This article contains spoilers for 'City on a Hill' (Ep.1-4)
Two men, as different as chalk and cheese, take on a Boston city that's saturated with crime and corruption in the '90s. 'City on a Hill' boasts of two characters as Boston's miracle workers and a major chunk of the first two episodes was spent in profiling the show's two protagonists. Kevin Bacon's Jackie Rohr is a shrewd veteran FBI agent but is sleazy, corrupt, and downright racist by nature. The other, Aldis Hodge's Ward Decourcy, a Black man, who despite being a brutally honest, hard-hitting Assistant District Attorney, finds the going tough because he is a black man. The two pair up as they set to mop the crime-filled streets of Boston.
Over the course of the series, we also see four women who are constantly living in the shadows and try to get their two cents in but get no cigar for it. It's they who we are going to talk about today.
The first leading lady we are introduced to is Jill Hennessey as Jenny Rohr. The lady is disgruntled and her self-confidence level is down in the doldrums. She marries Jackie and still loves him, but hates him for the man he's become.
Up next is Decourcy's wife, Siobhan (Lauren E. Banks), who is his political partner as well and is trying to foster a career for the two of them in Boston. Amanda Clayton plays Cathy Ryan, Frankie Ryan's (Jonathan Tucker) wife and the mastermind behind the armed car robberies in the city. And finally, we have Sarah Shahi as Rachel Benham, a PI in Ward's team. Brilliant, inquisitive and logical.
Each of the women gets their own story arcs and the show manages to balance their screentime seamlessly by making them integral to the intricately woven storyline.
Boston, in the '90s, had absolutely little or no regard for women and how they were seen in society. For instance, Rohr may be a cerebral detective, but he still looked at women as a means of pleasure and Ward, at most times disapproves of his wife's methods and ideas that would help them get better. Cathy is the quintessential working wife, she's strong and skilfully manages the family's criminal operations.
It is not until the fourth episode that we see the women finally try and start coming into their own in a society filled with sexist men. Jenny decides that she's had enough of Rohr's derision and registers for college and becomes a teacher's aide. That dents Rohr's ego as he stoops down to being a scum by bribing the Irish pastor who has been counseling Jenny and ensures that she loses that post even before starting out. Rohr may have won the battle, but Jenny for the first time goes from sympathetic to determined and it's interesting to see how her arc pans out.
Siobhan has two pricks to deal with. Ward and the obdurate pastor, Reverend Fields (Seth Gilliam) who are trying to organize an anti-cop/anti-crime association called 'The Genesis Coalition'. Both men have their own egos to deal with and Siobhan has a hard time trying to put out what's best for both. In episode 4, she finally shuts up Fields after it is revealed that he's sexually harassed one of his committee members.
Meanwhile, Cathy has home problems to deal with after she receives a complaint that her daughter has been having nightmares owing to the negative vibes at home. Her biggest challenge at the moment is to take care of her daughter while dealing with a nervous Frankie and going by the way she dictates terms, this should be a cinch.
Finally, we have Sarah Shahi's Rachel. An intelligent investigator who grinds away while Ward takes all the glory. In the limited screentime, she's had in two episodes, she's established the fact that she's capable and definitely better than the men around her. Yet, she's forced to either being the coffee-getter or bear Rohr's flirty advances. Finally, she zaps him good saying, "Yeah, a saggy-balled whiskey d**k old man is exactly what I need.” And then later: “I’m not gonna be your minor conquest because you’re feeling vulnerable."
Each of these women are stronger than they look and the series shows them slowly find their voice. Hopefully, it isn't going to be cut short. As far as the fourth episode goes, the women finally get to voice their opinions in a male-dominated society.