REVIEW: Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep9 – Sing, Sing Sing

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep9 - Sing, Sing Sing

The penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels reunited and reconciled the Vega family while ending with a truly harrowing event that will have serious repercussions for the season finale.

It’s truly chilling how many parallels can be drawn with Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and the current, troubled socio-political climate. The final moments of this episode involve the lynching of an innocent person of color, an event that is truly too close to home given what has been happening in the world today. All the themes explored in the show such as racism and police brutality make it seem prescient but also highlights the fact that these problems have pervaded society as early as the 1930s. As Penny Dreadful: City of Angels continues to demonstrate, the real monsters are the members of mankind themselves and not the supernatural beings like Magda or Santa Muerte.

The disturbing and tragic ending aside, this was my favorite episode of the season because more than half of it was focused on the Vega family. They have been billed as the main characters of the show but their appearances have been few and far between, with significant screen time being given to the other (white) characters such as Townsend and Craft when they should have been the focus. This was a rare opportunity that the whole family had gotten together, and as all their internal issues and struggles surfaced, it was a relief to see their secrets revealed and their bonds reforged.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep9 - Sing, Sing SingBefore I get into the delightful Vega family dynamics in this episode and that fantastic set of dance scenes at The Crimson Cat, I will quickly mention the non-Vega parts of the episode which were mostly to show Magda losing control of her puppets while Lewis continues to be one of the most compelling characters on the show.

Boldly entering an exclusive club just to confront Richard Goss about his Nazi dealings, Michener makes a stand and Nathan Lane once again delivers a powerhouse performance, his quiet intensity and rage at injustice shining through even as Goss asserts that the aged detective maybe out of his depth. Michener then once again seeks the assistance of gangster Benny Berman to protect the young scientist he and Dottie have been hiding. The gangster shows up at Dottie’s door just in time to prevent Kurt from assassinating the target.

Townsend reluctantly plays his final card, seeking the support of his rich and powerful father, played by the late, great Brian Dennehy. But the older Townsend refuses to share his son’s vision and rejects the younger man’s pleas for help, not because of any homophobic tendencies but because he views his son as weak, and he despises all weakness.

Peter Craft continues to stand his ground against Elsa, with Maria still in the house albeit subtly tortured by the new wife. Craft decides to take the family out to the movies and as he reveals himself to be a generally decent human being, it looks like Magda’s influence over him continues to wane.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep9 - Sing, Sing SingRio witnesses the same as all members of the Vega family converge at The Crimson Cat for another fantastic dance hall sequence also featuring iconic music, Benny Goodman’s arrangement of Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)”. (Almost every episode I say that I need the Penny Dreadful: City of Angels soundtrack because honestly, the musical choices from this era are inspired.) Somehow, the reunion doesn’t come across as too contrived because the dance hall is clearly the place to be for the Chicano community, not just the Pachucos, so it made sense for the Vegas to choose this venue for a rare night out with their loved ones.

It was especially delightful to see Raul do more in this episode, especially demonstrating his authority and composure as the eldest sibling when there is the slightest hint of tension between the younger Vegas and their matriarch, Maria. We really should see more of Raul in the next seasons, especially since his miraculous healing has not yet been explained.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, S1 Ep9 - Sing, Sing SingThe Vegas gathered together and all their secrets and conflicts are laid bare in the chaos of the dance hall. Intensely emotional confrontations must be commonplace enough in The Crimson Cat such that the people around don’t seem to mind various Vegas making loud outbursts every now and then. But since the fiery Chicano family is so demonstrative of their feelings in this episode, this helps accelerate their eventual reconciliation and reconnection.

Redheaded Josefina is the first to make peace with her mother, again largely through Raul’s negotiation skills. Tiago and Molly’s relationship is also revealed, as well as Molly’s connection to Josefina. While Mateo’s Pachuco allegiance is no longer a secret, the young man at least manages to reunite with the family who was always willing to accept him for who he was. And Tiago has one of his strongest moments on the show when he gives an impassioned speech about his multiple identity crises, but after all this, he takes a stand and declares his love for Molly with unwavering conviction.

Maria puts up with all these revelations with admirable forbearance. While she initially resists and disapproves her children’s choices, she also loves them too much to reject them and she ultimately decides that their happiness matters the most. She even comes to reluctantly accept Molly as the woman Tiago loves, and it was heartening to see Molly’s relief at finally belonging to a large family, at least for one glorious evening. When all the Vegas take to the dance floor to celebrate their reunion, it is one of the best scenes of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and a triumphant treat.

While they’ve spent most of the season on different journeys, bringing them together in the penultimate chapter is not only satisfying but is also crucial for whatever will happen next. It’s also a rare moment for them to all be happy and watching them excitedly dance with each other while contrasting these scenes with Diego’s execution is a very jarring way of ending the episode, but also a grim reminder that the darkness continues to plague their world. But the Vegas deserve this moment of calm before the storm to come.

Check out the trailer for the season finale below: