This week’s episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels was oddly timed. Set almost entirely inside the police station, it not so subtly dealt with ideas of police racism and brutality as the imagined world of John Logan’s 1930s L.A. inadvertently reflected the real-world we’re seeing in the news channels right now. The real life tensions added to the screen tensions this week as the stakes became very personal, and the threat of on-screen violence on a young man because of his race felt all too real in the most unintentional way.
“How It Is with Brothers” took the grand world of City of Angels made by its creators, and brought it into the interrogation room of the precinct. Not much happened elsewhere, Townsend enjoyed a day at the beach with Kurt, and Adelaide Finnister made Sister Molly choose between her feelings for Tiago and living a life for the greater food. Molly’s rendition of Billie Holiday’s “But Not For Me” likely left you hint of how she decided things after that conversation, and Josefina was there taking it all in, evidentially still unaware of the new romance between her new hero and her big brother.
“[…] the imagined world of John Logan’s 1930s L.A. inadvertently reflected the real-world we’re seeing in the news channels right now.”
Over at Dr. Craft’s it’s out with the old and in with the new. Linda Craft is being moved to the sanitarium to deal with drunkenness and hysteria, and while we’ve definitely seen the former, the latter is just one of those vague diagnoses that a man was able to level against the old wife so he could make room for the new, younger model. In this case, Elsa. It’s interesting to note that it was at a British sanitarium where a key scene in the original Penny Dreadful played out; Vanessa Ives first encountered the man who would become Frankenstein’s Creature while she was locked up there. The Creature, or course, was played by Rory Kinnear, who now plays Dr. Craft in City of Angels.
Back at the police station, it didn’t take Diego long to learn that he was holding a very powerful ace card, or at least he thought he held one. Diego came to understand quickly that Detective Vega was protecting his younger brother Mateo, and that his partner Michener was unaware that it was Mateo that Vega let “get away” the night before as they were chasing suspects. Diego presented Tiago with a choice: help him escape, help him try and shoot his way out of the station, or else Diego will start singing like Sister Molly!
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For the entire series thus far, Tiago Vega has been trying to outrace this moment of decision, is he a Mexican pretending to be a cop, or is he a cop pretending to be a Mexican? Ideally, this is not a choice he would have to make, but circumstances are from ideal. A cop was killed, and Diego is the suspect. Captain Vanderhoff has graciously given his “straight arrows” the chance to get a confession the proper way before turning it over to the overeager cops ready to collect teeth for Riley‘s son one day. It doesn’t help either that one cop, in particular, keeps whistling “La Cucaracha” like it’s the freakin’ Jaws theme, and he’s the killer shark.
You can hardly blame Vega for falling apart, and Daniel Zovatto did a good job of playing that turmoil and conflict. The best scene was a moment when he sits alone in the bathroom stall emptying his revolver before his fellow officers come in and start bragging about the violence they’re about to do on Diego. When they leave, Vega reloads his gun one bullet at a time, methodically and determined, before giving a slight flick to reconnect the chamber to the gun. What had he decided in that moment, and what was his plan before that? You also have to wonder if it crossed his mind if Mateo is even worth the trouble.
“It’s fascinating to watch Michener use the soft-touch after everyone else spent the whole episode yelling and threatening, and the performance was delivered with a wonderful hypnotic quality by Nathan Lane.”
Of course, the audience is privy to something that Tiago didn’t know. Mateo was lying low with Fly Rico and Rio (the one and only sight of Magda this week), but there weren’t hiding well enough for Mama Vega to not find them. After at least hearing his mother out, Mateo decided his loyalty is with his new Pachuco friends, and tells his mother that she’s not welcome there. Interestingly, Mama Vega did not recognize Santa Muerte‘s sister, so it appears that her communion with the spirits is limited (at least until next week if the post-show teaser is to be believed).
Back at the station, Michener is smart enough to know that there’s something afoot but even he’s caught off guard when he learns just how deep Vega is involved in this situation. It’s interesting to note that Vega‘s reaction when painted into a corner is violence, with no more time left he draw his gun on Diego, which is not unlike something all those racist cops he hates would do. Is it a tacit accusation that the first instinct of any cop on a wire is to lead with violence? “Absolute power” and all that…
In the end, it’s the power of persuasion that turns Diego. Michener lays it out that to Diego that he’s going to jail, and he can either go to jail as a rat, or he can go to jail as a king, the confessed murder of not just Officer Riley, but the Haslet family too. It’s fascinating to watch Michener use the soft-touch after everyone else spent the whole episode yelling and threatening, and the performance was delivered with a wonderful hypnotic quality by Nathan Lane. Still, you have to wonder if Diego is caught up with the exhaustion of the situation as much as he’s prepared to not go to jail as a snitch. After weeks of escalating crime with no answer, isn’t nice to get some kind of resolution, even if it isn’t real?
It’s interesting that even fake solving a crime gets you a reprise from all the racist cops that look at you as little better than the Hispanic criminals they brutalize. Michener and Vega are heroes for solving the worst crimes the LAPD has encountered lately, and composer John Paesano adds a kind of Dragnet flourish to the musical cue at the end of the episode that says, “Case closed,” even though the look on Michener and Vega‘s faces says that this is all from settled. The Haslets’ killer is still out there, and Mateo’s gotten away with murder. At least, for now.
“The Haslets’ killer is still out there, and Mateo’s gotten away with murder. At least, for now.”
What are your thoughts on Penny Dreadful: City of Angels? Excited to see where the rest of this season is going to take you? Revisit your favourite moments of the new season, or refresh yourself on recent episodes HERE and be sure to let us know all your thoughts on the glitz, the glamour, and the gods of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.