Welcome back to the Miramar Playa, ladies and gentlemen: it’s time to take another trip into the realm known as Starz’s Magic City. For the handful of us who thrilled to the series during its freshman year, it’s hard to believe we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the show’s first season finale back on June 1. (Okay, I didn’t really celebrate it, but odds are I was drinking at some point during the course of that evening, so let’s pretend it was a celebratory act, shall we?) A lot of plotlines were left dangling the last time the closing credits rolled, and it’s been a damned long wait to find out what’s going to happen next.
Given that Ike Evans was in a prison cell when we last saw him, there was no reason to believe that our first glimpse of him in the season premiere, sitting on a beach, was anything other than a dream sequence or, at best, a flashback. The suspicion that it’s the former jumps to 100% when the late labor union lawyer Mike Strauss strolls up, takes a seat next to Ike on the sand, and, after assuring Ike, “I’m fine, I’m good,” stands back up and continues his stroll straight into the Atlantic Ocean. Understandably freaked out, Ike follows him in, dives under the water, encounters a shark (which even the most amateur dream interpreter can identify as a stand-in for Ben Diamond), aaaaaaand cue the shot of Ike awakening from his nightmare.
As we soon discover, it’s only been mere hours since we last left the goings-on in and around the Miramar Playa. Why, look, Stevie Evans is only just leaving the boudoir of Mrs. Lily Diamond, having rogered her roundly while little suspecting that her husband, the aforementioned Ben Diamond, was getting his rocks off while secretly watching from his hideaway just upstairs. Ah, the memories come flooding back, don’t they?
Yes, Ike’s still very much behind bars, as is confirmed when we see him talking to his father, Arthur, making the painful admission that he asked Ben to talk to Mike, which ultimately led to Ben taking care of the labor situation in his own despicable manner. Arthur’s expression starts off blank, turning to one of barely-concealed horror as he suggests that his son should just walk away, admitting, “I was wrong: you can’t survive this cancer.” Ike feels otherwise, however, and adamantly declares, “I’m not going away. Ever. Ben Diamond is.” While continuing to cool his heels, however, Ike sees a news broadcast featuring an interview with Fidel Castro and comes up with a brainstorm to put in a bid to handle the hotels and casinos in Cuba, deciding that he can appear above board as far as the dictator is concerned while secretly passing along money to Ben Diamond’s boss, Sy Berman. The only caveat: it’s a deal that Ike’s only willing to make if Sy will force Ben to get the hell out of Miami. Whether or not Ike’s plan will pan out remains to be seen…not unlike Berman himself, although I think most people who’ve been following the previews of the show’s return already know who’s going to be playing him.
Meanwhile, back at the Miramar Playa, the place is already going into a tailspin as a result of Ike’s absence…or, more specifically, because of the abrupt nature of his departure and the reason behind his being hauled away in cuffs. The dream of having The Garry Moore Show film live from the hotel has died, with the show’s smarmy director, Cliff, having quietly checked out, along with the rest of his cohorts, and when Vera storms upstairs to the boardroom, her day gets even worse as she discovers for the first time that Ike has sold 15% of his majority share in the hotel to Meg Bannock, his former sister-in-law, then looks positively stricken at the news that it’s going to cost a million bucks in bail to get Ike back on the street. Seething with jealousy but refusing to admit it, Vera refuses to accept Meg’s offer of a loan and, while still trying to find other options, ends up accepting the money from Bel, Ben’s bookie/goon, a decision which reeeeeeeally pisses Ike off when he finds out about it.
Speaking of Ben, he’s enjoying the whole “I know he’s fucking my life, but he doesn’t know I know he’s fucking my wife” situation to opportunity to mercilessly toy with Stevie, and he’s also loving the fact that Ike’s behind bars, but he is, as ever, a man of profound emotional highs and lows. While he seems relatively gleeful while brokering a deal with Belle, the local madam (Sherilyn Fenn, who gives us an idea what the future might’ve held for Audrey Horne if she’d bothered to work her way up the corporate ladder at One Eyed Jack’s), his mood grows understandably darker when Bel tells him that State Attorney Jack Klein has burned the letter of confession that they’d “convinced” Judi Silver to write in order to counteract her confession.
Ike’s actions at the quarry are inevitably a major point of discussion throughout the episode, but there’s a new player in the story now: Danny, who we learn has accidentally come into possession of the only real physical evidence tying Ike to the crime. It’s pretty traumatic for Danny, who’s always believed in the law yet has always wanted to stand by his father, but while he decides to do the latter after a heartfelt talk with Arthur and disposes of the incriminating jacket, he holds onto the blackjack (that was what Ike hit Jimmy Shoes with, right?), so I think we can count on that coming back to bite him—and possibly his dad—in the ass before all’s said and done.
There’s a lot of family drama in the season premiere: Stevie and Danny don’t see eye to eye, which is nothing new, but Vera and Stevie have a war of words as well, with Stevie getting pissed at Vera’s refusal to accept Meg’s money. Vera’s jealousy towards Meg is so thinly veiled that…well, actually, it’s not veiled at all, as evidenced in the post-meeting exchange between the two of them: “Vera, I’m not the enemy.” “Then what exactly are you?” Well, given the way Meg looks longingly over at the Miramar Playa at the end of the episode, the answer would appear to be “hopefully smitten with Ike Evans,” which certainly seems to make her Vera’s enemy. I’m sure the fact that Ike’s letting her do her show will help tone down Vera’s fieriness at least a bit, but she’ll be on the lookout for Meg to do anything even slightly untoward, and if she does, then look out. (Give Meg credit, though, for trying to do the right thing by staying away from the welcome-home party.)
As for Ike, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to his empire now that he’s earned his freedom, but given how things went down when Judi took the stand, not to mention who was sitting outside Judi’s place when Ike went to visit her at the end of the episode, it’s fair to say that we haven’t seen the last of Jack Klein on the show. He’s not exactly a poster boy for the legal profession, is he? What a great scene in the restroom with the good ol’ boy judge, though. (“Jesus, man, you really got your tit stuck in a wringer this time!”) Things aren’t exactly tension-free between Ike and Ben now, either, and they’re only going to get worse now that Ben’s gone and called Sy Berman…or are they? Guess it depends on what Sy says about Ike’s plans to invade Cuba.
And so, as Ben says, it begins. Season 2 may not have started with as much action as Season 1 ended with, but season premieres are often about setting things up, and I for one am looking forward to see where they’re going to take us.
- If you read her Random Roles and know her Bill Murray story, you already know that Kelly Lynch is awesome, but, seriously, go watch this clip - specifically, at the 16:49 mark - and you will love Kelly Lynch so much more.
- All things being equal, I think I preferred the story Stevie heard about why Ben’s called “The Butcher” more than the truth, but Ben’s response to the story was great: “The moral is, you can’t fight a good nickname!”
- Olga Kurylenko’s delivery of the line “please, you’ve done enough already” to Meg Bannon was fantastic, as was the way Jeffrey Dean Morgan shouted the line, “Fuck, no!” So, basically, Meg is to Vera what Ben is to Ike…? Interesting.
- More Sherilyn Fenn, please. That is all.
- I can’t forsee any way that someone doesn’t swipe the cash from Ben Diamond’s secret behind-the-bookcase stash before season’s end. Otherwise, it never would’ve been revealed to us.
- Alex Rocco’s finest moment: Arthur calling Kennedy “an anti-Semitic prick” and saying “he should rot in hell.”
- They can’t possibly be paying Ray-Ray the Doorman enough. That kid’s the best.
- Danny's girl, Mercy, is effectively MIA, but she's only just found out that her mother's dead, so I guess that's supposed to be the excuse for her absence. Once she's back on the scene, though, I'm wondering how long it'll be before he opens up to her about what he knows about his father.
- Lastly, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d want to be with a woman who could crack a walnut with her labia. That just sounds like a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen.