Good evening, guys and gals, and welcome to Mob City
. Frank Darabont's miniseries is a veritable love letter to all things noir; there's jazz music, seductive bartenders, people with names like "Bugsy" and "Hecky", and so much smoking that I think I got emphysema just from watching it. The first two installments, "A Guy Walks Into a Bar" and "Reason to Kill a Man", also provide us with a fairly simple formula for what to expect from each episode:
- There will be people lurking in shadows and (of course) smoking.
- Lots of suspenders and fedoras will be worn.
- Someone will make questionable choices.
- At some point a minimum of two people will get shot.
- The whole episode will basically be a set up for a twist at the end that will make you say "wait, what?!"
I would suggest making a drinking game out of that, but BuddyTV cannot be held responsible for any liver damage that will inevitably result. Drink responsibly!
So Many Hats
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One of the noir-esque and ever-so-helpful voiceovers of the series gives us a pretty good metaphor for how the characters are categorized. In Westerns, bad guys wore black hats and good guys wore white hats. In 1940s Los Angeles, hats also come in gray. On the black hat side, we have the leaders of the titular mob of Mob City
. Mickey Cohen is the primary leader, and also seems to have a preoccupation with washing his hands. His friend Bugsy Siegel owns Las Vegas and his other friend Sid Rothman just straight up likes killing people. The white hats are comprised of a few members of the LAPD, though not all because apparently many cops moonlight for organized crime in order to supplement their terrible salaries. The cops who seem to be firmly on the side of good are William Parker, the police chief whom others call "Boy Scout", and Hal Morrison, the head of the department's mob squad. And as for the gray, we have the main character of the series, Joe Teague. A WWII vet, Teague is a cop who seems more or less on the up and up until...well, we'll get to that.
"A Guy Walks Into a Bar"
The basic premise of the first episode is that a mysterious man with very stylish shoes summons Teague to a bar for equally mysterious reasons. Hecky Nash, a terrible comedian even by corny 1940s standards, is blackmailing the mob and wants Teague to help him with the money exchange because the mob doesn't kill cops in LA. Teague immediately reports this to his superiors, who decide to have him go in under the pretense of helping but on Teague's signal they will come in and get whatever evidence Nash has against the mob. Teague and Nash meet up at the rendezvous spot outside of the city. As soon as Teague gets a gun in his hands he radiates a sense of power, and it suddenly makes sense why Nash was so interested in having this seemingly quiet and self-possessed guy watch his back.
Sid and his associate Terry arrive and are none too pleased to see that Nash has brought a cop. Teague prepares to send up a flare to call his team in when he sees the evidence Nash has brought. It's a set of photo negatives that show a man presumably killing someone else, and for some reason they make Teague put away his flare gun. The mobsters leave with the evidence, Nash is overjoyed, and everything seems fine until TEAGUE PULLS OUT A GUN AND MURDERS NASH FOR REASONS WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND. At this point my notes on the episode devolved into expletives and confusion!
Mob City Interview: Frank Darabont on Bringing 1940s Mob vs. Cop Story to the Screen>>>"Reason to Kill a Man"
We now move onto the second episode of this two part premiere. The man with stylish shoes from the previous episode is revealed to be Ned Stax, lawyer and "fixer" for Bugsy Siegel and an old wartime friend of Teague's. The fact that he's the one who informed Teague of Nash's predicament means that Siegel set Nash up, knowing that Teague would turn on him. He must have known that Teague had some connection to whatever the photo negatives contained, because he definitely wasn't going to do anything illegal until he saw them. Not wanting to be a hit man for the mob, Teague refuses to take the $50k offered for the job. Apparently he has too much honor for that but not enough to keep him from shooting a man in the back. Siegel, unsure of Teague's motives for refusing it, doesn't want the money back. I wish I had these problems.
Another voiceover brings us to the theme illustrated in the title of this episode by listing the reasons people having for killing others. There's money, revenge, hatred, or if you're Sid, just good old fashioned fun. But for Teague the only reason worth killing for is love, and as he says this we see Nash's girlfriend Jasmine Fontaine, waiting for him to come home so they can run away from Los Angeles. Jasmine is one cool customer. Being interrogated by the police about your boyfriend's murder? Lie and say stamp collectors did it. Same questions from your boss, who also happens to be the guy who had your boyfriend killed? Lie and say you broke up ages ago. What about if the guy who actually killed your boyfriend takes an interest in your photography habit? Lie and say you gave it up and then stash all the photographs you have in a bus locker. At this point it's a pretty safe bet that Jasmine took whatever pictures Nash had, though what those pictures contained is still unclear.
Meanwhile, Teague now has to answer for the fact that his mission went completely south. Luckily everyone seems to buy his story about Nash being killed before he got to the rendezvous, except perhaps for one guy on the mob squad. IMDB tells me that his name is Mike Hendry but I'm 90% sure they never mentioned that in the episodes so he's just listed in my notes as Ugly Shirt Guy. We'll have to see if any conflict develops there. For the most part, though, he gets away with only damage to his career prospects. He is even allowed to continue working on the mob squad, and helps stake out Jasmine with a little too much interest. We assume this is primarily motivated by trying to cover his ass until the final scene, in which Teague and Stax meet up again. Stax is shocked to find that Teague is still carrying around a picture from their war days, and tells him to burn it because "nobody carries a torch for that long." As the picture goes up in flames it's revealed to be a wedding picture of him in his wife. And his wife is Jasmine. JASMINE. Makes sense, considering that his only reason to kill a man is for love, and the evidence Nash had was clearly connected to her. No wonder their car ride together was so awkward.
What did you guys think of the first two episodes? What did those pictures show? What happened between Teague and Jasmine? Will Ugly Shirt Guy figure out that Teague killed Nash? Share your thoughts!
airs Wednesdays on TNT at 9pm EST.
(Image courtesy of TNT)