Magic City: “Time And Tide”
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Magic City: “Time And Tide”

Is there anything quite as exhilarating for a TV viewer than latching onto a series after watching its pilot episode, sticking with it through the growing pains of its freshman year, and then seeing it end that first season by hitting a creative high with the knowledge that a second season has already been secured? If you’ve been along for the ride on all of these Magic City reviews, starting with Ryan McGee’s initial catch-all piece on the first three episodes, then I have to believe that you know exactly what I’m talking about, because not only was “Time and Time” the season finale, but it also served as the conclusion to one of the strongest four-episode runs seen on television this year.

Given that Victor’s quest for his wife has been such a consistent thread throughout the season, it was decidedly heartbreaking to have her story conclude in the manner in which it did, though the way he was acting in the opening moments of the episode, I was instantly suspicious that we were watching him on the morning of her funeral. As it turns out, we were watching him at approximately the same moment that she was being riddled with machine gun fire, leaving us to spend the subsequent several minutes in dread, waiting for the inevitable moment when Victor learned that his beloved Maria was gone. And not to be cruel, but she’d better stay gone, because viewers are going to feel like they’ve been on the receiving end of some serious emotional manipulation if we come back for the second season and learn that, “Oh, hey, turns out Maria was A) only grazed, and B) a former Olympic swimmer who can hold her breath for a really, really long time, so…she’s still alive! Hooray!

Although it wasn’t exactly the height of girl power to have such a significant female presence on the show (even we almost never saw her) get gunned down so early in the proceedings, the rest of the episode saw every other female character in the Magic City cast coming out on top. Granted, Judi had a positively excruciating go of it tonight, starting off with a smack in the face from Klein, who hits her so hard that he knocks her out of her chair and onto the floor, spending the majority of the episode on the receiving end of some form of physical or psychological abuse, and wrapping things up by find herself only seconds away from death by strangulation. Still, she survives the season, so I’m calling it a win.

Look at the others, though: strutting their stuff, using their feminine wiles, and playing at the top of their games.

In the course of tonight’s episode, Vera defies Ike by once again practicing her dancing, but she soon remembers how much she loves him, serves as his rock when he finds that Maria’s death serves to reopen the still-fresh wounds from his own wife’s passing, and when Klein’s men haul Ike off in cuffs, she doesn’t miss a beat as she steps into her husband’s shoes and continues the meeting with Garry Moore’s people. When the suit begins to question Ike’s reputation, prefacing his comments by saying, “I hope I don’t offend you,” she snaps back that her husband is a better man than anyone in the room, concluding by all but sneering, “And I hope I didn’t offend you!” Will her spontaneous and bold—and some would say financially devastating—business plan prove to be a successful gambit? We won’t know ‘til next season, alas, but even though she looks concerned about how Ike will react, the fact that she thought so quickly on her feet is likely to impress him more than her dancing will annoy him…provided, of course, that they don’t go broke as a result.

Oh, but let’s not forget Meg, who rose from her pool like a long-legged Venus in a black swimsuit and, with a few quick pen strokes, officially became a limited partner with the Miramar Playa. Having saved Ike’s hotel, it’s reasonable to presume that she’ll come through in the clutch when it comes to paying his bail, and should the Miramar need a bit of assistance in the lean months when they’re footing the bill for Garry Moore’s show, count on her being there to help out with that as well. Mind you, you can probably count on some serious scrapping between Meg and Vera as a result, but I for one can’t wait to see it.

When Ben grabs Lily out of the pool first by the hair, then by the neck, and begins to choke the life out of her, she’s not exactly in what you’d call a traditional position of power, but when her realization that death is imminent inspires her to go out with a bang, letting fly with a flurry of sordid revelations about her dalliances with Stevie, the result is…surprising. Perhaps not for those of us who watched Ben and his decidedly pervy ways in past episodes, but it was clear from the look on Lily’s face that in no way had she anticipated that her husband’s reaction to her comments would literally prove to be her saving grace. Taking quick advantage of the situation, however, she not only made it out alive but, indeed, seems to have found herself in the position of being able to have her cake and eat it, too. Let’s not pretend that Ben’s jealousy won’t eventually get the best of him, but for now, Lily’s about as close to wearing the pants in the Diamond family as she’s ever going to get, so she’d better take advantage of it while she can.

And what of poor Mercy, who’s lost her mother? Well, she doesn’t know she’s lost her mother until the waning minutes of the episode, by which point she’s already found herself a new career as a flight attendant, made the decision to move to New York City, and unabashedly defied her father by finally balling her boyfriend. As such, it’s downright tragic that her world should come crashing down around her after she’s built herself up so successfully, and it’s even more depressing to consider that her mother’s death will likely leave her feeling that she should stay in Miami and acquiesce to her father’s wishes so as not to further break his heart. Still, the girl’s proven her mettle, so count on her making a comeback sooner than later.

So there’s where the women stand. But what of the men of Magic City? Yeah, they’re not doing so hot. Victor’s a blubbering mess, as well anyone would be in his case. Stevie’s starts off thinking he’s on top of the world, what with finally setting those photos of him and Lily alight, but thanks to yet another woman securing a position of power (surely you remember Divin’ Dave’s gal pal, a.k.a. the blow-job queen from the first episode), he’s lucky to leave the season in one piece. Ben the Butcher is so smitten by seeing his wife with another man that he unwittingly yields a bit of his power in their relationship, while Klein’s conviction that he can’t be beaten is destined to lead him to defeat. And Danny might’ve finally gotten laid, but he’s still stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding between his boss and his dad.

As for Ike, when a man’s sitting behind bars, it’s hard to really say that he’s sitting pretty, but he’s certainly not letting the bastards get him down. He knows the people he’s got in his corner, and he’s staying as confident as any man in his position can be. The closest we get to a concession that he’s not sure what the future will bring is that the last shot we see of his face finds him wearing an utterly blank expression. Neither a smile nor a frown, just a look that says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but whatever it is, bring it on.”

Funnily enough, that’s the exact same thing my look says as I’m reflecting on Magic City. The big difference, however, is that I’m grinning from ear to ear.

Stray observations:

  • When Mercy told Danny, “Gotta go get my wings,” I was sure it was foreshadowing that her flight was going to crash. When she threw the wings to Danny in the wake of their shower rendezvous, I was even more convinced that her plane was going to crash. When she ended up surviving through the closing credits, I began to consider the possibility that Mitch Glazer may have just been fucking with the viewers.
  • Mark my words, if the full promo film for the Miramar Playa isn’t on the Magic City: Season 1 DVD, I will be lodging a formal protest.
  • I’m not entirely sure of the relevance of Ben’s comments on the Queen for a Day contestant (“No one wants to see her smile when she wins”), but I loved the scene, anyway.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan managed to escape the Jon Hamm comparisons that, say, Eddie Cibrian did in The Playboy Club, but he looked highly Don Draper-esque in tonight’s scene with Kelly Lynch. Coat and tie, sunglasses, a cigarette between the lips while flirting with a hot blonde…the whole enchilada.
  • “It is I, Ulysses, back from war!” Seriously, Cliff could not be more of a pretentious weasel. He’s like the Pete Campbell of TV directors.
  • Any heterosexual man who didn’t suddenly emit a sound along the lines of “homina homina homina” when a naked Dominik García-Lorido appeared at the shower door should probably consider consulting their physician.
  • As Ike was hustled out of the Miramar lobby, the one-two punch of the hotel’s house photographed fucking up the paparazzi’s shot and Ray-Ray the bellboy tripping Klein made me want to cheer. Seriously, that was great stuff.
  • Vera’s best line: “Welcome to Miami Beach. Never a dull moment.”
  • Biggest laugh of the episode: the revelation that Arthur (Alex Rocco’s character) offered to cash in his life insurance policy to help spring Ike from jail, only to find that it lapsed back in ‘44.
  • It says so much about Ben’s psyche that, in the midst of screaming at Lily for her transgressions, his biggest issue seemed not to be that she cheated on him, per se, but that she cheated on him with a lowly bartender.
  • In closing, when I came aboard as the AV Club’s weekly blogger for Magic City, it was an assignment done almost as an afterthought, received only hours before the second episode premiered and offered predominantly because I’d offhandedly mentioned that I had the screeners for the first three episodes and would therefore be willing to take a shot at covering the show if no one else had stepped in. Turned out that no one had. Unfortunately, I’d fallen asleep watching the first episode—only because I was exhausted, I swear—and hadn’t had a chance to get back to it, so I really had to scramble to play catch-up in time to write a halfway coherent review of Episode 1.2, and I spent the next few episodes grumbling about how the show wasn’t living up to its potential while silently wondering (although I could’ve done it publicly, given how few people were reading the reviews) if I’d made a mistake taking on the assignment in the first place. Man, am I glad I stuck it out for the long haul...

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