It seemed pretty clear at the end of last week’s episode that Magic City would be heading in increasingly darker directions as the season finale grows ever closer, but to kick off the proceedings with the dismemberment and disposal of Nicky “Nick the Prick” Grillo? (“Rest in peace, you piece of shit!”) Now that’s what I call a tone-setter. After the slice and dice, though, it seems to be a quick and easy three-step process: body goes in barrel, barrel goes in ocean, boat goes back to port. It’s so simple, even a child could do it! Except it actually isn’t, as it turns out, but more on that later.
As anticipated, Stevie’s response to his father’s fury was indeed to return to the warm embrace of Ben’s handshake, making a deal with Miami Beach’s resident devil to serve as the boss of what Madame Renee previously described as her “fuck palace.” Smiling all the while, Ben informs Stevie of the threats he’s permitted to deliver to the workers, then hops into the car with Lily, smirking about how his new protégé is “the son I never had,” but the expression on Stevie’s face is hard to read: is it simply his ongoing annoyance with Lily, or is he already starting to second-guess his new partnership?
If he isn’t, maybe he should be, because Ben’s clearly got a serious emotional imbalance going on, based on the way he talks to his boys about the status of the impending gambling bill. Threatening Eddie Blue with the prospect of “wearing your blue fucking eyes as cufflinks,” hurling a knife at the wall to punctuate his instructions, promises to cut off Senator Sloat’s hand if he loses so much as a single vote…these are neither the statements nor the actions of a man in possession of total sanity. The Secret Six’s actions in the press aren’t just making Ben crazy, though: they’ve caught Sy’s eye, too, and he’s pissed off enough to quietly book a surprise trip to Florida to find out what the fuck’s going on down there…not that it’s a surprise to Ben. The dude might be out of his fucking mind and prone to lapses in judgment when his emotions get the best of him, but he’s clearly still very, very aware of what’s going on around him.
Last week, Victor’s annoyance with Ike was obvious, but now that he better understands what sort of business is going on, it’s reached boiling point. “You’re helping the guy who killed my wife,” Victor reminds him. “There are things that are bigger than this place.” Big surprise, Ike doesn’t agree, but Victor’s just as stubborn as his boss, running straight to El Tiberon to inform him of what’s going on in the hotel and explain why he can’t work there anymore. The two head to the balcony and have a heart to heart talk over cigars, with El Tiberon using every last ounce of his charisma along with a little bit of dead-wife guilt (“What would Maria have you do?”) to keep Victor fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, while the former may be aware that his room’s being bugged, he’s not nearly as on point when it comes to knowing where the bug actually is. Whoops.
When Madame Minister arrives at the Miramar Playa for the press conference, the reaction of the assembled masses is decidedly less than positive, putting Ike’s stress levels even farther into the red than they were when Victor resigned. Vera tries to play the “friends and family are everything” card, but he’s not having it. “They’ll be back,” he says, his voice as cold as the ice in his drink. As Ike and Madame Minister make their announcement, Ben shoots his business partner a less-than-promising look, while Victor watches the proceedings on TV, wearing an expression of confusion, wondering why a man he clearly thought he knew would choose to make such a decision. The next time we see him, he's on the docks, back in El Tiberon's camp and acknowledging that he'll be tagging along with him, leaving Miami behind. Too bad he hasn't told his daughter yet. Given that Mercy gave up her career to stay with her father, it's doubtful that she'll be but so accepting of him leaving her in the lurch.
There’s so much going on between the Evans boys this week—sometimes together, sometimes independently—that it’s hard to say who’s got the stronger storyline, but it’s sure as hell easy to say who comes out looking the skeeviest. Stevie’s clearly feeling guilty about the possible effects of his refusal to reconcile with Lily, but he also knows there are other ways to keep in Ben Diamond’s good graces, so he heads off to find a beautiful blonde who can take the place of the departing “fake German” whose assets Ben so appreciated. Too bad the other Evans brother is already in the process of visiting the blonde in question when Stevie stops by. Judi’s watching Jack LaLanne when Danny pops ‘round for a visit, but even though he’s stopped by to try and offer her a way out of her current situation, she senses other motives. “Do you want to save me, Danny?” she asks him. Instead, she offers her bid to be his savior instead, and, hallelujah, Danny sees the light. It’s just a damned shame that he hasn’t finished seeing it when Stevie arrives and performs a major-league cock-block by asking, “Did she give you the Evans family discount?” When Stevie reveals the reason he’s come to see Judi, harsh words are spoken between the brothers, causing Danny to storm out, but while Judi’s pissed off at Stevie, she can’t deny that he’s offering her not only a chance to make a decent living again but also protection from the man who’s threatened to kill her. Hard to imagine that things are all that much safer working for Ben Diamond, but better the devil you know, I suppose.
Ever since the very first episode of Magic City, any scene featuring only Stevie and Vera has felt really uncomfortable, a fact which their conversation in Stevie’s apartment this evening completely played on. It’s a horrible exchange from the beginning, with Stevie thoughtfully offering his stepmother marijuana, and it only grows increasingly more disconcerting. Stevie’s observations on his father are so spot-on that it almost feels out of character as he says, “I think, in the end, Ike wants to be a good man, a good father, a good husband. But he’s playing at it. He’s acting it. He doesn’t feel it. Not really.” Not only do Vera’s pro-family arguments fall on deaf ears, but Stevie starts to reminisce about how he once saw his stepmother naked and has never forgotten it, then follows it up by telling her that the next time she comes back, it should be for him…and that there's always a next time. (Geez, he really is the son Ben Diamond never had.) She’s out the door like a flash, and it certainly looks like the whole experience has made her queasy. Indeed, by the time she’s back home with Ike, she just looks happy to be back in his embrace…at first. But is her change in expression simply because she realizes that Stevie’s never going to be part of the family again? Let’s hope that’s all it is.
Meanwhile, Danny’s surprised to get a visit from Judi, and his surprise turns to shock when she decides to reveal Doug’s duplicity to him. He finds it hard to believe at first, focused as he is on why she’d tell him about it, but he quickly tucks it away for future use. That usage comes into play sooner than later, due to Klein fully giving in to his obsession, informing his staff that they’ll link Ike and Ben or they’ll be handing in their resignations, and damned if they don’t pull it off. In short order, Ike’s attorney has been hauled into Klein’s office, with the D.A. reeling off a mindbogglingly complicated trail that they’ve followed to ultimately connect the two gentlemen’s business affairs. Raskin looks positively stricken, but as a good—if somewhat unscrupulous—attorney, he knows when to keep his fucking mouth shut. When Danny sees him in the hallway, however, it serves as a wake-up call for Ike’s youngest boy to step up and try to make a deal for his dad’s salvation. It doesn’t quite work out as he’d hoped, but it does reveal that, despite his desire to see Ike suffer, he’s not going to deny the evidence just because it makes Ike less guilty. (Besides, he knows the connection’s still there, so it’s not like he’s not still going to get to take him down, anyway.)
Once Sy arrives at the Miramar Playa, things begin to move along at a rapid clip, starting with Ike trying to talk things out with Sy, only to have Sy tell him yet again that the whole thing’s one big “wait and see” ‘til the gambling bill is won or lost. (“There’s an order to things,” he explains.”) Still, Sy walks away from the conversation with the realization that Ike’s working a step ahead of Ben, which soon leaves Sy shaking his head in amazement that the great Ben Diamond doesn’t have any idea what’s happening in his own kingdom. Ben sure thinks he’s got everything under control, though, believing that Sen. Sloat is going to deliver the gambling bill as promised, but he isn’t aware that he’s finally scared Lily to a point where she’s going to deliver a killing blow to her husband’s empire…and if she doesn’t, then it’s a fair bet that the barrel that’s washed up at the end of the episode will do the trick nicely.
Don’t forget, kids: next week brings the season finale. What, already? It’s just like last time: The second half of the season just seems to fly by…
- Sy’s guy Moe. Is that short for “Big MoFo”? Holy shit, is that guy huge…
- “Stevie’s a grown man. Or, at least, he thinks he is.” Ike Evans for Father of the Year!
- “The twat’s daddy wants to run for governor of New Jersey!” I don’t know who the father of the “fake Kraut” is supposed to have been. Maybe one of these candidates?
- Judi vs. Stevie: “Why are you such an asshole?” “I dunno. Why are you such a whore?”
- Stevie’s a complete prick, but I had to laugh when he said of Danny, “He’s always been a very clean boy.”
- Danny vs. Judi: “I work for the State’s Atty.” “And I’m a whore. What does that make your brother?” “Family.”
- Ike vs. Sy: “I want my hotel back.” “I want a new prostate.”
- This whole Vera/Mercy relationship still feels really shoehorned into the proceedings. I realize it’s a means to an end that’ll result in less dangling storylines, but it just seems to exist in its own little world. Conversely, even though we’ve also almost never seen Ike and Lily in scenes together, their encounter tonight was fantastic, as it underlined how much they’ve got in common: They've both spent far too much of their lives being fucked by Ben, and now it’s time to have their revenge.
- A word to the wise: When someone with a history of having people whacked starts playing “Danny Boy” on the piano, it’s rarely a good omen for things to come.