In the past few episodes of Boss, Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer), having nearly lost his wife, sought some mild form of reconciliation with his daughter and begun a series of aggressive maneuverings against the interminably slow governmental process of his city – displaying a remarkable shift in demeanor, not only as husband and father, but ruler of Chicago, as well. As tragic as it may seem, that alteration in Kane’s personality is likely as much due to the length of time he has to live as it is the affliction cutting his life short.
In ‘Ablution,’ Kane begins to demonstrate that it’s no longer business as usual in the mayor’s office – though some things like cameras and microphones hidden in the office and home of Mona Fredricks (Sanaa Lathan), point to just how difficult it can be to loosen one’s grasp on old vices.
Personal privacy issues aside, Kane seems determined to see movement on his various projects, which means trusting Mona enough to move forward with an open bidding process for the Lennox Gardens redevelopment, rather than simply hand it over to long-time conspirator and legitimately creepy individual, Gerald McGantry (Daniel Travanti). Kane’s move to push McGantry aside is motivated as much by personal reasons as it is political. On one hand, Kane stands to earn a lot of goodwill from the people of Chicago, as using another developer for the housing project illustrates a shift in the status quo. Of course, with an individual as powerful as McGantry finding Kane’s gesture less than thrilling, the mayor has likely earned himself an intimidating new foe. Still, with McGantry having sunk his claws into Meredith (Connie Nielsen) last season, coupled with his uninvited appearance at the hospital in ‘Through and Through,’ McGantry was never high on Kane’s list of people to give a damn about.
As far as low positions on that list go, gubernatorial candidate Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner) knows that feeling all too well. Having been all but cast out of the kingdom by Kane since pledging his allegiance to him last season, Zajac is now scrambling to make up the ground he’s lost to Senator Walsh (Amy Morton). The first step in Zajac’s plan is an ill-advised plea to his former lover Kitty O’Neill (Kathleen Robertson) to manage his campaign. Step two is to play up his instinctual reaction to protect his wife following the assassination attempt on Kane – a move that nets the Zajacs some much-needed face time on the news, but also gets them a stern talking to by Kane’s newest assistant, Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff).
Todd’s weasel-like demeanor and unfailing determination to further his own agenda, while still appeasing Kane, manages to earn him some high marks from the boss, but others in the office (Mona Fredricks, mainly) aren’t exactly thrilled with young Todd’s performance thus far. Still, despite her reluctance to partner up with someone so “green,” there is a remarkable moment of cohesion between the mayor and his new recruits, after Kane pulls the trigger on the new developer and everyone begins working like a well-oiled machine. In that instance, the look of pleasure on Kane’s face is as telling as the one he shifts to after informing Todd that Mona’s position is not intended to be as temporary as the young man was inclined to believe.
Meanwhile, as Todd’s future in Kane’s office begins to look up, so, too, does his predecessor’s. Kitty, in denial over her interest to jump back into the political pool, entertains a meeting with Walsh in which the candidate asks her to fill the same role (well, not entirely the same role) as she would in Zajac’s campaign. At the end of the meeting, Kitty was reluctant to give an answer, but following another conversation with intrepid Chicago Sentinel reporter turned editor Sam Milller (Troy Garity) regarding the suspicious murder of Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan), Kitty is not only on board the Walsh bus, but, surprisingly, no longer carrying Zajac’s child – which is good considering Zajac’s predilection for infidelity means he’ll probably be welcoming another child with one of his campaign volunteers.
Miller has been ostensibly handcuffed by the paper’s need to please advertisers like McGantry, so his crusade to take down the Kane office has once again led him down the lonely path of investigative journalism. Surprisingly, his investigation suggests that, in death, Stone will continue to play a large role in Kane’s storyline, though Miller is only seeing half of that influence.
Since the season premiere, Kane’s hallucinations have seemed far more focused on the man he is becoming, acting as a sort of guide to repentance and redemption. At the forefront of that journey has been the image of Stone, gently guiding his former advisee – and the man who had him murdered – toward some form of salvation. For the most part, it has worked. Donovan’s quiet demeanor, coupled with the less intrusive and more poignant visions caused by Kane’s degenerative disease have acted to make season 2 stronger than season 1 – at least in that regard. The only slip-up in ‘Ablution’ may have been the image of Meredith’s father noisily slurping down a geriatric beverage and insisting Kane tells Dr. Harris (Karen Aldridge) he’s losing his mind. It’s a rather inelegant moment, but Grammer recovers nicely with a wry look and short, reassuring statement.
If only Kane’s words were as easily heeded by his own daughter. With Emma (Hannah Ware) back in the house – something she adamantly disapproves of – the family dynamic of Boss will begin to reassemble the fractured Kane household. Once Meredith is home from the hospital, it will be interesting to see whether or not the mayor’s newfound interest in his wife, child and the betterment of Chicago can withstand the fury of a family that sees Kane not as a husband or a father, but simply as a villain.
‘Ablution’ leaves Kane in the company of the Stone hallucination, after a phone call informs him that the shooter has been identified. Whether or not this will provide the couple closure, and the chance to move on remains to be seen.
Boss continues next Friday with ‘Redemption’ @9pm on Starz.