Last week, we received a pretty good look of how merciless the titular location can be in Ultra City Smiths. The metropolitan’s only hope is murdered and the prime suspects are the eight individuals that he reached out to the night of his death. The one thing they all have in common is they are all children of the late Carpenter Smith.
One aspect the series does well is great and candid character moments. We’ve seen how all the different Smith children have their own issues but learning that they have family out there makes some of them reach out to their siblings and try to get to know each other.
There’s a subtle but impactful scene between Andrea the Giant and actress Trish McSapphire waiting for the subway. The former is coping with her daughter’s drama and turns to less savory means to help while the latter is carrying a secret burden that is revealed at the end. Bebe Neuwirth’s voice acting instills so much melancholy into Andrea you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards her. She’s willing to do anything for Little Grace but it might not be enough to save her. Plus, she has a backwards arm. You can’t get sadder than that.
Little Grace is just another victim that Ultra City chews up and spits back out. She turns to desperate measures to make things right with Rodrigo Smalls but only makes more trouble for herself. The young girl isn’t prepared for the hard life on the streets and now she might be on the hook for two murders despite only carrying out on. Her story in particular will be interesting to watch develop considering her ties to Carpenter’s murder weapon.
The Ultra City Smith we’ve probably spent the most time with is Street Hustler Boy. He’s another down on his luck character that you root for. He’s very dedicated to his lover and has made sacrifices to help him recover from his sickness. There’s some ridiculousness with his subplot because it involves him finding pants but he proves that some residents can find some good luck.
Elsewhere, there is some progress on Carpenter’s murder but Johnson is reassigned because of her closeness to the case (she’s one of the Ultra City Smiths) and Mills receives a new partner. There are more instances of the city’s corruption with the police, city hall, and the criminal underworld all conspiring to pigeonhole the investigation. They all probably had the most to lose if Carpenter cleaned house.
Juggling all these storylines help keep the slow burn of the show intriguing. Though there are still some of the Smith children who are not as developed as their siblings and I hope the slow introduction and build-up of the Most Dangerous Man in the World has some payoff.
The sets of Ultra City Smiths continue to impress and it probably took careful planning and hard work to make filming accessible from different angles. The scenes shot from the outside looking in add to the neo noir feel. The series also surprises with how interwoven the whole community is with characters popping up and interacting with others you didn’t expect.
One major complaint is the incorporation of the musical number. In some ways, it seems appropriate considering the creators behind the show but in other ways, it seems so out of place with the tonal shift taking you out of the moment. I’m not particularly against adding song and dance but at least don’t make it so peppy and happy. If it complemented a gritty crime drama, it wouldn’t be so jarring.
“Hot Clues” continues to develop a captivating slow burn mystery with great and candid character moments. However, when it tries to be too silly, it can knock the story off track.
New episodes of Ultra City Smiths drop Thursdays on AMC+
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