Mob City, you broke my heart.
Three weeks ago Mob City delivered an extremely promising debut – a film noir on cable complete with intense, bloody action, terrific acting, impeccable set design and a wonderful cinematic flare.
Three weeks later Mob City delivered a lackluster finale – the acting and action were still there but the story completely fell apart; wrapping up matters in a hurried manner in order to set up storylines for a potential second season.
Wait, what? Wasn’t Mob City supposed to be a “special” television event? Wasn’t this supposed to be a limited three week series delivering two mini movie episodes per week?
Instead of focusing on the story at hand the creators behind the L.A. noir (pun intended) decided to plant all too obvious seeds for a potential season two, introducing new characters and new storylines. This really took a lot of the bite of the finale. We should’ve been riveted to our seats during the final hour of this “event” but instead we’re playing catch up with who’s coming in and who’s coming out.
This second season “reveal” actually cheapened the series for me. We were promised an event and instead we got an extended trailer, an appetizer, an out of town preview for what Mob City could be. It’s as if the creators decided to take the book the show is based off of and give us the video Cliffs Notes. Now, if the series had given us the big second season reveal in the closing moments of the episode (during the Lansky/Cohen scene) that would’ve been great. Instead, the cat was out of the bag early on, the worst tip-off being the mayor of L.A. asking Boyscout Bill (Neal McDonough) to help him take down the current, corrupt police commissioner. Really? We bring such a huge storyline into the last hour of a supposed finale of a mini-series?
Mob City also suffered from overcrowding – too many side characters and subplots really muddied the waters. The subplot where Hecky’s (Simon Pegg) silent partner in the blackmail scheme keeps stalking Jasmine (Alexa Davalos) and being a total psychotic creeper detracted from the stories we actually cared about. We get it, he’s weird, he’s creepy, couldn’t we have ended this character last week? Also, what’s with the throwaway cameo from Ernie Hudson? His character added next to nothing in this season and if this was the only season of the show, his character comes off like nothing more than a cheap Chalky White rip-off.
The overcrowding also hindered a lot of characters from developing. The majority of Teague’s “mob squad” buddies were severely under-developed. This was extremely frustrating as they all seemed to hint at being pretty interesting characters. Jeffrey DeMunn and Neal McDonough also got the short end of the screen-time stick, barely seeing the light of day in these episodes. DeMunn, in particular, got little time to do anything during the show’s entire run. A cynic would say it seems that he was cast just to pop the audience members who are fans of The Walking Dead.
However, all is not completely lost with Mob City. Jon Bernthal proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that he can carry a series. He was an absolute dynamo as Joe Teague. We saw every shade of Teague’s complex moral color chart and we bought every line he delivered, no matter how cheesy or how cliché, because we connected with the passion with which Bernthal delivered them with.
Also, the violent sequences are still delivered in such a fantastical and cinematic way you almost can overlook all the problems the show has. From the shooting in the oil field to the carousel sequence to tonight’s shooting rampage, this series just knows how to deliver hard-hitting, bloody good scenes of violence.
There’s no certainty that Mob City will return for a second season. The show’s premiere underperformed in the ratings and critically did not receive the warmest welcome, so who knows what direction TNT will take. If the show never returns to the air then this “event” was a failure. It failed to create something memorable and special when it had every opportunity to do so. If the show is brought back for a second season one has to hope that Frank Darabont, the man behind this series as well as The Shawshank Redemption and The Walking Dead, will put more of his logical, intelligent and brilliant stamp on the series. It has to get better than what we saw here. The source material is rich, the cast is superb and the production value is top notch. If the writers of the show can create some storylines that people can dig, then Mob City atones for its sins. However, that remains to be seen.