After last week’s premiere, Magic City has settled down a bit and managed to tell a more cohesive and less-rushed story surrounding the Miramar Playa and its owner Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
In ‘Feeding Frenzy,’ Ike is playing those he hopes to gain favors from, or influence over, with copious amounts of booze and prostitutes like Judi Silver (Elena Satine) – who was present when Mike Strauss (Leland Orser) was taken at gunpoint during last week’s obligatory mobster montage.
After Ike’s business meeting with the pageant group, Mike’s father Al (Stan Carp) flat out accuses Ike of having Mike killed. Of course at the time, and given the image of Mike’s drowned corpse floating in an underwater dumping ground, there were questions of who actually ordered the hit.
Since Magic City is intent on showing us that, yeah, Ike is kind of a bad guy, but probably not cement shoes level bad, we learn that Mike’s watery grave almost certainly came courtesy of Ben Diamond (Danny Huston). Unlike ‘The Year of the Fin,’ however, ‘Feeding Frenzy’ allows Diamond to exude a more tuned, sharper sense of menace, as opposed to the broader “I want what’s mine” bully mentality he displayed in the premiere. Don’t misunderstand, Ben is still a bully, but one that drags so-called friends and business partners out to his boat in the middle of the night and shoots a dog for barking too much while he’s one the phone. For those of you who are counting, that is the second dead dog in as many episodes. The Magic City dead dog counter has officially started.
Looking out at the Playa from his boat, Ben tells Ike, “You built a palace, now it’s time to be king,” before handing over $100k for Ike to grease the palms of some high-ranking Florida officials in an effort to legalize gambling. This, apparently, is Ben setting up the next phase of the Miramar Playa before he comes to take it from Ike altogether.
Setting Ben up as the sort of villain who is willing to provide mutually advantageous, but ultimately short-sighted solutions to the problems of the people he wishes to control, will go a long way in ensuring the character’s longevity. Instead of merely being an obstacle for Ike to overcome, Ben is as much Ike’s means to an end as he is a threat to the Playa’s future stability – the latter merely an inevitability that will be worked out when the time comes.
The $100k could have created another instance where we see business being taken care of while some upbeat tune from the time period played ironically over scenes of corruption or violence, but thankfully it just leads to the introduction of Ike’s former sister in-law Meg Bannock (Kelly Lynch). The interplay between them is some of the best writing on the series so far, inasmuch as the way they speak to one another says more about their relationship than the words they use. Clearly, theses two were once close, but since the death of Ike’s wife, they have apparently lost touch. In addition to introducing Meg, we also learn that the Miramar Playa sits on what used to be Bannock land, leaving one to wonder if there is any bad blood between the two families.
Meanwhile, Stevie (Steven Strait) – who comes off in some scenes resembling Billy Zane - continues his romance with Ben’s new wife Lily (Jessica Marais). It’s clear that the infatuation these two have with one another is in part to allow the “Rated M” material, but so many breadcrumbs are being dropped as to how it will play out that any investment in the characters or their relationship is moot. Perhaps if we saw Stevie doing something at or for the Playa, instead of his father giving him orders as a means of ending a scene, Stevie’s affair, and the danger it presents, would be more substantial. As it is, his indiscretions seem poised to make him expendable.
At the same time, son number two, Danny (Christian Cooke), is playing a similar role in terms of inciting potential disaster for dear old dad and the Miramar Playa. Since DA Jack Klein (Matt Ross, American Horror Story) has taken such an interest in the disappearance of Mike Strauss, he’s begun looking directly at Ike. And while he doesn’t believe Ike to be responsible for any wrongdoing in regards to the union man, Klein does figure Ike is involved with Ben Diamond. This leads to an assistant DA suggesting they court young Danny to clerk for Klein, in the hopes of gleaning some information off of him eventually.
‘Feeding Frenzy’ also spends a great deal of time touching on the idea of Ike’s religion, which appears to be a position he perpetuates as something expected of a man in his line of work. His wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko) is in the process of converting to Judaism, and his daughter Lauren (Taylor Blackwell) is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, which her grandfather Arthur (Alex Rocco) is adamantly against. Through it all, Ike doesn’t seem to care much about the idea of religion until he’s met with a casually anti-Semitic remark by one of the pageant reps. It serves as a reminder that no matter how he plays the game, Ike will always be looked upon with a certain amount of disdain from those he’s looking to do business with.
In the end, just like with Mike’s death, Ike gets what he wants, but he has to resort to breaking the law in order to do so. This begs the question: Just how far is Ike willing to go for the Miramar Playa?
Magic City returns next Friday with ‘Castles Made of Sand’ @10pm on Starz.