As far as storylines go, the involvement of Sy Berman in the lives of Ike Evans and Ben Diamond seems like it is the most promising of all the myriad plots just sort of lingering around during this season of Magic City. Not only does the show benefit from the presence of James Caan, but his aging and cranky Chicago mobster breathes new life into what is really the series’ main conflict between the proprietor of the Miramar Playa and the fetishistic mobster who’s still reeling from his dismissal from Cuba – which came courtesy of the Castro regime.
Although ‘Crossroads’ only gives us a brief glimpse at Sy’s life in Chicago, it also tosses in an unexpected flashback depicting a very young Ike Evans in 1924 watching as his father get roughed up by Sy in the business he built from the ground up for himself and his family. Obviously, this is intended to draw some comparison to the situation Ike currently finds himself in with Ben, but it also confirms that there is a history between the Evanses and Berman – and, tangentially, at least, organized crimes – long before the Miramar Playa existed and The Butcher was holding a 49% stake in the place.
I’m not sure if this revelation strengthens the story any – beyond Sy and Ike being acquainted to the degree that the old man would be compelled to leave the dinner table so as to take a call from Ike – as it would make just as much sense Sy might know of Ike due to his dealings with Ben and the Chicago outfit’s financial stake in the Playa.
Moreover, it sort of paints Ike in questionable light, as his early experience, which seemed somewhat traumatizing, didn’t appear to have an impact on him in regard to not getting involved with mobsters. Certainly, it can easily be seen as a wrinkle in Ike’s character and a demonstration of how desperate he was to launch the Playa and succeed when his father-in-law played dirty to prevent that from happening, so, in that sense, Ike’s bad choices coming back to haunt him is definitely a recurring theme for Magic City. It would just be nice to see it played out more overtly, as the storyline moves ahead with Ike making risky gamble after risky gamble, to get him out of the corners he’s continually painting himself into.
While there’s been plenty of set up in season 2 regarding Ike’s next move and his quest to control the Playa outright, there are so many disparate character arcs going on, the storyline this season is beginning to feel a little disjointed. And it’s increasingly evident in ‘Crossroads,’ as the writers seem content to have the characters float along like Ben on an inflatable raft in his backyard swimming pool. Granted, this is only the halfway point of the season, so there’s still plenty of time to begin rounding things up and for the series to name its stakes, but right now, things feel as though they’re a little adrift.
A lot of this has to do with the overall structure of the episode. Much of what’s transpired so far this season has happened in relatively contained episodes that, more so than what Magic City has offered before, managed to include a clear beginning, middle and end. That’s not so much the case here, as it features so much jumping from plot to plot that there’s simply not enough time to focus enough on any one character that we get a sense of a complete chapter.
This is essentially the season clearing its throat and preparing to push into the final four episodes, which look increasingly as if they will focus more heavily on the gambling bill passing and the involvement of Senator Sloat in what will likely be the eventual disappearing act of Theresa, Ike’s favorite elevator girl, courtesy of Bel Jaffe.
With all the plot hopping going on, it’s time to start taking bets as to which arcs will actually pay off before the season wraps up. The good money might be on whatever it is Vera’s using to prepare for her show and Ben’s determination to sink Nicky Grillo and his arms deal with the Cubans – though Lily might get to him first after Grillo inadvertently dropped some details on her to Stevie. And now that the Evans boys have each fallen under the spell of a would-be mentor (Ben and Jack Klein, respectively), the race is on to see whose loyalty will shift away from their father first.
There’s a lot going on in Magic City right now, and hopefully, the next few weeks will see it come together in satisfying fashion.
Magic City continues next Friday with ‘World in Changes’ @9pm on Starz.