IR TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL – CITY OF ANGELS – EPISODE 10 (“Day Of The Dead”) [Showtime]

Finding the right conclusion that plays with the texture to uphold stakes is difficult in any series. Questions always arise. The manipulation from within becomes the true aspect of drama. With the season finale of “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” entitled “Day Of The Dead” the paths divergent become a messy train of broken souls but also resolve. Tiago Vega thinks he sees a path both correct and then apart. But then it comes undone. He thinks he knows the path of right and then he realizes that it doesn’t serve the greater good. Sister Molly thinks she knows what happiness could be but it becomes a shadow of reality. The key with this season has always been sketching the melting pot of life within this time in Los Angeles. It could define what it would become, both with its differences and similarities. The question the series brings up becomes who are the people that lose and what is the inherent collateral damage when all is said and done.

Unlike some of the episodes which make the words do alot of the walking, the season finale especially in its latter half lets the silences and the imagery speak. The diametric images especially in the last 10 minutes push the stories in ways that one would not expect. Granted one specific point does not make sense as it might be more metaphorical than literal. The stakes are still present but manufactured or perhaps regrouped in a different way. The joy that was prevalent in the previous episode lurks below the surface but with an element of pain which is what makes the best drama. Again the manipulation of the supernatural is done subtly but the battle of what the Goddess wanted versus her sister relates in very poetic terms. It foreshadows a crossroads that when discussed is both undeniable and yet tragic, poetic yet sad. Series creator John Logan who also wrote “Gladiator” understands the necessity of light and darkness. Lives are not neatly wrapped up. “Day Of The Dead” as a season finale works to highlight that the danger that lingers, lessons learned, actions taken and yet life moves on perhaps with a little more wisdom.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: THE CHI – EPISODE 2 (“Brewfurd”) [Showtime-S3]

The personification of masks both for professional and personal gain take on a sense of irony in Episode 2 of the 3rd season of “the Chi” entitled “Brewfurd”. Running in the background is the disappearance of a daughter of a couple at the end of the last episode. The interweaving story lines play in an interrelated form jumping in the matter of slice of life. One moves in getting ahead even in a neighborhood that seems focused on cutting through dreams. Another idea that keeps revolving is what necessitates the greater good despite question decisions or perceptions. A would-be businessman has dreams but is fronting a business that he has no talent for beyond the dream of it…but he has the ambition. He tries to recruit talent because he believes that this will make his business thrive and grow. He doesn’t understand that people see through his front. On the other side, his mother is too honest and in being her true self makes him front again when he should learn from her example. This essence of a hypocritical nature shows him on a path of burning brought but maybe losing all of what is behind him including his family.

On the other end is a man who has come back home to save his baby half-brother from what he got away from. What is interestingly unbalanced and well perceived is his own relationship which walks the boundary of identity, love and masks. He sees the line and can’t help what he feels but can’t come to terms with it in a real way beyond the surface. Unlike some of his peers, he is not a violent man but might be pushed to that level. The silent tome running in the background shows a man who is homeless and has a simmering facade compounded with rage that speaks to a darkness that has been seen before. “The Chi” is always effective in creating a pressure cooker situation where the characters are just trying to live their lives. Some of it is just coming of age. Others are matters of life and death. Whereas the last episode was anchored by a funeral, “Brewfurd” is about living life, whatever problems it might throw against the characters. The results are a matter of choice and consequence, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL – CITY OF ANGELS – EPISODE 9 (“Sing Sing Sing”) [Showtime]

The aspect of acceptance and continuing are a blend on the idea of what can be and what is inevitable. Does the texture of possibility allow for fate to be changed or is it simply the human endeavor. Is it the crux of fate or whether life turns out the way it is supposed to be or where life sets itself. With Episode 10 of Penny dreadful City Of Angels entitled “Sing Sing Sing,” it is about this collision of life converting on a single place. In this episode without giving too much away, it is The Crimson Cat which was the pinnacle of energy in the series as the focal point. It is the swing music club in the heart of Chicano territory Like The Gym in “West Side Story”, it is the place where one sees all the colors flying through but the emotions played in one structure. While the flow is not as vivacious as that earlier episode, the character work that is done in one specific scene is undeniable. Without giving too much away, it revolves around to identity and family and how that changes over time. This dynamic is very rich but there is always strife right behind it. The secondary stories in the episode are still chumming along but the aspect of acceptance in the reverse is a double edged sword (which is what is playing out on the flip side). This is true, without giving anything away in the inter-cutting because of the kettle that is brewing.

But what is interesting is that there is a moment’s hesitation from one of the key characters, a slip in the fabric. The aspect of coincidence as it builds to The Crimson is undeniable. While it works well, there is a slight bit of magic missing from that earlier episode, a sense of the cinematic. but the characters were in different places. Forgiveness and acceptance are the backbones here now and what can be believed. Faith and a sense of duty is an interesting conundrum for the Vega family. As much as the Goddess Of Darkness wants to pull them apart, there is a sense of decency to them. The problem is that too much pressure leads to an spark point which this episode does have. One very nice coda plays in a small scene of one of the titans of LA. His perspective gives a voice to the actuality of what is going on, supernatural or not. Progress , good or bad, is inevitable…and whoever wins is dependent on a sense of worth and will.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: THE CHI – EPISODE 1 (“Foe ‘Nem”) [Showtime-S3]

The aspect of peace versus a sense of inevitability seems to flow through the heart of the S3 premiere of “The Chi” entitled “Foe ‘Dem”. The idea revolves around a community with so much loss being tested interrelated with a procession of joy. Writer Lena Waithe knows the classical structure of tragedy versus light but placing that idea within this Chicago neighborhood makes it all the more rich when the stakes are revealed. She also integrates the idea of relationship, young and old, straight or gay which gives the story even more universality. In an age still buried in certain toxic traits balance with enlightenment, it is a matter of how each family and each person deals in their own way, through hardships, successes and failures. People are finding their way here while others fall back into a sense of normalcy and habit whatever that may be. The dark criminal drama is unfolding underneath it all but it doesn’t play like dread but instead just a reflection of normalcy and a way of life. The wedding, especially with its unusual family, plays with the right beats although the foreshadowing leads to a bad possibility, but not from the exact direction one would think.

Behavioral tendencies are universal while situations are different. There is a speech during a funeral that is utterly rich because of its stark truth to the lady speaking it but what Waithe does is balance it with the smaller conversations whether it be on the sea wall outside a wedding or with kids hanging out in the afternoon. The scenes are not based in sentimentality but an authentic air. The words, especially in some of the darker scenes, seem a bit stilted but work. The idea speaks to the alphas and the betas but also those characters that filter in between trying to get ahead. Like any city or community, there are joys and heartache but this sector of Chicago and its lives have its fair share of heartache. Many are struggling to get out. Many return to find that this being their home, they need to fight for it and risks need to be taken. As the episode ends the idea of stakes continue despite best intentions for a peaceful resolution because of the essence of human nature.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL – CITY OF ANGELS – EPISODE 8 (“Hide And Seek”) [Showtime]

Rage is a powerful emotion but unchecked it simply becomes utterly destructive. Revenge also filters within this structure. Jealousy as a factor also integrates. But these emotions can cloud facts by simply the changing the words that need to be heard, beyond actually said. Some have clarity. Others want to be led down a different path that perhaps holds a greater light or a sense of satisfaction. While the most previous episode worked to portray a sense of tendency on the part of the series that with would-be bad guys, it is all about opportunity. The battleground as LA in a way as Tiago (as played by Daniel Zuvatto) points to is a breakdown in structure based on those in power and how they are steering their agenda. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. What is important for Tiago versus Sister Molly? is it as simple as happiness? Nothing is because that construct can change over time or in an instant.

In Episode 8 of “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” entitled “Hide and Seek,” the more esoteric or existential battle is taking place with Maria, the mother of Tiago in her work as the maid at the house of a German doctor infiltrated by the goddess of darkness in sheep’s clothing. The undeniable fact is that Maria cannot see the devil that is in front of her. It begins to show itself in the spawn of the devil as a metaphor in a rather oblique way. That tendency bathed in a sense of dread can be scarier and watching how it affects another character is quite intense. The burying of a beloved pet is particularly poignant in its silent power. What is interesting in this episode is showing previously almost passive characters changing their angles although one ( the goddess) is just telling someone what they want to hear by slightly changing the facts.

Masks are simply placed on to protect a person from the moment before their true self is revealed. This is shown fairly literally in a diametrically staged alternative club (much different from the earlier swing dancing club). The series has the ability to subvert itself in many ways without showing its hand too much or relying on mythology or the supernatural. There is enough magic in play in real life. The underlying structure is that the goddess is always in control even when she wants people to think that she isn’t. “City Of Angels” is about that balance and the choices that propels the characters either way.

B

By Tim Wassberg