Sunday, June 28, 2020

REVIEW: 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' - Another Riot Pushes Everyone Past Their Breaking Points in 'Day of the Dead'

Showtime's Penny Dreadful: City of Angels - Episode 1.10 "Day of the Dead"

Peter Craft, Elsa and the boys are trapped amidst a riot. Townsend celebrates the rise of his political fortunes. Tiago and Molly face reality about their relationship. Lewis and Tiago rush to protect Brian. The Vegas celebrate the Day of the Dead.

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 season finale of Showtime's Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.

"Day of the Dead" was written by John Logan and directed by Richard J. Lewis

People like to say that it isn't the United States of America when it comes to acknowledging and addressing the racism that permeates throughout our past and present. And yet, that is the ugly and sobering reality. The world of today was built on the hatred and oppression of the past. The designs of cities came to be based on who lived where. Raul was fighting against the construction of this motorway. His actions led to a massive riot. The premiere started with one. The finale produces another. This has long been feared by so many characters across this narrative. Everyone gets caught up in it as well. No one can just casually ignore it either. People whose lives aren't defined by the oppression of communities of color suffer too because not everyone is treated with the same amount of dignity and respect. These are issues the country still faces to this day. Meanwhile, this series suggests that its protagonists are the ones whose fates and actions will dictate the fate of the world. These characters are set on the paths of pitting nation against nation and brother against brother. That gives an insane amount of importance to them. They are spread out across the city of Los Angeles, a central population in the United States. It's a place where so many come to chase their dreams. Success in Hollywood can translate to so much more throughout the world. However, the stakes of this narrative have been incredibly small for all of the characters. Once their introductory notes were shown, they were never really challenged. Sure, Tiago and Lewis agonized over some of the decisions they had to make. They both decided that Diego should be blamed for the deaths that caused this racial tension to begin with. That was never the start of that animosity though. It wasn't the conclusion that the police force hoped it would be either. It's important to stand up and fight back against an unjust system. However, so many individuals are out there who want to provoke and cause violence. That hatred can be a fuel that ignites so much destruction. Peter tries to teach his sons that hatred is blinding. People can't allow themselves to be consumed by it. After that, there is nothing resembling humanity left. He has been rash with his decisions lately. His family is placed in harm's ways because Elsa is trying to motivate him into accepting Hitler as the preeminent German identity. He succumbs to that expression as well. That is how his world will now be shaped. It's horrifying. So many stories play out because of the racial tension. No one truly understands how one action will reverberate throughout a community. Magda presented herself as a prominent antagonist because she had a wide range of access to the world. She could become numerous different personalities. She could coerce people into doing exactly what she wants. She succeeds in that endeavor in so many ways. Townsend celebrates hatred and riots winning out in the end. Peter salutes Hitler. Mateo takes his place as king of the Pachucos. It's all because Magda promotes violence. She sees herself as an inevitability in this world. Her response is the only rational one because the opposing side is willing to take these brutal tactics in the first place. And yet, she is provoking every side of this confrontation. That was abundantly clear in the first episode though. As such, it's not shocking to see that same fundamental truth occur in the finale. It mostly just highlights how little has actually changed. Sure, Tiago and Molly are in a relationship now. However, that ends mostly as a way to explain Tiago hitting his breaking point and possibly accepting that the world is punishing to people who look like him. He understands that he and Molly can't go out in public together. People judge and discriminate. That animosity is crippling. He doesn't want that. This bond comes across as genuine. And yet, the audience can never be sure. It ends abruptly with Molly dying from suicide. That is an unexpected development. Molly says it was always a possibility because of Adelaide's hold over her. That is inferred with the shot of her prior scars. But that was information introduced just so that fatal twist could be established and resonate when it happens. The show laying in that groundwork during the finale is mostly just lazy. It highlights just how little may have truly been outlined about the series as a whole. Tiago and Lewis stand united hoping to safe the world from the threats from the Nazis. Their actions may not be all that important though. Stopping Brian won't prevent the development of a nuclear bomb. That is on the horizon no matter what. Tiago and Lewis fear the future. These racial tensions will only intensify further. But the show really never had anything interesting to say about it. It just laid the political allegory on thick to prove how these structures existed so the audience could take away some understanding of our current landscape. Nothing is unique. It was created long ago. But that never amounted to a compelling story about the willingness and determination to survive against the odds from every corner of the world. And so, the end result was a lackluster and unfocused follow-up to the truly wonderful Penny Dreadful.