City on Fire mixes multiple genres and storylines to create a fast-paced, binge-able series, albeit one that is particularly average at best. The enticing plot twists and anarchistic undertones are offset by cliched, unlikable characters and predictable plot beats.
We review the Apple TV+ series City on Fire Season 1, which does not contain spoilers.
Original content is hot property for streaming sites these days, and yet original scripts rarely get to see the light of day. Streaming platforms would much rather rely on adaptations or continuations of well-known franchises instead of taking a risk on something entirely new for a change.
City on Fire is yet another book adaptation to get the TV series treatment this year. Based on Garth Risk Hallberg’s best-selling novel of the same name, this crime drama series focuses on the attempted murder of a student who was shot in Central Park on the fourth of July, 2003.
City on Fire Season 1 Review and Plot Summary
The girl that is shot, Samantha Yeung (Chase Sui Wonders), seems to be the major link connecting a mysterious rock band, a series of city-wide fires, and a wealthy real-estate family residing in uptown, New York.
Our protagonist is the boy infatuated with this central figure, Charlie Weisbarger (Wyatt Oleff), an awkward teenager Samantha takes under her wing. Samantha is your stereotypical cool girl, obsessed with rock music, photography, and art. She transforms Charlie from an unsociable outcast into another cool kid like her.
Charlie falls for Samantha instantly, but she has her own secrets, which leads to this tragic shooting. After this devastating crime, Charlie has no one else to turn to, so he seeks out Samantha’s odd group of misfit friends.
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Adjacent to this teenage rock romance storyline is a contrasting subplot about the wealthy elite. The Hamilton-Sweeney family and their dodgy business deals are explored via Regan (Jemima Kirke), the chief operating officer of the family business.
Regan is the straight-shooter in the clan, but she finds herself at odds with Uncle Amory (John Cameron Mitchell), who wants to seize control of the business.
Is City on Fire Season 1 Good or Bad?
City on Fire is a decidedly mediocre drama series riddled with cliched characters and over-dramatic plot twists. The creators make the early mistake of rushing into the drama before the audience can invest in the characters or the plotting.
It’s hard to care about Samantha or the others when there is so little character development or depth to each individual cast member. Chase Sui Wonders is terribly miscast as Samantha, the cliched rock chick, who appears to be way older than her years.
We are supposed to believe that Samantha is a teen who lives multiple secret lives. While the band members are just as pretentious and unlikable as the wealthy elite. There isn’t anyone to root for, which makes it hard to engage with in broader terms.
There are some pluses to the show. As with all Apple originals, the series is well-made and stars an ensemble cast of well-known actors. Episodes whiz by with so many subplots to address, and the climactic scenes will keep viewers hooked, coming back for more.
Is City on Fire Season 1 Worth Watching?
City on Fire tackles many genres, but ends up as a pale imitation of them all, trying desperately to capture the excitement of the music scene, the fragility of teen love, and the cutthroat nature of the business world, all within a crime procedural. All that being said, this is watchable TV that will likely win over its fans with its fast-paced, binge-watch appeal.
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