The following contains spoilers for Ultra City Smiths S1E4, “The Little Baby Hand Pinky Grip Thing”
Who shot Carpenter K.? There isn’t a lot of movement on that central mystery in Ultra City Smiths S1E4, but that’s OK. It’s increasingly clear that this show isn’t really about that. It’s about Ultra City and how “she don’t care,” and it’s about the people who populate this town and how they struggle to get by. It’s about “The Little Baby Hand Grip Pinky Thing” and how to really lose someone both people have to let go.
The line is said more than once, by different people, in S1E4, and while this should feel cliched it instead feels rather poignant. The features of the dolls, animated through stop motion, manage to deliver the humanity of the characters’ emotions even as they kick them into a kind of uncanny space. Rather than taking us further from reality, somehow the form of Ultra City Smiths feels like it brings us closer, as though the animation allows us to feel safe to truly feel what otherwise we might push away in our ironic detachment.
In the beginning of S1E4, we see Street Hustler Boy on the subway and all signs point to this being New York even though we know it’s Ultra City. The cars are covered with graffiti, so it’s not the New York of today but of the past that is evoked—a strange kind of nostalgia for the days when things were grimier, as though that brought with it an authenticity we have now lost. I don’t see any Starbucks or Chase ATMs in Ultra City, but there is an underground wrestling league where admission costs a whole dollar.
34th Street Chuck is in trouble. It’s too late for a lung transplant but they could make his neck shorter to make it easier for him to breathe. So now Street Hustler Boy is rounding up other male prostitutes to rob a bank. Again the scenes are both funny and touching somehow, as is the way his love for Chuck is apparent when he dives into the river to get some river guns.
How many guns are in that river, the narrator wonders. Well enough to cover the bottom, basically, as we see.
Most recently there is the gun Grace threw in the river, which shot Tim Snodgrass and Carpenter K. Smith. Surely Street Hustler Boy has it now, and we can see where this is going. It will probably be sad.
Trish fails to meet Andrea because she’s held up talking to Mills and Onasis, which is also sad as the latter had been walking around glowing about how she was meeting her famous sister for breakfast. But thankfully Trish seems to be on her way to track her down at the underground wrestling match. And as she talks to the detectives, we get a bit more of her perspective on when she abandoned the police station baby, who I’m sure will somehow factor in to the end of the story Ultra City Smiths has to tell.
Apparently this is what Carpenter wanted to talk to Trish about on the night he died, after he informed her he was her father. There are indications he knew what was coming. And why did he go out for cigarettes when he did not smoke?
S1E4 brings the thought home further that Mayor De Maximum and Capt. Krieger had something to do with the murder, apparently with Rodrigo’s help, as we see them all again at Club 254 talking about the case. And it would seem that Krieger learning that Onasis is no longer a sensualist (seeing as he’s decided to get married) led him to have the man killed, as we see Nico shot from below and fall from a fire escape at the end of “The Little Baby Hand Grip Pinky Thing,” evoking the tumble that Little Grace took back in Episode 1. I suppose it’s not clear if he’s dead.
We further learn that Grace’s father is The Most Dangerous Man in the World, who arrives at Club 254 in this episode and is treated by everyone with respect. Once again we’re left to wonder who exactly this man is and what he’s done in the past, along with what he’ll do in the future.
Donella Smith is running for mayor now, taking up her late father’s mantle as a beacon of hope for a gentler city. If the corrupt powers that be killed her father, certainly she’s putting herself at risk. But I’m still not so sure about that when I think about the balloon.
The question isn’t just who killed Carpenter and why, but like the best mysteries, Ultra City Smiths has created a question as to how the events occurred. I look forward to finding out in the coming weeks, as I’m sure the answer will be just as delightfully bizarre as the show’s overall tone.