Penny Dreadful: City of Angels has been focused on the turmoil of the Vega family, who have seemingly been cursed by the forces of fate from the very beginning to be pawns in some sort of cosmic cage match between Santa Muerte and her sister Magda. To what end though? Why this family, and what is either sister hoping to prove? What is the route of their grudge? Exact answers to those questions were not exactly evident this week, but whatever the game is, it’s safe to say that it changed in this week’s episode.
While she’s always been the heart of the show in a literal sense, it was Maria Vega‘s turn to take centre stage in the aptly named “Maria and the Beast“. While riding the bus, she looks out the window at a cemetery and sees Magda – not Elsa, Alex, or Rio, but the leather-clad, eyeliner-wearing visage of Magda. It’s been a lingering question since the start of the show if the other characters would notice there’s a group of women wandering around L.A. that all look the same. That was especially for Mama Vega who came face-to-face with one of Magda‘s identities last week and was almost certainly going to come into contact with another one this week.
“Perhaps the Vegas aren’t being manipulated directly, but have been caught up in the manipulations happening throughout Los Angeles.”
If Maria recognized Elsa as Rio, or vice versa, she did not top her hand even as Elsa quickly tried to establish herself as the new woman of the Craft household. By the time we get to the end of the hour, it’s clear that Maria recognizes that someone is trying to play her. What’s unclear if that’s Santa Muerte or Magda because the former seems fairly disinterested in the plight of the Vega family, and the latter tries to bribe Maria with turning the clock back to that happy moment in episode one when the Vegas were celebrating Tiago‘s promotion without a care in the world.
Perhaps the Vegas aren’t being manipulated directly, but have been caught up in the manipulations happening throughout Los Angeles. Yes, Mateo has Magda as Rio pushing him to kill cops, but wasn’t the potential there long before Mateo became a Chicano? As for Tiago and Josefina, how are either Santa Muerte or Magda influencing them? And poor Raul seems pretty unmotivated to do anything except sit by the radio and listen to the baseball game, rescued from death by Santa Muerte but pushed to kill by Magda. Is there a plan for Raul?
Maria at first seemed like she was caught in a confrontation between the two sisters, but this week she declared that her family were not pawns in whatever game that was being played. No, she and her children were kings and queens, and they will be played as such. It’s hard to know what supernatural power Maria has, but she’s clearly a danger to whatever plans Magda has for the Crafts, and even overplays her hand with Peter by suggest he get rid of Maria for a housekeeper that’s more German. In the final scene, Maria banishes Madga from her alter to Santa Muerte, which can be read as either a cue for Magda to take her leave, or a sign that Maria can cast out demons.
And Los Angeles has plenty of demons to cast out, and many of them “Seig Heil!” to the Führer. With the Haslet murder solved in at least a superficial sense, Michener is free to dedicate his time to his side project tracking the Third Reich’s L.A. operators, and he presses Tiago into being one of his agents. While Bryan, the CalTech rocket student, struggles with completely understanding the nature of the evil that’s recruiting him, he learns that Lewis knows that evil all too well. In a monologue beautifully delivered by Nathan Lane, who has been magnificent this whole series, Lewis explains about his cousin in the Rhineland who was publicly executed for basically being gay and Jewish in Nazi-occupied territory.
Vega and Michener‘s mission takes them to an upscale restaurant where they watch Goss and Kurt share a meal, or rather a last meal. The detectives plan on cornering the Nazis and shooting them on their way to their car but instead, they get intelligence on something more interesting: a grander conspiracy than the Nazis leaning on some CalTech kid for wunderwaffe. Councillor Townsend with Alex joined Goss and Kurt at dinner and then so did Adelaide Finnister. Sister Molly‘s mom has an in with the Nazis too, and just when Tiago and Molly seem to be even more involved despite Adelaide‘s talk with Molly last week.
Viewers will recall that Vega has been keeping his partner in the dark about how closely he’s been keeping tabs on Sister Molly, who is probably still under suspicion as the Haslet family‘s real killer, but as each week passes it’s hard to feel that there’s some kind of monster lurking behind her kindness. Adelaide hanging our with Nazis though casts even more suspicion on Mother Finnister, and the possibility that one kind of ruthlessness hides another. Either way, the great Tiago/Molly romance is about to hit another bump in the road.
“…as each week passes it’s hard to feel that there’s some kind of monster lurking behind [Sister Molly’s] kindness.”
Speaking of discomfort, think good things for poor Tom Craft, who is clearly the target of some kind of torture on the part of Magda by using Frank to cozy up to the younger Craft brother with lots of brotherly affection that hides something fairly sinister. If you saw Tom’s hamster, and immediately assumed that the little rodent was not long for this world, then you’ve clearly seen a horror movie with a creepy kid. Tom is clearly afraid of Frank, and it will be interesting to see what the route of that is. Perhaps like Dick Hallorann and Danny in The Shining, Maria and Tom share a gift for seeing the truth of things, so perhaps Maria has more allies than she knows. She’s now definitely got at least one new enemy.
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.