REVIEW: Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep6 – How It Is With Brothers

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep6 - How It Is With Brothers

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels delivers an eerily timely episode that focused on police brutality against people of color, miscarriage of justice, and a city thrown into chaos by race-related crimes. The parallels with current events are uncanny which made viewing the episode all the more affecting. It’s particularly depressing to know that the injustices that were portrayed in a show set in the 30s persist to this day, that the world has not progressed so far in its own humanity as would have been expected.

And while Penny Dreadful: City of Angels has not always executed its ambitious themes successfully, the decision to spend most of the episode with the police investigation ensured that this was one of the stronger episodes of the season. The uncomfortable conclusion of the case became yet another indication that the true monsters of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels are its deeply flawed human characters, who do not need prodding from dark goddesses in order to make morally reprehensible decisions.

After learning last week that Mateo was Reilly’s murderer, Tiago is faced with a moral dilemma. He and Michener managed to capture one of the younger Pachucos, Diego, and bring him in for questioning. The other white policemen recognize the boy as one of the Chicanos Reilly had been beating up during the previous raid and they immediately declare that he has motive. While these vicious policemen are champing at the bit to interrogate (read: torture) the young man, the captain gives the Michener and Vega a chance to question him first.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep6 - How It Is With BrothersTiago and Diego communicate non-verbally as the former tries to convince the latter to confess to the crime while Diego wants to reveal Mateo’s crime to Michener. In another problematic instance of threatening a fellow Chicano, Tiago plays tough with Diego going so far as to show him photos of people who have died from the gas chamber. But the young man does not buckle under the pressure and instead tries to convince Tiago to help him escape in exchange for his silence. Diego also asks Tiago the question that encapsulates his whole internal conflict:

Are you a cop pretending to be a Mexican, or a Mexican pretending to be a cop?

There is a moment when Tiago considers leaving Diego an unloaded gun but when he overhears his fellow policemen eagerly discuss treating the suspect like a piñata, Tiago reloads the gun. But he cannot pull the wool over Michener’s eyes for long, and the older detective eventually figures out that it was Tiago’s brother who really murdered Reilly.

While most of the episode is spent on the investigation, there was still some time to check in on the other subplots. Townsend has a tender moment at the beach with his lover, Kurt, who reveals that he grew up in the US but joined the Gestapo because he believes in their ideals and was frustrated with the presence of “mongrels” in his community. If Townsend is disturbed by this, he doesn’t show it. It’s the most human we see of Townsend, but that’s not saying much. He simply waxes poetic about seeing Fred Astaire and about Los Angeles, saying:

“LA doesn’t care who you are when you arrive. It only cares who you make yourself into.”

Dr. Craft continues to be one of the most monstrous characters of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels as he calmly declares that he wants to divorce Linda in favor of Elsa. Linda objects but Craft is adamant and cunning and threatens to institutionalize her if she does not agree. And, of course, she does not have a choice, so Craft will end up getting what he wants.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep6 - How It Is With BrothersMolly and her mother share a hearty breakfast with an extra serving of guilt as the mother reminds her daughter of her duty to their church. Even when Molly asserts that she has developed some strong feelings for Detective Vega, her mother reminds her that she cannot risk throwing away all the good works their church is doing just for her own, selfish desires.

Molly sadly agrees and later on gives a heartbreaking rendition of “But Not For Me” (I seriously want to get the Penny Dreadful: City of Angels soundtrack when this season is over.) Josefina is in the audience and watches in awe as her new hero serenades her flock. But only Molly’s mother knows how close to home the song lyrics are to her daughter.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep6 - How It Is With BrothersMateo, Rico, and Rio are safely in hiding and while Mateo feels guilty about Diego taking the rap for him, the other two convince him that it was the other boy’s own fault for getting caught. Maria visits and tries to convince her son to come home with her, insisting that she does not care about whatever he may have done. Mateo hesitates for a moment, but is in so deep with the Pachucos that he adamantly refuses despite his mother’s pleas.

Maria leaves the place despondently. If she had sensed something supernatural about Rio, she does not show it but it seems unlikely that she would not have felt anything when faced with Santa Muerte’s sister. But Magda’s presence is hardly felt in the episode because, as mentioned before, her influence is hardly necessary to show the darkness in men’s hearts.

Which brings us back to Lewis, Tiago, and Diego. The veteran detective comes to a difficult decision but since he knows it is the only way for all of them to get out of their predicament alive, he does not waver in his resolve. He comes up with a plan to pin all the crimes, including the Hazlett murders, on Diego to satisfy their captain’s demands and to hopefully satiate the white policemen and citizens’ lust for revenge.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep6 - How It Is With BrothersNathan Lane is, once again, excellent as he lays down the painful facts before the young man. There is a stark contrast between Tiago’s hotheaded approach to Michener’s calm, almost fatherly, manner even as he convinces an innocent man to be a sacrificial lamb. Tearful and trembling, the young man finally agrees to the deal and the police squad is later seen celebrating Vega and Michener’s closing of the cases.

“This is the right thing to do,” Michener tells Diego but it sounds very much like the old man is trying to convince himself of this too.

Check out the trailer for the next episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels below: