A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, a spinoff of the popular Penny Dreadful series, features all the violent and disturbing content the franchise is known for. People are gruesomely killed (burned alive, shot, etc.), and bloody, mutilated corpses are shown. There’s some strong sexual innuendo and occasional full-frontal nudity. Cursing is frequent, and includes "goddamn," "bastard," "bulls--t" and "f--k," and racial epithets are also common. Characters drink an array of alcoholic beverages, and there's also cigarette smoking. Mexican-American culture and folklore, the spirit world, racism, political corruption, anti-Semitism, and nationalism are all central themes. This dark and violent supernatural drama is best for mature teens and adults.
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What's the story?
PENNY DREADFUL: CITY OF ANGELS, a California-themed installment of the Penny Dreadful franchise, brings chaos to 1938 Los Angeles. New homicide police detective Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) is the first Mexican-American detective in the LAPD. Along with his Jewish partner, Detective Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane), he's investigating the gruesome murder of an upper-middle class Beverly Hills family. The pair soon finds themselves caught in the middle of the city’s growing political and racial tensions, caused in-part by the city’s plans to destroy Mexican-American communities for the sake of urban development. There is also a rise in nationalist sentiment fueled by Nazism. As a result, the time is ripe for Magda, (Natalie Dormer), a shape-shifting descendant of England’s spirit world, to wreak havoc wherever she goes.
Is it any good?
This well-crafted series combines the Victorian penny dreadful storytelling tradition with Southern California’s political, industrial, and culturally-rich history to create a unique horror-filled experience. The narratives spun here are decidedly American, and the connection to its British past may seem distant. But Magda’s presence is a constant reminder of the relationship, and her presence becomes inextricably linked with Mexican-American traditions and folklore involving the spirit world.
As the murder investigation collides with the supernatural, it creates a clever forum that highlights the disturbing political attitudes and racial tensions of the time. But Magda’s demonic exploitation of these social ills serves to magnify the weaknesses of a divided society. The fact that some of the dialogue sounds similar to contemporary rhetoric is equally as disturbing. It may not be as gothic as the original, but Penny Dreadful: City of Angels offers an entertaining and well-produced series that’s worth tuning into.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Penny Dreadful: City of Angels combines California history and culture with a popular crime storytelling format. What elements are present from each genre? Do you think they're well-integrated?
What role does violence play in the penny dreadful stories that harken back to 19th century Victorian England? For this new television iteration, do you think the graphic violence helps propel the story?
How does this series present social issues like racism and anti-Semitism? Are these interpretations of the time historically accurate? Do they reflect any issues in 21sh century American life?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love supernatural fantasy
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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