You knew there was going to be something deeply disturbing in this episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels because it featured an extra warning. The top of the show had the usual disclaimer that viewer discretion was advised because of cursing, violence and adult situations, but this week they hit us with an extra advisory that the content might be disturbing for other reasons. You have to get to the end of the show to find out those reasons and in the process, you realize that the careful peace cultivated in Los Angeles is about to be shattered. Otherwise, it was an actually fairly upbeat episode of Penny Dreadful.
Picking up from last week, Michener and Vega quickly run down their list of enemies to come to the conclusion that it was a Nazi agent who shut up Michener’s car with a Tommy gun. Despite the fact that it was just last week that Michener leveraged what he knows about Vega’s brother to make him a partner in Antifa activities, the older detective goes it alone to challenged Goss at a “restricted” club.
“…the careful peace cultivated in Los Angeles is about to be shattered.”
In the lion’s den, Goss seemed thoroughly unimpressed with Michener‘s bravado, and even mocked him (and all Americans for that matter) for leaning into dramatics. The real drama seems to be Michener‘s family history, which Goss has taken to knowing intimately as leverage. You see, Michener has a son in Glendale, and a daughter with multiple kids of her own back in New Jersey, which is news to all of us who heard all about his distant cousin in Austria who was killed by the Third Reich, but nothing about his own kids. It’s unlikely we’ll get to it by the end of next week’s finale, but it seems that there’s still a lot to be told about Michener.
Speaking of previously unseen family, we finally meet the senior Townshead. With his plans falling apart, Councillor Townsend visits his industrialist father Jerome (played by the late great Brian Dennehy) who utterly dismantles his son’s one last hope to salvage his political career, and his beloved motorway. Townsend Senior has got his eyes on the next big transportation revolution, aviation, and let’s not forget the most important reason he won’t help his son, Councillor Townsend is a loser.
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It’s odd that we should end up this season feeling so terribly sympathetic about the city councillor that launched so much grief in episode one, and while he’s unquestionably a political monster thanks to his own reckless ambition, he was made, in his words, a “fat hateful man that nobody’s ever going to love” by his disinterested father, people trying to take advantage of him, and society’s stigma about being queer. Make no mistake, if things had gone differently for Townsend he would be insufferable, but it’s still refreshing that the show made this obvious Trump pastiche a more dynamic character.
Sympathy was in the offing in many places this week, but none more so than the Crimson Cat where the entire Vega family gathered for the first time since that first episode. Raul takes his mother out for a night on the town, Josefina is dancing with friends, Mateo arrives with the Pachucos, and Tiago and Molly go to the one place in town where they think nobody’s going to know their name. Would fate bringing the Vegas together mean celebration of tragedy? The look on Rio‘s face when Tiago and Molly arrives suggested that this was a serious crick in her plans.
Now why is the site of Tiago such a pain for Magda? We know that Raul was revived by Santa Muerte, we know that Magda has tempted Mateo as Rio, but where does Tiago fit into the cosmic scheme? He was touched by Santa Muerte, the everlasting hand print is a sign, and that implies that there may be some special status or power conveyed on the middle brother. Literally between the two, perhaps Tiago‘s fate is to be the peacemaker. Perhaps he would be the guy to bring his family back together after supernatural forces tore them apart.
Tiago‘s speech wasn’t exactly powerful in either rhetorical flourish or passionate delivery, but it did force Tiago to do something that he’s been avoiding through most of the series: he took a stand. He challenged everyone’s assumptions about him being a disappointment as a cop, as a Mexican, as a brother, and as a Catholic; how to all his family he’s never been “anything enough.” He was standing up for Molly, and the relationship he’s had trouble accepting as something real in the long haul. At least for the night, Tiago achieves peace, and if Tiago can heal the rift in his family, who else might he heal?
Healing will be desperately needed for the whole of Los Angeles given how the episode ends. Michener leads the escort of murder suspect Diego Lopez to Union Station, where we will be turned over the guards from San Quentin and taken to his future as the king of the California penal system. Captain Vanderhoff makes it clear that he wants a simple hand over and zero complications, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.
But the uniform cops have other plans. They arrive in the Mexican neighbourhood, pull the paddywagon over, cuff Michener inside, and take Diego out and hang him from the streetlight. It’s a lynching, and its brutal to watch, doubly so with everything going on in the news. Let us not forget that Diego was completely innocent too, and Vanderhoff was more than happy to pin all those horrible crimes on just some random Mexican. Heck, he encouraged his detectives to do it.
“It’s going to feel strange going into next week’s finale because this is probably not the show we were expecting with the Penny Dreadful label.”
It’s going to feel strange going into next week’s finale because this is probably not the show we were expecting with the Penny Dreadful label. There’s been a decided lack of monsters and literary figures, and a lot of pointed social commentary, but what is the Big Bad that will finally be defeated? Magda? We know that racism will not be solved, and we know that the Nazis will not be going away, so what kind of resolution might we expect as the show finishes what is hopefully its first season? Stay tuned.
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.