The First Look at Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Teases Chaos, Politics, and Lewks

Natalie Dormer is giving her Margaery outfits a run for their money.
Photo: Showtime (Entertainment Weekly)

Game of Thrones Natalie Dormer isn’t here to mess around—scratch that, she totally is.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is the spiritual successor to Penny Dreadful, introducing new characters, a different location, and arguably higher stakes. Entertainment Weekly has unveiled a first look today at the Showtime series, introducing Dormer’s shape-shifting demon who’s there to sow chaos during an already chaotic time in Los Angeles. A time that showrunner John Logan sees as eerily familiar in 2019.

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Even though it centers around the construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway (Logan told EW that it “may be the first television show in history about the building of the freeway”), it’s actually about the displacement, gentrification, and racial discrimination that the highway’s creation represented—viewed through the lens of a Mexican-American detective trying to solve a murder. Star Lin Shaye previously told io9 Logan was inspired to make the show after the election of future-impeached president Donald Trump.

“[The show] is about the social and personal cost that goes into making a great modern metropolis and how the various forces at play in 1938 are the very forces that are playing now,” Logan told EW. “One hundred years before our show, Los Angeles was Mexico. I wanted to tell a story about a Latino family under pressure because of all the forces at play—not only in freeway building but also in crime, law enforcement, and immigration policy.”

Dormer plays Magda, a chaotic demon who can take on the form of anyone she chooses. According to the actress, we’ll meet at least three of her human forms over the course of the first season—and it may take us a while to figure out which non-Dormer actors are also playing her part. Even though Magda is an “agent of chaos” and antagonist who’s lost faith in people, Dormer said there are a lot of complex layers to the character that she’s excited for people to see. Especially when she’s alongside her sister, Santa Muerte (Lorenza Izzo), the Holy Angel of Death who still believes in humanity.

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Not everyone can pull off head-to-toe pleather, but here we are.
Photo: Showtime (Entertainment Weekly)

“She’s fundamentally a skeptic of humanity. She says in the first episode, ‘I give human beings a choice, but they choose time and time again to be seduced by the more baser, selfish roles,’” she said. “There was an opportunity to get in the dressing-up box and play a range of iterations. You have a number of characters all under the guise Magda morphs into for the price of one.”

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Penny Dreadful: City of Angels debuts on Showtime in 2020.


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Beth Elderkin

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.