Glad you asked :-)
For starters, I can say that the cinematography, set design, costuming and casting is all excellent. The show looks fabulous. I found the opening credit sequence to be less than amazing, but perhaps I've been spoiled by Game of Thrones' inventive title sequence.
The first episode left me a tad underwhelmed as I found a lot of it to feel derivative. That should be expected, I suppose, when you're doing a mash-up of all these 1800's era horror characters. Still, I couldn't help but feel a little League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vibe as Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) assembled his little team. Especially with the addition of six-gun toting Ethan Chandler, played by Josh Hartnett.
The premise is fairly simple -- Sir Malcolm's daughter has been taken by . . . something, and he's trying to get her back. And he needs a team of singular individuals to help him track her down. Mystery and paranormal weirdness ensue.
Part of Sir Malcolm's team is the mysterious Vanessa Ives, played with sultry smokiness by Eva Green. Ives' takedown of Chandler in one scene was so eerily similar to Vesper Lynd's deconstruction of James Bond in Casino Royale that I half expected Chandler to say that he felt skewered afterward.
We're introduced to a young Victor Frankenstein in the premiere as well. The young doctor has arrogance to spare and enough of a god complex that he can stand toe to toe with the formidible Sir Malcolm. I was a bit disappointed that Frankenstein's creation was given life in the first episode, thinking that it left little to work with as the series went on. But after watching the second episode (available on Showtime on Demand in SD only), I see I didn't give the writers nearly enough credit.
In the second episode, we learn much more about all the characters. So much, in fact, that it will take several viewings for this old guy to take it all in. Hartnett's Chandler is hiding out in Europe because of some serious problems with the law back home in the States. Sir Malcolm apparently took either one of his children or his wife on an expedition up a mountain and lost her (perhaps due to his single-mindedness of achieving a goal at all costs). Ms. Ives, besides being quite psychic, is also being hunted by something. Perhaps "the" vampire. Which may explain why she can stop a charging vampire in its tracks. And we learn that Dr. Frankenstein's creation in episode one isn't the first thing he's brought to life. Hmmmm . . .
And speaking of vampires -- these certainly aren't Bram Stoker's vampires. They seem to be created by some sort of Egyptian mythology instead, something about a conjoining of the Gods Amun-Ra and Amunet. And you can apparently kill them with simple bullets or sword thrusts. So we're going down a different road altogether with the vampires.
There's also former Rule 5 girl Billie Piper as an unfortunate that both Chandler and Dorian Grey (almost forgot to mention that he's here as well) spend some time with. I wasn't sure what they would do with Grey, but his introduction has him exuding some lurid goodness. An immortal, he's unafraid to take dangerous risks. As he says at one point -- "I never say no."
I can't see where they're going with Piper's character, if she'll be a continuing one. Biggest problem I have is that I can't understand half of what she says. She's got a hard-edged twangy, perhaps Cockney, accent and combined with the typical sort of fast mumbling style of Brit-speak, I'm shaking my head and cranking up the volume trying to make out her dialogue.
Since they're doing all this 1800's era characters, I'm wondering if we'll get a little Sherlock Holmes at some point. Maybe not a recurring character, perhaps just a little drive by action. The Holmes short stories had a scary edge to them. And if you're going to call your show "Penny Dreadful" you might want to add in one of the most famous of those.
So check it out if you're looking for something a little bit gothic. This might just turn out to be pretty cool.
And here's a bit of Eva Green hotness for you to enjoy as well: