Penny Dreadful: Making expensive deals with the Devil…

'Josefina and The Holy Spirit' exposes very human weaknesses and desires as fateful deals are made...

Tiago isn’t sure what to do now his image of Molly has been compromised by revelations about her past, but vows to find out the truth. Lewis knows all to well the moral compromises he’ll have to do to get his own answers and help in tracking down the people who killed his friends. A younger, less-weathered Mateo is also faced with a similar moral choice but after his sister, Josefina is assaulted by the police, he makes his fateful decision of retribution…

Magda continues to influence the weaker men in her thrall – those who want power, those who want revenge or those who just want… her.

And all the while Santa Muerta looks on at the evil that men do…

 

*spoilers*

While a child’s ghost-story is made flesh in one of the show’s most overt and gothic/horror movie moments to date City of Angels continues to be more fascinated with the human monster than the ethereal, demonic ones. Rod McLachlan’s bigoted, molesting cop Jimmy Reilly is a character brazen enough to commit his atrocities in broad daylight, never fearing any retribution from those he terrorises, but  with whom karma and Matteo’s bloody blade finally catch up…and it’s a violent, vengeful fate that will conjure up little sympathy from the audience

Once again, Lorenza Izzo’s Santa Muerta seems relegated to the sidelines with a singular, token appearance to remind us of her outlying presence. She witnesses a massacre in a small Mexican town and though there are plenty of bullet-strewn bodies, she only finds sympathy for a girl caught in the crossfire. It’s not the most savage or impactful brutality of the night but it’s probably the most poignant.  The character’s remit is largely passive so far (to essentially watch, but never interfere, simply picking up the collateral damage in the aftermath) but that’s unfortunately coming across as  less narratively dramatic and less visually interesting than Dormer’s very active Magda.  While that’s somewhat inevitable, Santa Muerta has been the literal face of the show’s main marketing and it continues to feel like she’s getting short-changed. Even seeing her fleeting presence amongst the central story’s more-than-plentiful bloodshed would seem logical and more compelling.

Rory Kinnear’s Peter Craft gives in to carnal temptations, as does Michael Gladis’ Charlton Townsend  – both with potentially compromising positions that could come back to haunt them….

Nathan Lane continues to be one of the main reason’s for tuning in – consistently excellent in his sardonic style and bristling outrage at the presence of Nazis in Los Angeles and the loss of his friends. Add to that his scenes with dangerous gangster Benny Berman (played by Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Brad Garrett, an actor who towers over him physically but with whom he creates a pitch-perfect balanced  repartee) and it’s a sheer joy to watch the sparkling, clever dialogue as it veers between implied threats, sparkling word-play and the merits of Jane Austen). One can already taste the ‘supporting’ emmy nominations…

Elsewhere Johnathan Nieves’ Mateo faces a similar moral choice to the one faced by Lane’s Lewis, with a very different result, plunging him further down the rabbit-hole and in the sway of his new friends. Jessica Garza’s Josefina  becomes the latest of the Vega family to get the spotlight and we’re introduced to another slimy fascist-sympathiser (and womaniser) Herman Ackermann, played by  new-Spock-himself Ethan Peck. Even the striking Piper Perabo, made to look older and more severe for this role, finally gets to do more than hang around the background having the vapours.

Perhaps too explicitly violent, seedy, visceral and disturbing on a number of levels than it actually needs to be to make its point, Josefina and The Holy Spirit sends us plummeting into human carnage one minute, into illicit encounters the next and then raises us up with Sister Molly imploring salvation to her audience. It’s a intense rollercoaster ride that the show handles well in the visual and the pacing, mixing horror and humour. Though a delicate balance, it’s a potent mix but one that wouldn’t be welcome in these measures every week, but it does indicate a story and a historical situation destined to bubble over and explode before too long – always a sign of good drama. It’s cranking up the tension but it will be interesting to see what happens (and when) that gets released…

 

'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels  Episode 4: Josefina and the Holy Spirit'  (Showtime review)
8.8
'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Episode 4: Josefina and the Holy Spirit' (Showtime review)
  • Story
    8
  • Acting
    9
  • Direction
    9
  • Production Design / SFX
    9
Categories
TELEVISION REVIEW
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