Mob City Series Premiere “A Guy Walks Into A Bar/A Reason To Kill A Man” Review

Mob City Episode 1 and 2 A Guy Walks Into A Bar;Reason to Kill A Man (4)

When I first heard the details about TNT’s new series Mob City, my inner fan girl squealed with delight at the prospect of so many amazing world’s colliding. Frank Darabont, Jon Bernthal and Jeffrey DeMunn of The Walking Dead in a series with Milo Ventimiglia and Robert Knepper of Heroes and Simon Pegg and Neal McDonough? Can you hear that? It’s the sound of a mind blown. For the sake of those who have not watched Heroes or The Walking Dead, I will do my absolute best not to refer to Bernthal as Shane, DeMunn as Dale and Ventimiglia as Peter. I will try.

A Bit of Background

Before getting into the series premiere, it might be helpful to have a little background on the show. Mob City is based on the non-fiction book, “L.A. Noir: The Struggles for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City” by John Buntin. One of the things that drew me to Mob City is that, like Boardwalk Empire, the cast of characters includes a few real-life mobsters. On Boardwalk, we’re watching the rise of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. We’ve also been introduced to a very young Bugsy Siegel on Boardwalk Empire, whereas we find the gangster much older and more accomplished on Mob City. Joining Siegel among the characters based on real life figures is Mickey Cohen, portrayed by Jeremy Luke.

After watching the first two installments of the series, its clear that the 1940s culture is a prominent “character” on the show. The show is visually stunning and replete with cinema noir markers – smoke-filled scenes, jazz, sexy bartenders and mysterious men clad in exquisite suits who answer to nicknames like Bugsy and Hecky.

Shades of Gray

In his voice over, Shane Joe Teague introduces us to his world where he finds himself feeling very gray in a place where the good guys wear white and the villains wear black. For now, the gangsters wear black and the cops wear white, but I suspect that those lines will blur as the season progresses.

In the first episode, Hecky Nash (portrayed by Simon Pegg), enlists Joe’s help with a money exchange with the mob because he figures mobsters wouldn’t kill a cop. Joe reports the offer back to his superiors, who decide that the exchange presented a good opportunity to get some insight into the mob’s recent activities in L.A. Of course, Sid and Terry were not thrilled to see that Hecky decided to bring a cop along with him to the exchange. Joe takes a look at the contents of the exchange and sees negatives from pictures of a man killing someone. I know nothing about the significance of the images, but whatever was in them compelled Joe to call a major audible in the cops’ plan. Rather than shoot his flare gun and signal his colleagues to arrive, Joe allows the mobsters to take the evidence and leave. As if that wasn’t confusing, Joe further deviates from the plan when he unexpectedly shoots Hecky. It was fun while it lasted, Simon Pegg!

The Fixer

At the start of the second episode, we are formally introduced to Ned Stax. A gentleman with exquisite taste in shoes, we learn that Stax is an attorney and fixer for Bugsy. If you know anything about the real Bugsy Siegel, you know that Stax is a very busy man. It turns out that Joe and Stax are old wartime friends. Stax was the one who told Joe about Hecky’s situation, expecting that the information would lead Joe to turn on the troubled comedian after he saw the contents of the exchange.

You know, I initially thought the whole kerfluffle over the $50,000 that Joe refused to accept and Bugsy refused to keep was silly. That, of course, was until the huge reveal at the end of the episode. Earlier in the episode, Joe reflected upon the reasons a man kills someone. In a twist I certainly didn’t see coming, we learn that Hecky’s ex-girlfriend, Jasmine Fontaine, is also Joe’s ex-wife. We still don’t know what was in the images Bugsy wanted to purchase from Hecky, but we know that it was enough to indicate to Joe that his ex-wife might be in trouble. And with that, we learned that Joe will kill for love.

Overall, I’m not sure if the storyline in the first two episodes measured up to the stunning appearance of the show, but I really like the cast. I wonder if the executives at TNT had these same concerns, as the show is on a condensed schedule in which two episodes will air every Wednesday in December. It’s not exactly a vote of confidence when your network schedules you to air after sweeps and during the holiday season in which we see very little new programming. On the strength of the cast alone, I’m going to give Mob City another try. What about you? Sound off below!