I have been wondering, off and on, how much of this version of Penny Dreadful was meant to be a commentary on the current political atmosphere in the United States. Is it deliberate or not?
This last episode answered that question for me in the most blatantly clumsy way possible.
So, here we are at what was meant to be merely the season one finale and ended up being the series finale because Showtime did not opt to renew the show. And, quite frankly, I am very much fine with that. It took the better part of a season to start to show what the series was trying to do, and by then, I am pretty comfortable with not seeing any more of this. I really don’t much care about anything happening on this show.
All that stuff with Peter Craft? Why him? Yes, he played an unwitting role in what went down with a race riot, but why does he have to be convinced to become a Nazi? He’s against it, and he’s still just a pediatrician, even if he does run the pro-German Bund group.
Note, he was pro-Germany but not pro-Nazi.
Molly killed herself, and seeing a young woman come to a bad end is pretty much old hat for Penny Dreadful, but Molly didn’t really have anywhere near the presence of a Brona Croft or a Vanessa Ives (even if Brona got better), but that may have something to do with the acting abilities of Billie Piper and Eva Green more than anything else.
The character died, and I didn’t care.
Magda arranges a race riot that gets Townsend his highway through the Chicano neighborhood, and I didn’t care.
Townsend gives a mustache-twirling speech about dividing up all the races with his highways, a speech Taigo seems to somehow also deliver right at the end of the episode as a warning.
And here’s where an episode and a show that had left me largely apathetic, if anything mad that an actress as good as Natalie Dormer got such crappy material to work with, made me kinda mad. We were given moments to maybe sympathize with Townsend as a closeted gay man, perhaps lonely over how his life went, but then he gives a pro-fascist speech about how he’s going to run things and be a Nazi or whatever and, like, did the show still expect us to sympathize with him? Couldn’t they have made one of the protagonists gay instead? We could have gotten the same speeches and trips to the homosexual nightclub and not had to feel like they were going a bit too far with their most prominent gay character also being a fascist wannabe. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a villain gay, but it is counterproductive to give a villain speeches about how minority groups (in this case, homosexuals) are treated when he himself is very much into treating minority groups (in this case, People of Color) poorly.
But something finally lost me, so what was it? That would be Tiago, talking to Michener, about how all these highways are meant to divide because they aren’t really roads. They’re walls.
And then he looks right at the camera and says, “This is not the United States of America.”
There’s a way to do something like that without being too groan-inducing. This wasn’t subtle. Townsend is basically a Trump stand-in, the biggest difference being Townsend is secretly gay and sentimental about a city. Donald Trump’s preference for women is, let’s just say, well-documented, and I don’t think he’s even been seen as sentimental for anything in public. Beyond that, Townsend holds all the traits that Trump’s detractors routinely cite in him,
And so, we’re left with an unsubtle social commentary made by a so-so character addressed directly to the audience. It just doesn’t work.
End result for one season of City of Angels: 6 out of 10 demon children doing demonic children things.
But as I said, there are ways to do horror and social commentary. Heck, the two go together very well, and when done right, they can produce great stories. To that end, starting next Tuesday, I will be covering HBO’s acclaimed horror drama Lovecraft Country here.
Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to do this one for a while. And when something as mediocre as City of Angels comes along, that just makes me want to look into it even more.