Tuesday, September 8, 2015

REVIEW: 'Public Morals' - Joe Patton Delivers a Performance While Terry Busts an Illegal Card Game in 'O'Bannon's Wake'

TNT's Public Morals - Episode 1.03 "O'Bannon's Wake"

Mr. O's wake brings together Muldoon and the west side Irish Mob, where Muldoon and Patton agree to meet and discuss the case. Patton and Rusty disagree on who should take over Mr. O's bookmaking operation.

Mr. O's wake represented a grand opportunity for the show to bring together all the important pieces of its narrative into the same location for the first time. It offers the chance for several very interesting combinations of characters to occur. This was a man who had an impact in this community. Many people had some opinion of him - whether it was good or bad. Attending his wake could present a number of chances for people to further their investigations into who killed him.

And yet, the show is largely moving past the investigative angle because the audience already knows who killed Mr. O. It was Rusty, who has one memorable moment at the wake and that's it. He comforts Mr. O's widow, Kay, and promises to check in on her during the week. That's all that he does. So much about this story revolves around Joe Patton and what is expected of him regarding the wake. He has to handle the situation as expertly as he can because he knows the truth. He knows that there are many people out there who want to know what happened to Mr. O. He doesn't like his son all that much but he's still willing to protect him if it's good for business. He is trying to move forward with his business operation while making sure that the people who can replace Mr. O are loyal to him.

But people like Terry and Smitty still have an obligation to continue investigating this crime. Terry gave his word - via his father - that he would solve this murder for this aunt. Bring her closure even though everyone else is fine leaving it open-ended. He and his father both have the chance to talk with Joe. But all they do is make vague plans to speak to him in the future. Neither of them are operating with any sense of urgency. They are perfectly fine waiting other day to see how Joe feels about this whole mess. They recognize that he is putting on a performance for the rest of the people at the wake. But that doesn't offer them something to go on. A performance doesn't necessarily mean anything. They've worked with Joe many times in the past to know that that's how he should react to the situation. But they also made that promise to Kay and it doesn't seem like they are doing anything about it - which is so frustrating.

Similarly, Smitty was determined to find his best friend's killer. He walked into the bar with confidence, demanded information and then beat people up when they started talking trash about Mr. O. He was his right-hand man and respected him more than anyone else. He has a personal stake in this investigation. And yet, he seemingly gives all of that away when given the opportunity to talk with Joe himself. Mr. O had always been the one to interact with Joe. This is a new and scary prospect for him. He is nervous to say anything in the fear of saying the wrong thing. That makes him seem less smart and intimidating as he is meant to be to the rest of his crew. Joe can have that effect on people but it was over played slightly on Smitty's part in that scene. But he's more than comfortable to take over the business from his deceased friend. More importantly, he doesn't seem like someone Joe should worry about. He just wants a slice of the action. He recognizes that things have been going well and doesn't want to upset things.

The action is able to hit pause for the week because the main characters get distracted by complications from work and at home. Terry's wife still only exists in order to tell him they should move out of the neighborhood while their eldest son is still way too curious about the life of a gangster. Meanwhile, the audience meets Bullman's family for the first time - just in time for his daughter to get engaged to a firefighter. Those scenes definitely give his character nuance and show what's important in his life. But it also leads to the return of his new call girl friend who he continues to act awkwardly around. Again, what is the purpose of this subplot?

Plus, the Plain Clothes division then gets word of an illegal card game being run by the son of some person they all know. The father of this college guy is respected and forces all of the officers to consult one another before they act on this information. And yet, the audience has no idea who they are talking about or why any of it should matter. Things are settling in the mob elements of the show. The divisions within the mob aren't gunning for each other. That means the storytelling needs to find a new way to keep things interesting. But it's getting increasingly difficult to understand why any of this should matter. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "O'Bannon's Wake" was written by Edward Burns and directed by Edward Burns.
  • A guy named Richie is the one who got into Mr. O's head about trying to make a move against Joe. Smitty doesn't want to listen to anything he has to say. He thinks he is just another cocky gangster who will soon get a bullet in the head.
  • It takes awhile for anyone to mention the dead hooker Rusty killed at the end of last week's episode. Terry does bring it up - but only to tell Duffy to find out who she worked with. That's a story that doesn't go anywhere after that.
  • Time is also spent discussing whether or not Petey Mac's suit is good enough for the job. It's weird and a waste of time.
  • It's obvious that the show is trying to do something with Terry's son as he is getting more curious about the world and landing into some troublesome ways of thinking. He doesn't exactly have the best influences in his family. And yet, it's still not a story that is engaging in the slightest.
  • Not that the story is any good, but why did it take Bullman so long to give the money he took from the guy to his prostitute friend? Shouldn't he have gone right back to make sure that his doctor friend did a good enough job on her face? Not wait around for a couple of days with the money in his apartment - for anyone in his family to find or steal?