'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' Episode 2 Review: Mystery deepens as cast additions steer story ahead
Spoilers for 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angel' Season 1 Episode 2 'Dead People Lie Down'
Last week's episode was a when they set up the themes of the show. Life, death, racism, and most important of all, just how easy it is to turn men into monsters. The explosive end to the pilot episode gave way to a quiet fallout. Packed with tension Detectives Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) and Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) go right into pursuing the investigation of the Hasley family murder, meet new character Sister Molly (Kerry Bishe), while Magda (Natalie Dormer) continues to stir the pot of racial tensions and political ambition.
Never let it be said that Daniel Zovatto wasn't given a lot to do this episode, as an actor. As Tiago moves from dread at confronting his family, to open grief, to a charming romantic subplot introduced later, Zovatto goes through a wide range of feelings, all brilliantly portrayed.
'City of Angels' has some great writing behind it, but its performers are doing a great job at enhancing and deepening an already a great story. If Tiago is the face of the show, it's Maria Vega (Adriana Barraza) who is the show's beating heart - earnest, powerful, working steadily behind the scenes.
Every heart has its dark side, however, and the show's darkness is brought out quite entertainingly by Dormer. Her multiple personalities lie just this side of the comedic, into an area that is somewhere between fun and fiendishly clever. Last episode's shots of her whispering in the ears of both sides of the conflict are images that are especially resonant, as her multiple mortal forms manipulate the hearts and minds of those around her. What's remarkable is just how easy her words bring out the worst in people - it's just as she said. The only thing needed to turn people into monsters is to tell them that they can, and between her Elsa and Alex personas, she's doing a lot of talking.
Already home to an extensive cast, we are introduced to two more people this episode. The original 'Penny Dreadful' had quite a large ensemble cast and that appears to be one thing they actually did carry over from the old series.
Fly Rico (Sebastian Chacon) gets one of the best openings for a character in the series so far, as well as one of the best lines - "There's a city of me." Sister Molly, in the meanwhile, makes quite an impression as an old-fashioned twist on an age-old celebrity story.
Sister Molly is a 1930s Christian Britney Spears, for all intents and purposes - a poor little rich girl whose persona and public image is tightly controlled by her mother, and all she wants is a moment to herself to be as free and as sweet as she pretends to be on stage. It would be a little eye-rollingly cliche if Kerry Bishe didn't bring so much charisma to the role. Whether it's her onstage personality playing up what's essentially a gospel music lounge singer, or the homely girl in the soup kitchen who just wants to someont to talk to, Sister Molly draws you in with that old fashioned, wide-eyed charm that made LA heroines so compelling. Anyone who knows anything about the genre at all, of course, knows that this immediately makes her untrustworthy - but in the meanwhile, watching the sparks fly between her and Tiago is a delight.
'Dead People Lie Down' does what 'Penny Dreadful' does best - set up a lot of very engaging characters against a backdrop of monstrous horror. The show has so far been very light on the latter, but this episode's cliffhanger may just be about to change all that.
The next episode of 'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' airs May 10, 10 pm ET, on Showtime.