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If the new supernatural thriller Penny Dreadful is on your want-to-watch list, but you don’t have a subscription to Showtime, here’s your chance to catch the first episode in its entirety — legally and gratis.

Penny Dreadful
Penny Dreadful – Courtesy of Hulu

Showtime wants you to become a subscriber if you’re not already one, and to entice you to sign up, the premium cable channel is giving you a taste of its programming by way of the first episode of the star-studded Penny Dreadful.

A US/UK co-production of Showtime and Sky Atlantic, Penny Dreadful is a new take on horror classics, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Mummy. For more background on Penny Dreadful‘s literary roots, check out this production blog video from the show.

The eight-episode series features quite a list of British and American television, film, and theatre stars, including Eva Green (Casino Royale, Camelot), Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights, License to Kill), Reeve Carney (The Tempest, Snow Falling on Cedars), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall, Southcliffe), Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Danny Sapani (Misfits, Place of Execution), Harry Treadaway (Truckers, Meadowlands), Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, Sin City), Simon Russell Beale (The Hollow Crown, MI-5), Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders, The Queen), and Alex Price (Father Brown, Above Suspicion), amongst others.

Penny Dreadful is set in Victorian London, where we meet Vanessa Ives (Green), a mysterious beauty who represents “the duality between good and evil” and whose power transcends the natural world. (Not only that, her power of observation would seriously give Sherlock a run for his money.) Speaking of money, Vanessa works with the rich, powerful, and manipulative Sir Malcolm Murray (Dalton), an African explorer who is now on a quest to find something much more personal than another trophy to hang the wall.

But Malcolm and Vanessa can’t find what he’s looking for without help, so they enlist the aid of Ethan Chandler (Hartnett), an American showman with a talent for being quick on the draw and quick to draw. They also seek the help of Ferdinand Lyle (Beale), an eccentric hieroglyphics-translating Egyptologist, and a researcher (Treadaway) obsessed with discovering the truth about “the flicker between” life and death, who turns out to be none other than Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

For folks who relish the freaky, scary, and gory, Penny Dreadful is for you. The first on-screen scream happens within the first three minutes (as did mine off-screen), and there are plenty more eeeww, wtf? and omg! moments to make the hair on your arms stand up and even keep you awake long after the lights have been turned off.

(And for those who are wondering, “What in the world is a penny dreadful,” the production blog video below explains it.)

Check out Episode 1 of Penny Dreadful now at the Showtime website, Hulu, and the Penny Dreadful channel on YouTube. Note that the content is rated TVMA for mature audiences (there are scenes with sex and full-frontal male nudity as well as the violent and gruesome stuff) and you must verify that you are 18 or older to watch it. Also, only viewers in the US can access the content. Sky Atlantic does not have a similar offer for, and the YouTube video is not available to, viewers in the UK.

Penny Dreadful debuts on Sunday, 11 May 2014, at 10 PM ET on Showtime.



Penny Dreadful: Episode 1 Screening Now, Showtime Subscription Not Required