[This is a review of Mob City season 1, episodes 3 & 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Watching what would have been the six-week-long story of Mob City unfold in half that time gives the entire series a completely different feel. With two hours a week, the show is able to hurry through some slower areas and combat some pacing issues regarding the case the Bill Parker and his "Mob Squad" are building against Bugsy Siegel.
One has to wonder whether or not a the show might have been thought of as sluggish, if audiences were just now getting around to 'Reason to Kill a Man' this week, instead of being given a double-dose of Frank Darabont's rather short-lived crime show.
In a way, though, the hurried scheduling of the program is something of a double-edged sword: audiences who are actually tuning in get more of the series in less time, meaning they're more likely to stick with it until the very end. But the other side of TNT's scheduling decision makes it somewhat difficult to differentiate between episodes.
So far, after seeing 'A Guy Walks Into a Bar/Reason to Kill a Man' and now 'Red Light/His Banana Majesty,' Mob City definitely feels like more of its DNA comes from the cinema side of things than it does television. That certainly makes a lot of sense, considering the guy who is behind it all. And in terms of the serialized pacing and loose (but still basically standard) episodic structure, there's a clear evolution of Darabont's storytelling style from the kind of work he did on The Walking Dead.
In the two hours he was allotted this week, Darabont brings the series' focus even closer to the goings-on in Bugsy Siegel's criminal world and his quest to build a gambling empire in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the story of Hecky Nash and Jasmine Fontaine's ill-fated attempt to blackmail Siegel becomes a little clearer, as 'Red Light' provides the audience with some backstory showing Siegel's murder of Abraham Greenberg that inadvertently winds up being captured by Fontaine's camera. While the episode itself is the better of the two this week, 'Red Light' benefits greatly from the continued (albeit through flashback) presence of Simon Pegg.
At any rate, the flashback to Hecky and Jasmine is definitely more interesting than the glimpses we get into the childhoods of various gangsters, so that's a plus. And while the storyline is definitely leading toward Siegel's pending legal battle regarding the murder of Greenberg, Mob City seems to have found its most intriguing character in Robert Knepper's portrayal of Sid Rothman. Thanks to Knepper's terrific performance, Rothman winds up being a perfect counter to Bernthal's Joe Teague, so it's actually exciting the two are ready to square off by the end of 'His Banana Majesty.'
For the most part, the show has picked up in the places it needed to from last week's offerings. There's still some aspects of the storyline that aren't generating much heat – Milo Ventimiglia's Ned Stax being at the top of that list – but the brief turf war between Siegel's men (Mickey Cohen, mostly) and Dragna's goons, as well as the infighting between "Mob Squads" in the police department, points to what could have been had Mob City's prospects for a second season been a little brighter.
While parts of the show manage to be somewhat intriguing, it feels like maybe there's just too much story for even six-hours of television, as it's hard to see all these storylines coming to a satisfying conclusion in the two hours that are left. By the time the season (or series) wraps up next week, however, we'll at least have a better idea which stories were meant to be closed, and which ones Darabont and his writers were hoping might continue on.
Mob City season 1 will conclude next Wednesday with 'Oxpecker' and 'Stay Down,' starting @9pm on TNT.