Things are not going well for Jackie Rohr, and that’s bad news for everyone.
Because when things are going bad for Jackie, his solution is to make them bad for everyone else, too.
Played masterfully by Kevin Bacon (top), Jackie Rohr returns Sunday at 10 p.m. ET for a second season as the antihero FBI agent in Showtime’s City on a Hill.
As Season 1 made clear, Jackie’s corruption, both personal and professional, doesn’t make him the odd duck in New England’s largest justice system. He tacitly points out at every opportunity that he’s got plenty of company in the moral ambiguity lounge.
“Boston runs on three things,” says Siobhan Quay (Lauren E. Banks). “Sports, politics and revenge.”
Quay’s perspective matters because she is the partner of Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge, top), an assistant district attorney who, for various reasons, often finds himself the primary target of Jackie’s maneuverings.
Ward retained a measure of idealism as recently as the early episodes of Season 1. A year of the local justice system has leached much of that out of him.
He’s still trying to do the right things. He’s just resigned to the fact that he may have to take shady paths to get there.
Example: Ward’s seemingly minor courtesy to a black high school student who was busted for insulting a black Boston police officer sets off a chain of dominoes that leads to yet another showdown with Jackie and a maze of whispered maneuverings to deal with it.
Meanwhile, as noted, Jackie’s been having a bad day of his own. He’s being pressured to quit the FBI because he’s a living reminder of the corrupt way things used to be done, which the new administration wants to believe is not how they are now done.
Uh-huh. In any case, Jackie’s not ready to leave that life yet because he doesn’t have anything else to do or anywhere else to go.
The funny part is, he’s a pretty good law enforcement officer in the sense that he’s got a sharp investigative nose, he’s great at connecting details, and he’s got contacts everywhere, from the street up to strategic Boston institutions.
How he built those contacts and how he sometimes uses those skills are the problems.
His personal life also lies in the same shambles we found it last year. His neurotic wife, Jenny (Jill Hennessy), is wracked with guilt over some bad things for which she feels irrationally responsible, and his teenage daughter Benedetta (Lucia Ryan, taking over the role from Zoe Margaret Colletti) is struggling to recover from a serious addiction problem.
Jackie isn’t necessarily a lot of help to her either, especially since he’s working on an office romance on the side.
The core storyline of Season 2 pivots to Grace Campbell (Pernell Walker), the energetic leader of a coalition working to improve life at a gang-riddled federal housing project in Roxbury.
Grace stands up for tenants and residents in their ongoing struggle with authority in every form. She seems to be as close as City on a Hill gets to an admirable and heroic character. Except, and really, you knew this was coming, it turns out she has some grey area issues of her own.
Siobhan Quay may not have precisely nailed the dynamics of Boston, but there’s every suggestion in City on a Hill that arrangements, understandings, and deals underlie pretty much everything that goes down.
If true, this may not distinguish Boston from other cities. Still, there’s a Boston style to all of it, and City on a Hill, thanks in large measure to Bacon and Hodge, captures that style in a fascinating way.