“The Deaf Sage of Pompeii” begins to bring this first season of City on a Hill to a close by starting to draw the many storylines together in an adrenaline-pumping penultimate episode.
This City on a Hill Season 1, Episode 9 recap for the episode titled “The Deaf Sage of Pompeii” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I’m not yet sure how many times I’ve written this, but it seems like City on a Hill is figuring itself out, finally getting some kind of traction and sorting out how it’s going to approach a story. Maybe it’s because all the many, many story threads are now beginning to weave together. Maybe it’s because the show has decided (again) to focus on telling a single coherent story for a single episode, with a brief B-plot. But City on a Hill Episode 9 really worked across the board for me, with a few small quibbles. I finally felt my heart begin to pump, and I sat up a little forward in my seat, waiting to see what would happen when the heist began. But “The Deaf Sage of Pompeii” is presaging a comeuppance for Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon) and Frankie Ryan’s (Jonathan Tucker) gang – though I suspect that Jackie’s days are not as numbered as Frankie’s. While Frankie is somehow a noble crook, Rohr is an evil cop. He’s much more slippery.
Jimmy Ryan (Mark O’Brien) is losing it and Rachel and Hank (Sarah Shahi and Jere Shea) are tailing him to see how he’ll screw up. Prior to this, he seriously contemplates (and nearly attempts) suicide by fashioning a noose out of a jump rope. He’s at the end of the line, trapped in the corner. They catch him breaking into a car, which leads to Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge) interviewing him. Jimmy essentially spills the beans, offering to lead the cops to the next armored car job. I absolutely buy that Jimmy is lost and beaten down, but he very coolly strikes a deal with Decourcy, whom he’s never met. That was a little too handwavily easy. He sells Frankie down the river without even a beat. For a character who has struggled with everything throughout the entire season, I felt this just came out a little too tidily. Jimmy tries to assuage his guilt by persuading Frankie to sit out of the heist, but he won’t. So they go ahead with the job, their doom assured.
With the evidence mounting against Jackie Rohr, Rachel convinces Decourcy to cut Jackie out of the loop and gets herself and Hank assigned to sit in the back of the targeted armored car. Everyone converges on the armored car as the gang begins the robbery. Jackie (stubbornly refusing to be cut out) T-Bones the gang’s truck, and then the FBI and detectives surround them. In a quick burst of gunfire that kills one (unnamed) member of Frankie’s crew, Hank is shot and killed — one of the more tragic summary deaths in a cop show. This leads to Decourcy turning his sights on Rohr:
Decourcy: “I want Jackie Rohr out of my life.”
Rachel: “I may be able to help with that.”
The finale of City on a Hill‘s first season will deal more with the downfall of Jackie Rohr—we’ve caught our criminals, now it’s time to deal with the crook.
The last episode of City on a Hill ended with Jackie killing Clay Roach after finding out he orchestrated the assault on his daughter. In “The Deaf Sage of Pompeii” he’s burning his clothes and the evidence of this murder. Meanwhile, Rachel finds Clay’s dead body and sees that he’s holding a revolver and his head’s been blown open. But his face is wounded as well. She recognizes this as a sign that it’s not a suicide, and that it “reeks of blue polyester.” She’s beginning to connect the many disparate dots, all but confirming that Jackie murdered Roach — and she continues to be one of the most interesting, well-rounded, layered characters in the show. It also sets Jackie finally and concretely in Decourcy’s sights. The armored car heist is really a secondary concern: corruption needs to be rooted out from within, starting with Jackie.
Meanwhile, in our single B-story, Jenny decides (over wine) that she’s going to sue Jackie for divorce. Her friends are incredibly supportive, suggesting strategies for getting the best out of the divorce, while her mother blames her for everything that’s gone wrong. Jenny’s mother is maybe the most inconsistently written character in the show. She’s fairly evenly hateful to everyone while claiming allegiance to her daughter. And in “The Deaf Sage of Pompeii”, we learn that Jenny’s father sexually abused her when she was 14 and her mother helped to cover it up. This doesn’t ring true to the overall characterization we’ve seen. I think this adds a deeply tragic layer to her character, but it’s revealed so late that it just reads like an inconsistency that they’ve added in to make us feel deep things that arose inorganically.
City on a Hill Episode 9 ends with Jackie reveling in his victory on TV and then raiding Frankie’s house, uprooting Catherine and her family. While Catherine tries to get her other kids ready to leave the house, Kick is sitting alone on the couch, and Jackie sits down opposite from her. Kick has gotten quite a few good moments this season, focusing on a 10-year-old who’s starting to see the tragedy of this fallen world and staring it dead in the eyes, unflinching. Rohr sits down to tell her a story that’s supposed to mess with her head. He starts: “Life is all about finding happiness in unhappy endings.” Kick retorts: “F— you.” Jackie grins and replies: “You’ll be fine.” I love that this little girl, who’s been bold and brash this whole season, can look Jackie Rohr dead in the eyes and tell him off. For once, Jackie’s right: she’ll be just fine.
On a very random note, while sitting in bed, Decourcy is reading Jazz, a Toni Morrison novel. Toni Morrison passed away earlier this week. She’s one of the most impactful, important voices in literature and culture in the 20th century, who’s given me some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received. She will be greatly missed.
With a few character quibbles, I really enjoyed “The Deaf Sage of Pompeii.” As this season starts to come to a close, I’m eager to see if, after all the wobbly fits and starts we’ve had, this first season of City on a Hill can stick the landing. I predict deals will be struck and rats will be cornered, but I suspect that, while the show will go on next season, it will not be without Jackie Rohr.
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.