ReviewsTelevision & Film

PENNY DREADFUL: Duty Comes In Many Forms

Sheree Folkson returns to direct, but this time the pen is in the hand of Tatiana Suarez-Pico.

This episode starts out on such a sad note. The first images are that of Tom Craft (Julian Hilliard) dutifully burying his hamster, Friar Tuck, after Frank Branson (Santino Barnard) killed him in the night. It’s a scene that’s so reminiscent of so many childhoods that you can’t really watch it without remembering some pet you buried growing up. Maria (Adriana Barraza) comes to offer him comfort as the only reliable maternal figure in the Craft household now.

When Tom tells Maria that he believes Frank killed Friar Tuck, Maria has a very interesting reaction that makes me question some of my initial thoughts from the previous episode. I had assumed that Magda (Natalie Dormer) wore the same face for the convenience of the audience, but after watching this scene I’m not so sure. Maria seems to know and totally believe that Frank murdered Friar Tuck and swears Tom to silence. Does she know that Elsa and Frank Branson are incarnations of Magda now that she’s met her? Does she also know that Rio is Magda, too? When she passes her coyote totem to Tom, is it to protect him because she knows Magda is in their home or does she just feel like something is off with Elsa and Frank? But I also wonder if she will lose the protection the coyote provided.

Townsend returns to the stupid bull he was in earlier episodes, charging into Councilwoman Beverly Beck’s (Christine Estabrook) office making threats and demands without thinking about anything that’s coming out of his mouth. Estabrook has played Beck as generally well reserved, but this time she gets to let her teeth out. Now that she knows Townsend is scared she has him right where she wants him.

Following the reveal at the end of the previous episodeTiago (Daniel Zovatto) and Michener (Nathan Lane) are intent on interviewing both Townsend (Michael Gladis) and Miss Adelaide (Amy Madigan) regarding their association with Richard Goss (Thomas Kretschmann).

Townsend comes rushing in from his failed attempt to intimidate Beck only to find Michener waiting behind him as he pours a drink to settle his nerves. There’s a quick and tense exchange where Townsend flouts his attorney and balks at Michener’s accusations, and then something quite unexpected happens. After Michener leaves Townsend’s office Alex chases him down and pretends to be not only on Michener’s side but also secretly Jewish. This was one of the few times this show has caught me totally off guard. This was definitely not something I would have expected from Magda, but it does make an interesting turn of events.

Since we’re on the topic of Townsend, let us finish up his role in this week’s story.

After all the foolishness and idiocy he displayed at the beginning of the episode we get a rather endearing, almost saccharine sweet scene between him and Kurt (Dominic Sherwood). As it turns out, our Councilman didn’t necessarily need to be searching out prostitutes in seedy hotels and back alleys. He was aware of a rather swanky and hidden gay club of the speakeasy variety.  Kurt seems rather astounded that there was a homosexual community so large in L.A. As Townsend invites him onto the dance floor, the camera pans up to the stage and I could not hold back my astonishment and joy. Who was it that was singing out a lovely tune as these two men began to dance?

None other than Patti M************G LuPone!

I may have got a little misty at the sight of her. Perhaps it was the bourbon, perhaps it was seeing her in Penny Dreadful again, or perhaps it was my childhood memories of watching Life Goes On every week with the family when I was growing up. It might have been one of the best-played cameos I’ve seen in my lifetime.

As wonderful as it was to see LuPone, there’s a very interesting moment that plays out during Kurt and Townsend’s dance. Townsend thinks that his being lovers with Kurt allows him access to Kurt’s skills as an assassin, and it backfires in the most endearing way. You really do find yourself occasionally forgetting that some of these characters believe in one of the most vile and racist ideologies our world has ever seen.

In contrast to the characters who disarm us and make us forget about the evil in their hearts, we also are shown a glimpse of goodness in those we’ve thought weak and wicked. I’m referring to Peter Craft (Rory Kinnear), we finally get to see Mr. Kinnear’s brilliance come through in this installment. During a meeting of the German Bund, Peter makes the unexpected revelation that he’s not enamored with Hitler’s vision for Germany and is actually against bringing Nazism to L.A. There’s an intriguing power struggle going on with Herman Ackermann (Ethan Peck) in this very subtle scene.

The version of Peter we see towards the end of this episode is in stark contrast to the Peter we see when he tries to convince Linda Craft (Piper Perabo) to sign divorce papers in the sanitarium. Linda Craft backs Peter into a tight corner with threats about her father’s wealth being used to dismantle Peter’s life. Perabo plays the role magnificently, down to the interesting way that she patterns her speech. She once again brings up mysteries from Peter’s past that are still unclear. We do learn later that Peter’s name isn’t Craft but Krupp, a weapons-making dynasty that has been supplying the German army for 400 years and continues to do so.

After a little research into the Krupp family, I came across a very interesting coincidence(?): while Peter is definitely a fictional character, the historical figure who would have been his mother (or possibly grandmother) was named Magda. Since we’ve spoken her name we should also bring about the final unexpected change in Peter this episode. When Elsa demands that Maria be fired, instead of giving in to her demands Peter offers Maria a raise and sends her home for the night.

Elsa is working very hard to get rid of Maria in this episode; she even goes so far as to reveal Frank to Maria in an attempt to scare her away. There are some creepy scenes here that are finally starting to remind us this is a horror series after all.

Mateo is still distraught about Diego taking the fall for him and it looks like Rio might be getting hooked on heroin. To clam Mateo down, Rio explains to him that she let Diego get taken because Mateo is supposed to lead her pachuco revolution.

Tiago receives an unexpectedly warm welcome from Miss Adelaide when he arrives at The Temple, including an embrace from The Dragon Mother herself. Her deflection, when asked about her involvement with Goss, reveals that she has the same planning map in her office that we saw in Townsend’s earlier. Miss Adelaide quickly takes control of the conversation and intentionally uses this control to lead Tiago into an emotional trap. By some twist of fate, Tiago has arrived just moments before Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé) is to baptize Josefina Vega (Jessica Garza).

This does create quite the lover’s quarrel at the end of the episode and leads to Michener discovering Molly and Tiago’s affair. When the two are down on the streets they’re attacked by a shadowy assailant wielding a Tommy Gun and perfectly silhouetted against a light from the alley. Despite this silhouette, the two officers were unable to get a clean shot and their attacker escaped into the night. The figure outlined in the shadow appeared to be Randolph (David Figlioli).

This episode was filled with quite a lot of suspense, emotional turmoil, and intrigue. It felt like there was an underlying sense of duty in so many of the characters.

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