Magic City: “Angels Of Death”
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Magic City: “Angels Of Death”

Last week’s Magic City may have suffered somewhat from spending more time on playing catch-up and following up on season-finale plotlines than actually moving forward, but that’s somewhat inevitable—or at least far from unheard of—when it comes to season premieres. There was still a bit of that going on this week, with the revisiting of Maria’s tragic demise, but it’s amazing what a little bit of Jimmy Caan can do to send a series into an abrupt upswing.

The imminent appearance of Sy Berman was teased throughout last week’s episode, but the big boss finally shows his mustachioed face this week when Ben heads to Chicago to meet with him. Sy doesn’t exactly cut the most intimidating of figures at first, limping around his greenhouse and bemoaning how he’s reached a point in his life where he’s spending more time with tulips than showgirls, but as soon as he takes a seat and gets down to business, it quickly becomes evident that Sy’s still formidable enough to keep Ben in a perpetual state of unease when he’s in the man’s presence. To date, we haven’t seen anyone who can get away with calling Ben “Benny,” let alone use the overly familiar nickname to punctuate statements as forceful as, say, “Do what the fuck I ask you to do, Benny,” but Sy makes it quite clear that, no matter how old he may be, he’s still accustomed to giving orders and having people follow them. We can probably all agree that Caan could play the role of Sy Berman in his fucking sleep, so much does the character borrow from every other tough guy he’s played in his career, but that doesn’t make him any less fun to watch when he’s onscreen. Meeting with Sy proves to be a highly frustrating experience for Ben, who, in addition to having grown unaccustomed to being told to keep his mouth shut and do what he’s told, drives away from Sy’s place still seething with anger about the situation with Ike, pissed off that he’s had to go all the way to Chicago to discover Nicky Grillo’s goings-on, and clearly at least a little bit suspicious about how Sy came to know that Lily’s a mermaid by trade. Sadly, things don’t get much better for him when he gets home, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

As someone who grew up Episcopalian, I’ll go ahead and apologize right now for any accidental misspellings or misstatements I commit in the process of discussing the various aspects of the Seders that took place during the course of this week’s episode, but the celebration of Passover certainly added an interesting element to the Ike/Vera/Meg triangle while also providing an opportunity to bring Ike’s daughter, Lauren, back into the story in a very effective way. Vera’s got a lot on her plate at the moment, balancing her duties as a wife and stepmother with her impending return to dancing, so her annoyance with Ike’s secret-keeping and Meg’s increased presence in their lives occasionally slips out of sight, but when it pops back to the surface, it does so in a big way…like, for instance, when she all but yells her explanation to Meg about the significance of the salt water at the Seder. It’s no wonder Vera’s frustrated, though: she’s giving her marriage her all, and in return she’s getting lots of pretty words but only partial answers to her questions accompanied by lots of assurances that she doesn’t need to know everything. I kind of touched on it last week, but Ike better watch his step, because his decision to let her dance again is only going to get him but so far.

We’ve seen the sexual tension between Ike and Meg before, but the heat’s definitely starting to rise to a fever pitch…and, yes, I would’ve said that even if they hadn’t used “Fever” as the soundtrack to the final moments of the episode. Ike’s visit to Meg’s place offered further insight into how long she’s been attracted to him, with his last words before his departure revealing that he’s been aware of her for just as long, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Meg’s a woman who gets what she wants and has no problem playing the game until she ends up as the victor. It seems pretty certain that her decision to give Lauren a pair of Molly’s gloves was, while no doubt intended as a sincere gesture to her niece, equally designed to remind Ike of how much she and her sister were alike. This is two consecutive episodes where the last shot we’ve seen of Meg has involved her gazing longingly at the Miramar Playa. It’s not going to be long before her moves toward Ike get even bolder, and it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’s going to resist. But enough about Ike, Vera, and Meg. On to the next love triangle!

With Ben up in Chicago, bonding with Sy, Stevie and Lily are free to enjoy a rare public date, hitting one of the nearby clubs and grooving to a killer version of Ike and Tina Turner’s “I Idolize You.” Stevie’s understandably antsy about being on display with the Butcher’s wife, and with good reason, as Bel turns up while they’re there. (Of all the R&B joints in all of Miami, they had to go to one that’s under Ben Diamond’s thumb? Nice plan, Lily.) It’s a tense scene—although it’s nothing with Lily, who slips out unnoticed by Bel—and what starts as a fistfight quickly escalates into Stevie getting a knife pulled on him and Bel bringing an abrupt close to the proceedings by firing his gun into the ceiling. They beat a hasty retreat, with Bel gently teasing/chiding Stevie for his efforts, but Stevie quickly saves face by saving Bel’s life by shooting a would-be attacker who hadn’t gotten over the bar fight quite yet. Although Bel tries to shrug off the shooting and mostly succeeds (his expression reveals that he’s both a bit rattled and very aware that he owes the kid his life), it’s not so easy for Stevie, who’s worried about the fact that he didn’t feel anything when he did it.

In addition to Ben finding out about Nicky Grillo’s shenanigans in his back yard, we learned that Lily and Nicky used to be an item, so his presence in her house puts her on edge. Sure, she tries to put on a bold front, bragging that she’s the Butcher’s wife now, but when Nicky yells “boo,” she jumps. So much for boldness. God help Nicky when Ben finds out about his past with Lily, because it’s not like he isn’t already itching to take him out, anyway. In fact, Ben’s ready to take just about everybody out, and based on the way he ends the episode—reciting Byron and literally marking his territory—his temper’s going to get the best of him sooner than later.

Ike’s temper really isn’t much better, though, based on his conversation with his attorney, Sid, whose suggestion that Ben is a shark earns him the snappy comeback that, in fact, Ben is a remora, “a fucking parasite. “I build, I create, I am the fucking shark,” snarls Ike, a reply that’s more than a little bit reminiscent of Heisenberg’s “I am the one who knocks” speech, though that may or may not be coincidental. With his passport in hand once more, Ike preps for his trip to Havana, assuring Vera that it’s “safe as milk” over there, even though it most certainly won’t be. He’s also playing with a whole other type of fire by assuring Pierce the government spook that he’s willing to trade Maria’s ashes for bugging the room of a Cuban rebel named El Tiberon who’s staying at the Miramar Playa. Yeah, like the government wouldn’t just throw some random ashes into a vase and say, “Here you go, now you go meet your part of the bargain!”

As for Victor and Mercy, the former is deep in depression over the loss of his wife and the inability to get her body back from Cuba for a proper funeral, and Mercy isn’t much better, although she at least has Danny to lean on, who’s quick to remind her that he’s lost a mother before and knows what she’s going through. (She, of course, reminds him just as quickly that it wasn’t the same situation.) It’s sad that she’s given up her job as a flight attendant because her father is such an emotional wreck, but he’s definitely pretty bad off, so you can’t really fault her decision. If Victor earns one moment of respite in the episode, it’s when El Tiberon reveals the specifics of Maria’s final moments: they were awful, and it only happened because he was there, but at least she wasn’t alone.

As I write this recap, I realize just how much happened in this episode. Man, it was chock full of goings-on. I’d almost forgotten about that delightfully naughty racist Senator Sloat, the ongoing battle for gambling legislation, and the fact that his conversations with Ben have been overheard by Ike’s trusty elevator operator. I don’t know how much of these goings-on we’ll get back to next week, since I’m expecting a fair amount of the episode to be dedicated to Ike’s trip to Havana, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Stray observations:

  • I can’t imagine anyone who’s reading this review wouldn’t already have seen it, but just in case, don’t miss my Random Roles with Mr. Caan, which went live this morning. There are a few other links you might enjoy as well, though: I talked to Ms. Lynch again this week, this time for Bullz-Eye, but after we talked about Meg and Magic City, she was kind enough to indulge me and chat a bit about her friendship with Michael O’Donoghue and, more specifically, working on his final TV project, a pilot for a potential FOX series called TV. Kelly Lynch, Rutger Hauer, and Brian Keith working for Mr. Mike? Go on: you know you want to read about it. (And don’t be afraid to share it out, either. Not only am I proud of the piece, but it’s also for a new site that can use all the love it can get!)
  • I’m a little sketchy on why things opened with Klein stalking down the hall, sweeping into his office, and studying his corkboard. Unless I accidentally missed something subtle (and I’ve been known to, especially when I’m watching screeners on the computer rather than the TV set), it struck me as a superfluous scene that didn’t directly tie into anything else in the episode. Seems like they could’ve just as easily started the episode at Sy’s place.
  • Speaking of Sy, he had a couple of great lines, but my two favorites were his remark to Ben about getting his face out of his mermaid’s cooze and his remark after Ben asked who’d told him Lily was a mermaid. (“Who told me? Fucking King Neptune!”)
  • Alex Rocco was great in the Seder scene, although when he was late showing up, I was half convinced that we were going to find out that he’d died.
  • The scene with Ike and Lauren in her bedroom was very sweet. I particularly liked when he asked with fatherly concern if she’d gotten her new haircut because of a boy. That’s a real dad question right there.
  • Ben's always had a way with a veiled threat, but his comment about the Angel of Death living in the master bedroom was particularly spectacular.

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