WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels finds 1938 Los Angeles embroiled in a race war, engineered by the demonic Magda (Natalie Dormer). While she hasn’t revealed her full hand yet, she’s shapeshifting and manipulating people to get the Third Reich full control of America.
At the heart of it is Tiago (Daniel Zovatto), the LAPD’s first American-Mexican detective, and someone seemingly chosen by Magda’s mystical sister and rival, Santa Muerte (Lorenza Izzo) for a bigger part in their game. Unfortunately, the second episode, “Dead People Lie Down,” just introduced a sinister cult that could break Tiago’s mission for justice.
Tiago is now being vilified by both Mexicans and fellow cops for toeing the line in the recent riot at his home in Arroyo Seco. He shot his own brother, Raul (Adam Rodriguez), leaving him on the verge of death, after Raul almost killed Tiago’s partner, Lewis (Nathan Lane). However, Nathan understands what happened and keeps it quiet. They have bigger fish to fry, though with the murder of the Hazlett family, who were dressed up in Day of the Dead makeup to make it look like Mexicans killed them.
To make matters worse, the Hazletts belong to the Joyful Voices Ministry so it seems it’s not just a race war, it’s an attack on Christianity. Lewis doesn’t buy this, however, as the Hazlett patriarch, James, handled finances for the church and got contracts for building roadways in LA. In other words, he’s a money man and the cops discover he dealt with the tithes and other shady practices at the church, which also doubles as a cult. It’s basically religion and conversion, but in a sneaky way, which makes Nathan upset. So much so, he butts heads with Adelaide Finnister (Amy Madigan), the mother of its star attraction, Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé).
Tiago actually catches Molly’s show and she’s quite magnetic, like a siren pulling the congregation in with her songs, skits and drama. She’s a celebrity, a personality and a character that’s so alluring, she proves what Lewis was saying about organized religion. Nathan knows the cult’s exploiting people and running corrupt deals, but if he wants to lean on Tiago, he’s going to have a problem.
His partner sneaks back to the church at night, not even caring to visit a dying Raul. Tiago claims he wants to find out more about James, but he and Molly spark up a romance. They’re both outsiders, struggling with destinies and what society wanted for them. Instead of trying to save Tiago, she tells him to come for her for comfort when Raul passes. She’s playing on his emotions, reeling him in, and it seems more suspicious than genuine. Adelaide finds them and puts an end to this rendezvous, and while she comes off as a racist villain, it seems Molly’s playing Tiago to gain his trust.
The fact Lewis’ Nazi-hunting friends were killed at the same time by Hitler’s secret army in America says a lot. It hints the Finnisters have a greater role to play and that possibly either the mother or daughter sold James out so his family could be taken at their lavish mansion. The Nazis wanted their roadway contracts and the cult could easily be bought out. And unless Tiago breaks out his spell soon, Lewis could end up paying the price for uncovering a truth even his own department is keen on avoiding.
Created, written and executive produced by John Logan, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels stars Daniel Zovatto, Natalie Dormer, Nathan Lane, Jessica Garza, Kerry Bishé, Ethan Peck, Adriana Barraza, Michael Gladis, Dominic Sherwood and Johnathan Nieves, as well as Piper Perabo, Amy Madigan, Brent Spiner, Lorenza Izzo, Lin Shaye and Adam Rodriguez in recurring roles. The series airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels may have thrown Tiago off his mission with the introduction of a sinister cult and a beautiful religious temptress.