'City on a Hill' Season 2 Episode 1 Review: Kevin Bacon, Aldis Hodge shine as show picks up the pace in opener
'Bill Russell's Bedsheets' has its moments and rarely ever gets tangled while trying to weave in the many plotlines
Spoilers for 'City on a Hill' Season 2 Episode 1: 'Bill Russell's Bedsheets'
Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon) has always been the man who's lived life bordering between being a sleazy showboat and having a faulty moral compass that needs to be triggered. 'City on a Hill' Season 2 picks up right where it left off, and the Showtime crime drama set in the '90s crime-riddled Boston isn't the slow-burner it was when it debuted to impressive and positive critical acclaim in 2019. What it does this season is throw in some new characters, but sticks to similar multi-layered plot lines and the gritty tone that made it successful, while being pacy at the same time.
In classic 'City on a Hill' style, the opening title cards take the viewers back to Season 1's key events, and 'Bill Russell's Bedsheets' takes over from the events that see the Ryan brothers in jail. The ramifications after their arrest have been massive for each character. Rohr's pretty much a p***y in the department, and Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge) is nothing more than a former DA reduced to being a yes-man for his superiors. However, the traits of both these men have remained the same.
Rohr is still the pantomime villain and the playboy. His introduction sees him zip around the town snorting and drinking with a junior assistant U.S. attorney Holly Gunner (Elizabeth Stahlmann) with The Doobie Brothers' 'Jesus is Just Alright' blaring until she overdoses and has a stroke in the car. A panicky Rohr swears his way to Saint Eligius Hospital and drops her off outside in the care of his colleague and speeds away. Ward, in the meantime, is handling a case that involves a heavy dose of racism when a 16-year-old abuses a police officer and is thrown into jail and while at it pays a handsome tribute to political activist Eldridge Cleaver.
The wives of both these men have had quite the character arcs in season 1. Jill Hennessy's Jenny Rohr was a woman who bore the brunt of Rohr's infidelity. Her daughter, Benedetta's drug OD and the traumatic sexual assault have still left the scar on her, which Hennessy brings out aesthetically in the episode. While the relationship between Rohr and Jenny seems to be on the mend, Benedetta and she have some patching up to do. Siobhan Quay (Lauren E. Banks) has gone from strength to strength and is still the fiercely independent woman she's shown to be.
The subplots see Ward investigating the Assistant US attorney's case and suspecting that Rohr was involved. A bit of an intense, animosity-filled discussion between Ward and Rohr sees the latter go after the Boston PD's Youth Violence Strike Force for a questionable drug arrest at Braxton Summit.
This is where Boston Celtics' legend Bill Russell comes to play. The story of a break-in to Russell's house just to take a massive dump on his sheets serves as the perfect example of Rohr still defiant about his actions as he takes an unsuccessful dig at Ward. New characters in Pernell Walker's Grace Campbell and Matthew Del Negro's Chris Caysen adds to the depth of the plotline. Campbell is a community activist who recruits Quay to help out in the arrest case at Braxton Summit.
'City on a Hill' works on the same pattern it operated from the previous season. In Bacon and Hodge, it makes sure there are two immensely talented actors shouldering the show and revolves the story and other characters around them. Not just does this ensure the duo stay connected, but makes them key players in each storyline.
'Bill Russell's Bedsheets' has its moments and rarely ever gets tangled while trying to weave in the many plotlines. Tom Fontana seems to have ironed that crease out when he makes sure every character just gets enough screentime to make their presence felt, but not give away too much into the season. If anything, season 2 has a bang for the buck opener. Only time will tell how the series after setting the tone clearly and scrupulously will continue to be audacious and formidable like its pilot season was.
'City on a Hill' Season 2 airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime.