Sunday, June 7, 2020

REVIEW: 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' - Maria Confronts the Villainous Threat to Her Family in 'Maria and the Beast'

Showtime's Penny Dreadful: City of Angels - Episode 1.07 "Maria and the Beast"

Tiago wrestles with guilt over Diego's confession. Dottie and Lewis confront Brian for lying about his dueling allegiances. Elsa and Frank move in with the Crafts, igniting fear in Tom and Maria. Alex and Townsend deliberate about how to defeat Councilwoman Beck. Josefina's newfound faith puts her at odds with her family. Lewis enlists Tiago to join his covert operations. Maria summons Santa Muerte, but an uninvited guest arrives with her.

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.

"Maria and the Beast" was written by Colin S. Liddle and directed by Sheree Folkson

Why has the Vega family been targeted by supernatural deities? That is the pertinent question at the heart of the series. Maria prays to Santa Muerte demanding answers as to why Magda is interested in destroying this family. She has felt the destruction of her actions. In fact, it's starting to seem as if everything happening in this series is meant to cause pain specifically to the Vega family. Many tangential things are happening that only have vague connections to the family. And yet, they are being propped up as ideas that affect their lives. The threat from the Nazis isn't something far away in Germany. For Lewis, it's personal because his family and his religion have been targeted. Tiago is immediately supportive when he is brought in on this secret mission. But it's also one big conspiracy that seemingly encapsulates every major plot happening at the moment. It is essentially played for the shock value of seeing Adelaide attending the meeting with Townsend, Alex, Richard and Kurt. That's increasingly what everything seems like though. It's inconsistent. The appeal comes from the audience never being sure what to expect from these characters. One moment Tiago feels supported and loved by Molly. He enjoys their connection and continues to act on it. And then, some new information is revealed that suggests she is connected to the devious things happening in this city. Lewis makes the announcement that Adelaide working with Nazis must mean that Molly isn't too far behind. He sees them as a pair with the same beliefs. That association is easy to follow and understand. But the show also wants to have it both ways. It wants Molly to be a solid romantic interest for Tiago while also being unclear with her true motives. She certainly projects whatever someone else possibly needs from her. She is giving in that way. Some can see that as manipulation. A way to earn good will while something else is going on. The central murder hasn't been solved yet even though Tiago and Lewis are praised for concluding it. All of these pieces are just failing to come together. It doesn't really seem like the show itself knows what it wants to do with them. It suggests some interesting ideas. It doesn't commit fully. Maria is tormented by Magda everywhere she goes. She is the only major character who has had interactions with various forms of her as well. That is significant. It shows that the characters may not necessarily think they are the same woman. That's a stretch because the audience is also asked to admire Natalie Dormer's performance in all of these roles. It's a form of disassociation that suggests some things should be apparent while others are best to ignore. That's a huge ask for the audience especially when it's hard to engage with the mystery of it. Rio took Mateo away from Maria. Elsa is trying to get Peter to fire Maria as his maid. And Magda appears to offer her gifts and powers to Maria only for them to be rejected. That is absolutely a powerful moment. One where Maria isn't going to let her life be dictated by someone else who decides this family deserves to be torn apart. She will fight to keep them together even if that steadfast belief pushes them away. Josefina sees her mother as a hypocrite when it comes to religion. Meanwhile, Raul was saved because of Maria's prayers and now she believes he isn't doing anything. She asserts herself to protect her family. She will sacrifice anything for them. She might have to. She is the only one who sees the powerful and destructive forces at work. That just isn't enough for the show to provide some sense of momentum. The wheels are continuing to spin in place. They aren't really going anywhere. It's just an adventure hitting the same beats over and over again. Sure, Tiago is helping Lewis and Elsa has moved in with Peter. Nothing else has really changed or been added to the proceedings. The suggestion of compelling drama and narrative twists remains present. The acting remains incredibly powerful. Nathan Lane continues to sell the heartbreak that Lewis has experienced and why he needs to kill the Nazis who threaten his city. But that moment comes after several scenes of teasing that all of this dastardly planning will be exposed when the audience knows that's unlikely to be true anytime soon. That's maddening in a way because it makes the show much less enjoyable to watch. Patience is quickly dwindling especially as the finale isn't too far off either.