City on a Hill Recap: Murkier and Murkier "I treat everyone the same: bad."

2.5

Summary

“If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly” just puts the already complicated bits of story from the opening two episodes into a blender and makes them positively convoluted.

This City on a Hill Episode 3 recap for the episode titled “If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


It’s right around that time in a season of television where I begin making judgments as to whether or not this is going to be successful. We’re on the third episode of ten, and things are getting more spread out than ever. More and more mini plot threads (I might call them plot split ends or plot frizzes) keep popping up, truly diluting the core of what could make this show good. It’s honestly as though the writers are trying to avoid honing in on the thing that could make this great and instead focus on every other ancillary plot point that they could.

The best thing about this show is the give and take between the corrupt but potentially valorous Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon) and the noble knight who may have to compromise his morals to get his victory: Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge). When they’re onscreen together, they’re electric, playing off of one another in a battle of wits and ethics. Their scenes together raise questions of morality: how far will Ward go and how much will he sacrifice? What’s really in this for Rohr and how clean can he actually be?

Too bad they had one brief scene together in City on a Hill Episode 3, “If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly”.

The other characters who are just fascinating to watch are brothers Frankie (Jonathan Tucker – who needs to play a Terminator someday) and Jimmy (Mark O’Brien) Ryan. Frankie – the criminal – is a good father and husband, while Jimmy is a Class-A screwup, but they’re both lovable.

They each had one scene in “If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly”.

Instead in City on a Hill Episode 3, we focus on Jackie’s wife Jenny (Jill Hennessy), who’s thinking about leaving him and goes to a very unhelpful priest who blames her for her husband’s infidelity. To follow that up, another priest comes to visit her to encourage her to leave her husband (how long will it be before he helps her to pick up the pieces of her life in the bedroom?). This one side story thread, unrelated to the major case at hand, takes the spotlight here. Don’t get me wrong: Jill Hennessy is a very good actress, but it’s a total distraction from the actual plot we signed up to come and see.

Peppered throughout this side story in “If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly” are small moments: Siobhan, Ward’s wife (Lauren E. Banks), tries to temper a volatile preacher’s rhetoric to get him to work amicably with the justice system; Ward and Captain Lewis (J. Bernard Calloway) scheme to “BBQ [the reverend’s] balls” if he doesn’t, er, play ball; Officer Minogue (Kevin Chapman) possibly learns something about the Reverend – this isn’t followed up on; and Ward wears a Heathcliff Huxtable sweater. Oh, and Rohr doesn’t have the clap.

The highlight of City on a Hill Episode 3, and the reason for 1.5 of the 2.5 stars I’ve given it, is Aldis Hodge, who is a charismatic actor and a well-drawn character. In what should have been the pivotal scene of “If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly” – if the plot wasn’t so diluted – Ward convenes a grand jury to begin ordering subpoenas. He implores them, rousing them to action to “fill the city’s moral potholes.” While he’s had to begin compromising his ethics, he calls them to “do so much good” for their city. It’s a well-written, moving scene.

Other than this great speech, nearly nothing of importance happens in this episode. City on a Hill is falling into the tarnished trap of today’s Golden Age of Television: over-writing. Look at Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, or some of the ancestors of this brilliant age of TV that we’re enjoying. They featured intricate plotting and complex narratives. However, they didn’t over complicate things so that we lost sight of the story they were telling. Myriad storylines were happening, but they all related to the plot and they gave us well-rounded characters. City on a Hill is trying to do too much too soon without giving the audience time to breathe or get us invested in the characters. They’re cramming all the elements: plot, characters, and setting into a blender and forcing us to drink that milkshake, souring us on what could be a great experience.

Tyler Howat

Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.

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