Miami Beach, 1958: warm sun, hot babes, dead bodies floating in the bay—what more could you want?
Ike Evans, owner of the fabulous beachfront Miramar Playa hotel, could do without the bodies, but hey, them's the digs for doing business with the mafia, right?
In Ike’s defense, he’s not particularly proud of his dealings with Ben Diamond, he even seems to be a little bit ashamed of them, but the union killed his wife’s Pomeranian and it’s New Year’s Eve and all he wants to do is get booze into his star-studded, Frank Sinatra-headlined party. If Mike Strauss had just caved on the picketing when Ike asked him to (quite nicely, I might add), he probably wouldn’t have ended up at the bottom of Biscayne Bay before the episode was over.
Of course, there is the distinct possibility that Mike was the lucky one, making a hasty (though soggy) exit before the Miramar’s proverbial roof began to cave in. Ike got his party, a glitzy affair almost effortlessly oblivious to the revolutionary coup going down in Havana, just under one hundred miles away. If it wasn’t for the mostly Cuban kitchen staff gathering around the radio or television at various intervals during the episode, even the audience could have ignored the sociopolitical upheaval and its implications for the future of not just Ike Evans’ hotel, but Miami, and ultimately the rest of the country, too.
However, I doubt that will be the case for very long.
There was quite a bit of intricacy to the storytelling in Magic City’s debut episode. It took a little bit of patience for the pieces to sink in, namely, that the union debacle was not the first time Ike turned to Ben Diamond for help. It was Diamond who initially financed the construction of Ike’s “palace,” and Ike is still paying him back—at $64,000 a month—and sometimes barely scraping it together. Why oh why oh why would you go ask the man for a favor when he already has your figurative balls in a vice, Ike?
“I will do whatever I have to do to survive,” he said during that nice chat he had with Mike Strauss.
Oh. Well that makes sense, I suppose. Desperate times and all that.
Ike Evans is a man who puts a great deal of faith in things that backfire: Cuba will never fall to communism, Ben won’t kill Mike—he'll just scare him a little. And yet, Ike isn’t an idiot, and his ruthlessness is fueled by fear for his future and a desire to protect his family more than greed or status.
Of course, he’s putting them in greater danger by dealing with Diamond, but for now, he has things under control. Honestly, I suspect that Ike's eldest son Stevie’s naked beach parties with Diamond’s new wife, Lily, will blow up in his face before his unfortunate business transactions do.
Magic City is teeming with delightful things. Some are sinister—Danny Huston as psycho mob boss Ben Diamond is delightfully deranged. Some are sweet: The relationship between Ike's youngest son Danny and housekeeping extraordinaire Mercedes Lazaro is the quaintly romantic alternative to Stevie and Lily’s clandestine hook-ups. Some are downright funny. I have a confession to make: I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life not being a huge Jeffrey Dean Morgan fan. In retrospect, I think it’s a residual effect of the fact that he tends to play, well, douchebags, and it was surely a case of being slow to separate the actor from the characters because I freaking love him as Ike Evans. I was utterly smitten from the moment he looked down from the penthouse balcony to spot the poodle floating in the hotel pool, reaching for the phone to call general manager Victor (Mercedes’ dad) and inform him, “There’s a goddamn Pompom floating in the...Jesus Christ.” You could see the realization sink in, that the fluffy critter floating twenty-some floors below was his wife’s dog. And you know what? He wasn't disheartened or saddened, he was annoyed, because it was just one more thing he'd have to deal with on this crummy, crummy holiday.
It’s not easy being king.
What did you think of Magic City's debut?