“Day of the Dead” pulls together a strong finale, with its share of tragedy and occasional tenderness, but the story feels far from complete.
This recap of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels season 1, episode 10, “Day of the Dead”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels episode 10 begins with Tiago giving Molly a crash-course on the titular Day of the Dead, which feels ominous in and of itself — only more so when you realize that Santa Muerte herself is moving among the crowd of smitten slow-dancers. And that’s before Lewis arrives to inform Tiago that the cops lynched Diego in last week’s cliffhanger ending.
News travels fast. Tiago tells Raul to take Maria and Josefina home, but before he can explain anything to Mateo, Fly Rico and Rio take the stage and rile the crowd. Rico proposes a show of dignity, in fairness, but it’s easy to imagine that won’t be how things turn out, especially if Rio has anything to say about it.
Peter and Elsa see the parade of honorary Pachucos marching peacefully up the street; when Elsa and Rio lock eyes, the former gets the message, and her demon offspring starts wailing, beginning a chain reaction that allows Rio to convince the crowd that they’re being run over. Chaos quickly erupts, and this raises some interesting questions. Do Magda’s various personas have to directly communicate to know what each of them is up to? I guess I always assumed that they could all just intuit what was going on, although that would probably raise more questions than it answers. Anyway, when Fly Rico pursues Rio to berate her, she shanks him, explaining, “This isn’t the time for peacemakers.” When Mateo catches her in the act, she hands the blade to him. “The king is dead. Long live the king.”
Tiago, a man of exquisite timing, chooses this moment to appear, but he’s set about by some sailors — Mateo and Rio fight them off, but Mateo gives an ominous, “Goodbye, brother”, to let Tiago — and presumably the audience — know he’s on the side of righteous demonic vengeance now.
This experience unsurprisingly rattles Tiago, who flips out on Molly about the sheer impossibility of them having a normal relationship in the kind of environment where, in slightly different circumstances, he would have been kicked to death in the streets just for being Latino. She proposes running away to Mexico, but he doesn’t want her to shelve her evangelical altruism just for him. But, she suggests, perhaps it wouldn’t just be for him, but her too. That seems to convince him, and they decide to disappear together. Do we think they’ll run off into the sunset together? Of course not!
And just like that, Lewis is on the blower, wanting to meet with Tiago. He leaves Molly behind to find her own way home — no! — and promises to see her later tonight. Famous last words.
Townsend, meanwhile, is absolutely thrilled by the riots. He has plans for more motorways, through black neighborhoods this time, the prospect of more white votes almost as exciting to him as his plate of sausages. The potential power goes right to his head, and he immediately starts laying out his dictatorial plans for the mayor’s office and their own “thousand-year Reich.” He makes for a stark contrast with Peter, who cautions his son, who was hurt during the riots, against hatred, which will, according to him, devour everything in your heart like a hungry rat, until there’s no love left.
Try telling Elsa that, though. She insists that he’ll have to give a speech on behalf of the Bund and be explicit about whether he sides with the Aryans or “the mongrels”. What he thinks is hatred, Elsa reframes as strength, being a man, having pride in one’s family and race, and she even delivers an accompanying sob story to put her point across. She insists that she and Peter’s country need him to be who he truly is, and gives a sharp Nazi salute to make matters very clear.
Lewis, meanwhile, takes Tiago home, where he has Benny, Brian and everyone else assembled, being entertained by the Vegas. The plan is to fly Brian to New York, but the plane won’t be in until tonight. In the meantime: Cooking with Maria. Why not?
In an unlikely turn of events, or I suppose not at all unlikely given this show’s habits, Goss instantly figures out where they all in the very next scene. That doesn’t bode well.
If you were wondering about the Hazlett murders, by the way, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels episode 10 has you covered: When Molly tells Miss Adelaide about her desire to leave, the matriarch just admits it outright, claiming it was all to protect Molly. Hilariously, Adelaide expects this just to simply set Molly’s mind at ease, which is needless to say the exact opposite of the confession’s actual effect.
Just like that, it’s time for Brian to go (should I give the episode an extra star for the comedy value of Maria and Benny exchanging recipes? I’m tempted.) In transit, though, Brian quite chirpily announces that he has come up with an idea for a nuclear bomb. For a moment it looks as though Lewis is going to chastise him about the moral implications, but he lets it go, slightly aghast at the casualness of the kid’s admission.
A bit later though, as Maria softly sings to Josefina, Lewis takes Brian for a walk on the beach… and executes him as he dopily stares up at the moon. At the same time, Molly, in a church pool gradually reddening with blood, gives herself over to Santa Muerte, and Peter dons his medal before throwing up a Nazi salute and sobbing, having evidently decided which side he’s on.
Lewis hears of Molly’s death on the radio as he and Tiago stop for gas. We see him tell his partner what he heard from behind the gas station’s glass-paned door and see him break down in tears, a brief scene which is somehow sadder filmed at this remove. When we see Tiago next he’s with the rest of his family at the Day of the Dead reminiscences, where he dances with his mother. As he pays his respects to his late father, Magda’s black-gloved hand brushes the back of his neck. She says that there will come a time when the world is ready for her, where races will devour each other and brothers will turn on brothers. Is he ready?
As Tiago stands with Lewis and watches his neighborhood be demolished, explaining how the roads are really walls meant to keep the minorities fenced away, you have to imagine that he is.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.