Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Episode 1 Recap and Review, Santa Muerte

This episode is free on YouTube right now check it out.

The episode starts with a blazing hot sun and a woman describing a race war, a civil war. We see two women on a road. Arguing with one another as they debate the fate of one of the boys who seems to be a migrant worker. Both women, one in black and one in white are both are Magda a demon and Sante Muerte. The sister in black tells her sister that she will give her lots of souls and proceeds to set the field on fire. The boy’s father gets consumed by the flames. The CGI here is REALLY not great. The boy runs towards his father who is now being cradled by the woman in white. She shoves the boy away.

The next scene opens with Tiago’s celebration. He has a younger brother and sister who are eager to see his new shield. Tiago is a new police detective. Raul has come to celebrate with his brother. Raul is obviously a bit jealous but proud none the less.

Later in the evening, Tiago is walking his mother home and they discuss his new job. She is very proud he is the first Chicano police officer in the LAPD. We learn that the next day machines are going to wipe out the little settlement they live in. She tells him not to worry about that because his father would be proud and that he sees him especially tonight. Tiago gets on a bus and heads back to town.

There is some old school set design as Tiago finds himself back in LA proper. His apartment is small and sweaty. The apartment is utilitarian, to put it mildly. He gets a phone call in the morning from his partner. There has been some butchery and he has been called in early.

His partner tells him later that Vanderhoff called him himself to tell him to investigate. We finally get a time period as LA in 1938 gives us some point of reference. They arrive at an aqueduct and four dead bodies have been arranged in a cross and each face has been painted as El Muerte. It looks as if their lips have been removed. It is some Black Dahlia shit. Someone has written in Spanish “you take our heart, we will take yours”. Tiago’s partner says it must be some spic thing (jeez read the room dude). Tiago walks back to the bodies and finds that all of the hearts have been removed.

The bus drops off migrant women into a rich neighborhood where it is clear they are the cooks, housekeepers, and nannies of the well to do white folks who live in LA proper. Senora Vega is there to take care of a family and the two boys are clearly fond of her and she of them. We learn the father and mother are a bit at odds. Father tells Senora Vega not to let his wife drink and to make sure she rests (well that doesn’t sound great). He is German and is still struggling with learning English as he goes over English in the car.

As Tiago gets ready for the day another officer calls him some racial slurs (Pancho to be exact). His partner who is also kind of a racist stands up for him and the offending officer backs down.

We learn the bodies from earlier belong to the family Haslett. They are wealthy aristocrats from Beverly Hills. Brent Spiner is HERE as Vanderhoff. They think maybe pachucos. They are also worried a nice white family getting murdered could trigger a race war.

The German we met earlier is a doctor and he is helping Mrs. Bronson played once again by Natalie Dormer. The two have a conversation about leaving Germany. They also share a conversation about how stupid Americans can be (just wait until the president tells you to drink bleach). She admits her husband beats her and her boy. She kind of hits on him and he blanches. He pulls back and tells her he needs to do some allergy checks on her son Frank. They leave cordially.

As the women and her boy get into the elevator car she absorbs him back into her body. Its some pretty cool body horror shit that is much better than the CGI in the beginning.

Our German doctor is obviously smitten by her. He opens a closet and we see a Nazi flag and uniform in his closet.

At the LA city council meeting, we realize that the Chicano settlement is being destroyed to build a bigger freeway. The council has just voted to authorize construction and Raul is there to speak out against the decision. Alderman Townsend is presiding and Raul asks where his family is supposed to go. Townsend says back home and Raul reminds him he was born in Los Angeles. Shit is tense. Raul tells Townsend they will fight for their homes. They sing a union song in Spanish and Townsend has them all arrested.

Later Townsend tells his secretary (also played by Dormer) that he had to be forceful. Once safely back in his office, she keeps giving him advice. Namely that they need to build another freeway through the black area of town next.

Tiago and his partner are grabbing a coffee. Tiago tells his partner that the makeup was Santa Muerte. His partner tells him it must be the Mexicans then. Tiago tells him his mother thinks she is a witch and she would be a good one to talk to about this. They are interrupted by the doctor/nazi who has an entourage all in nazi regalia. He is talking on the city square and urges Americans to stay out of the fight in Europe. Our German/American urges Americans to keep their kids safe. He tells the crowd “America First”. Boy that phrase is getting a lot of work in pop culture and in Washington D.C. lately.

Courtesy of Showtime

Detective Michener leads the two into the Beverly Hills home of the murdered family. They were a VERY Christian family. Lots of bibles and weird religious recordings. On second thought VERY religious but not necessarily Christian as a lot of the iconography is of a woman. Downstairs Tiago is looking at a scaled map of the new freeway. Definitely seems like it could be some sort of Latino violence, at least that’s what the detectives think.

Richard Goss meets Councilmen Townsend. He is another German. He is also an architect. Goss wants to make him mayor of Los Angeles. The plan is to get him in the public eye through the transportation committee. If he becomes mayor Goss wants sympathy for the Fuhrer. Hitler wants to invade Los Angeles. Goss tells him Townsend will betray his country or his driver who is Gestapo will shoot him. Townsend agrees to help him.

Salsa music plays in the background as there is dancing in the street. Mateo grabs some guy who is making out with his sister and throws him out of the record shop he is working at. Maria Vega is there and is pissed at Mateo. He is sick of working so hard and making no money and generally sick of all of the bullshit (same Mateo same). Maria tells him this is America! Mateo ain’t playing that game.

Tiago shows up. He wants to know if Maria has talked to Santa Muerte lately. He tells her to keep her eyes open. She knows Santa Muerte touched him on the shoulder. She buys one cigarette from the newspaper guy and agrees to do what she can, but argues one day he will need Santa Muerte. The two then dance a bit. The dancing goes on a bit too long and its a little strange but they are both pretty good dancers so it’s you know kind of charming.

Later in the night, the three brothers are discussing Mateo beating up the dude and they all share a beer. They now discuss the Chicano revolution regarding the highway. Raul thinks Tiago is a traitor and tells him to go to the baseball game instead of screwing his people again.

The next day Detective Michener is putting together clues and he has a picture of Goss. He is tracking the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles. Someone knocks on the door and its Tiago who tells Michenor he is not going to the protest. Michener tells him he is either a cowboy or an Indian but that he needs to choose (yikes on that metaphor man).

That night in the Chicano neighborhood Maria is praying to Santa Muerte. Holy Angel mother of death hear my prayer. It’s quite the alter as Santa Muerte finally makes herself known. She wants to know what Maria wants. Maria wants her help. Santa Muerte tells her of the prophecy mentioned in the beginning. Where brother fights brother and race fights race (i mean this prophecy would have worked a lot better for the civil war right?). Maria wants to know if the prophecy references right now. Santa Muerte tells her she doesn’t know. Santa Muerte tells her she does not have a heart for man. Then Maria calls her sister a bitch and Santa Muerte gets in her face and disappears.

Maria runs to Tiago and tells him that Santa Muerte choose him and that it is up to him to stop the violence that will happen tomorrow and if he doesn’t it will end in blood and fire (not fire and ice…wrong show). She throws him his badge.

Photo Courtesy of Showtime

The next morning a gazillion cops stand toe to toe with the Chicano citizens and the two groups prepare for battle. Everyone is armed and everyone is pissed. Tiago is there with his partner on the side of the cops. The police chief calls for them all to disperse. Natalie Dormer is back, and she is walking directly between the two groups. This looks to be Santa Muerte’s sister. The cops cannot see her. She is walking right up to them. Tiago is pleading with his people to go home.

He tells them that they cannot stop this. He then pleads with them in Spanish. His brother yells back in Spanish. Meanwhile, Natalie Dormer whispers in the ear of one of the cops, and he shoots one of the citizens and all hell breaks out. Lots of beating and shooting. Now the Magda whispers in Raul’s ear and his out for revenge. Raul shoots Detective Michener and is then shot and killed by Tiago. Brother kills brother and the episode ends.


  1. Mexicans don’t really dance Salsa and in 1938 the kind of Salsa that was playing had not been invented yet. The big band type of salsa there was dancing wasn’t invented until the 1950’s by the Puerto Rican and Cuban communities in NYC

    • Thanks for the information! What did you think of the show?

    • I definitely came to say the same! Salsa wasn’t even invented yet, Cubans would have been doing the cha cha or rumba, but this is a Mexican area, so WHY would there be salsa in the first place?! I’m on the very first episode right now and can’t even watch this bull that collapses Latinxs into the same salsa, hotblooded trope. Typical ignorant writers! Should have been Mexican historians or SOMETHING consulted for this “period” piece.

  2. I like the new Penny Dreadful. One thing I found strange Back in that time salsa was not invented. Mexicans back them were not called spics. Mexicans do not Salsa no way back in that time there was no Salsa anyway, to play the music by Charlie Palmeri La Hija De Lola that was way better not in 1938 . This threw me off it kind of threw the Mexican ways back them all off. If it’s about the Mexican back then it should be about that time.