and Dracula all converge into one coherent tale that tackles human sexuality, loneliness, the destructive power of shame, and the anatomy of fear. This a show that is all about mood. The tone is relentlessly unsettling to the point where you ultimately feel immersed in a world where all manner of evil runs rampant.
Driven by character rather than plot, Penny Dreadful is always simmering with underlying social commentary. Through the subversive nature of its characters the show examines horror tropes in relation to the body. The show is always presenting new ideas on why horror has always been obsessed with the female, the grotesque, and the unaging. Add a deep bench of skilled actors to bring these concepts to life, and the appeal of Penny Dreadful becomes obvious. It is intellectual horror at its finest, the kind of horror that begs to be picked apart and analyzed.
At the end of the day, everything comes back to Green and her tour de force performance as Vanessa. As she battles Hell itself, Vanessa's fractured soul gives Penny Dreadful its heart. Her journey more than any other character's defines the show's greatness. She is plagued by demons and repression. Being free puts everyone at risk, but controlling her power could make her the strongest person in the show's universe.
Season 2 expounded on these themes and let Green delve even deeper into Vanessa's psyche. Which means, by this time next year, Green's name should be up there beside Maslany's and the rest of the amazing women who do such brilliant work on television. She's already earned her spot, now the Emmy voters just need to watch Penny Dreadful and give it to her.
Consider this your assignment, Emmy voters: marathon Penny Dreadful, fall under its spell, and make things right next year. I know you no longer think genre television has cooties, so you have no excuse for not watching the best genre show on TV.
Image: Pat Redmond/Showtime; Giphy