Sunday, May 10, 2020

REVIEW: 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' - Tiago Grows Closer to Molly as Lewis Continues the Investigation in 'Wicked Old World'

Showtime's Penny Dreadful: City of Angels - Episode 1.03 "Wicked Old World"

Tiago and Molly visit Santa Monica Pier in an effort to escape their complicated lives. Livid at the murder of his friends, Lewis interrogates Brian Koenig, a young Cal-Tech student. Townsend and Alex's political agenda is jeopardized when Councilwoman Beverly Beck vows to fight them. Peter Craft discovers a dark truth when he visits Elsa at home. Mateo visits the Crimson Cat dance hall and is invited into a seductive, dangerous new world.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Showtime's Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.

"Wicked Old World" was written by John Logan and directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

Tiago has formed a romantic connection with a suspect in his first murder investigation. That's the shocking twist at the end of this episode. It does feel like a familiar concept though. It's a way to infuse drama into the mystery that is establishing the spine of the season. And yet, the murders that started the plot and brought Tiago and Sister Molly together aren't really the driving narrative of the season. Instead, that honor belongs to the racial tensions throughout the city. Magda is whispering in everyone's ears in the hopes of making the conflict as bloody and lethal as possible. Raul recovers from his injuries with the clarity that Tiago is already tortured because he doesn't feel like he belongs in any aspect of his life. His family is quick to ostracize him for joining the police while his fellow officers disdain him for the color of his skin. Raul knows that Tiago is fighting that internal battle. As such, he shouldn't place even more tension into it by calling out his heinous choice to shoot him and end his murderous rampage. It's still miraculous that Raul has survived. He is back home now. The worst outcome didn't become a reality. That is a blessing. But the tensions are still rising. The damage was already done in that central riot. Both sides are gathering ammunition once more. Raul knows not every member of his community is active in the fight against these oppressive forces. Magda has that insight as well. She is doing her best to motivate as many people as possible to rise up and fight back. She does so with the sole intention of creating chaos. Natalie Dormer is playing multiple characters in this story. However, they all basically have the same function. Political aide Alex and gang leader Rico are the ones with the level heads who know how to convince others to do what they want through powerful speeches about their perceptions throughout the community. Meanwhile, housewife Elsa is hoping to earn sympathy through her story of domestic violence and isolation in a new country. It's a plot device that reveals the many different ways someone can influence another person's actions. There still needs to be more differentiation amongst the characters though. They do all serve a common goal. But it's not as thrilling to watch. It makes the grand reveals more exciting than actually important in the long run. It's a unique visual. It's powerful to see Magda in her demonic form breaking windows as she walks by. But that rage doesn't really have a narrative purpose that builds onto the story being told. The narrative remains segmented. That allows all of these various voices to feel as if they have true independence and agency. They don't because Magda sees the big picture. She knows how to manipulate all sides in the hopes of creating as much despair as possible. Raul may have been saved somehow. And yet, Mateo is now being corrupted by the intense and arousing crowd at the dance hall. That is an elaborate number that sells the appeal of this group. They may act as criminals but their values and perspective are still crucial in the story. And then, the narrative shifts over to Tiago who simply wants to escape the pressures of his life. He does so with Molly. They share a fun day together. They grow close and kiss. It's fun to live in this fantasy. That can't do so forever though. They return to their normal lives and are met with condemnation and sobering realities. It's crushing but it's also the expected plot beat at this point. And so, it doesn't quite seem like the show is actually challenging itself. It's a bunch of parts that could eventually add up to something meaningful. However, the show started off with a bang and is quickly just meandering around in search of something more. That is disappointing. The acting and production design are still strong. It's easy to get swept up in the potential romance between Tiago and Molly because Daniel Zovatto and Kerry Bishé have solid chemistry. It's easy to feel for Lewis as he breaks down after learning his friends have been killed. But the characters remain archetypes whose worlds remain limited even as this supernatural presence makes herself more influential. All of their lives are touched by Magda. Townsend is more lethal and boisterous than ever before. But he's also a man who must be coddled because he has no idea how to handle any kind of emotional uncertainty. He is built up as something important. His actions have far-reaching consequences. But his story has to be a supporting element to someone else's journey. His actions make their impact known only to inspire greatness elsewhere. That is his role to play and he doesn't know how to reconcile that with his feelings of superiority. Again, the elements are there. The show just hasn't quite made it all work yet.