Sunday night saw the concluding episode of Frank Darabont’s neo-noir Mob City and, coupled with the news that TNT won’t be ordering any more of the gangster fuelled series, it created a distinctly disappointing end to the show and the way it was handled.
The first couple of episodes were a visual treat – beautifully shot, expertly delivered and quite unlike anything else on television at present. Those aspects alone made it an exciting series to tune in to for the first few weeks. But the question of whether the series was all style and no substance haunted each of the six episodes, giving audiences something superficially entertaining to watch but nothing to really sink their teeth into.
After the initial three episodes, the neo-noir novelty started to wear off and the series found itself teetering between the greatness it could be and the mediocrity it was heading towards. The story was intriguing but it stayed firmly on the surface, never delving deeply enough into any of the characters’ back stories or the motives behind their behaviour. There were some terrific characters too, with Robert Knepper’s Sid Rothman a sparkling result of great casting and great acting, but the sheer size of the ensemble cast made it impossible to focus on any one character long enough to really get to know them. Neal McDonough’s Captain Parker was a prime example of this – his plight to bring down both the ruthless mobsters and the corrupt law enforcers was skimmed over, a tiny pebble brushing the great ocean of crime and double-crossing before sinking without a trace.
Had Darabont scaled the cast down it might have been conducive to allowing viewers the time to get to know the people behind the great gangster legends. Mob City didn’t offer new insight into the likes of Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel. Jeremy Luke and Edward Burns’ portrayals acted only as caricatures of the historical crime figures. What do we know about these men that we didn’t know before? Absolutely nothing, which is both a crying shame and a wasted opportunity.
The continual lack of direction was frustrating – flicking between scenes with the mob and scenes with the LAPD and, once again, never settling long enough to indulge the audience’s need to know what these two opposing sides were really fighting for. Who were the rotten apples within the LAPD? What was the bigger picture involving the mob-council behind Siegel’s funding? Mob City was all about its stylish and shiny exterior – glowing lights, smoky clubs, guns going off like fireworks – but by the final episode even that had worn away.
The real crime in Mob City was not utilising the great acting talent it had on board whilst it had the chance. Jeffrey DeMunn and Neal McDonough were woefully underplayed, whilst Alexa Davalos’ femme-fatale, Jasmine, was so aloof that Davalos maintained the same facial expression for six whole episodes. Jon Bernthal was the only actor given the freedom to really give it some welly and, when you see how superb his performance was because of it, you can’t help but feel a pang of disappointment that the other credible actors weren’t given the same spotlight.
Now that the series has ended, that’s all we’re left with…a pang of sadness for what could have been. From the beginning I hoped that the show would go beyond a half dozen episodes but TNT had other ideas – or did they? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that, following the series’ poor ratings, TNT have back-tracked and re-categorised the show, creating confusion amongst fans. Despite the mere six episode run, I never thought Mob City was a mini-series, and the open-ended finale – which set a lot up and left many questions unanswered – goes some way to revealing that TNT didn’t believe it was either. RIP Mob City, you were beautiful and empty ‘til the end.