City on a Hill Recap: Living on the Edge of Night

By Tyler Howat
Published: July 15, 2019 (Last updated: November 7, 2023)
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City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 5 recap: “From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice”


“From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice” follows a strong episode with another one – this time more on track with the series’ premise, with a lot of revelations and forebodings along the way.

This City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 5 recap for the episode titled “From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

After a stellar episode delving into the women of City on a Hill, we’re more or less back on the case that Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge) and Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon) have been tasked to solve in City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 5. And they really gain some ground here. In fact, just about everything in “From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice” seems to be coming up Ward and Rohr. This tells me things in the next few episodes are about to plummet for Rohr at the very least. But more on that later.

Ward is using the Grand Jury to put pressure on Frankie Ryan (Jonathan Tucker) and the other armored car robbers. It’s working – the relationship between Frankie and Cathy (Amanda Clayton) is beginning to fray. Jimmy (Mark O’Brien) is still trying to squeeze his brother for information so that he can snitch on his brother to Rohr. It’s really all so he can get his — going directly against the gospel of family that Cathy preached last week.

Meanwhile in City on a Hill Episode 5, Michaela Freda (Samantha Soule) is a reporter digging into that shooting and begins searching for a rat for the FBI. She’s hardcore: “Even the mayor crosses the street when he sees her coming.” In the search for the snitch, she turns up junkie-turned-snitch Clay Roach (best name for a police informant ever!). Rory Culkin reappears as Clay Roach in “From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice” after his initial minuscule cameo in the first episode at the scene of a botched police raid that ended in a cop shooting (at Roach’s hand). Freda is trying to figure out how a cop shooter got off. He fingers Ward for it — the first time we get any tarnish on Ward’s reputation.

Rachel Benham’s (Sarah Shahi) character deepens further in City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 5. We dig into her past and find out that she’s a daughter of Persian immigrants trying to pass herself off as Italian and getting a job with the Government to make sure she’s got security, hoping to achieve the good old American dream. She empathizes with the daughter of the man they’re tailing because she’s going to grow up with the stigma of having a criminal for a father and not know her place in the world. “So yeah, I have a little compassion for this douchebag’s daughter who’s going to have to go through life explaining who she is.”

Her partner Hank: “Well, I hope you’re happy. You’ve sucked every ounce of joy out of ruining this bastard’s day.”

“Oh, I’ll still enjoy it.” Rachel — and the rest of the women really — are easily the most developed, human characters in City on a Hill. This scene in “From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice”, however, epitomizes my frustration with this show. It’s Rachel and Hank (Jere Shea) just talking in a car on a stakeout, and it’s quite poignant. But it’s broken up into vignettes rather than really letting us sit with these characters at this moment. This series feels a bit like this: fragmented, with scenes sitting jagged and intersecting, rather than composed scenes that let us live in them. Once again, the show is trying to serve too many disparate pieces (and seemingly adding more all the time!) and not weaving them together well. We get vignettes rather than scenes, all sound in rather than cohesively knitted together.

City on a Hill Episode 5 felt like the writers realized what they have in their two leads: amazing chemistry. Ward and Rohr are great on screen together, and they’re together a lot, finally. This is the central tension of the series: who will pull the other one in which direction? Can Ward bring Rohr up before Rohr drags him down? It leads to a lot of philosophizing about right and wrong and justice. No one they encounter is good – not on either side of the law. How dirty does a good guy have to get before he becomes just like them? How long before Ward becomes Rohr?

Ward asks Rohr, “How much of what we’ve been doing in the last 24 hours is illegal?”

Rohr: “Better to let a thousand guilty men go than let one innocent man suffer. From injustice came the way to describe justice. Only when you’ve seen one can you shape the other.”

Ward: “That’s excellent justification.”

Ward has come to the realization that “No one’s wholly innocent.” And Rohr adds: “Or wholly guilty. At least I hope not. Otherwise, I won’t be well remembered.”

City on a Hill often feels like a series of quotes from a writer’s commonplace. This isn’t wholly a criticism, because I’ve said since the beginning that the writing is really excellent — by that I mean the written and spoken word. The lines delivered by the show’s characters throughout have been thought-provoking and meaningful, yet we’ve got pacing problems which I don’t know should be credited to the director or editors.

But that critique doesn’t diminish the impact of this scene here. Ward is wrestling with his job — he’s focused on this one case with all his being, readily compromising all his ethics to get the bad guys. And yet he knows that there are dozens of violent deaths in his jurisdiction that he’s not focused on. So he’s latched onto Rohr for some kind of a potential victory in this case – but at what cost?

Finally, after City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 5, I’m excited about where the show is headed. Rohr had a good episode in “From Injustice Came the Way to Describe Justice”, with case victories both big and small. But this seems just like the kind of show that, when a character finds himself in a really good, smug place (and oh he had a smug few places taunting a dying man and dangling drugs over a junkie), he’s just about to tumble into some kind of terrible mire. My evidence? The last scene in City on a Hill Episode 5: Rohr’s ever-absent daughter, always out partying, is drinking with her friends and then junkie, needle sharing Clay Roach sits down and shares a joint and a bottle with her. At the same time, Rohr finds out that his mistress is pregnant. Minogue, before he dies, pronounces that Rohr’s bosses are losing confidence in him. Bad times are coming around the pipe for our buddy Rohr, and I can’t wait to see him squirm.

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