At its best, Boss is a solid “B” show. I don’t say that as a critique. Some of the most fascinating television on air right now is B-level entertainment: Revenge, for example, has a lot of themes similar to Boss’, even if the major plots are very different. But Boss isn’t satisfied with being a “B” show—it seems to want to be an A-level show, but doesn’t quite know how to get there.
So Boss does what any aspiring television show might do. It goes out in dirty pajamas and rents all of the shows people like talking about, things like The Wire and Breaking Bad and Game Of Thrones. It watches them obsessively, looking for what other people like about these other shows, what makes these shows mysteriously so much better. It sees: drug use, sexual exploits, power plays, family drama. And then, rather unfortunately, like a single person trying too hard to be liked, it snatches up these external tropes, hoping that audiences will like them, naïvely assuming that these tawdry elements are what makes those other shows so watchable.
I feel like a self-help coach here, but I do feel that if Boss would ignore what other shows are trying to do, and focus instead on what makes itself unique and interesting, it would be a far, far better show. Unfortunately, so much of this show’s premise and self-identity, at this point, is built up on cursory ideas of what other networks have succeeded with. I liked last week’s episode, but “Consequence” essentially collapsed in upon itself. In one episode, Boss fell from daring political thriller to… melodramatic, oversexualized schlock.
Caveat: I thought the Zajac storyline is one of the strongest subplots the show has managed to come up with. I don’t personally buy the mainstream media critique that’s built-in to Zajac’s ascent to power, but it’s well-told, and unlike a lot of other plots in the show, well-written. Jeff Hephner’s performance is also very strong, and I thought it really came out in this episode, too. At moments, Hephner demonstrates that boyish confidence that must have been the character’s impetus for both his political aspirations and his womanizing— the frat boy drinking on the couch and fooling around with whatever girl he’d managed to pick up. The guy who has relied on good looks and charm to get in or out of anything in his entire life. And yet, Ben Zajac is still a human character, who seems to desire to do good, and it’s been fascinating seeing him move in and out of different versions of himself. It looks like he’s going to win this gubernatorial race, which might be interesting to watch.
I think most of us guessed that Ian was going to make a move on his half-sister Emma, so that unfolds pretty much as expected, with the added drama of Darius watching through the window. I didn’t really need for that scene to go on for so long, though, or to be so overtly pornographic in nature. Sex scenes should be a plot device, used to demonstrate something about the characters. When two characters are having sex and we are watching it merely to be watching it, that’s porn. There’s nothing telling about the sex between the two of them except that it happened; nothing interesting in the way it was shot or the way the story was told. It felt cheap.
The other bizarre sex scene in this episode also felt gratuitous, though less so. It appears that the two state’s attorneys are in some kind of sub/dom relationship, which has something to do with religion, his marriage, and their careers. I would care more if I knew anything about the characters, but considering they are both very tangential, this sex scene also felt pornographic.
Compared to all of the messy subplots, Tom Kane’s plot this week really holds together. Kane’s subtle manipulations of the city council, and his attempt to come to grips with the fact that he has to cede his ground, are good old-fashioned corrupt politics, and interesting to piece apart. I was amazed at how many people showed up in his office to essentially blow him off. The final scene is hilarious. Kane storming through his city hall to get to the chamber before the final vote is cast, undignified, panicking, shoving people left and right. It’s both touching and comical, a weird desperation that also seems rather like exactly what Kane deserves. He might as well have been yelling “I’M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!” as he bullrushed those two hapless municipal employees into the wall. Emotions: Tom Kane has them. Everyone clear on that? Great.
- I was okay with Sam until he grabbed that poor woman in the street, and now I’m mad at him. I thought it was an interesting detail that he and Kitty both forgot about their date, but I’m not sure what that means yet.
- McGantry so far hasn’t proven to be an interesting character, so I’m not thrilled about him and Kane facing off for our finale.
- It looks like Mona’s takedown has already begun, considering the Lenox Gardens project has been abandoned. Still, I’m sure the finale is setting up to ruin someone foolish enough to get involved in Chicago politics.