Watching characters deal with the level of control they assume to have over their own lives is one of the more compelling aspects of any work of fiction. In Magic City it appears to be a running theme that explores the notion that although Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is, for all intents and purposes, a self-made man, his success suffers from the unavoidable interest of those who helped him make such a rise to prominence.
In ‘Atonement,’ Magic City looks to explore the relationship between control over one’s life and the reality that there is only so far anyone can climb before someone with the power to do so, suggests you go back the way you came. And the best way to do that is by focusing the majority of the episode on the lives of the women in the series.
While Ike is preoccupied dealing with the insane insult handed down by D.A. Jack Klein (Matt Ross), in which he remands the body of Mike Strauss (Leland Orser) back into the custody of law enforcement – at his own funeral, no less – Vera (Olga Kurylenko) is given the opportunity to approach the problem of Jackie Kennedy’s inability to appear at an event she had previously committed to attend. At first, the representative she deals with seems a little nonplussed as to why Vera would be approaching him, but as she points out rather effectively, she and her husband are privy to some engagements that may have taken place at the Miramar Playa that would be in the Kennedy’s best interest to be kept confidential. As Vera is all but assured of Mrs. Kennedy’s attendance, she is paid the compliment that she would make an excellent politician’s wife.
As much as Vera benefits from her position, it’s one that is really only afforded her because of the influence Ike wields. For the most part, the women are beholden to men in some form or another, and despite the drawbacks to Vera’s situation, she’s in a far better place than Lily Diamond (Jessica Marais) or the poor Judi Silver (Elena Satine).
While Lily is forced to appeal to the king-like aspirations of her husband, Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), Judi takes up the bottom rung in the Magic City hierarchy.
There is a feeling that Ben views everyone around him as sub-human, justifying not only the things he takes or demands from others, but also grants him dominion over whether their lives will continue on, or end immediately. There is a thrilling hint of despotism in Ben’s interactions, which make him a kind of behind-the-scenes-ruler, rather than a simple thug or bully. In his mind, Ben isn’t out to ruin people’s lives; he’s simply making a decision in what he believes to already be his. So watching as Lily performs for him, despite her relationship with Stevie (Steven Strait), we become acutely aware (as is she) her place in Ben’s world.
While Lily appears to serve a purpose to Ben, for the time being, anyway, the Miramar Playa’s platinum prostitute, Judi Silver has outlived her usefulness. Although she played her role with Strauss to perfection, getting pinched by the cops afterward put her at the tip of Ben’s “to broom” list. The whole mistaken identity thing plays out as a fairly tired reason for Judi to initially escape harm – although the idea that this high-class call girl would have brand recognition that exists far beyond the Playa’s grounds is a humorous, albeit absurd, notion that is kind of fun to imagine.
But again, in showing what little control the lower-rung individuals have over their own lives, Judi is only spared when Ike makes yet another pricey deal with Ben.
The deeper Ike finds himself with Ben, the more important his relationship with Meg Bannock (Kelly Lynch) becomes, as she appears to be the most likely and available outlet that Ike has. Meg is the only woman who seems to come and go as she pleases; even the few obstacles barring Ike from entrance into certain circles are unfamiliar to her. Another example would be: After Danny has been attacked by the balcony scaling thief ransacking rooms at the Playa, Meg shows how little even Vera’s title matters when one has accumulated the kind of wealth and social status she has. While the other women sit in the hospital waiting room, Meg appears to be given full access to Danny’s (Christian Cooke) bedside where she convenes with Ike.
Of course, even before the photos were stolen from Stevie’s room, they were a portent of doom. Although their transition of ownership holds no surprise, or real element of suspense, the notion that a more personal conflict between the Evans clan and Ben Diamond looms on the horizon does make up for the utter inevitability of Stevie’s indiscretions.
Just as he was beginning to get along with Vera, too.
Magic City continues next Friday with ‘Suicide Blonde’ @10pm on Starz.