After the escalation of events in last week's ungainly 'Mania' it had become clear that Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) was no longer capable of managing the symptoms of his affliction, and drastic measures were in order. In 'Backflash,' Boss uses Kane's absence to (rather effectively) provide the audience with a mountain of information, even if some of the means by which it chooses to do so are somewhat clumsy.
If you were expecting a road trip with Kane and the avatar for his heavy conscience, Ezra (Martin Donovan), then you'll have to look elsewhere. Kane's managed to find his way to the experimental treatment facility he'd mentioned weeks ago, and is preparing to undergo a three-part action intended to help subdue (if not completely abate) his symptoms. By the time Kane is being prepped for whatever his physician has planned, the hallucinations have gone from occasional auditory and visual manifestations, to his mind being deluged with the echoing judgmental voice of Ezra. It's clear that, if this treatment is unsuccessful, this could be the end of Kane.
However, considering the intensification of events in Chicago – stemming from the forced evictions of the Lennox Gardens residents – successful therapy or not, Kane's days look as though they're about to be numbered.
Thankfully, instead of having Mona Fredricks (Sanaa Lathan) and Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff) running around, being groped by Ezra or some lascivious judge, Boss has the two performing duties more befitting their characters, and sees them united for change – if only in their dread of seeing Chicago burn to the ground while the mayor is basically AWOL. With the kingdom essentially left unattended, Meredith (Connie Nielsen) steps in to mask her husband's absence and help Kane's staff maintain some semblance of order, as questions from the media regarding his whereabouts, and (more importantly) the course of action to take with the growing crisis, become too important to ignore.
In doing so, Meredith certainly doesn't ingratiate herself with Mona or Ian – though the latter is more attuned to playing the role of lackey, anyway – but she does display a keen knack for manipulating the flow of information and running the city with as much efficiency as her husband or father before him. Meredith manages to quell the speculation regarding Kane's whereabouts with a preposterous story about the FBI and some information about his assassination attempt that is bought partially out of fear of recrimination from Kane, and partially because no one is going to question a tough-as-nails woman who's running the city for her husband mere months after taking a bullet possibly meant for him. All in all, the mix of fear and respect work as well for Meredith as it ever did for Kane.
Still, whatever tricks Meredith has up her sleeve, or whatever favors she's able to call in, do little in regards to halting the machinations of those working against the mayor's office. In particular, Meredith's actions are enough to convince Governor Cullen (Francis Guinan) to call in the National Guard, but it also results in his endorsing Walsh (Amy Morton) as his successor. Meanwhile, Alderman Ross (James Vincent Meredith) is willing to use his considerable sway and power through ward bosses to further incite the city's growing anger and help the violence reach proportions not seen in nearly two decades. With Kenya Taylor (James T. Alfred) in the clink, Ross offers his position to Trey Rodgers (T.I.), who was really hoping for something more legitimate than sending his troops out to smash storefronts and rile up an already heated populace, but, hey, a guy's gotta make some sacrifices if he wants to get ahead in this world.
If Trey's moving forward, then following the scandal unleashed by Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) during his debate, Zajac (Jeff Hephner) is definitely taking a step back. With his HQ deserted, his wife gone and his career basically in ruins, Zajac makes a small move toward redemption by using the media's current obsession with him as a tool to augment its coverage of the homeowners who are losing their houses to foreclosure and seeing those structures being offered up as low-income housing for the temporary relocation of the Lennox Gardens residents. With the city already on edge, Zajac's presence intensifies things at a protest, and they quickly go from yelling at to punching cameramen in the face. It ends with Zajac being hauled off, and possibly earning a modicum of respect from those who might have been his constituents.
'Backflash' balances this all out with Kane's treatment inducing a kind of revelatory look at the earlier days of his career when Mayor Rutledge (Anthony Mockus Sr.) was still a presence not only in his life, but also in terms of the '93 riots Kane still bears a substantial amount of guilt from. For the most part, they're effective in terms of handing the audience a lot of information quickly, but there's something overblown and unpleasantly melodramatic about these moments – which could be understood as Kane's own altered perception of the events, but, like with Rutledge's hallucinatory appearance earlier, just feel like the kind of drama one would expect to see on Dallas.
For the time being, it looks as though the treatment was successful; Ezra has been silenced and Kane's other hallucinations have abated enough that his perception is more in tune with those around him. How long this period of mental tranquility will last is anyone's guess, but with Chicago in full-on riot mode, and Kitty making Sam Miller (Troy Garity) aware that the anonymous source, Rosebud, was likely Ezra Stone, things are going to get even more dicey for the mayor very soon. Added to the mix is Emma (Hannah Ware) finding out that her grandfather's condition was likely a result of her father's actions, and Kane's hopes of having a happy home once more have almost certainly been dashed
Boss continues next Friday with 'The Conversation' @9pm on Starz.