“There is a prophecy
A time will come when race will devour race,
When brother will kill brother,
Until not a soul is left.”
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is quite different from the original series, but John Nolan’s hand is all over it. I wouldn’t say it’s less engaging than the original Penny Dreadful series; it just does it quite differently. The original series drew you in immediately while the mystery unraveled behind it all. This time Nolan appears to really be playing to the noir storytelling format over the Victorian Gothic, as I mentioned in my post on the previous episode it’s more of a slow burn.
There is a part of me that wished for that dark dampness of the original series, but that’s hard to do in sunny California, I guess.
Once again this episode is directed by the talented Paco Cabezas, who directed four installments of the original series along with lending his talents to American Gods and Into the Badlands. Mr. Cabezas is quite efficient at bringing out the occasionally unnerving humanity when at the helm, and he does not disappoint this time around either. From the opening scene where Maria Vega (Adrianna Barazza) is rolling down her stockings to pray to the confessions of Sister Molly’s (Kerry Bishé) unexpected confession, all of the characters feel very real.
At the end of the series premiere, Tiago Vega’s (Daniel Zovatto) was forced to shoot his brother, Raul Vega (Adam Rodriguez) to stop his murderous rampage during the Belvedere Heights protest. As a result of Magda’s (Natalie Dormer) influence Tiago had to make the impossible choice between saving his new partner, Detective Michener (Nathan Lane) or stopping his own brother from assassinating even more LAPD officers.
“Dead People Lie Down” opens with Maria Vega praying at the foot of her dying son’s bed, while her other son is trying to enter the hospital through the front door with his wounded partner, being spit on by the very men he shot his own brother to protect. Before Tiago goes off to see his brother there is a very “partner to partner” moment where Michener tells him nobody saw who shot anyone, especially Tiago.
As Tiago makes his way to the floor his Raul is on, he walks down a hallway and witnesses the grieving widow of one the officers weeping in relative privacy, while the adjacent room contains the bodies of his neighbors and friends stacked like garbage and unattended.
Once at Raul’s bedside Tiago attempts to comfort his mother and sister but is privately rebuked by his youngest brother, Mateo, (Johnathan Nieves) who witnessed him shooting Raul. It’s a very tense moment that is followed by an amazing solo performance from Zovatto in the stairwell. Zovatto has a mastery of showing his constant internal struggle without needing words or any other crutch. His performance, so far, is very similar to Rory Kinnear’s Creature. Yeah…I probably shouldn’t be comparing them…but, here I am doing just that. It is Penny Dreadful after all.
Mateo goes to get a pop for his sister Josefina (Jessica Garza) and is attacked by four officers led by the extremely racist Officer Riley (Rod McLachlan) at the vending machine. We meet the enigmatic Fly Rico (Sebastian Chacon) who manages to frighten the officers off.
Brent Spiner’s gives an uncharacteristically despicable performance as Captain Vanderhoff, demanding a Mexican “head on a plate” to quickly conclude, but not solve the Hazlett murders.
We get to see Magda’s (Natalie Dormer) Alex incarnation suggest the “Never ever let a serious crisis go to waste” idea while advising Councilman Charlton Townsend (Michael Gladis) on his next move following the Belvedere Heights uprising. Alex is so far the most outwardly sinister of Magda’s personas. Later in the episode, there is a scene switch between Magda’s Elsa Branson and son (Santino Barnard) and her Alex while they appear to be enjoying a day at the beach with Dr. Craft (Rory Kinnear) along with his sons Tom (Julian Hilliard) and Trevor (Hudson West). The scene switches to Councilman Townsend making a fiery speech and the expression on Alex’s face suggests that she’s simultaneously controlling all of her embodiments.
This episode is very heavy on the detective work of Vega and Michener, they spend the first act trying to get an audience with Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé) only to be denied by the evangelical cult’s leader Miss Adelaide (Amy Madigan). Vega uses his ethnicity to sneak in through the service entrance and gain an audience with Sister Molly while she’s washing dishes in the kitchen, and there is palpable chemistry between the two. During their conversation, we get the feeling that Molly might have been having an affair with Mr. Hazlett and that her faith might not be as solid as she exhibited on stage. It makes me wonder if the Hazlett murders were related to a relationship to Sister Molly?
As I mentioned in my write up on the previous episode there seemed to be a personal connection with Michener and the rise of Nazi influence in America. My assumptions that he’s Jewish are confirmed twice in this episode and it wasn’t until the second watch that I caught the first confirmation. Miss Adelaide calls him Hymie with a sneer and I thought she was saying “Jaime” because of his Hispanic partner. This is later confirmed when Michener is staking out Richard Goss (Thomas Kretschmann) with Dottie Minter (Lin Shaye), Sam Bloom (Richard Kind), and Anton Chevic (Bill Smitrovich). The latter two are assassinated by Goss’s Gestapo goon, Kurt (Dominic Sherwood). It seems that Goss is using a physics student from CalTech, Brian Koenig (Kyle McArthur), to either steal or help develop weapons for the Nazis.
The final scene is the only real horror moment of the episode, following Maria’s prayer to Santa Muerte Raul gives a quick jump scare in the flickering lights of the hospital wing.