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Mob City, Ep. 1.01 and 1.02, “Guy Walks Into a Bar” and “Reasons to Kill a Man”: Bitter Little World

Mob City, Ep. 1.01 and 1.02, “Guy Walks Into a Bar” and “Reasons to Kill a Man”: Bitter Little World

Mob City S01E01-2 promo pic 2

Mob City, Season 1, Episode 1, “Guy Walks Into a Bar”
Written by Frank Darabont
Directed by Frank Darabont

Mob City, Season 1, Episode 2, “Reasons to Kill a Man”
Written by Frank Darabont
Directed by Frank Darabont
Airs Wednesdays at 9 pm(ET) on TNT

With a dash of L.A. Confidential and a heavy dose of brutal, graphic violence, Frank Darabont’s new limited series Mob City could have enough juice to push TNT into relevant drama territory.

Jon Bernthal takes the lead as war veteran Joe Teague, a less than perfect detective in 1947 Los Angeles. He’s a man who lives in a “world of grey hats”. Early in the pilot he’s placed on the fast track to becoming the department’s “golden boy” when he gets drawn into Hecky Nash’s (Simon Pegg) blackmail scheme. Nash is a slimy, rapid fire, not so funny comedian who grew up with Micky Cohen (Jeremy Luke) and finally has a chance to one up the mobster he’s grown to hate.

Mob City presents what is perhaps a more realistic LA of the 1940s. There aren’t any glamorous movie stars or orange trees to be found here, this is a city full of enterprising mobsters and dirty cops. When Teague makes a play for his former wife (Alexa Davalos), and Hecky’s current girlfriend, he finds himself caught between Police Chief William Parker (Neal McDonough) and people like Cohen and Bugsy Siegel (Ed Burns).

Everything about Mob City is a slow burn. Because noir films have such a widely recognized style, it’s nearly impossible to reinvent the wheel. Instead, Mob City embraces it, being deeply inspired by the genre; it’s all long takes, smoky shadows, jazzy music, and snappy dialogue. What’s so brilliant, though, is that it forges its own vicious, bloody path. It’s simultaneously bowing down to the originals and creating its own intriguing stories.

Mob City S01E01-2 promo pic 1

The pacing is classic noir, slow and deliberate. There are a lot of characters and they all have very important things to say, but none of it’s done without purpose. Every line of dialogue is wonderfully written and pushes the story forward. No one is in a rush in this show, and thank heavens for that because it’s in those quiet, laconic moments that we get some of the best scenes of the show. Just check out Pegg’s amazing monologue at the end of “Guy Walks into a Bar”; absolute perfection.

“Guy Walks into a Bar” eases us into a dense story and by the show’s second hour, “Reasons to Kill a Man”, we already have a handle on who our characters are, or at the very least what they are capable of. Teague is a man who’s seen too much, more than any person should, but he’s also a man trying to right wrongs, sometimes violently if necessary. Most of his motivations are kept hidden until the first hour’s shock ending, but Bernthal plays him with enough harried grit that it works. He makes Teague the perfect dark anti-hero for this noir; a total throwback, much like the show itself.

In addition to being beautifully written, Mob City is amazing to look at. Everything about the show is unique to television today; there’s nothing like Mob City out there right now and that’s more than refreshing, especially for people who love the genre. This is as close to perfect as the noir genre has gotten in a long time.

Tressa Eckermann