Episode Title: 'The Year of the Fin'
Writer: Mitch Glazer
Director: Carl Franklin
In 1958 Miami, Isaac "Ike" Evans runs the Miramar Playa, one of the most glamorous hotels in town. When a union strike threatens to spoil a Frank Sinatra show on New Year's Eve, Evans gets in bed with mob boss, Ben Diamond, putting the future of his hotel and his playboy son, Stevie, who falls for Diamond's wife, in danger.
Miramar Playa hotel owner, Isaac "Ike" Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) wakes up in a cold sweat to find his wife, Vera's toy poodle, drowned in the pool. That morning, Evans confronts the striking employee responsible on the picket line outside the hotel lobby. After picking up his dad, Arthur (Alex Rocco) at a park, Ike asks him to talk a friend whose son is a union lawyer, in hopes of putting an end to the strike before the Frank Sinatra show that night. His father reluctantly agrees and warns Ike not to ask for help from mobster, Ben Diamond.
Ike's son, Danny (Christian Cooke) approaches a hotel maid and asks her to go to the Sinatra show with him. She tells him she has to work but Danny says he'll have her schedule changed.
Ike meets union leader, Mike Strauss (Leland Orser) at a diner. He tries to convince Strauss to call off the strike but the union head says he'll only give Ike until midnight, then the picket line will return. Ike tells Strauss that if he doesn't call off the strike, things could get ugly.
With the hotel's various businesses suffering, including the restaurant and the backroom bookmaking operation, Ike begins to panic. He enlists the hep of a boxer to help his son, Stevie (Steven Strait) bring in a shipment of whiskey. While making the arrangements, Stevie meets an alluring young woman named Lily (Jessica Marais) who plants a kiss on his lips before sauntering off.
Ike makes another attempt to get Strauss to call off the strike but he won't back down. With nowhere else to turn, Ike pays a visit to mob boss, Ben Diamond (Danny Huston). Diamond offers to help but not without a price.
That night, Mike Strauss is taken away at gunpoint and forced to call off the strike. Afterwards, he is killed. Stevie runs into Lily on the beach and the two have sex on a lounge chair. When she returns to Ben's table at the Sinatra show, he eyes her suspiciously and notices the sand on her dress. Stevie watches from afar and realizes Lily is with Ben.
Later that night, Ike and Stevie toast to their success in end the strike and puling off the Sinatra show without a hitch.
When I learned that "Magic City" is the product of creator, Mitch Glazer's youth spent working as a cabana boy at a Miami hotel, I was looking forward to a show with an authentic feel that tells stories rooted in Miami's glamourous yet seedy history. While I can't attest to the authenticity of or inspiration for this pilot episode, almost none of the characters introduced in this hour felt real, inspired or even particularly likable.
I'm hesitant to be too harsh on "Magic City's" first episode. It's a pilot, after all and one that's bound to draw comparisons to "Mad Men'"or even worse, "The Playboy Club," with its late fifties setting.
Still, if the purpose of this episode was to draw me in with its intriguing characters and glitzy setting, it didn't quite succeed. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character, Isaac "Ike" Evans seems surprisingly vanilla for a man who runs one of Miami's hottest playgrounds. He's a good looking man with a commanding presence, but beyond that, there's nothing that makes him particularly watchable.
Meanwhile, his son and protege, Stevie spends just about every scene lighting cigarettes and brooding. That is when he isn't having painful exchanges with the sudden love of his life, Lily. "Who are you?" he asks Lily. "The wrong kind of woman" she answers. "Now ya tell me," says Stevie. It's like something out of a bad noir b-movie.
The only character who did grab my interest was Danny Huston's Ben Diamond. His flash of anger towards Ike during their poolside negotiation hinted at the trouble to come now that Ike has sought out his help. Of course, then he had to go and tell Ike the tale of the scorpion and frog, sucking any real, believable tension right out of the scene.
One thing we've learned from the critically celebrated "Mad Men" and the widely disliked, "Playboy Club" is that it takes more than a good looking cast, snazzy suits and a lot of smoking and drinking to make a good mid-century American drama. I'm not saying "Magic City" doesn't have potential, but so far it hasn't shown me much more than that.