Boss: “Through And Through”
C+

Boss: “Through And Through”

C+

Boss

“Through And Through”

Season 2, Episode 2

The mayor’s wife has been shot and Chicago politicians have to deal with the fallout. Admittedly, it sounds like a plot from ER, but still, that kind of drama should make for good television. But “Through And Through” is slow, poorly paced, and reveals so little new information that it’s, at times, boring. It’s depressing to look back on an hour of well-produced television and conclude that it was unremarkable. It says a lot about Boss that it gets a grade higher than what it truly deserves because there’s no gratuitous nudity in this episode.

Boss is moving through an establishment holding pattern. If the show was a chess game, this would be the very, very beginning, where pieces are being moved in microscopic increments towards or away from certain targets. It may be necessary, but the way Boss is handling such maneuvering doesn’t make for terribly compelling television. The characters are evolving at glacial paces, and all along very predictable routes.

Still, whenever I’m on the verge of dismissing Boss, it does something to surprise me, and this week is no exception. I said last week that I was excited about Mona Fredricks being positioned as the show’s potential hero, and it’s  shocking to see her accept Tom Kane’s job offer to work for him. This is consistent with the themes of the show, which demonstrate again and again that power corrupts, and the desire to do good is often wrapped up in bad acts. In other words: road to hell, good intentions, etc. Mona is a complex character, and the only one left who the audience can plausibly root, so it will be interesting to see her working in the mayor’s office.

“Through And Through” opens with Meredith being shot by an unknown gunman and Kane going into a self-righteous, narcissistic black hole in his grief. It speaks volumes about the man that even grieving for his wife doesn’t humanize him. His hallucinations of Meredith are dazzling, but fundamentally lacking in any real depth. I don’t doubt that he loves her, to some degree, but he expresses his emotions in the most sadistic way possible. Mostly, he’s jealous of other people who might be close to Meredith and various attempts to profit from her condition. 

Interestingly, though, Kane doesn’t always seem aware that he’s being manipulative in this episode—suggesting either that he’s motivated by true emotion, just in ways that are utterly reprehensible, or instead that political maneuvering and backstabbing are so ingrained in his nature he barely has to think about them anymore.

Besides being a power-hungry fiend politically, Kane finds it impossible to be kind to any other human being in his orbit. And all of those bystanders are blindsided by his rude dismissals, his threats and his rage, because they really do look up to him, for he is the mayor of Chicago. He is so beyond human that he doesn’t even know how to say “please” and “thank you.”

Kane’s visions of Ezra are turning into some of the strongest scenes in each episode. In the past, the show has drifted from and then returned to Kane’s illness as it sees fit, depending on what other plotlines are distracting the writers—a flaw that is well-addressed by the ghost of Ezra Stone. Ezra was intimately involved with Kane’s political machinations, and he’s now a manifestation of Kane’s mental degeneration. In that sense, he’s the perfect plot device for this show. Martin Donovan, meanwhile, makes a fantastic ghost. The scene toward the end of the episode where Ezra watches Ian Todd cozy up to Kane—and watches Kane, in turn, manipulate Ian—is the best directed (and acted) of the episode.

That Ian’s a bit of work, huh? It’s fun seeing Kane bully him, but now that we know a little bit more about him, it seems he might be as slimy, if not even slimier, than Kane himself. This is well-executed in Ian’s instant transformation as soon as he stepped out of an uncomfortable conversation with Kane: the Oxford comma line. In keeping with the comic-book metaphor from last week, Ian fits right in as the canny young interloper, hungry for power. 

As fun as the comic-book template is, though, the characters seem stuck in certain characterizations, and it’s so frustrating to watch them stuck in their little loops, running the same scenario over and over again. Because not a lot changes, does it? Kitty is still looking for an ego to replace her own; Kane is still a monster; Meredith still doesn’t trust him, but doesn’t seem to know what she’d do without him. Alderman Ross is still a disappointing foe, neither competent nor noble. Sam Miller is still asking the same two questions from the pilot, with the exact same answers. I’m willing to give this cast the benefit of my many doubts, because they have shown themselves to be strong actors capable of emotional depth, but Boss’ scripts aren’t taking them anywhere interesting.

I’m not averse to the big-budget melodrama—and audiences, obviously, are not averse, either (see: True Blood). But Boss doubles down on slow, and it doesn’t work next to the poorly realized motivations of the characters and the generally unremarkable dialogue. Acting and expensive set pieces are all that are holding this show together right now. Those are admirable qualities for a TV show, but “Through And Through” is too much first-season throwback, not enough course correction. Mona’s move to City Hall promises to shake things up, so maybe things will pick up next week.

Stray observations:

  • Every now and then I think I’m going to like Kane, or at least sympathize with him a little bit, but when he strolled right by Kitty without acknowledging her, it angered me. To be fair, Kitty shouldn’t have gone to see him. But she’s still reconstructing her ego, and who knows what she thought would happen if she went to go see him. Whatever it was, boy, was she mistaken.
  • Interestingly, it seems like Kitty’s future may not lie with Zajac, though maybe they’re purposely keeping the two of them apart for a bit longer as the pregnancy continues. Zajac has been weirdly and effectively colonized by his wife. Kitty managed to spur him to be the egomaniacal politician we knew he could be, but Kane and his wife have infantilized him. It remains to be seen how he’s going to change (if at all).
  • Emma is perhaps in the oddest situation in this episode. Is that whole house-arrest thing for real? And if it is, please, please, please can she plot to and then successfully murder Kane? I’ve never been quite sure what her role is supposed to be in this show—at first she existed to humanize Kane, and then he turned into a monster. Plus, where is her cute boyfriend—and T.I? Where is T.I.?
  • Kane’s weird corrupt cop friend is really boring! In Boss he is the classic case of a noir trope poor;y executed.
  • No Kitty boob shots = “C+,” rather than a “C.” You’re welcome.