This Penny Dreadful: City of Angels review contains spoilers.
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Episode 8
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels episode 8, “Hide and Seek,” begins a new cat and mouse game. Detectives Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) and Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) cleared the police docket by pinning a series of murders on one suspect, Diego Lopez (Adan Rocha) and were given a week’s paid leave as a thank you. But the two cops are having a devil of a time filling their idle hours.
Last week’s episode, “Maria and the Beast,” ended with a change of plans. Lewis called in his favor and enlisted Tiago in his understaffed and unfunded war against Nazis in Los Angeles. But the takedown became a stakeout when the two cops saw other major players sitting down to dinner with the first wave of the Third Reich, Richard Goss (Thomas Kretschmann). As “Hide and Seek” gets moving, they split to cover the suspects. Tiago, who may be sleeping with the enemy, makes a pilgrimage to the bully pulpit to confront Miss Adelaide (Amy Madigan). Lewis goes to City Hall to dance around with Councilman Charlton Townsend (Michael Gladis).
Townsend is light on his feet, but keeps stubbing his toes. He bursts into Councilwoman Beck’s private office only to be turned out, all bark and no bite, with his tail between his legs. His attempt to settle the score is seen as just too cute by his boyfriend, the Gestapo Agent Kurt (Dominic Sherwood). Even the slow ballroom foxtrot where they navigate the terms of the execution contract is interrupted by swinging partners. But the worst cut is the deepest. Townsend owes everything he is politically to his personal assistant, a mousy woman with a mysterious past.
Magda, the dark sister to Santa Muerte (Lorenza Izzo), vowed to wreak havoc on mankind, and comes in many forms. She tells Detective Lewis her name is Alexandra Mahler, a Jew whose family was in Vienna when the Nazis stormed in, who told her boss Townsend her name is Alex Malone because it sounds Irish. Magda is slippery and persuasive, and can be very manipulative. Alex and Lewis exchange a few sentences in Yiddish, and he goes away convinced. It’s not surprising Magda can speak any language but it is slightly ambiguous whether Lewis buys into it when he invites her to call him at the Hollenbeck Station.
Tiago’s interview with the “dragon mother” is just as fruitful as Lewis’ meeting with Townsend. Of course Adelaide is shocked and appalled to learn the wealthy European gentleman who is funding the Temple’s outreach is a Nazi. She never bothered to ask about his politics. All she sees is the soul. And she sees Tiago’s belongs to her daughter, Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé). Or to the whisperings of god which come through her. Adelaide never truly looks like she believes in her daughter’s miracles. She is always calculating a bottom line and Madigan oozes insinuation with every revelation. Adelaide’s daughter is so full of secrets. Sister Molly shaves the homeless at her soup kitchens, and apparently gives dye jobs to special parishioners.
It is a bit of a stretch of coincidence that Tiago would show up for a surprise interrogation at the same time Josefina would be baptized into Sister Molly’s congregation. We can assume Alex called the Temple office in time to issue a warning, but Adelaide treats the reveal like it was preordained. Lewis discovering, and appreciating in spite of how much it pisses him off, Tiago is having an affair with the evangelist is preordained. He’s a cop. It’s his job. He’s better at picking up on the details than the younger detective, who can’t tell one yellow robe from another.
Peter brings yellow roses to his soon-to-be ex-wife Linda (Piper Perabo) at the asylum he committed her. Her hair hasn’t been washed in weeks, her roommate is from Bakersfield, and misses her cows. Turns out Peter didn’t plan ahead. Linda’s father apparently has money, and she still has her memories. She knows the truth about Peter. She’s threatened him with exposure before. Linda throws a great last line at the doctor she married as he hurries to end their meeting: “Next time you come, bring a lawyer and a cow for my roommate.”
We finally find out the secret Peter Craft has been hiding, or at least part of it. More will certainly unfold, because Penny Dreadful: City of Angels likes to dole out its details slowly. Peter’s real last name is Krupp, a family name he’s been trying to live down. This is a family show. Magda appears to be drawn to certain bloodlines. Councilman Townsend, as Councilwoman Beck points out, only serves the public because his father is apparently quite a wealthy and connected person. Charlton tries to distance himself from his family, though we don’t know why yet. The Krupp family is an institution, and Craft sees its legacy as death.
Dr. Craft was a medic in the World War, part one, the war to end all wars. He came out believing that. His family made munitions, the bullets and shells he had to pull fragments out of the bodies of young soldiers. The experience turned him into a pacifist, the bravest of callings, although Elsa doesn’t see it like that. Be strong, she demands. Elsa fights for freedom and Magda whispers strength to all her men. Elsa defends Peter, even though she agrees with his stronger and more charismatic German-American Bund rival. The Fuhrer is Austrian, not German, she reminds them in public. But in private she says Craft wants to “appease the Jews and the Bolsheviks.”
Rory Kinnear begins a very slow simmer under what his character believes shows a meek exterior. Krupp is running from the very family legacy she is counting on. That’s why Elsa doesn’t jump over to the other Bund member. Craft wants to save America with Mahler, not a bigoted fascism. When Elsa asks him to fire the impure Mexican maid who brought a non-Teutonic language into the house, Peter rebels. “You want Peter Krupp? You got him,” he says, and stands as firm as any tank his family company might have built.
Craft doesn’t want to leave his children a trail of blood. But that’s exactly what Magda is looking for in her men. “Mateo it’s you, the one to lead us,” Rio tells Tiago’s younger brother. She believes his pure heart will give the Pachucos a voice to fight against poverty and injustice. Magda whispers to exactly the part of the mind most in need of encouragement. Rio can’t get what she wants from Fly Rico (Sebastian Chacon). It had to be Mateo (Johnathan Nieves) because of his family ties. In each of her guises, Magda chooses men who are born to the task.
Natalie Dormer is fun to watch. While each of the incarnations of Magda is vastly different in look, composure and accent, they share traits of the character inside the character. Each one smirks an appreciative grin when someone picks up on the subliminal commands she’s been maneuvering. They all flash into anger in a way which brings the dark presence of the core supernatural being. As Elsa, she gives the audience a chance to just hate her. She forbids the family’s loyal maid from seeing anyone Mexican, making it obvious she is aware Maria (Adriana Barraza) was getting disappointing news from her daughter. They kill coyotes in Germany, Elsa says to Maria, knowing full well that is her spirit animal. Elsa is goading the Craft family maid on two levels because Maria also knows her dual personas.
Maria is actually the central figure in the spiritual fight. She is the conduit between good and evil, and recognizes the enemy. In the pre-credit scene, she tells Dr. Craft’s son Tom (Julian Hilliard) she fully believes him when he says Elsa’s son Frank (Santino Barnard) killed his hamster just by looking at it. She knows enough to warn him not to tell anyone, not even his father, yet. Maria knows something is coming, she knows when something is wrong, and she is not afraid to confront anything. She says she hasn’t learned as much as she should have, given how old she is. But Maria has the strength of her convictions, even when she tells Josefina (Jessica Garza) “Mexicans get mad, we yell and scream,” she swells with pride. Maria may have the most powerful speaking voice on the show, especially when she whispers. She says so many things when she notes “the beast takes many forms.”
The best, and most beastly, segment is the teapot scene. It is the only real horror scene of the night, and packs a lot into a fairly short burst. There is a bloody dishwater trance, pop-ups, a materializing dead husband and disappearing children. The title of the episode is “Hide and Seek,” and Frank proves himself a true player. Tom and Trevor don’t even notice he’s missing when he pops in on Maria to drop some incendiary judgments into the dishwater. Frank is a truly frightening child who should keep his mouth shut, not only because of the vile things he says but because when he says it he really does look like Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream.”
Patti Lupone, who played a mystic midwife and a psychiatrist on Penny Dreadful, makes a cameo appearance as a ballroom singer in the exclusive gay nightclub. She sings Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” and calls out a false alarm when the alarm goes off, saying the place isn’t being raided. The scene is actually quite romantic. Townsend looks positively smitten. Kurt’s refusal, fearing Townsend would “lose something you’ll never get back” after ordering a killing, is loving, and seemingly without guile, even if it does get him what Goss wants.
Both Tiago and Lewis saw the Via Hermosa maps in the offices of their respective surprise visits. Lewis traced this to corporate filings, through dummy paperwork and a shell company to Richard Goss. Tiago, tellingly, is not sure about Sister Molly’s involvement. He’s sleeping with her. She’s actually in bed with half his family, and he really doesn’t now. Bishé plays it both inscrutably and transparently. She wears every emotion she’s feeling on her face, especially the torment of what she knows she’s hiding, and we don’t know what is the act.
The episode ends with a tense, exciting, old movie-style Tommy Gun shoot out scene. It even looks like old style bullets denting the classic cars. “Hide and Seek” turns up the flame and lets off steam but is still more heavily balanced in the real world over the supernaturally horrific. The forces, however, are still in every scene, but wearing faces to look like everyone else. This can be the scariest thing about Penny Dreadful: City of Angels: the implications that Elsa, Rio and Alex look like the rest of us but are capable of such evil deeds.