The first season of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels was not going to wrap every storyline in a tight little bow. How do you wrap up a story that’s been about systemic racism, police brutality, and Nazis running amok when we’re still living with all of that here in the real world 80 years later? The broader point of City of Angels, as opposed to its predecessor, is that one doesn’t need the influence of supernatural creatures to do evil, but it helps, and with so many real-world negativity to influence, the season finale would test our heroes as they struggle to stand in the light in a world that’s only going to get darker.
Picking up from where we left off last week, we were on the cusp of all hell breaking loose. Diego has been killed by the police, hung from a streetlight in the Chicano neighbourhood, and the powder keg that Los Angeles has managed to avoid since the first episode threatens to light up again. When the news hits, Fly Rico broke convention and urged calm even as Rio urged a riot. The Mexicans left the Crimson Cat to silently walk home to release Diego from the rope by which he hanged, but then comes those supernatural influences.
“How do you wrap up a story that’s been about systemic racism, police brutality, and Nazis running amok when we’re still living with all of that here in the real world 80 years later?”
In the moment, an interesting question occurred, can two Magda‘s exist at the same time? As the protestors marched through traffic, they marched towards the Craft family, where Peter, Elsa and the kids were coming back from a night out at Robin Hood. Throughout the series it seemed like Magda was popping up at different places as the occasion wills it, but it turns out that multiple Magda‘s exist at the same time, and we knew that for certain when Rio and Elsa locked eyes, Frank screamed, and that dam holding back the righteous anger finally burst.
The violence unleashed had a number of notable effects. First, poor Tom is injured with a cut to the head that gets him 11 stitches and a fear of the outside world that Dr. Craft never wanted for him. Although Craft still believes that hate is worst thing a person can suffer, the night’s events force him to reluctantly accept Elsa‘s demand to embrace Nazism, not out of hate, but out of strength. You can tell that Craft is not the most enthusiastic Nazi in the world, but given the past examples of his gentle behaviour, and his skepticism of the Nazis, just how long can Craft play the part of a Good German?
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Tiago was also given a dose of reality from the night’s violence, being beaten by a trio of sailors who didn’t see him as a concerned brother, or even as a cop, they saw him as just another Mexican. Tiago though was not the only one feeling like they’re split down the middle. Molly feels torn between the life she wants with Tiago and her life as Sister Molly and her one woman ministry, so she and Tiago make a deal to leave their lives behind and start a new one somewhere a White woman and Mexican man might be able to live together in peace.
At least one person got a boost from the racial violence in Los Angeles and that was Councillor Townswend who undermined the series’ long gradual efforts to grant him sympathy with a celebratory breakfast. The violence will literally pave the way for his political comeback and construction of the motorway down its original route, so gone are all worries about his political future. “The future belongs to big fat men!” he declares before delivering a monologue that was far too on the nose as Trumpian that no one watching wouldn’t have noticed.
“It was a bittersweet end for Sister Molly, who got the release from her life that she wanted, but it was not the happy ending that perhaps we the audience were hoping for.”
With the relations between City Hall and the Mexican residents too far gone to be altered, the only thing our detective heroes could do is get Brian Koenig out of town. Teaming up with Benny Berman, and keeping Brian hidden at the Vega family residence, Michener and Vega start to move Brian to Mexico so that he can catch a plane to New York where we will be protected by the firm hands of Meyer Lanskey, who was a real-life gangster commonly known as the “Mob’s Accountant.” But was that actually the plan? Was there going to be a happy ending for Brian before he started talking about his idea for a bomb?
Those are important questions whose answers frame the degree of ruthlessness of the detectives going forward. Was it’s Brian‘s mindless prattling about atomic bombs that made Michener decided to shoot him in the back of the head on the beach while looking up at the stars, or was their never a plane waiting for Brian? If Michener is willing to take a defenseless kid off the game board, what lengths will he go to while taking the fight to Goss in the future? (Assuming City of Angels has a future, of course.)
Speaking of futures, we know that Molly sadly doesn’t have one. Her mother’s confession that she had James Haslet and his family killed to protect Molly‘s reputation, and her church, drives Molly to take her own life in the temple’s pool where Molly receives a vision of Santa Muerte and they greet each other as sisters. It was a bittersweet end for Sister Molly, who got the release from her life that she wanted, but it was not the happy ending that perhaps we the audience were hoping for. Seeing Michener break the news to Vega after hearing about Molly‘s death on the radio was still kind of heartbreaking even though it’s felt more likely than not that their romance would end in tragedy.
It’s nice that there was some closure for the poor Haslet family, but there’s a lingering question about how it was done. Are we supposed to believe that the aged Adelaide killed a family and posed them in the L.A. river on her own? Hardly, and Adelaide even admitted that she had help, but was it help from Goss and the Nazis, or was the help from Magda in perhaps a new and different identity? If Magda is the accomplice, one must wonder if Molly was a pawn in a long game to get to Tiago. If the Haslets aren’t killed, how does Vega end up in the path of Molly, and how does her death push him into more extreme directions as implied by Magda herself as she stood right behind Tiago in the graveyard?
“So this Penny Dreadful comes to a close on a much more ambiguous note, and not at all as the show we might have expect when it was announced not so long ago. “
So this Penny Dreadful comes to a close on a much more ambiguous note, and not at all as the show we might have expect when it was announced not so long ago. There’s still so much that can be revealed from its tangled web that it would be nice to see City of Angels return. After all, there’s still a war to be won.
What are your thoughts on the first season of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels? Excited to see where a second season might take us? 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.