Magic City – Castles Made of Sand
Given this shows history, even a mere two episodes in, the thought of it centering an hour around a beauty pageant is a petrifying one; Magic City managed to turn a union strike into softcore pornography during the pilot, so surely this synopsis is set to be seedy beyond belief. Imagine my surprise then when the episode ended up being both the best and subtlest hour of the show yet; two great terms for my mind but perhaps only one that Starz may have liked hearing. See their network is built on sex and violence and base excitements so the idea that this third episode of their new centerpiece show would finally earn it’s comparisons to Mad Men must actually be petrifying.
There is of course still some sex – the organizers of the big event are given buffet access to the beauties from the stage and take no time to shove their faces right in – and some shock – Huston is still hilariously hammy, god bless him, and continues to creep out all involved- but for the most part we spent our time this week with adult things of a different kind, icky things like character beats and continuity. I still can’t comprehend or care about just what is happening in the show; i mean is anyone really invested in who invests in the hotel, or how well its staff functions? I barely find enthusiasm for the financial stakes of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce after five years in their offices so the chances of this shallow, scattershot story capturing my interest are infinitely low. That said though I am starting to show some signs of attachment to the characters, who these ambiguous events are happening too, and that is a great sign for the show.
Ike, the show’s iteration of Don Draper, has been even more of a cypher so far than the man that he was cloned from: a simple scowl sitting behind a desk, never letting us inside on issues like whether or not he was happy or repentant about the state of affairs he had dug himself into. Was he a sociopathic gangster in a nice suit or just an everyday guy putting on a strong show? I honestly didn’t know after the first two hours and though I still can’t say with any certainty either way I do know much more about him as a person which is a definite positive.
The scenes towards the episodes end that were spent with him bouncing between his second wife and sister in law, bound to them by pleasure and business respectively, were bubbly and filled with the kind of small social observations that Mad Men may as well have a patent on; every word and wry smile held meaning an importance and rendering the what was fun. Then on the other end of the scale we have the dark parting image of him and the Jewish delicacy served by the widow of the friend that he deceased – that they were all old family friends came as something of a retcon to me, but it did retroactively add power to the scene – and this was humanization at its finest; finding the worst part of the character and showing us just how much he hates it really works to endear them to us. Even the women – Olga and the specter of his first wife – were fleshed out to be more than just flesh this week, they were allowed to expose new layers of strength as well as strip off new layers of lingerie.
We all know that magic tricks can be broken down into three important steps: The Pledge, the Turn and Insomnia, erm I mean The Prestige. While Magic City may have mangled its pledge to my mind it has hit its turn early with Castles and made to redeem itself and If it can continue along this path then it may well do so, sucking me in just in time for the final act reveal; I only fear that doing so will also simultaneously make the shows Starz- style audience disappear.