With “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,” City on a Hill seems finally to be hitting its stride as all the pieces we’ve been tracking begin to coalesce into something big.
This City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 6 recap for the episode titled “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” sees all the innumerable, disparate plot threads set up in the front half of this season beginning to coalesce. I’m beginning to rally in my support for City on a Hill, the plotting of which frustrated me greatly for the first few episodes. Now, I’m seeing what I’d hoped to see: a plan. There are still problems with the pacing – too many short scenes breaking up longer ones, but either I’m getting used to it or they’re getting themselves under a bit more control.
Ward and Rohr (Aldis Hodge and Kevin Bacon) are closing in on Frank (Jonathan Tucker) and his gang with a series of arrests, trying to connect some guns they recovered to the killing of the guards in the armored car. However, at Rohr’s insistence (surprised?), they have to resort to some borderline unethical tactics to get there. Ward puts pressure on Ziba Pippin, a kid (Eric Scott Ways) arrested for gun possession by threatening his mother. They arrest Hook (Charles MacLean), the owner of the bar where Frank and his gang bought the guns. Rohr goes after Hook’s brother (Dean Winters) to try and find the source of the guns, then Frankie’s mother goes into the hospital, forcing a monetary crisis. Reporter Michaela Freda (Samantha Soule) is still dogging the investigation with her own focus on Rohr’s corruption. The problems with the philandering reverend come to a head with the coalition and Ward, and Rohr’s daughter’s drug problems collide with this case in City on a Hill Episode 6.
Rohr: “[You’re] just a man looking in the mirror and not liking what he sees.”
Ward: “That mirror looks both ways, Jackie. I’m on the other side of it looking at you. I’m judging your [white] brothers in Charlestown same way I’m judging these [black] boys in Roxbury.”
Rohr: “You believe in rehabilitation, second chances, time off for good behavior. I say, black or white, throw the whole lousy bunch of them into the river.”
This is the opening conversation of “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” – ruminations on the philosophy of justice. Rohr and Ward debate facts vs. belief, practicality vs. idealism in police work. Can society be saved? Or do we need to cut our losses and just kill them all? Ward is still an idealist, though he’s seeing the darker side of the justice system and must decide how much of that darkness will taint him to get his job done.
Jenny got an A+ on a paper and her family actually spends a whole ten seconds to seem supportive of her before brushing it all under the rug. Then, the thing I was desperately hoping for happened in City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 6: Jackie’s mistress barges into family dinner and announces that she’s pregnant! So, Jenny throws Rohr out of the house with his tail between his legs. I literally shouted, “Yes!” at the screen! And I did a little fist pump. I’d almost forgotten what I wrote in last week’s recap: “Bad times are coming around the pipe for our buddy Rohr, and I can’t wait to see him squirm.”
Here we go!
This is a man who can generally get whatever he wants, whenever he wants, by just busting through whatever barriers are in his way. He tidies up his hair, smokes another cigarette, cracks an off-color joke, and orders a prostitute sent up to his hotel room. One straw will not break Jackie Rohr’s back, and I predict this is just the beginning of the downfall of Jackie Rohr. He meets with his mother-in-law Rosa (Catherine Wolf) at a swanky hotel to bargain with her to get Jenny’s affections back. He wins her over in exchange for getting her driver’s license back and she agrees to plead his case to Jenny. This is the only part I really don’t buy – Rosa hates Jackie deeply. She’d never betray her own daughter like this. But I guess Boston’s corruption knows no bounds.
But the trials aren’t over for the Rohr family in “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City”. In the last episode, we learned that Clay Roach (Rory Culkin) and Rohr’s daughter Benedetta (Zoe Margaret Colletti) are hanging out and sharing needles. It seemed like too much of a coincidence to truly be one. As it turns out, he’s drugging her so that he can let guys beat (and likely rape) her, probably to get Rohr off of his back. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to feel somewhat bad for Rohr in the midst of this – but as Siobhan says about the Reverend: “These are his sins. We don’t have to pay for them.” But Rohr’s family does.
Reverend Fields (Seth Gilliam) comes to see Ward about the allegations of impropriety that Siobhan (Lauren E. Banks) is investigating. Apparently, Fields has been bad-mouthing Siobhan around the Genesis Coalition. Ward unflinchingly has his wife’s back, telling Fields in no uncertain terms that they’ll have a problem if he keeps spreading lies about her. So Fields punches Ward on the left cheek – so Ward literally turns his face to the side and says, “You want to try the other cheek?” Ward remains the upright citizen in the midst of the swamp that is 1990s Boston. He may get his shoes muddy, but he won’t stoop to the level of the criminals.
I’ve mentioned before that I just love the writing in City on a Hill. They quote freely from philosophers and literature, but the characters are free-flowing in their disgust for Rohr. And I love it! I should’ve started this weeks ago, but here are some of my favorite ways that people describe Rohr in “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City”:
- “The man who would underbid Judas to betray Christ.”
- “Jackie would mow over his own feet if he thought that there was something in the grass that he could trade for something better.”
- “Rohr has proven the adage, ‘It’s easy for two guys to keep a secret when one of them’s a corpse.'”
City on a Hill Episode 6 has shown that the show can really do this thing they set out to do. While the concept is still unoriginal – how many corrupt Boston cop shows and films are there? – they’re going deeper than most. I appreciate the unflinching look at the heart of darkness beating in Boston and the realization that we have to stand against such evil, but that we have to purposefully struggle against letting it taint us as well. As the title tells us: “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.”
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.