TV Shows

Review of the Apple TV+ series ‘City on Fire’

A dastardly shooting in Central Park in the years after 9/11 exposes a complex web of relationships, lawlessness, and intrigue.

Director: Jesse Peretz, Liz Garbus, Haifaa Al-Mansour | Cast: Wyatt Oleff (Charlie), Chase Sui Wonders (Samantha), Jemima Kirke (Regan), Nico Tortorella (William), Ashley Zukerman (Keith), Xavier Clyde (Mercer), Max Milner (Nicky Chaos), John Cameron Mitchell (Armory), hey | Episodes: 8 | Time to play: 46-59 minutes | Year: 2023

The second and last book by American writer Garth Risk Hallberg was published eight years ago. Set in 1970s New York, this story revolves around a dastardly shooting in Central Park. The book seems to lend itself exceptionally well to a compelling eight-part miniseries, in which the question of who is responsible for the murder of his conscience fades more and more into the background.

The film adaptation of Hallberg’s novel adds thirty years and moves the story to the year 2003. burning city It is set, therefore, in a city that has barely recovered from the terror of the attacks on the World Trade Center. One of the central protagonists, the something bleue Charlie, has even lost his father in this tragedy.

Charlie befriends the free-spirited Samantha, who lives various double lives. The seemingly good student has an affair with a married man and keeps questionable company. The anarchist rock band to which he is affiliated carries out shocking attacks in the city with the aim of denouncing capitalism and the advance of gentrification.

This Samantha is shot by an unknown person in the opening of the eight-part series. Passers-by rush to catch up. Without knowing everything, they seem to have a connection to the victim. For example, Master Mercer is the boyfriend of the former lead singer of the rock band. This William Hamilton Sweeney is an artist, a drug addict, and the scion of a filthy rich family that is both targeted and estranged from his father and his sister.

Everything fits together in this powerfully decorated series, in which mutual relationships are complex and often even elusive. That might also explain why it takes a while to really get into it. The many characters are hard to classify, ambiguous, and have hidden agendas. Series writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, behind titles like Gossip Girl in the ocunravel the tangle of intrigues little by little, but enough to keep the attention.

It turns out to be a smart move to jump ahead three decades. New York is then a city that has known how to deal with almost insoluble crime, but is faced with new challenges. The metropolis is changing rapidly and seems to be out of reach for the common man. By highlighting the lives of normal and well-to-do New Yorkers, it raises the question of who’s really better off.

[i[]burning city[/i] it is peopled with broken souls, never arousing intense pity. Nico Tortorella in particular impresses in his portrayal of the tormented drug addict and John Cameron Mitchell plays a wonderfully cunning con man. The limitless possibilities that New York seems to offer turn out to be an illusion, because your background is both a blessing and a curse. Schwartz and Savage manage to transcend the level of the standard patchwork series and flat soap opera through the complicated interests, desires, and interactions of the characters.

It matters less and less who shot Samantha and what the motives were. The fact that the final episode in particular resorts to out-of-place melodrama is just a small blemish on this successful film adaptation of a novel filled with offbeat characters.


burning city can be seen in AppleTV+.

Ritika Prasher

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