“And the time comes when you say enough. Enough.”
In the first scene of the “Maria and the Beast,” you see copies of the LA Times going to a newsstand and Maria Vega riding the Townsend Bus Line on the way to work. Yes, Townsend. Councilman Townsend is the scion of a rich Los Angeles family which, because of the connection to the Los Angeles transit system, I can only assume is analogous to Henry Huntington and his Red Cars, which I have mentioned previously.
Maria looks out the window while passing a cemetery after bringing her protection idol of Santa Muerte out of her purse thoughtfully and sees Magda standing in the cemetery among the headstones. The cemeteries in the area, near Belvedere Gardens, are Evergreen Cemetery, which is a historic site and the city’s oldest cemetery, and the Chinese Cemetery. The Chinese Cemetery is called that because at the time it was established, Chinese Americans were forbidden from buying burial plots in the city of Los Angeles. Racism rears its ugly head again. It could also be the Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery. All three of these burial grounds are located in East Los Angeles. (If you want a quick overview of the most well known cemeteries in the city, try here.) Maria seems to be filled with disquiet and it is significant that Madga has chosen to reveal her true form to Maria in this way. She knows that Maria is a person who sees the invisible and who communicates with her sister Santa Muerte. She knows that Maria is connected to more than one of the players in her master plan.
Tiago is dealing with the after effects of his capitulation to the LAPD’s white supremacist demands and endemic corruption and his part in the coerced confession of Diego. He listlessly answers people’s questions about the case and when they say he’s a hero. Lewis isn’t the only one whose soul has taken a hit. He finds none other than Sister Molly dressed to the nines on his doorstep. She begins asking the questions again, noting that James Hazlett was “important” to her. Tiago snaps at her when she calls Diego a Mexican and she recoils slightly. But, as it turns out, Sister Molly has returned to tell Tiago she loves him. She seems to have taken the step to commit to him despite her mother’s directives and wishes.This brings back the chilling words that Miss Adelaide spoke to her “good right arm” Randolph (David Figlioli) who followed Sister Molly and Tiago, “We know how this is going to end.”
Of course, Brian Koenig didn’t heed Dottie Minter and Lewis, and now stands in the hills of Los Angeles talking with Goss about the plans for him and LA. Goss speaks of a laboratory for Koenig’s work with every type of equipment he could want as a scientist and a Kehlsteinhaus or Eagle’s Nest for Hitler in the Pacific Palisades hills that they are gazing upon. In real life, a mysterious “Herr Schmidt” and members of the Silver Legion of America
or The Silver Shirts managed to persuade Winona and Norman Stephens to buy property in the Palisades under the name of “Jessie Murphy, a widow.” With a lot of money that no one seems to know the source of, they began construction on Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon. In the plans for the compound, the architect’s name was removed on the plans that were discovered. Only a few of the buildings were finished under the supervision of Welton Becket of Plummer, Wurdeman, and Becket. Interestingly, Welton Becket also had a hand in building Clifton’s Cafeteria, the Capitol Records Tower, Parker Center (LAPD HQ), The Music Center, and Los Angeles International Airport in cooperation with a number of other architects. The Stephens and the Silver Shirts hired a second architect Paul R. Williams, who was the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects.Williams’ grand designs for a huge mansion were never built, only the iron gate surrounding the buildings they inhabited was. In 1941, the ranch was raided by the Feds and the Silver Shirts either escaped or were arrested. No account of what exactly happened during the raid can be verified 100%.
Like the fictitious Jessie Murphy, “Herr Schmidt” is a figure of mystery. What his name actually was and what happened to him, if he existed at all, is not truly known. The most that can be said of him was in an LA Times article. Even some reports of Winona and Norman Stephens are sketchy. The only record of the couple that exists is a census listing for a Winona and Norman Stevens. Did any of these people exist at all or were they all fronts for the Silver Shirts? We might not ever truly know.
Unbeknownst to both Goss and Koenig, with a bored Kurt standing by, Lewis Michener is taking surveillance photos from some distance away.
Dr. Peter Craft has had his wife committed and has the difficult conversation about where Mommy is now with his children. Tom, the inquisitive son, has many unsettling questions and charges to answer the door when the doorbell rings. It’s Elsa/Madga and her “son” Frank. Craft hasn’t wasted any time in moving his mistress into his family home and it makes for an awkward situation for them all. Elsa/Magda immediately sets out to separate Maria from the family and imply that her presence is no longer needed although Craft resists Elsa/Magda’s manipulation. Elsa/Magda clearly means to get Craft to fire Maria so she can take over the household. Elsa/Magda manages to move Frank into Tom’s room and has a disturbing exchange with Maria about knives in her household. You can see the subtleties of Adriana Barraza’s work as a woman who feels the presence of evil, but cannot identify it and where it is coming from. Barraza is a Mexican actress who has worked with Academy Award winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu in two films, Amores Perros and Babel. Frank immediately starts creeping Tom out when they are in their room with his blankness and odd questions about his pet hamster.
Dottie Minter once again meets Brian Koenig at the automat and asks him if the Nazis have tried to contact him. When Koenig lies, Lewis shows up with the photographic proof of his meeting with Goss. Brian immediately starts to equivocate and explain that what the papers print isn’t what the Nazis really want. What Goss has done to Koenig is similar to the original tactics of the Alt Right and Richard Spencer. Present a dapper and calm front and people like the Brian Koenigs of the world can justify working with or ignoring evil. Dottie takes that moment to tell a story of her father’s Yiddish Theatre that was burned down by thugs. Her father was beaten so badly, he lost an eye. This convinces the vacillating scientist to go with Dottie to her home to take refuge. Koenig reveals his real feelings by asking both Lewis and Dottie to protect him. Dottie responds that she lives near The LaBrea Tar Pits and that not much happens there.
Councilwoman Beck comes upon Alex/Magda in the bathroom of City Hall and confronts her. She asks why Alex would support someone like Townsend who really isn’t that much of a man and has no vision for the city. She mockingly asks if Alex intends to make Townsend Mayor someday. Alex coolly responds that she intends to make him President. When Beck asks Alex/Magda who will vote for a racist demagogue, Alex responds, “Every angry man or woman who feels they’ve been betrayed by Roosevelt. You can take the coloreds and the Jews and we’ll take everyone else.” It’s pretty clear who Alex/Magda is talking about, White people, and here again is another analogy between 1938 and 2021 or in this case, the election of 2016. Councilwoman Beck makes mention that Alex/Magda seems to have appeared from out of nowhere to be Townsend’s helper and she suspects that means that Alex/Magda is hiding something. You can see that certain characters are starting to see through the edges of Madga’s masquerades.
Alex/Magda bursts in on Townsend and announces that Beck has now filed a petition for his recall after Townsend gripes about the Councilwoman Beck was “smiling like Jean Arthur in a newspaper photo” about her victory in changing the path of the Arroyo Seco. Alex/Magda enumerates Beck’s strengths and says they need to go to war with her. Townsend enthusiastically agrees with that, but they don’t seem to have much to fight with since Beck is trusted and much more popular than Townsend is. Once again, Townsend suggests that perhaps they should get someone who can solve the problem of Councilwoman Beck in a more permanent fashion.
Mateo finds Josefina with her friends leaving a movie theatre. They had been discussing casting for Gone With The WInd which was the book and the upcoming movie of the moment in 1938. The girl’s picks are Katherine Hepburn as Scarlett O’Hara and Cesar Romero as Rhett Butler.
Mateo asks Josefina for a sympathetic ear, but warns that he’s done something very wrong. When Josefina responds with words about God and faith, Mateo draws back and leaves, saying that he now has no one that he can trust.
Tiago is at Lewis’ home and Lewis explains what he knows about the Nazis and their plot for Los Angeles. Tiago expresses dismay and tells Lewis he’s in over his head. Lewis takes the moment to explain that what he did for Tiago and his brother was a favor that he is calling in now. He expects that Tiago will do whatever he wants or he is done with Tiago. He further says that he has every right to go after the Nazis after they killed his friends and operatives, Sam Bloom (Richard Kind) and Anton Chevic from the first episode. That’s all it takes to get Tiago onboard with the plan, without really questioning what Lewis has in mind. Dottie arrives and lets Lewis know that Koenig is settled. Lewis introduces Tiago to Dottie and when Tiago looks puzzled at the appearance of Lewis’ female operative, she retorts that “I ran guns to Cuba during the Spanish American War.”. While not completely verifiable, it is true that the labor unions of New York, sympathetic to the revolutionary spirit of the Cuban leader José Martí, who was a revolutionary poet, journalist, and philosopher, endorsed and sympathized with the Cuban revolution and there were Americans running guns to Cuba from Jacksonville,Tennessee.
Maria returns home from the Craft’s house in Pasadena and makes dinner. Mateo is gone, Raul just sits on the couch and Josefina is heading out the door. Maria is very upset and she too finds out that Josefina has joined Sister Molly’s church. She accuses her of no longer being a Catholic and Josefina makes the equally valid point that worshipping Santa Muerte isn’t exactly Catholic either. Josefina slams the door and leaves and Maria lays into Raul for his apathy. She has noticed that Raul has changed from the actively caring and passionate man that he once was. I’m sure that something more is going on with Raul than meets the eye.
Goss questions Kurt while dining at a restaurant. He asks about Townsend and tells Kurt that he has done his job very well. Kurt responds in a sympathetic way towards Townsend and Goss reprimands him and tells him that if he continues to develop feelings and have sympathy for Townsend, that he is expendable.
Tiago and Lewis are outside the restaurant observing Goss and Kurt. Tiago assumes that they are conducting surveillance, but Lewis has other plans. He says that his method of taking care of this will be to kill Goss and Kurt and to walk away. When Tiago reacts, Lewis tells him the story of his extended relatives who were still living in Europe. He talks of a visit from his cousins and their day at the beach. He then centers on a story about his cousin Manny. Manny lived in the Rhineland, near Belgium. Manny was what the Nazis called a degenerate meaning that he was gay. Lewis continues and says that when Hitler annexed the Rhineland, his cousin Manny was brutally tortured and murdered by the Nazis. He says that “And the time comes when you say enough. Enough.” While I have not found specific stories of Jewish people in the Rhineland murdered after the reoccupation, the concentration camp of Dachau was established and used for large scale murder and torture as early as 1933. The Nazis seized the Rhineland, in violation of the treaties of Versailles and Locarno, in 1936. As for the method of murder described by Lewis, the book Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel and Womens' Liberation describes the revenge of HItler against 200 soldiers who were part of 20 July plot to assassinate him in 1944. Some of them were hung by piano wire from meathooks and the murders were filmed to be shown as an example to anyone who got ideas about further rebellion against the regime. It’s not so difficult to imagine that this was not the first time that the Nazis had employed such a hideous form of execution and that they may have also used it on their Jewish prisoners.
Tiago responds, “To serve and protect, right?”. But their preparations are interrupted by the arrival of a few unexpected guests. Townsend arrives with Alex/Magda and then Miss Adelaide shows up too. It’s clear at this moment that there’s even more to the Nazis’ plans. Tiago retorts, “Better keep our powder dry.”. Lewis observes that, “If the mother’s there, the daughter can’t be far behind.” which is a possibility that is obviously disturbing for Tiago and recalls Adelaide’s sinister prediction for Tiago and Sister Molly’s relationship.
We find Maria in the garage at the altar of Santa Muerte. She is praying and demanding that Muerte help her and answer her questions. Muerte does appear out of the shadows and calls Maria “coyote”. Maria says that she smells and feels her sister’s presence. Maria complains that Muerte still chooses to do nothing and then Madga appears again in front of Maria’s angry eyes.
Magda circles and tells Muerte to tell Maria what is really going on. She continues to tell Maria that she knows how Maria feels, to be loved and abandoned by Santa Muerte. A single tear escapes Muerte’s control and Madga touches it and savors its appearance. She is pleased to have gotten an emotional reaction out of Muerte and Muerte retreats. Magda asks why Muerte calls Maria coyote. Maria replies that the coyote is her spirit guide. The spirit guide or tona comes from the Zapotec people of Valley of Oaxaca and consists of 20 animal guides who are considered one with the people that are assigned that particular animal by birth date as part of the Zapotec calendar. The Zapotec culture dates back to the Pre-classic or Formative Era of Mesoamerican chronology around 300–250 BCE. Magda calls the shrine to Muerte idolatry and intimates that Muerte will never give Maria what she wants, but that she, Madga, will. This is the classic temptation technique of Satan in the story of Job. God won’t give you what you desire, but I will. The trickster gambit to derail the victim from their faith. In an attempt to make Magda leave, Maria references religion, but Madga mocks her beliefs. Maria counters with the idea, previously discussed, that Magda is only capable of destruction, not creation. Maria tells her that she can create life, but Magda cannot. Magda says that her time of rest, intimating Maria’s death, approaches, but Maria says, “Yes, my time is coming. But not yet.”
Maria gathers herself and invokes the blood of the Aztecs and the spirits of the revolutionaries of the Mexican war for independence and expels Magda from her home. Where there were two supernatural creatures, there is now only Maria. She has faced temptation and the threat of death and won a victory for the moment. It suggests to me that Maria is very powerful herself spiritually, gifted in a supernatural way. That speaks to why Santa Muerte chose Tiago. He likely has a share of Maria’s power as well and does not know it.
The theme of this show is that even seemingly ordinary people have power and can perform wonders when they choose to assert that power and refuse to be tricked or told that they are not worthy. This is a very appropriate lesson for all of us at the moment. We all have power within ourselves, more power than we know. We have only to choose to use it, rather than accept the world as it is. The title Maria and the Beast refers to Madga, but has the double meaning of Maria’s animal guide that lives within her: the Tona and the Nagual or Nahuale.
This episode was directed by Sheree Folkson and written by Colin S. Liddle.
Dolores Quintana is a Chicana actor and writer from Southern California who lives spiritually in her beloved Los Angeles at all times. She has written for Pocho.com, Nightmarish Conjurings, The Theatre @Boston Court and late period Buddyhead. All praise, complaints, celebratory rituals and debate challenges should be directed at the author on Twitter.com.