'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' Season Finale Review: The show's unfocused vision makes for a messy ending

Magda finally orchestrates the riots she wanted and a series of bleak endings are shoehorned into this abrupt mess of a finale


                            'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' Season Finale Review: The show's unfocused vision makes for a messy ending
(Showtime)

Spoilers for 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' Season 1 Episode 10 'Day of the Dead'

This episode is named for the Mexican holiday, Dia de Muertos or the Day of the Dead. A day that is of important cultural significance to the Vega family, especially with Maria Vega's (Adriana Barraza) devotion to Santa Muerte (Lorenza Izzo). The day and the ceremonies involved are a little more than a sad montage at the end of the episode and that says everything about just how badly the show's focus has been scattered.

Whether it's endings we saw coming — like Mateo Vega's (Johnathan Nieves) and Peter Craft's (Rory Kinnear) turn to the dark side of their respective organizations or the more surprising twists of Brian Koenig (Kyle McArthur) and Molly Finnister's (Kerry Bishe) deaths, very little of it feels earned. Mateo Vega in particular is surprisingly okay with the murder of Fly Rico (Sebastian Chacon), but of course, he has no time to object — it's the finale, after all. Despite a season that has largely felt like a setup done by Magda's (Natalie Dormer) multifaceted plans, the endings feel shoehorned into the finale, as if the show was meant to last at least a few episodes more and was told at the last minute they'd be getting only 10.

Rio manages to push the Hispanic community into a fullblown riot on the streets of LA, with a little coordination with Elsa, who in turn, manages to convince Peter Craft (Rory Kinnear) to go full Nazi. Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) kills Brian after learning that he's planning to build an atomic bomb, with little apparent thought as to the consequences. After making plans to leave it all behind with Tiago Vega (Danial Zovatto), Molly learns that her mother was responsible for the Haslet murders and commits suicide as it was her only escape. Charlton Townsend (Michale Gladis) gets his highway made and Tiago realizes that "they're not building roads, they're building walls. This is not the United States of America."

It's a mess of a finale, buried under a clunky political message. Townsend's monologue sends him all the way off the edge into a cartoonish political villain, as he outright states every corrupt thing he is planning to do. It's a monologue that describes political corruption so succinctly that it would be satire if it wasn't taking itself so seriously. Tiago's final line towards the camera is awkward as it is unsubtle. In a mark of just how much the show has failed to make certain plot points clear in its months of setup, Peter Craft clarifies that he is, in fact, not a Nazi, just before Elsa convinces him to become one. While Peter not actually being a part of the Nazi party would have been an important part of his story through the series, this is the first we get any clear indication of it.

'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' has had problems figuring out what kind of story it wants to be right from its conception. Tying itself into a show of supernatural horror and literary characters, 'City of Angels' has had none of the latter and an inconsequential amount of the former. Despite its beautiful set pieces, moving performances, and impactful moments of storytelling scattered through the series, the series as a whole has not had a clear vision of what kind of story it means to tell. There's no clearer indication of that than the finale, 'City of Angels', tried to tell just one too many stories and failed to effectively tell any of them.  

This is the final episode of 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' Season 1.

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