Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Wicked Old World

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If the central characters had bought into their various dreams previously, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3 threw a healthy dose of reality into their plans.

Councilman Townsend's road to mayorship is full of Nazi traffic.

Lewis's team of well-seasoned, Jewish, super sleuths met with tragic bullet-related circumstances.

Tiago's faith in Molly got shaken by seemingly irrefutable evidence.

Miss Adelaide's Attention - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 2

And, always in the background, we have the powers pulling the strings. 

On the mortal plane, we have the increasingly freaky Miss Adelaide.

Although I had pegged Molly as the archetypal princess in a tower, I didn't quite understand the level of fear and terror her dragon mother employed in controlling her.

Sending Randolph to follow and spy on her daughter is one level (and I'll confess that I was rather amused by his bit with the cotton candy) but that bit where she lay in wait, sitting in darkness, only to turn the light on and SING the "Popeye" song at Molly and then turn the light back off?

Poor Sister Molly - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

That's some Stephen King-level obsessive crazy right there.

Now, having seen that, it's understandable why Molly might've convinced Hazlett to help her steal money from the temple to buy a house where she could hide from Adelaide.

Whether that was a "love-nest" or not remains to be seen. (Apparently, I'm naively rooting for Tiago's heart.)

Tiago: You're not a freak.
Molly: Oh, that I am. I was raised to be. All around me, the other snake-handlers and con men. And me, singing my heart out. Little Sister Molly.

What is clear is that Molly's had a complicated and traumatizing life. Who could blame her for self-medicating and switching on her act for anyone who might be able to help her?

By the way, for those curious, the Seconal vs. Nembutal drug debate was a very real thing.

An Invitation - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

Meanwhile, on the supernatural front, Magda continues to be busy, seeding unrest and dissatisfaction in the men her personas (personae?) are manipulating.

I continue to be confused as to how unassuming little Dr. Peter Craft attracted the attention of an entity who is occupied elsewhere with the rise of the Third Reich in America and stoking the flames of a race war.

I mean, I guess it's heartening that regular people can get targetted as much as powerful and pivotal folks. Right?

It's just so strange that his tender German heart gets the same level of effort and service that a councilman's ambition and a gang leader's temper do. Even more so, really, when you consider how many places Elsa/Magda has to track him down or lure him to to spin her web.

Concerned Dr. Clark - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

All I can assume at this point is that his role in the German American Bund is important to Magda's plans. It'll be interesting to see if the "friends" who attend his son's birthday party will include the visiting Herr Goss.

And that leads me to my earlier thought about the many Magdas. Would Goss recognize in Elsa a resemblance to Alex? Do people see Magda as totally different individuals just as they don't see her at all when she's not wearing a persona?

I also predict that Mrs. Craft might not be super keen on Alex extending the impromptu invitation to the lovely, Aryan-looking Elsa.

It's 50/50 as to how much Tom and Trevor appreciate having Frank crash the party.

Excited Alex - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

Townsend's story ramped up with some dramatic scenes and revelations. Furthermore, his part of Magda's battle strategy seems to be the first going off the rails.

If you think I'm going to let you turn the Los Angeles City Council into your own little Third Reich, you are sadly mistaken, sir. I've been knocking down piss-pot fascists like you since you were at your mama's titty. You want a war, honey? You got it.


Whether that has to do with his reluctance to kowtow to the Germans and Goss's blunt response to his demands or his impulsive instinct to kill his political opponents, who can say?

You have a singular gift for repellant rhetoric and putrid demagoguery, I give you that. But then, you, in turn, must allow me this. I speak for Adolf Hitler. I speak, not for tonight, but for the next thousand years. And when the Wehrmacht is marching down Sunset Blvd, you will either be at our side or under our boots. Now, which is it to be, Herr Monkey?


It's telling that Alex reverted to Magda and created her own little Kristallnacht down that street after losing Townsend. She might be supernaturally skilled at manipulating people, but she still falls short of controlling them.

Interestingly enough, the historical Kristallnacht actually happened in November of 1938, so there's a hint of purposeful imagery here. Perhaps they are implying that Magda's mood carries over to her minions globally? Or maybe she just zapped herself to Germany to let off some steam through the SA forces.

Rio/Magda - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

Of all the Magdas we've met so far, Rio might be the most problematic.

Don't get me wrong; I was just as enamored of The Crimson Cat vibe as Mateo was. Rio is accepted as Pachuco Queen.

Sometimes the cops bring razors to slash up our clothes so we're not Pachuco anymore, right? Baby, I'm Pachuco stark naked strutting down Wiltshire.


But as Mateo points out, she's white. And that tells us that even if there was a magical glamor to prevent mortals from seeing through her different disguises to identify her as the same person, she's as she looks to us.

From the moment the promos began for Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, it's been debated how correct it is to have Natalie Dormer's face representing a series steeped in Mexican-American culture and folklore.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Banner

Admittedly, she's a sun among the stars collected into this talented cast, but insinuating her into a group like the Pachucos treads a fine line.

Arguably, as a supernatural, Magda isn't of any particular ethnicity, but it's undeniably awkward. Especially when she, as Rio, begins sermonizing on the need for minorities to seize the American dream.

Rio: We gotta get our piece of that American Dream.
Rico: That isn't for us.
Rio: That's exactly for us. You take what you want. You make your way up. You use your brains. You use your nerve. No one's going to give us anything, Rico, so we make them. First, we make them look. Then, we make them scared. We are Pachuco. We are Chicano. We are Aztec. We are Spade. We are Wop. We are Dago. We are Chink. We are Queer. We are everything they fear. And we go out dancing.

For a character who worked the periphery of the action, Lewis drove the crucial developments.

From "borrowing" the evidence that killed his friends, to kidnapping the kid from Cal Tech, to connecting the dots between Hazlett and Molly, our resident Nazi-hunter was all about the reveals.

Michener at the Bar - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

There's also a clear emphasis on his Jewish identity.

His observance of kriah, the Jewish tradition of tearing one's clothes in mourning and grief, after leaving the coroner's office, is a heart-breaking glimpse of his true emotions under the tough cop exterior.

That tough cop exterior got a proper airing in intimidating the Cal Tech kid into dropping Wernher von Braun's name. So now we know (if you hadn't suspected already) that nuclear weaponry is on Goss's mind.

It's a wicked old world and it's only got you and me to save it.


Complicated is underselling the state of things at the moment. Let's revisit what we've already covered.

Partners in Gimlets - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

Tiago is at a crossroads, muddled by emotions and evidence.

Mateo's stepped into a world of criminality and violence.

Townsend has a dangerous secret which (one would suspect) Alex knows all about that and which has the potential to bring out an even uglier side to his silent partners.

And the Temple of Joyful Voices houses so many tears that it's liable to bring down the walls tumbling down.

Incognito Molly - Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3

It's a lot to keep track of when you watch Penny Dreadful: City of Angels online.

Who's secret is going to be outed first?

Have Molly's angelic wings truly been clipped?

How many more Magdas will we meet? I feel like there has to be a max capacity somewhere.

Let us know what shocked you most in the comments!


Wicked Old World Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (21 Votes)

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.

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Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

Beck: And now you think you're going to get that road built on the graves of four dead cops and eight dead Mexicans.
Townsend: Yes, ma'am. I call it healing this city's wounds in concrete and asphalt.

Mateo: Tell you what? If I was a Pachuco, I would slit his throat for what he did.
Raul: That is your brother. You respect him. You think he wanted any of this? Jesus Christ, I'd rather be any fucking thing in this world than Tiago. He's not one of us. He's not one of them. He's a cop. He's a Chicano. He doesn't know what the fuck he is. You want to see a hermano? You look in his eyes. You be kind.