‘City On Fire’ Episode 1 Recap & Review: Who Is Samantha Yeung? What Is The Ex Nihilo?

What’s with all the drugs, booze, and loud music that almost every Western teenage drama has nowadays? Have drugs really been this common? Are teenagers like this? Oversmart dimwits getting high at clubs and thinking they know everything? It’s like they have reached a midlife crisis. Or is this the new standard that is being set by the West? Whatever the case, Apple TV’s City on Fire is a crime drama, definitely teenage, that follows the cliché plot showing the death of a character followed by the events that led to it. The date is the 4th of July 2003. A distressed Mercer Goodman brings a couple of cops to Samantha Yeung, who is lying motionless in Central Park. She has been shot in the forehead. Meanwhile, Charlie Weisbarger escapes the scene. What’s going on here? Who is she? Who shot her? And why?


Spoilers Ahead


Charlie meets Samantha at a record store. She was his immediate senior in high school and is now at NYU. Yet Charlie finds her hard to forget. They start hanging out together. Samantha loves music and is documenting a band named Ex Post Facto. She is a lot of fun. Charlie lost his father in September 2001 [9/11], and meeting Samantha has been a relief for him. However, after being grounded by her mother for six months for using, he gets a call from her again. She invites him for a live performance of Ex Post Facto, now Ex Nihilo, without one of the core members, Billy Three-Sticks. The band will be reuniting on the 4th of July. Charlie says yes. Samantha hangs up the phone and gets into a van with three other people who have just torched a church, leaving the spot before anyone sees them. One of them is Nicky Chaos, the lead singer of Ex Post Facto. But why did they set a church on fire? What is their intention?



Mercer Goodman, a teacher at a high school in New York, meets Regan Hamilton-Sweeney Lamplighter, who is his friend William’s elder sister, after a presentation by the school choir group that includes her daughter. But she seems to be in a hurry and isn’t able to talk to him. The same night, she finds a note among all the mail saying that her husband, Keith, is cheating on her. The note is probably from the girl he is cheating on her with. Keith tries to pin it on her, saying that she isn’t as free-spirited as she used to be. And yet he fails to understand that Regan, too, was free-spirited once but left that life to be with him, have a family, and raise their kids. Will she leave him? Let’s wait and see. The next day, Regan meets Mercer at school. She tells Mercer that she and William haven’t been in touch for years. She would love to talk more, but she has to meet the movers, which means she is moving, which in turn means that she is leaving Keith. That was fast. She then gives Mercer an invitation card and asks him to give it to his brother. She invites Mercer too. The date of invitation is July 4.


The 4th of July arrives. Mercer returns home to William, who is surprisingly not his friend but his boyfriend. They have been living together for quite some time now, and we come to know that William doesn’t want to be in touch with his family in the same way that Mercer doesn’t want to tell his parents about William. At least not yet, because it’s not that easy. Though it is Mercer’s birthday today, William has decided to go to the studio. Later on, a high-on-drugs William bumps into Solomon and Sewer at the railway station. Solomon tells him that his band, Ex Nihilo, is reuniting tonight and invites him. So William is Billy Three-Sticks, the former member of Ex Nihilo when it was Ex Post Facto. William calls up Mercer and tells him that he will be going to see his band perform in a club, and he asks him to come along. William doesn’t want to and instead decides to accept the invitation that William’s sister Regan sent for him. It is an Independence Day celebration.



It has been weeks since Regan moved out. She calls Keith and reminds him that they need to meet her father at his place that night, just like every other year, for the Independence Day Celebration. Together, they will tell her father about their divorce in person. Samantha, Solomon, and Sewer are at Samantha’s house. Samantha’s father is a firework manufacturer, and they are taking the explosive materials for their own wicked purposes. God knows what they are planning to torch next. Samantha tells them that she has some work to do and will catch up with them later. She then calls Keith and tells him that they need to meet. She isn’t the one who sent the note to Regan, but she thinks she knows who it was. So she is the one Keith cheated on Regan with. Also, she thinks that something bad is going to happen. This reminds us of all the explosives Solomon and Sewer took. Keith tells her that he has to be at his father-in-law’s place tonight. She gives him an address, i.e., the Spring and Greenwich Club at Don Hill’s, where they can meet before his party. Before she could explain to him why she thinks what she thinks, he hangs up.


Regan’s young son Will and even younger daughter Cate are with her. Will tells her that she need not go back to his father. Clearly, he doesn’t like his father. Regan assures him that his father loves him, but for him it’s futile.


Night falls. Samantha brings Charlie to Spring and Greenwich and tells him to be there for an hour on his own. She has some work to do and gives him an address near Central Park in case she gets late. She gives him a kiss and leaves. This is unexpected for Charlie, who then quietly goes inside. She kissed him. He has to do what she tells him. Inside the club, Sewer finds Charlie. From the way Charlie has been dancing, she thinks that he is high on drugs and asks if he has more on him. He doesn’t. She offers to take him backstage after the band’s performance. Maybe she likes him, or maybe not.


Regan arrives at the party and meets her father’s wife, Alicia (probably her stepmom), who informs her that her father couldn’t come. She apparently also knows that Regan and Keith are separating, something that her uncle Amory has told Felicia. Keith’s car halts outside the penthouse building, and he notices Samantha waiting on the sidewalk on the other side of the road and tells his driver not to stop and keep driving. He doesn’t want anyone to see him talking to her, at least not there. Meanwhile, Mercer, who is wearing William’s suit, gets off the bus at the same spot and finds a woman waiting for someone [Samantha]. After a brief, sweet exchange of words, Mercer heads inside the building while Samantha takes her seat on a bench. Inside, Mercer finds Regan and tells her that her brother couldn’t make it. Finding someone who she can talk to without thinking, they head to the balcony, and she lights a joint. Samantha hears someone whistling from inside the park. She follows the sound and bumps into what seems to be more than one person.


William is at Spring and Greenwich, listening to his former mate Nicky take center stage and sing away. After the performance, Sewer brings Charlie to Nicky, who is glad to be there. Nicky seems to like him too. A few minutes later, Solomon arrives and recognizes Charlie as Samantha’s friend. He haw Charlie on new year’s Eve. Sewer didn’t know this. Charlie reveals that Samantha told him to wait for her while she went to a place near Central Park. Solomon takes Sewer away while Nicky takes Charlie for some fun, i.e., snorting. As Nicky is busy doing that, William arrives and hugs him. It seems that although he isn’t a part of the band, there is no hatred between him and Nicky. Charlie snorts a bit and leaves to look for Samantha.


Mercer and Regan are smoking and talking about William when they hear gunshots. They disregard the sounds and head back inside. Regan introduces him to her uncle Amory, who takes a sophisticated dig at Mercer’s dream to be a writer. Amory is one of those rich folks who think whatever they say is gospel, but it only makes people hate them. Mercer finds his words uncomfortable and excuses himself. Amory then tells Regan that her father is going to be arrested the next day for financial crimes. He keeps on telling her about how they can keep the company afloat without realizing that all of it is falling on deaf ears. The fact that her father is getting arrested, which has coagulated with her insobriety, has got her blanked out completely.


Who Finds Samantha First?

Mercer is waiting for a cab when he hears a woman sobbing. He goes in the direction of the voice inside Central Park and finds the lady he met earlier on the ground. She has been shot in the head and is barely breathing. So, the gunshots he heard while on the balcony came from here. He immediately calls 911. Charlie, who has also reached the address she gave him, hears a guy screaming for help. He rushes in his direction and finds Samantha motionless on the ground with a bullet wound on her forehead and a jacket on top. Hearing police sirens nearby, he flees the scene. Regan comes out of the hotel to find multiple cop cars. Still, under the influence of alcohol, she quietly gets into her car and leaves. Meanwhile, her son Will sneaks out of the house. Keith returns to his apartment. The detectives at the scene find a jacket on Samantha. Mercer had put it on her. Inside the jacket, they find cocaine. Mercer is thus arrested. City on Fire Episode 1 ends with Samantha being taken to the hospital. 

The cocaine belongs to William. Mercer will probably be released after some interrogation. We have to see if Samantha survives. As for her shooters, we have no idea who they are. Did Keith send someone after her? We do not know. It doesn’t seem like he would do that. Then who? Also, what’s up with Nick, Solomon, and Sewer and their explosives? What is their intention for torching buildings? And if Samantha didn’t send Regan the note, who did? How did uncle Amory find out about Regan’s divorce?


City on Fire Episode 1 doesn’t waste more than one episode showing the events leading to the murder that the whole show revolves around. From now on, we can either have flashbacks or someone, probably Charlie along with Mercer since he was at the scene, help the cops find out who shot Samantha. The show picks up pace from the first episode itself, and let’s hope that it maintains it.

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Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata’s greatest regret is the fact that he won’t be able to watch every movie and show ever made. And when he isn’t watching a movie or a show, he is busy thinking about them and how they are made; all while taking care of his hobbies. These include the usual suspects i.e. songs, long walks, books and PC games.

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City on Fire Episode 1 doesn't waste more than one episode showing the events leading to the murder that the whole show revolves around.'City On Fire' Episode 1 Recap & Review: Who Is Samantha Yeung? What Is The Ex Nihilo?