Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Everyone is looking for an escape route on the City On A Hill season 2 finale

Aldis Hodge, Kevin Bacon
Aldis Hodge, Kevin Bacon
Photo: Showtime

Although Showtime has a reputation for endlessly renewing its series, as of this writing there’s been no announcement as to whether City On A Hill will get another season. If “Pax Bostonia” ends up having to serve as a series finale, it does so adequately while still suggesting there’s more to explore should the show get the go-ahead to continue. Almost all the major characters are searching for a way out of their present circumstances, but few find the escape they’re looking for.

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The fact that Cathy Ryan, of all people, makes a clean getaway is a bit of a surprise, but her storyline had grown so detached from the rest of the show, it almost makes sense. For a while, she at least had a tentative connection through her dope dealing for Anton’s crew, but unless she was going to become a major player in that realm, there wasn’t much to tie her to the rest once she dispatched her brother-in-law. What doesn’t make much sense is the way her daughter Kick’s discovery of her father’s death and her mother’s secret life never amounts to much. In the end, she simply asserts her place in the family lineage before Cathy flips off the city of Boston and whisks her family to sunnier climes.

Equally surprising may be the fact that Jenny Rohr ends up being the character least desiring of escape. After spending the first season and a half as the most anxiety-ridden major player, she’s achieved a serene quality through her singing at the church, as well as her “good deed” to help Maeve escape. (Evidently she doesn’t watch the news or read the papers, as it’s quite likely Maeve’s true fate would have made the headlines.) Yes, she is suddenly saddled with the knowledge that her sexually abusive father is still alive, but her efforts to confront him fizzle out quickly and she doesn’t appear to be too bothered by that. Maybe if the story continues this will be addressed further.

John Doman
John Doman
Photo: Showtime

There’s no escape for anyone in the Campbell family. Anton was executed by the Boston police, and now the city D.A. plans to do the same to Kelvin. Guy Dan wants Decourcy sitting at his side through Kelvin’s trial to provide some cover, knowing there are seven black members of the jury. The deck is stacked against Kelvin, who we know to be good-hearted, if hardly an innocent, and with Grace as his only character witness, it doesn’t look like her accounts of his childhood kindness will be enough to get him off the hook. In the end, her words may have been enough to convince Kelvin he’s lost his way, as he takes the stand himself and changes his plea. He’s not made for prison, however, and it isn’t long before Grace has lost the only child she had left.

Siobhan lost a child too, as she’s quick to remind Grace. It’s no surprise that representing Kelvin is no longer on her agenda, but she can’t help attending the trial and being upset at its outcome. She’s tired of pushing against the glass ceiling of her law firm and ready for a new challenge, which could be working for the ACLU. Decourcy isn’t necessarily thrilled about this, as it will likely result in future professional clashes between the Wards. Again, this is a thread that could be pursued if the show continues.

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But if it does, what becomes of Jackie Rohr? In the latter half of this season, Jackie has been making a kind of half-hearted effort at change. How much he actually cares about self-improvement is debatable, but self-preservation is clearly the more important goal. Shimizu informs him he’s got a date with the Office of Professional Responsibility, a turn of events about which she can hardly suppress her glee. Jackie makes a Hail Mary attempt to salvage his career by convincing the baby-faced cop who witnessed Anton’s execution to give up Tony Suferin, but it’s not good enough.

His professional life in shambles, Jackie does show a bit of progress on the domestic front. When he returns home after learning Maeve has been killed trying to smuggle arms bought with Jenny’s money, it looks like he can’t wait to spring the news on her. He doesn’t do it, though, letting her have her little feel-good moment—something it’s hard to imagine the Jackie of old doing. He still can’t help himself in his OPR hearing, putting on a good-boy face for only so long before erupting in classic Rohr style. In the end, he tosses his badge in the harbor, suggesting the fight has gone out of him. Perhaps Jackie Rohr, Private Eye lurks in the future? Only time will tell.

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Stray observations

  • I’ve suggested in the past that City On A Hill really wants to be the Boston version of The Wire, and having Peter Gerety turn up as a judge facing off with Michael Doman does nothing to dissuade me.
  • One reason City falls short of that goal is the fuzziness of its supporting characters. The Wire would have done something interesting with Tony Suferin despite his limited screen time, but he never became more than a symbol of Boston’s racist policing system here. Despite being in the opening credits every week, Matthew Del Negro never got much to do as Chris Caysen either.
  • Still, falling short of one of the greatest TV series of all time is hardly a crime. The second season was compelling enough to leave me hoping for more City On A Hill down the line.
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.