After a season premiere that was the Magic City equivalent of being shot out of a cannon (i.e., lazily rolling out of bed and lighting a cigarette with a lot of style), the plot of season 2 has slowed to the point that most characters are spending entire episodes talking about what they plan on doing. As a matter of fact, the storyline has begun to offer its progression in the form of the TV currency known as suggestion and possibility – which isn’t the same as the show actually presenting real change, but if the plot ever does begin to move forward, things won’t feel so completely random.
Unlike last season, there has been a particular focus on the younger Evans boys and their increasingly divergent paths – though in the case of Judi Silver, it may be more a case of the younger brother following in his sibling’s vice-soaked footsteps – which, unsurprisingly, has them traveling in opposite directions as it pertains to the law and their respective mentors’ unique perception of societal rules.
On the one hand, there’s Danny trying to understand just what Jack Klein wants from him and why everything Klein comes right out and asks of him feels so much like turning away from his kin. In fact, Danny’s so busy being lured into turning on his father and body-checking a trigger-happy States Attorney that he’s barely had time to notice Mercedes Lazaro has fallen under the spell of a passionate anti-Castro revolutionary and, perhaps the idea of revolution itself.
On the other hand, there’s Stevie, the son who seems to suddenly want something he can call his own that didn’t require asking his father first. Stevie’s mild adversarial relationship with Ike is arguably a lot of what draws Ben to him (other than the private room screenings of Stevie’s dalliances with Lily, but more on that later). It’s as though they’re kindred spirits in that sense: Both want what Ike is unwilling to give them.
After being given a taste of Ben’s world (knowingly or otherwise), Stevie finds himself asked to move up from bartender in his father’s hotel and occasional dealer in one of the Butcher’s illicit poker games to a full-fledged partner in Sherylin Fenn’s new brothel that’s just broken ground.
These two storylines feel like they have the right stuff to be compelling offshoots to the larger Quest for the Miramar Playa plot that’s been turning since the series began, but they’ve yet to muster up much of anything beyond the suggestion of familial betrayal and the question of where true loyalty lies. Either way, soon both boys may find themselves in a sticky situation, which should amp up the drama somewhat. But as demonstrated, Ike’s arrest at the end of season 1 wound up being resolved about as fast Stevie shooting a guy was forgotten, so best not to hold your breath.
The only characters who don’t seem to forget, or to have things blow over nicely for them all the time, are the Lazaros – whose main purpose in season 2, apparently, is to suffer loss after loss and become angry enough to act, or otherwise show some vocal support for the pending battle between Carlos ‘El Tiburon’ Ruiz and Castro’s men. That is, if they ever get enough weapons off Ben, now that he’s ostensibly eighty-sixed Nicky Grillo for daring to sell weapons to the Cubans (or anyone, for that matter) in his town.
And despite Ike’s corralling of the new Secret Six, or organizing Cuba to rig its national lottery, no one has become more influential on the series than Danny Huston’s scenery chewing Ben Diamond. Ben’s actions this season have been far more dominant than last – he’s done a whole lot more than smash things and set tables on fire – but it’s also been something of a mixed bag.
While his brutality and penchant for violence has been on full display, there’s no suggestion any real meaning behind it beyond initial shock. Sure, Ben’s a menace when summarily executing Theresa even took Bel aback, but the threats he’s leveled against Lily for failing to bring Stevie to her bedroom have begun to feel like little more than mere provocation on the part of the writers.
Although it is borrowing story elements from the Big Book of Historical Stuff, Magic City remains a small, individualized story, something that helps justify how all the talk of revolution can be boiled down into a single character’s minute changes and have those changes (or the suggestion of them down the line) seem astronomically large. The larger elements of the season have yet to pan out, so right now, it seems that seeing a character like Ben begin to live up to his villainous potential is at least a sign of a positive alteration, provocation or not.
Magic City returns next Friday with ‘Sitting on Top of the World’ @9pm on Starz.