ReviewsTelevision & Film

PENNY DREADFUL: Nights of Sorrow and Pain

Once again John Logan has presented us with a profound and visceral story that plays with all of our emotions and preconceptions. Richard J. Lewis fantastically brings Logan’s story to life in this final installment of the season. While the ending of this episode was so well done, I couldn’t help but feel that they brought just enough closure without tying everything up, which makes me hopeful for another season but also worried it might not happen.

The show opens with an angelic image of Sante Muerte (Lorenza Izzo) walking in darkness and bathed in white light. My original thought was that she was walking through Belvedere Heights to carry away the soul of Diego Lopez (Adan Rocha). To my surprise, she’s walking through the Crimson Cat as the crowd dances around her. Santa Muerte’s appearance in such a populated place, with so many of our characters present, brings a great sense of foreboding.

Michener (Nathan Lane) disrupts Tiago’s (Daniel Zovatto) slow dance with Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé) to warn Tiago that the whole place is going to erupt once news gets out of Diego’s murder. In the rush to get Molly and the Vega family to safety one of Fly Rico’s (Sebastian Chacon) lookouts (Santiago Veizaga) slips into the Crimson Cat to inform Rico and Rio of what has transpired.

(L-R): Johnathan Nieves as Mateo Vega, Sebastian Chacon as Fly Rico and Natalie Dormer as Rio [Warrick Page/SHOWTIME]
Sebastian Chacon gives his best performance in the series at this tumultuous moment. Instead of inciting the crowd’s desire for vengeance, as we would expect, he urges caution and dignity even at the cost of angering Rio/Magda (Natalie Dormer). The patrons of the Crimson Cat flood the streets and calmly make their way on foot towards their neighborhood to cut Diego down and give him the dignity he deserves.

(L-R): Johnathan Nieves as Mateo Vega, Sebastian Chacon as Fly Rico and Natalie Dormer as Rio [Warrick Page/SHOWTIME]
What happens next is a fast-paced chain of events that ripples out into the lives of many of our characters.

Peter (Rory Kinnear), Tom (Julian Hilliard), Trevor (Hudson West), and even wicked little Frank Branson (Santino Barnard) are all excitedly discussing Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood when they see the crowd approaching. Since it seems that LA traffic sucked even back then, the Craft’s vehicle is stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. In the confusion, Elsa and Rio share a glance giving the signal for Frank to let out a terrible scream in the back of the car. When Peter turns to look his foot slips off the clutch, forcing the car to lurch forward and pin one of the men against the car in front of them.

Rio uses the chaos that she’s created to turn the crowd into a violent mob and leads Rico down an alley where he confronts her, only to get a switchblade through the heart. Rio has opened the way for her promise to elevate Mateo (Johnathan Nieves) in rank and hands him the bloody switchblade as a christening. Tiago finally catches up to witness his brother holding a bloody knife over Rico’s dead body before Tiago is violently attacked by a group of sailors.

I’m going to shift gears here. I started out on this site writing recaps and that has been a hard habit to break, I’m going to try finishing this article in more of a review format.

There are so many twists and turns in this chapter and most of them do not end the way we would like them to, at all. The geometry of these character arcs is far from symmetrical or pleasing to the eye.  There are choices these characters make that show us how little we actually know any of them. One of the things I so enjoyed about the original season was how John Logan brings out the fallible humanity in all his characters. No one is inherently good or evil; we are all products of our life experiences along with choices we make and how we deal with the consequences or rewards of those choices.

Townsend (Michael Gladis) reminds us just how disgusting an individual he is, even if he has all those romantic and sweet moments with Kurt. He gloats to Alex about the implementation of martial law on the streets of LA and spews forth such vile statements. Any sympathy we may have had for him through this season is instantly flushed away like feces down a toilet.

After Tiago was attacked in the riot we see a very different man emerge, as his streets are under martial law and filled with soldiers. We see the dual life that he’s living finally starting to significantly crack the surface. It starts with him lashing out at Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé) about their not having a future together and gets even more complex later on. Tiago has always been torn between doing the right thing and doing what is necessary for his job, partner, love, and family. I really am hoping that another season is greenlit so that we can see the direction he takes.

Recently the story has given us strong hope that Peter Craft would not be the creature that Elsa is trying to make him into. Even after the attack and 11 stitches in Tom’s head he is still trying to teach his boys that hatred is not the right path. Unfortunately, Magda chooses her targets very carefully and it looks like we may lose this kind but foolish man to her machinations. Rory Kinnear and Natalie Dormer play their roles astonishingly well when they are on screen together.

Kerry Bishé and Amy Madigan also put everything into their time on-screen together tonight. After just a few seconds of their dialogue, you are riveted by their performance. The secrets of the Hazlett murder finally come forth and the codependent abuse that Molly has endured at Miss Adelaide’s hands is on full display.

What follows is absolutely soul-crushing sorrow, hauntingly backed by Maria Vega (Adriana Barazza) singing the Spanish lullaby “Arrorró Mi Niño” to Josefina (Jessica Garza). Raul Vega (Adam Rodriguez) adds the beautiful sound of Spanish guitar to add to the sadness. Our cast puts everything they have into these last few minutes and you can feel every level of pain they are going through.

In an effort to keep Brian Koenig (Kyle McArthur) out of the hands of the Nazis, Benny Berman (Brad Garrett) has arranged to smuggle Brian to Meyer Lansky in New York. Much to the astonishment of Tiago, Michener, and Benny, Brian reveals that now that he’s done with the V-2 rocket he’s working on the atomic bomb. The three men are left with the decision of risking this weapon falling into the hands of the Reich or making sure that it doesn’t get made. You can see the pain in every step as Michener walks out to the beach with Brian and executes him on the sand.

Santa Muerte comes to Molly in the baptismal font, tearfully taking her away from the life with her abusive mother.

Peter Craft tries on the Iron Cross medal from his service in the German army in an attempt to be the Nazi that Elsa wants him to be. It’s a very emotional scene and the weight of it seems to pull him down. Perhaps Peter will show us that he’s a better man than Elsa thinks.

This night of sorrow ends in the cemetery where the Vega family is celebrating the Day of the Dead. Once again, they are all together as a family and you almost feel some hope for their future. Once the cemetery has cleared, Tiago kneels in prayer at his father’s grave, something we can assume he hasn’t done in a long time. Magda’s icy fingers brush the back of Tiago’s neck and she recites the prophecy from the opening scene of the series. Will Tiago be tempted by Magda?

The final scene of the season is the destruction of the Belvedere Heights neighborhood and it is quite moving as well as intriguing. The first thing that struck me was Tiago calling Michener “brother” just moments after the scene with Magda in the cemetery. Was that intentional? Tiago intuitively sees the motorways for what they represent, walls to keep all the “mongrel races” separated. It’s hard to read Tiago’s emotions here which hasn’t really been a problem until now.

There is a definite feeling of moderate closure in this season finale. Not everything has been tied up and there’s still a lot of story to go. However, everything that started in episode one has been resolved for the most part. This leaves me with the feeling that Showtime only approved Logan for one season to test the waters. I know that in several interviews that I’ve read, Logan has mentioned that he sees this as a story that can go on for many seasons, but he’s been tight-lipped about its future.

There was some slow buildup at the beginning of the series as we were introduced to the characters and I know that the ratings are not near that of the original series. However, I have greatly enjoyed this show and everything the cast and creators have put into it.

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