ReviewsTelevision & Film

PENNY DREADFUL: Goodbye to Your Weak and Worthless Gods

We’ve arrived at the middle episode of the season and this time John Logan has handed the writing reigns over to Eerie Indiana writer/creator Jose Rivera and direction by Roxann Dawson. Eerie Indiana was one of those prime time shows I was really into and used to watch with my dad when I was a kid.

This episode opens with Magda (Natalie Dormer) transforming into a dance hall girl. At first, I thought we were going to get a new incarnation, but it turns out it was her personification of Elsa Branson on the hunt for a “Mr. Branson” that she could manipulate and murder to further her control and influence over Dr. Craft (Rory Kinnear). Elsa uses this manufactured tragedy to interrupt game night in the Craft house, one of the few times we see Mrs. Craft (Piper Perabo) showing honestly familial joviality. Mrs. Craft may be an embittered frigid wife to us now, but in this scene we get a glimpse of what drew her to Peter Craft in the first place. The moment Craft rushes off to hide the body and have sex on top of “Mr. Branson’s” shallow grave Mrs. Craft immediately lights a cigarette and appears in desperate need of a whiskey sour.

Magda’s Rio regales a tumultuous Mateo (Johnathan Nieves) with a poetic story of the conquer and melding of the Aztec and Europeans to assuage the guilt and horror coursing through him. Rio is quite masterfully bringing Mateo under her control, playing on all of his weaknesses while stripping away his strengths; his family, and his faith. She further seduces him under her wing by drawing him into a love triangle with herself and Fly Rico (Sebastian Chacon).

When we see Councilman Townsend (Michael Gladis) again, he’s absolutely aflutter over Kurt (Dominic Sherwood), and it’s quite a turn from the bitter breadbasket we’ve seen so far. Magda’s Alex makes it very clear that she is aware of his secret and that his discretion is paramount to his political advancement. It’s still a rather nice touch to see a sensitive side to him, it turns him into an almost sympathetic character, you know, if he wasn’t working for the Nazis.

Which brings us back to Kurt — who is he really? Is he Gestapo with a carefully honed English accent, is he US intelligence, or is he something else entirely? He definitely has Brian Koenig (Kyle McArthur) under close surveillance when Dottie Minter (Lin Shaye) meets him in the cafeteria. He promptly reports Dottie’s interference to Richard Goss (Thomas Kretschmann), which makes me concerned about Dottie’s safety. But we do get the impression that she’s a lot tougher than just any little old lady.

Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé) takes an interesting turn in this installment, recounting the same tale of a hurricane in two very different ways. In bed with Tiago (Daniel Zovatto), she recounts it in a wistful way as an attempt to make her mother, Miss Adelaide (Amy Madigan), seem more human than she appears. But when Josefina (Jessica Garza) is confiding in her about being sexually assaulted by Officer Reilly, we get the feeling that both she and her mother were forced to perform sexual acts in return for their rescue. It made me wonder which story was true or if either of them were. She seems so fond of the memory when telling it to Tiago, but there is a brief pause that leads one to think that there might have been some darker event she’s hiding.

It is also going to be interesting to see what Sister Molly will do now that she’s discovered Josefina is Tiago’s sister.

While we’re on the subject of Miss Adelaide, she’s continuing to have Sister Molly followed by her henchman Randolph, played by the imposing David Figlioli. When she hears Randolph’s report of Molly and Tiago’s tryst in Hazlett’s Malibu bungalow, she responds: “We know how this is going to end, don’t we Randolph?” This seriously implies that she and Randolph were, in fact responsible for the Hazlett murders as a way to put an end to the affair. This also makes me wonder if there is a yet unseen form of Magda that was influencing her or if she’s really just that evil. I have a feeling that it might be the latter.

Raul Vega (Adam Rodriguez) has taken on the demeanor of a sage or oracle following his recovery from the Battle of Belvedere Heights. He seems to have left behind his indignant fury and become a source of wisdom to the Vega family. Maria (Adriana Barraza) even mentions that he’s the only one in the family who still believes in Santa Muerte, which shouldn’t be surprising considering it was Santa Muerte who left him to live.

Raul once again plays a pivotal role in the series by giving Tiago and Michener (Nathan Lane) the location of Fly Rico and Rio. He also tells Tiago something in private that the audience is not privy to, leaving us with many questions.  We’re left to assume that Raul knows that Mateo was involved in Officer Reilly’s murder and shared that information with Tiago, but was there something else?

Tiago takes on a very different persona in the second half of this episode, one that Michener later compares to Jekyll & Hyde. Tiago is hiding his meetings with Sister Molly and his suspicion that Mateo was involved in Reilly’s murder and Michener is very uncomfortable that his partner isn’t being completely truthful. It puts some very obvious tension between them to the point that Michener isn’t completely comfortable going into a dangerous situation with Tiago at his side. In the final moments of this episode, Zovatto gives a performance that visually illustrates Tiago’s personal purgatory Raul tried to explain to Mateo in episode 3. Tiago can’t shoot or even arrest his youngest brother, the anguish of choosing between his family and his duty is written all over Zovatto’s face.

Michener and Maria share probably the most touching scene in this installment. Their chemistry on screen was absolutely fantastic, and it may have destroyed my theory from last week or possibly reinforced it. Because Raul is reluctant to discuss anything about the family/neighborhood around cops, Michener is sent away with Maria to be introduced to Santa Muerte. Maria discloses how thankful she is that Michener took Tiago on as a partner and how Tiago would never say it. Then she proceeds to explain all the different colors of Santa Muerte and what they represent, with the exception of blue, finally handing a black (protection from all evil) statuette and asking Michener to look after her boy. That idol is now riding on the dashboard of their duty car, much to Tiago’s chagrin.

Oddly, directly behind Maria during this scene was what appeared to be, on my television at least, a 2 foot tall blue Santa Muerte statue. Considering that blue represents wisdom and teaching while both of Tiago’s mentors are having a conversation, I’m curious if that one was looked over intentionally or I need to adjust the color levels on my TV. Only time will tell but I do find it very odd that that one was left out even though it was right behind Maria.

This episode starts out with Rio tearing away Mateo’s faith as “weak and worthless gods” only to be followed by Maria Vega sharing her faith with Michener.

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