In the world of television (the business side, especially), the future is rarely certain. Showrunners often have to make critical creative choices with regard to their storylines simply because the decision on whether or not said story will continue officially arrives after the season has already been put to bed.
Now, although Mitch Glazer’s ’60s-set Miami-mob story with a hotel twist, Magic City, failed to receive the go-ahead for a third season, at least word came early enough that viewers were aware that the season 2 finale, ‘Sins of the Father,’ would serve as the concluding chapter to the series. This offered fans a sense of closure going into the finale that would not have been there otherwise (see: the cancellation of Boss and the longstanding, but recently refuted, rumors of a two-hour movie to wrap up dangling plot threads and, hopefully, answer why Kitty’s wardrobe wound up on Kathleen Robertson in SEAL Team Six).
Still, even if their runs are brief, most shows on Starz have it pretty good in the beginning. Magic City, like Boss before it, was given an extremely early second season order (before the series premiere, actually), and even the as-yet unaired, Michael Bay-produced pirate-drama, Black Sails, will see its life as a series extended until 2015 at least. Now, a lot of this has to do with the business side of things: It makes sense for the network to extend the run of these shows and make them more attractive (and therefore more lucrative) on the foreign market. And while that decision may also be seen as an indicator of the network’s impressions of the series, that early second season order can sometimes cause the writers to delay the progression of the storyline in an effort to save something for the next batch of episodes.
At times, this certainly seemed to be the case with Magic City. This series was, by all accounts, riding the coattails of the period-drama craze started back in 2007 by Matthew Weiner and his existential ad men and women over at AMC. And while the sun-soaked bodies, classic cars and white sandy beaches of 1960s Miami held a certain aesthetic allure that certainly ticked all the boxes in terms of how a prestige, period-set cable drama should look circa 2012, at just eight episodes a season, the narrative of Magic City could be, at times, as devoid of actual content as Don Draper’s bottle of rye on a Friday afternoon.
As far as those narrative dry spells are concerned, they may have been the result of having too singular a story to tell and too much time in which to tell it. For all the subplots of Danny interning with D.A. Jack Klein, Stevie carrying on an affair with Lily Diamond – while trying to get out from under his father’s shadow – and all the things (political and otherwise) going on with Victor Lazaro and his daughter Mercedes, Magic City was only really interested in Ike Evans’ quest to regain complete ownership of the Miramar Playa and prevent Ben ‘The Butcher’ Diamond from orchestrating the legalization of gambling in Florida.
To that end, the finale does bring some closure to the overall narrative in that Ike sees his professional life made whole with the reacquisition of the Playa, but it opens a whole other can of worms when his family life crumbles around him. While it appears he’s lost Danny, Stevie and Vera (to Stevie, no less), Ike’s accomplishments are further tempered by the death sentences being handed out like mojitos at a poolside cabana. Characters from Sy Berman to Bel Jaffe and Judi Silver wind up meeting their maker, while Ben Diamond’s twisted voyeurism nearly costs him his life – but Jack Klein’s assurances at Ben’s hospital bedside suggest ‘The Butcher’ may be awaiting a fate worse than death.
No, it’s not a complete ending in the truest sense of the word, too much is left undeclared and underdeveloped, likely to have been picked up in the third season that will never be. But as far as unplanned conclusions go, it’s not altogether unsatisfactory either.
When you take into consideration how significant the progression had been in the last few weeks, it’s clear Glazer and his writing staff were equipping the ‘Sins of the Father’ to work as a finale for either the season or the entire series. But more importantly, it illustrates just how single-minded the series could be, and how, unlike other shows that excel in their single-mindedness (e.g., Breaking Bad), Magic City could sometimes be unsure of when to incorporate important plot points or major developments.
In that regard, although plenty is left unsaid (which will certainly be a sore point for devoted viewers), there was a great deal of heavy lifting required for a single episode, and the finale should be commended for managing to focus and shore up as much as it did. In the end, it’s just a shame the series only managed to find that sense of purpose and progress in its final hours.