Sunday, May 17, 2020

REVIEW: 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' - An Attack Sends Mateo and Josefina in Different Directions in 'Josefina and the Holy Spirit'

Showtime's Penny Dreadful: City of Angels - Episode 1.04 "Josefina and the Holy Spirit"

Tiago scours Sister Molly's beach house for clues. Councilwoman Beck proposes an alternate route for the motorway, infuriating Townsend. Peter Craft invites Elsa to a party at his home, inflaming the suspicions of his wife. Lewis asks gangster Benny Berman to help battle the growing Nazi menace. After Josefina has a harrowing encounter with the police, Mateo seeks retribution with his new friends as Josefina pursues spiritual enlightenment.

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.

"Josefina and the Holy Spirit" was written by John Logan and directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

These characters are already being profoundly changed as a result of their dynamics together. The series premiere brought them together in dynamic fashion. And now, that influence amongst them is slowly building. More conflict is destined for the future. Death and destruction always define this world. There is sadness and grief to that. However, it's still fundamentally a narrative about choices. People reach out hoping to see the complexity of human emotions with another person. At times, it's hard to see that because the vitriol and discrimination is simply too rampant. Josefina is sexually assaulted by the police here. It's a harrowing experience for her. Of course, it's also the first plot point to give her any true character definition. That's problematic because the show uses sexual assault as a way to define a character instead of trying to offer her a personality in the three preceding episodes. She has mostly just been in the background. The men of the family were the ones having the ideological debates about their identities within this community. And now, Josefina is given some more prominence. It's an action designed to send her on her own spiritual quest. She wants to rely on her family for support. And yet, they are coming apart at the moment because of Mateo joining the local gang. In fact, Mateo takes Josefina's assault as a personal attack on him and how powerless he was in that moment. As such, he has to flex his muscle in order to prove to the world that he is powerful and dangerous too. He just views that through the context that he has to kill. That is the ultimate decision that awaits him here. He kills the police officer who abused his sister. He gets his revenge. He does so for personal retribution. He doesn't do so by consulting with Josefina and figuring out how she is feeling throughout all of this. He relies on his new friends to help channel the emotions he is feeling. Rio happens to be one of them. She is the latest persona of Magda, who mostly exists to encourage all of these violent impulses. She is delighted to see that moment take place. It stands in contrast to Lewis refusing to kill one of gangster Benny Berman's men even with the knowledge that he has been sending weapons to the Nazis. Lewis has had a lifetime to understand what his principles are and how to defend them no matter what. Sure, he may be leaving Tiago on his own to battle the politics of the police force that needs the central homicide to be closed already. However, Lewis is doing it in order to honor his friends. To him, this is the most important battle. He can't allow Nazism to infect this country. He is willing to compromise his values and morality a little bit to ensure his allies in this fight are willing and able to support him. He can't lose any more friends. He may just lose himself in the process. He doesn't kill. That temptation is still real though. Peter Craft gives into it. He has sex with Elsa during a party at his home. She toys with him but remains awestruck by the home he has built. His wife can't deter her away either. Peter is susceptible to these charms and gives into the pressure. It's pleasurable for him. But again, that comes with the confirmation that something sinister is always lurking around the corner with Magda. She creates a tape of Councilman Townsend and Kurt having sex to ensure that they have the necessary blackmail should anything happen down the line. It's odd how the show props Townsend up as the xenophobic voice of power only to realize that he is being coerced by powerful forces behind the scenes. It makes it seem empty as a result, which is a peculiar sensation given just how destructive that mentality is to so many throughout this world. It strips Townsend of any sense of agency. Of course, the show makes up for that with the powerful push-pull dynamic between Tiago and Sister Molly. He wants to clear her as a murder suspect. She wants to be seen outside the spotlight. They don't trust each other anymore. But they keep coming back to each other as well. Of course, Josefina finds salvation through Sister Molly's renewed energy within the church. That is inspiring to her. It's all an elaborate show. One that Josefina is bound to put all of her faith into not fully knowing just how complicated Molly views her life and what is expected of her. Her mother may worry but the performance always comes together in the end. That stability remains. It may not always because Molly does welcome Tiago back. That dynamic proves to be more than what Raul would like to tease his brother about though. It has rooted itself even further into the core family of the series.