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

City On A Hill spins a web of entangled storylines, some stronger than others

Aldis Hodge in City On A Hill
Aldis Hodge in City On A Hill
Photo: Showtime
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At times Jackie Rohr is almost a supernatural character, a wraith roaming the streets of Boston and capable of suddenly appearing anywhere and buttonholing people who would rather be talking to anyone else. That’s particularly true in “I Need A Goat,” which finds Jackie’s trail of sleaze spreading all over the city as he tries to stay one step ahead of those who would bring him down.

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Near the top of that list is frenemy Decourcy Ward, who is convinced Jackie dropped the comatose Holly Gunner on the steps of St. Eligius hospital. When Jackie gets wind of Ward’s interest, his response is to make it personal by digging for dirt. He tracks down a law school friend of Decourcy’s, who points him toward his rival’s old flame, Sierra Mills, a wealthy white banker. He thinks he’s hit paydirt when he learns Sierra had an abortion, but his source throws cold water on that potential piece of blackmail, telling him that Sierra’s father ordered the procedure Ward didn’t find out about until it was over.

But pregnancy is still very much an issue for Decourcy, as Siobhan’s clock is ticking and the Wards’ efforts so far have been unproductive. Siobhan is concerned that her doctor has found polyps, but the doc suggests the real problem may lie with Decourcy’s swimmers, which can apparently get a motility boost from Robitussin. (I have no idea whether there’s any factual basis for this, so please don’t use this recap as a source of medical advice.) Aside from any physical issues they may have, the Wards aren’t really on the same timetable anyway. Decourcy is focused on digging himself out of his career hole and is under the impression they had agreed to put the baby on hold. Siobhan is under no such impression, and wonders if it will ever be the right time to focus on her needs.

Those who are already parents have their own problems. As we are informed in the pre-show crawl, Grace Campbell is unaware that her two sons are not only involved in the drug trade, but responsible for the killing of eleven-year-old Raina. While her youngest, Kelvin, carries some guilt about the incident, his brother Anton doesn’t appear particularly troubled about it. When Kelvin is arrested, Grace assumes he was profiled just like Madeline Wilson, but it’s actually a rival gang member who has identified the Campbells as being responsible for Raina’s death.

Lauren E. Banks
Lauren E. Banks
Photo: Showtime

That’s all part of the ongoing pissing match between the FBI and the Boston police, particularly the Youth Strike Force. Tony Suferin, a cop on the strike force, is accused of planting the drugs in Madeline Wilson’s car. Fellow cop Chris Caysen is determined to clear the strike force, and he’s the one who chases down Kelvin after arranging for rival Junior Senegal to act as decoy. The district attorney is also looking into the strike force at Jackie’s behest, because ⁠—surprise, surprise ⁠—Jackie has dirt on D.A. Guy Dan. Completing this complicated circle, Siobhan has agreed to represent Kelvin at Grace’s request.

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Elsewhere in the city, old business is still swirling in the background and getting further entangled with the new business. Jimmy is trying to get back on good terms with his sister-in-law Cathy Ryan and her kids, but Cathy wants nothing to do with him, even when he brings her a gift of $10,000. With her beauty shop on the skids, Cathy needs a new source of regular income, and since she’s now living in a low-income Charlestown apartment surrounded by dope fiends, she prevails upon Jimmy to set her up in the game. He goes to Anton for the package, and just like that, worlds are colliding.

With all of this going on, you might think there wouldn’t be much time to spend on Jackie Rohr’s home life, but alas, that’s not the case. Jenny’s mother, kicked out of the house at the end of last season, has been trying to get her daughter on the phone to no avail. When an Aunt intervenes and tells Jenny her mother is ready for the last rites, Jenny relents and takes Benedetta for a visit. As it turns out, mother has greatly exaggerated her impending demise, and merely wishes to inform Jenny she’s suing to get her house back.

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The City On A Hill writers can’t stop themselves from heaping new humiliations on Jenny at every turn, and this week’s low point comes when Jackie catches her masturbating to some softcore porn. Jackie won’t let the matter drop, hounding her about whether she was fantasizing about Brad Pitt or Nick Nolte, but Jenny confesses that she was only thinking about Jackie. I can’t think of anything sadder, but at least Jenny finally gets a storyline that doesn’t revolve around her reactions to other people in her life when Benedetta notices she has a great singing voice. At least for now, Jenny doesn’t believe in herself enough to go through with singing lessons, but she definitely needs something.

“I Need A Goat” is a bit all over the place, which is to be expected from an early-season episode dedicated to setting up storylines. In trying to find room for everyone, however, some crucial aspects of the plot can get lost in the shuffle. Are we really supposed to care about Tony Suferin, a barely developed member of the Youth Strike Force? Is he a corrupt racist who has made a career of cutting corners, or is he clean and righteous in his quest to clear his name? Maybe we’ll find out...or maybe he’s just a plot device put in place to keep the wheels turning.

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Stray observations

  • Grace is a strong enough presence that she’s able to convince the corner kids to clean up the graffiti in the project (with only a little bribing), but convincing Anton that a military career is in his future is probably a bridge too far.
  • It’s still hard to believe that anyone would work with Jimmy. It’s clear from this episode that Anton knows he’s a snitch, so why would he trust him? Cathy certainly has reason to cut out the middleman and deal with Anton directly, which may be where this is headed.
  • “No safe word, no Vaseline.” John Doman is typecast for a reason. He can chew up a crude line of dialogue and spit it out like no one else.
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.