‘City On Fire’ Episode 5 Recap & Ending, Explained: What Did Charlie Find In Sam’s Camera?


You can have the best week of your life, but after that, if you end up watching the latest episode of City on Fire, you go into the weekend with the worst vibes. I know that a season of a show can’t be canceled midway. As in, the OTT platform just stops airing episodes after realizing how bad they are. However, I want Apple TV+ to make an exception for Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s horrible adaptation of Garth Risk Hallberg’s horrible book. Anyway, in the previous episode of this awful show, we saw Charlie becoming a wanted man, searching for Sam’s camera, and then stumbling upon the reel from that camera. William decided to become a freelance investigator to unearth the individual who attacked Sam, and he inadvertently found out that Nicky was in cahoots with Amory all this time. Ali and McFadden figured out that Keith was in a relationship with Sam, while Keith suspected that his son, Will, was aware of that affair and had attempted to kill Sam with Keith’s gun.

Major Spoilers Ahead

Lorraine Suspects That Charlie Is Working Against Ex Nihilo

Since the makers of this show are so hellbent on establishing the one-way romance between Charlie and Sam, we get yet another cringe-worthy flashback featuring the two so that we can know that Charlie knows how to develop photos from a reel, because it’ll come in handy later on in this episode. I have to point out that, in addition to the abysmal writing and direction, these scenes don’t work because Chase Sui Wonders can’t act. All the performances in this show are bad, so she’s in great company. Moving on, in the present day, Charlie doesn’t use his photo-developing skills and goes to a shop to print the pictures that are in the reel from Sam’s camera.

The narrative shifts to Keith, who is being grilled by Ali and McFadden. There’s no new information to be found here because it’s a recap of everything we’ve seen in the show till now. I’ve mentioned in my previous articles that this is bad dialogue writing and possibly a symptom of shrinking writers’ rooms leading to uninventive on-screen interactions. You know why? When Keith is bailed out by Amory, and they head towards Keith’s home, we get yet another recap of the events that have happened. Finally, through Ali and McFadden’s interaction at a bar, we get the theory that Sam has been killed because she learned about Nicky and Amory’s whole deal to gentrify the city. By the way, can I say that the post-9/11 setting is so surface-level? It isn’t integral to the show in any way, and yet the showrunners keep inserting shots of 9/11 memorabilia for no reason.

Junkie detective William tries to get into the Hamilton Sweeney premises but only ends up puking on the sidewalk. Sol and Lorraine have an argument over Charlie’s allegiance. Charlie does come up with some shoddy excuses for his absence, and he tries to convince Lorraine that he feels that Ex Nihilo is his family now. But Lorraine doesn’t buy it and tells Sol and DT all about it, and they decide to take it up with Nicky Chaos.

William’s Meeting With Amory Seals His Fate

Keith and Regan have a conversation about whether or not Will is the one who tried to kill Sam after learning about Keith’s affair with Sam. Guess what they do next? They go to sleep. Also, I don’t understand why the show is trying so hard to peddle the narrative that wives should forgive their cheating husbands if they decide to stick around for the kids. What kind of regressive nonsense is this? Maybe the fans of the book and this show have a defense for this, but I don’t want to hear it. They can take it to their grave.

Nicky doesn’t waste any time after hearing that his band has suspicions about Charlie’s actions and goes through his stuff while he’s in the shower. He finds a receipt from the photo printing shop and memorizes the reference number. William has an idiotic conversation about art and how Bruno has seen him through thick and thin as if we didn’t already know that. If William was truly appreciative of what Bruno had done for him, he should’ve gone to therapy, like he asked him to. Since he didn’t, he faces the consequences of his actions later on in the show.

Before getting to that point, though, we slog through some stuff, starting with Will’s confession to his parents. Well, it turns out that, on the night that Sam was attacked, Will did take the gun, and he used it to shoot the rare bird that used to show up near his house. He reveals that the gun currently resides under their house in Brooklyn. Regan and Keith get the gun and throw it into the river. So, there’s that. Nicky orders Charlie to accompany them to their protest, thereby giving Max Milner the opportunity to showcase how bad he is when it comes to acting on screen. It’s genuinely one of the most infuriating performances I’ve encountered in my life. Nico Tortorella and John Cameron Mitchell are right up there too. Seeing them go on and on about stuff that doesn’t matter is simply nauseating.

What Did Charlie Find In Sam’s Camera?

Nicky and the rest of Ex Nihilo show up to protest in front of the Hamilton Sweeney office. In an attempt to get Nicky off the property and stop William from exposing the truth, Amory essentially orders Nicky to finish off William. That leads to another chase devoid of momentum or energy. I say “another” because the entirety of City on Fire is filled with such chases. If you intend to make a list of the worst on-screen chases, you can just use the ones from this show. We do get a break from the brain-numbing manhunt to learn that Nicky did visit the photo printing shop that Charlie was going to and purposefully misplaced the pictures that would’ve exposed Ex Nihilo. However, he didn’t destroy the reel, which seems stupid because as long as the reel exists, Charlie can get them printed again. And that’s what he does. He takes the reels, goes to the darkroom at NYU, and prints the photos.

At the end of the fifth episode of City on Fire, Nicky and Sol corner William on a ferry and kill him. DT burns down William’s workshop, kills Bruno by knocking him on the head, and lets him burn there. Turns out that it isn’t the first time that he has done something like this. As per the photos from Sam’s reel, the Ex Nihilo had previously destroyed a shop and let a person burn in there. Since the photos were proof of Ex Nihilo’s hypocrisy, Sol destroyed the camera while assuming that the film reel that was in it was the one with the incriminating photos. But Sam had swapped it out, thereby preserving the “evidence” of the Ex Nihilo’s criminal antics and her relationship with Nicky. I mean, the Ex Nihilo is into polygamy, so is this really a surprising revelation? Yes, it’s surprising for Charlie because he pictures Sam as this perfect, flawless individual, even though she’s not. It’s weird that the show is painting Sam’s image through Charlie’s immature perspective. If the writers end up educating their viewers on how you shouldn’t define women based on your regressive biases or through context-less memories of the person, it’ll be a huge win for the show. That said, please don’t get your hopes up about it.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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