In last week’s recap of Boss it was briefly suggested that ‘Clinch’ could have very well been the finale for season 2. Despite being reminiscent of the season 1 finale, the episode was decisive, well plotted and wrapped up a great deal of the season’s overarching plotline, and the promise of more largely made up for the been-there-done-that issues with the resolution. So, with the majority of the season’s issues handled, there was the expectation that the finale would have something worthwhile to propel the series into the future. Sadly, by the time ‘True Enough’ ends, there is no sense of such progression.
‘True Enough’ rides in on momentum created by ‘Clinch,’ and the idea that the crusade against Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) by Chicago Sentinel Editor in Chief Sam Miller (Troy Garity), and the apparent alliance of Kitty O’Neill (Kathleen Robertson) and State’s Attorney Jeff Doyle (John Hoogenakker) could potentially end Kane’s reign of power.
For the most part, Kitty poses the larger threat; she’s seen inside the machine and knows how it works, so if anyone would be able to weaken it, it would be her. Kitty also had proven a keen, ambitious adversary, someone with the right mix of political killer instinct and humanity – as seen in her near-destruction of Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner) at the town hall debate, and her reluctance to allow Patty the intern (Kallie Miller) to debase herself by claiming involvement in yet another Zajac sex scandal. She had all but secured Walsh (Amy Morton) as the next governor; only to see it all slip away because Kane has zero compunction about killing.
It’s all set up as a kind of desperate attempt by Doyle to insert Kitty into Kane’s office, and use her to his advantage. So when it’s revealed that Kitty is actually seeking to partner again with her old boss – in effect siding against Doyle, Zajac and even Miller – the outlook is decidedly bleak. There’s the chance that Kitty allied herself with Kane in part because she feared reprisal – which is a sentiment displayed by Miller’s reporter friend Jackie (Mary Hollis Inboden) – but Kitty’s never been portrayed as cowardly, so the next logical conclusion is that despite knowing Kane killed Ezra (Martin Donovan), Walsh’s assistant and orchestrated the assassination attempt that went awry, she still feels like Kane’s office is the place for her. That paints a pretty clear picture of the character, and the series as a whole. For Boss, corruption is an absolute, and those who stand in the way are simply delivered to death’s door, or ruined completely.
This is seconded with the destruction of Sam Miller, who is first undermined by Kane pinning the murder of Ezra on Meredith’s shooter, and then dealt a deathblow when it’s made public that he paid a dirty cop for an exclusive. Sam is dispatched with such ease, and in such a manufactured manner, that any apprehension related to his actions winds up being largely deflated – up to and including sending Jackie to deliver the footage of Kane’s trembling hand as evidence of his illness. Certainly there is some irony in Miller being dispatched through proof of his corruption, and that speaks to the larger essence of Boss, which is: power corrupts absolutely, but essentially, all of that season-long build-up and investigation by Miller just fell flat.
The same can be said for the storyline of Mona Fredricks (Sanaa Lathan), and especially the one involving Kane’s children, Emma (Hannah Ware) and Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff). When confronted by Emma about who he really is, Ian asks, “Does it matter?” The sad fact is: no, apparently not.
The problem with ‘True Enough,’ and now Boss (if it continues) is the remorseless Tom Kane and his continued triumphs. Conflict makes drama, and while seeing someone triumph, or live to threaten others and maintain an iron grip on corruption for another day may be superficially appealing to the audience, it has to come from a place where that triumph means something. Where is the satisfaction in watching the same resolution time and again? It becomes difficult to invest in characters or their situations when the outcome seems unlikely to ever change.
This is reminiscent of another show with allusions to Shakespearian tragedy. Characters meet violent deaths, allegiances change, but everything else pretty much stays the same. The basic tenet of the plot never seems to move beyond what the series had to begin with. There is no sense of progression. With Boss, one gets the feeling that the writers have written themselves into a corner with Kane’s illness. Even though the show has proven itself capable of something more compelling, they appear determined to funnel a potentially larger story into a very narrow, preset ending.
As always, there were still plenty of good elements at play, and even a few flashes of brilliance like the way the scenes are framed and filmed, and, of course the stellar cast the show has assembled. Kelsey Grammer continues to be luminous in the role of Tom Kane. His statement to Meredith (Connie Nielsen) at the end of the episode is as powerful as it is bleak. Meanwhile, the show’s supporting cast remains largely flawless, but it feels like excellence such as this deserves a payoff that is equally gripping.
If it seems like this is harsh, it’s because season 2 of Boss started off with a great deal of promise, making Kane’s affliction both the consequence of his corruption and a guide to his redemption – not a mere means to an end. Despite its shortcomings, ‘True Enough’ didn’t completely derail season 2; it simply failed to carry over any of the momentum that ‘Clinch’ established, and deliver on the promise of the season’s stellar, almost lyrical opening. In the end, the finale left the season with a sense of lackadaisical repetition, a shuffling of the pieces, instead of decisively pushing them forward.
Screen Rant will have information regarding the future of Boss as it is made available.
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