Public Morals Season 1 Finale Review: Is This the End?

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Wait, what? Was that really it?

While Public Morals Season 1 Episode 9 was a strong start to the finale event, Public Morals Season 1 Episode 10 left me wondering if my cable had gone out. Between attempting to wrap up Season 1 storylines and set up plots for a potential second season, several subplots were left in the dust. 

Still, there were satisfying resolutions to offset the number of questions left unanswered. While we may not know what Deirdre is going to do now that she's pregnant, Patton finally took steps to bring Rusty under control, even if it was late in the game.

And while we may never know what Jimmy Shea's deal is, at least Christine is going to get her house. 

Fortune and Charlie - Public Morals

Public Morals Season 1 could have used two or three more episodes, bringing it to the more standard cable short series length of twelve or thirteen. Several of the subplots had little to no payoff, leaving me frustrated as a viewer. The story was simply too cluttered to get through in ten installments. 

The worst story, to me, had to be the mystery of Jimmy Shea. When we saw him (which was not frequently enough given how the PMD was collectively freaking out about his presence), he showed two different personalities, which should have intrigued me. But since that never seemed to go anywhere, I was merely annoyed. 

After waiting all season for a resolution we found out what we knew at the beginning – his dad is NYPD chief, and then a line from Johanson indicating that his father placed him in the PMD for his own reasons. We'd already figured that out. After being strung along for so long, I don't even really care what Shea's purpose is anymore.

Jimmy Shea: They were breaking the law.
Terry Muldoon: Yeah? Well, it's a stupid law.

I also have very little patience for Latucci's story in retrospect, although that at least led to an attempt to set up a good plot arc for a possible second season. I mean, I'd be shocked if anybody other than Latucci himself was a candidate for the chopping block, but an intra-office panic about who may be losing their job is relatable and an opportunity for characters to evolve. 

There were some stories that I'd despaired of that finally worked themselves out. Christine was finally able to voice her objections to their current living situation in a manner that her husband was able to understand in the penultimate episode.

Since the character was fenced into fairly shallow gender role conformity throughout much of the season, her impassioned speech felt like a breakthrough. 

I don't want our kids walking home from school and talking about the different street corners where this one was killed and that one was stabbed. I want to be able to open up the front door and let them go out and play at night. And not have to worry about a run-in with some drunken, homicidal lunatic. Now, I'm accepting the loan from your parents, and me and the kids are moving. You can either join us, or you can stay here in your beloved hovel, but we're moving. And if you don't like it, too goddamn bad about you.

Christine Muldoon

The relationship between Charlie and Fortune also came to a resolution, albeit awkward. I'm a bit on the fence about how it played actually. On the one hand, I thought Charlie made the right call on ending his involvement with Fortune; that was never going to end up being a good thing for him. I also thought that their last scene together was more nuanced that a lot of what we've seen on Public Morals.

But their breakup was an odd choice to end with. It had nothing to do with the main story arc of the season, and didn't provide any potential for continuing drama in a possible second season.

Placed earlier in the episode it would have been an excellent scene, but putting at the end left me very confused when the credits started.

Charlie Bullman: This old guy?
Fortune: Yeah:
Charlie Bullman: Why don't you just go smack the shit out of him and take the money yourself?

A quick aside: Katrina Bowden did some fine acting as Fortune – I loved the way that she changed her facial expression in the elevator, only smiling when her Nashville John was nuzzling up to her, bored and annoyed as soon as his attention shifted from her face. It was subtle, and let the audience into the character's internal life.

As good as the breakup was, a scene with Rusty would have made infinitely more sense. As the main antagonist of the season, the fact that he wasn't arrested or killed was already a bit of a let down.

Letting him escape (as was implied) left him available to return in the (possible) second season, but I would have liked to see him plotting against the new bosses, or anything less an ambiguous than vague plans to meet up with Kaye. 

It's this Rusty guy, it's different, Terry. It's like he's not doing it for money. He's not doing it for power or the turf. I mean, this lunatic, he's like -- he's killing people for sport, Terr.

Det. Tony Battalina

Probably the best moment of the finale was Patton's death. I totally did not see it coming, although I probably should have. After all, how may retired gangsters are there really? For all of Rusty's bravado, I didn't envision him going through with it.

At least, I assume he's the one who planted the bomb, but "A Thought and a Soul" left that up in the air with so many things. 

The ambiguous endings to some of the subplots tempered my enjoyment of the series, but Public Morals shows potential. If brought back by TNT, I only hope that the show reevaluates how much to bite off for the season. I'd rather have fewer stories told exceptionally well, which I believe Edward Burns and his team are capable of. 

If you missed out, you can catch up and watch Public Morals online. Let us know what you thought of the finale episodes in the comments. Did they change your feelings about the rest of the season? Should TNT renew? 

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Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.

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Public Morals Season 1 Episode 9 Quotes

Jimmy Shea: They were breaking the law.
Terry Muldoon: Yeah? Well, it's a stupid law.

Well, let me put it this way. There are the laws, and there are the rules. And over time, you will learn to identify the difference.

Terry Muldoon