City on a Hill: Feels Like The Middle Of A Trilogy "When did the truth ever help anyone?"

2.5

Summary

With “There Are No F**king Sides,” City on a Hill returns to its old standby: throwing fifty different disparate scenes together and calling it an episode.

This City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 7 recap for the episode titled “There Are No F**king Sides” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Unfortunately, it looks like City on a Hill is back to its old tricks, backsliding into a rather banal episode. With all the crazy pieces set into place, Jackie Rohr’s life on the edge of being in shambles, and a title like “There Are No F**king Sides,” I was really excited for City on a Hill Episode 7. It has its moments – only a few – but it looks like we’re back to lots of random, disparate pieces beginning to spin out into entropy once again.

The highlights of “There Are No F**king Sides”: Frankie and Jimmy (Jonathan Tucker and Mark O’Brien) beat the living heck out of an attempted armed robbery that goes down in front of them and then buy guns for a new armored truck heist. Kick (Blake Baumgartner), after being called a b—h on the basketball court, proceeds to take a box-cutter to the kid’s basketball. Jenny and Jackie’s (Jill Hennessy and Kevin Bacon) daughter comes home after her traumatic assault by Clay Roach, and Jenny finally has some sort of a human moment with her normally cruel daughter, then has a panic attack in her psychology class.

Michaela, the reporter, is in a coma after “falling down a flight of stairs.” Rachel Benham (Sarah Shahi) begins to put the pieces together that Michaela was trying to prove a connection between Rohr and Roach, and that Rohr is most likely a felon (by the way, it’s the height of dramatic irony that this is happening – it’s the worst kept secret in Boston that Rohr is seriously dirty; being connected to Roach is probably the cleanest thing he’s ever done!).

Rohr sends Vito Lupo (Lee Tergesen) to intimidate the Ryans in City on a Hill Episode 7. He’s waiting in Jimmy’s car, but Frankie gets there first, killing him, and Jimmy needs to cover it up – but Rohr tails him. Rohr planned this so that he could blackmail Jimmy into tipping him off about the location of the armored car guards’ bodies.

And these are just the highlights of “There Are No F**king Sides”, there are about a dozen other smaller scenes, adding little side moments. Honestly, I thought we were through this convoluted storytelling and that we were getting focused. Forty-five different things happen in City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 7, all of them seemingly random. I point you back to my ranting about City on a Hill episode 3, and I’ll try to dwell on the things that worked in “There Are No F**king Sides”.

Ward and Rohr put the screws to the Ryan gang by cutting off the Ryans’ arms source by making a deal with Hook, the gun-selling bartender. This leads to the main conflict between Ward and Rohr in City on a Hill Episode 7, “There Are No F**king Sides”: can Ward stick it out? Ward seems to be compromising the big picture of their operation for a small victory, but he sees the plight of the people of the street, while Rohr only sees the major crimes and the headlines that’ll help him be seen in a better light by history.

It’s all about winning the war for Ward that he’ll alienate whoever he needs to. He may not be as smarmy or slimy as Rohr, but he sees the world in Black and White. Good guys and bad guys. Everyone’s a little bad, though. Early on, Ward asks, “Whose side are you on?” He’s truly wanting to clean up the streets in Boston, to make an ideological change – to save everyone. But he has to make a choice: settle for getting a lot of little guys off the streets or throw them back in hopes of catching a bigger fish. To him, all the fish are equally important.

Rohr, of course, scoffs and pleads for Ward to go for the big picture, that he’s being naive that he’ll be able to actually affect real change. Ward argues that wanting real change in Boston “doesn’t make [him] naive… it makes [him] on the right side of history.”

Ward is willing to take any win, is unwilling to lose that he compromises the overall case to frustrate the arms deals as he can. Rohr begs him to stay the course — I genuinely still cannot tell what Jackie’s motivations are. He earnestly wants Ward to “fix the brown machinery in this city.” Ward doesn’t buy it: “Is that your new approach? Heartfelt?… I can’t tell if you’re just a scumbag or if your self-interest is so all-encompassing that you actually believe the bulls**t that you spew.” Rohr rolls his eyes, “Trust me, no one cares about a bunch of dear Black kids.” Ward retorts, “No Jackie, you don’t care about a bunch of dead Black kids.” He wants to win, but he cares about everyone, not just the bosses.

I really appreciate this issue here: Ward and Rohr’s conflict isn’t about being noble or dirty, though that’s present. It’s about the fact that Ward wants to help each and every citizen in Boston, while Rohr will step on those citizens to get the big picture taken care of. I’m giving one of my two stars for “There Are No F**king Sides” to this all-too-brief dialogue.

My other star for City on a Hill Episode 7 goes to Jonathan Tucker and Mark O’Brien. Together, they beat the crap out of a thug robbing a store (this is irony used well, my friends!) while Mark O’Brien goes toe-to-toe with Kevin Bacon, and both men shine through in a way that has mainly been seen when Bacon and Hodge share the screen. Moreover, after Frankie kills Lupo, he reenters his home, blood on his hands, and Kick hugs him, knowing something’s wrong (Blake Baumgartner gets the other half-star for being a badass with nuanced acting amidst the crazy around her). Frank is haunted, knowing that his sins have come far too close to home. He goes to Jimmy and their conversation is so evocative of brothers, of a relationship. It’s nearly silent. With only about ten words, Jimmy, the screw-up, knows that Lupo was in the car because of him and that he has to clean this up for his brother and his family. It’s powerful stuff.

So, all in all, City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 7, “There Are No F**king Sides” isn’t all bad, but it’s filled with so much of the same, diluted storytelling that we saw at the beginning of the season when City on a Hill has been giving us so much more. It feels like the middle of many trilogies, just filler waiting for a decent resolution.

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.

2 thoughts on “City on a Hill: Feels Like The Middle Of A Trilogy

  • July 31, 2019 at 10:09 am
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    Episode 7 introduces the Kinicki family. Babsi Kinicki (Emma Myles of OITNB fame) and Kelley and Babsie’s son, Miles Kinicki (Dane West). ….. “Kick (Blake Baumgartner), after being called a b—h on the basketball court by Miles Kinicki, proceeds to take a box-cutter to his basketball.” Makes more contextual sense by adding character references (because they are actually known to the storyline ?). Also the scenes with Cathy Ryan (Amanda Clayton) and Babsie are an indicator of a friendship strained and likely to come to a head as the Kinicki case explodes. The purpose of pulling the cold case was recommended as a way to deter prosecution attention early in season from Rohr’s criminal activities but instead it’s opened a flood gate to everything he could be involved with.

    Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 8:29 pm
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    Enjoying these reviews, thanks. I’m a little late to the party but only just catching up with the show. The cast is great, but the story is too crowded, as you rightly point out. Plus everyone is so aggressive and miserable it’s hard to invest in anyone. That said it has just enough to keep me interested, particularly Bacon who is superb. If it gets a second season they need to sharpen the focus and trim all the convoluted storylines. Another small gripe I have is the people on this show don’t talk like real people. It’s a shame because this show has a lot of potential.

    Reply

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