TNT's new show, Public Morals debuted Tuesday night and we're here to tell you all about it! Public Morals is written, directed and produced by star Edward Burns (27 Dresses, Mob City) and co-stars Michael Rapaport (Justified).
About a group of cops working vice in New York City, the stylish show takes place in the 1960's but carefully avoids being too glamorous. The series premiere is gritty and somewhat dark; the colors, clothing and cars work to anchor viewers firmly in reality, lending to the impression that we are not going to be spoon-fed an idealized version of New York City but offered something far more interesting instead.
I really enjoyed the first episode. It was a little slow-moving but I was able to appreciate the pace as it allowed me to get to know the characters a little before the action that I know (or hope) is to come. A lot happened in this episode...a LOT. So, without further ado, let's recap, shall we?
Caution: Spoilers Ahead!
The show opens with Officer Sean O'Bannon (Austin Stowell) walking through the streets of New York, offering us the scope of the city in the 1960's. He steps into a pool hall and approaches a man seated in the back.
"I came by to wish you congratulations; you're still undefeated against mom." Mr. O (Timothy Hutton) casually rises to his feet, takes off his fedora, smooths his hair and picks up a pool cue...and here we go. But Mr. O is clearly only tough against women or when his goons are around because Sean is the only one who lands any shots before the goons pull him off. They hustle him towards the door and Sean threatens to kill Mr. O if he ever touches his mother again.
Terry Muldoon (Burns) and Charlie Bullman (Rapaport) arrive at an apartment, stopping a man in the hallway to question him. They ask what he's doing and he says he is just visiting someone but he is clearly guilty of something. At this point, I smell a shakedown about to happen. Muldoon threatens to lock him up if he doesn't cooperate and the guy begins to babble about having a wife and a family. Muldoon makes him go back and knock on the door to the apartment he'd just left. A girl in a robe opens the door and the cops walk inside with the guy. Muldoon informs the girl that neighbors have complained and she is going to be arrested on prostitution charges. She begs and pleads, explaining she only turns tricks occasionally and to supplement her income, but Muldoon isn't buying it and insists she gets dressed to go back to the precinct for booking. He orders her to her bedroom to change and sends Bullman along to ensure she cooperates.
Once inside the bedroom, the girl asks what he wants, offering Charlie a blowjob or a "freebie" anytime he wants it if he won't arrest her. He turns her down. He seems almost like a big, sweet lug of a guy and as a viewer, I like him immediately. He asks if she has a pimp and she says no, she works alone. He doesn't believe her and she goes into her purse and pulls out a union card. The girl is a school teacher.
Muldoon takes the John, calling him "Romeo" and he begs to be released. He's just a guy from Minnesota with a wife and family and blah, blah, blah. Muldoon takes a hard stance saying, "You're in New York City, we got different rules here." The guy offers him a bribe of $300 and Muldoon takes his wallet, removing $200 and leaving the rest on the condition that he takes this as a lesson not to screw around with hookers in New York and get on the first plane back to Minnesota.
Sean goes to a diner with his partner, Petey Mac (Patrick Murney) to meet up with an old friend. Enter; Duffy (Keith Nobbs), a scruffy, greasy, ex-con whom you can tell right away is bad news. He's not obviously villainous. But he's the type of guy trouble always follows like a faithful dog. And you immediately know things are never going to end well for this guy or anyone around him. Duffy is fresh out of prison and already looking to set up an illegal gambling operation and Duffy is looking for Sean's help. He wants to make sure the police don't bust his game so he wants to call in a favor with his cop buddy to negotiate a bribe. Sean promises to see what he can do. And of course, this is just not a good idea.
Fresh-faced Officer Jimmy Shea (Brian Wiles) reports for his first day in plain clothes. He meets the Captain and Lieutenant and they give him a run-down of the job. But you definitely get the sense that they are sizing him up; trying to figure out if the kid is going to play ball. He's partnered with Vince Latucci (Wass Stephens) and the pair are at odds from the start. Latucci, a war vet, is impatient and gruff. He is irritated with everything the kid says and does and even forces him to stay in the car during lunch.
Charlie writes up the paper work for the girl, whose name we learn is Stacy Potter. She will be booked for loitering and have to pay a ticket. It's no worse than a traffic ticket. She's grateful and offers to buy him a drink. Charlie writes something on a scrap of paper and gives it to her, telling her to call that number if she ever needs anything and ask for Charlie Bullman.
Terry goes to the school where his son is in trouble and it turns out he's been doing impressions of the teacher, a hard-nosed Catholic nun. Terry berates his son in the car for being "an asshole" and a "fool." He calls the kid a moron and brings him to tears, ordering him out of the car so he can return to work. Harsh.
The next morning, Terry is still berating his son and Christine tries to talk some sense into him, accusing him of being too harsh. Terry argues there is a fine line between being a good man and a criminal. Christine accuses him of over-reacting. She is clearly the more rational and less hypocritical of the two.
Mr. O is back in the pool hall and Duffy approaches, informing him that he is back in business and they should just "Let bygones be bygones." And well...remember earlier when I said Duffy's the type of guy for whom nothing will ever end well? You get the sinking feeling in this scene, that he has set something bad in motion.
Sean meets with Terry, Charlie and Petey Mac at a diner to discuss Duffy's game and request for protection. Terry and Petey Mac both voice their skepticism, calling out Duffy as a jerk-off. Sean explains the game will be "serious" and Terry relents. The price will be $500 up front and "If he cannot pay; he cannot play."
The phone rings and a waitress informs Charlie he has a call. The caller is Stacy Potter and he rushes to her apartment. She has been badly beaten by a customer and Charlie demands all of the details. He pays a visit to the guy who beat her up and kicks the crap out of him, takes all of his money and a necklace to compensate Stacy.
Terry chats with Shea and explains what plain clothes is all about; how they deal with "victimless crimes," saying, "Think of us as the landlords. If you wanna be in business, you pay your rent." He says to Shea, "I'm only gonna ask you this once: Are you in?" The kid nods and says, "Yes, sir." Just getting this out of the way, I don't trust this kid. I don't know what his deal is yet, but he's up to something. Mark my words.
Sean arrives at the pool hall to discuss the details of the deal with Duffy. Duffy tells him he'll have the money after the game and Sean tells him he must pay before the game. Duffy's sister approaches and flirts with Sean.
Mr. O is in a booth and gives the orders to "Take out his legs." But whose legs, we don't know yet. He calls Terry and asks for a meeting and you realize he is Terry's uncle. Mr. O suggests it might be a good idea for Duffy to disappear because he's a bad influence on Sean. Terry wants to keep the peace because everyone is making money and no one is getting hurt. But Mr. O points out that in his business, people can get hurt.
Two of Mr. O's goons in a car follow Duffy and one jumps out and runs him down with a baseball bat. After a brief scuffle, Duffy escapes and the two exchange threats. Duffy goes to see Sean to pass of the bribe for his game but he's short on cash and brings along someone Sean doesn't know. Sean calls off the deal and gets into a car with Terry waiting for him. Sean is angry about Duffy but Terry asks him about confronting Mr. O and hitting him in public. He says they need to keep their personal matters private. And again, Sean says if his dad hits his mom again, he'll kill him.
Christine and Terry have a chat and she talks some sense into him about their son. Terry talks to Jimmy and explains more clearly why it is important for him to learn these lessons now.
Mr. O leaves the pool hall and a man approaches, pulls out a gun and shoots him several times. More men appear and load Mr. O into the back of a taxi and speed off into the night.
Early the next morning, Terry receives a call. He arrives at the waterfront to identify Mr. O's body. The cop on scene asks Terry if he has any ideas and Terry responds, "A few."
WOW! See! A lot! Are you watching Public Morals? Post a comment below and we'll chat!