Yesterday was a hung-over Sunday, and so it was a perfect time to finally watch the last couple of episodes of this season of Boss, the Starz political gangster drama that’s had us in a tizzy pretty much since day one. Though like a lot of high-end premium-cable shows, this season was extremely short at ten episodes, but a lot of quality is packed into those ten hours, as well as a lot of full frontal nudity. Even my beloved Boardwalk Empire has had trouble this year giving Boss a run for its money, so much so that I’m gonna go ahead and say Boss is officially the better show. Let’s see why.
(Fair warning: many spoilers lurk ahead.)
The worst part about Boss season 2 ending is that it feels like Boss is ending for good. This season was given the green-light even before the pilot aired, but as often happens with critical darlings, the numbers aren’t quite what they could be, according to creator Farhad Safinia. So whereas the finale of season 1 was a compilation of several big cliffhangers, this season’s finale more or less wrapped everything up. Personally, that’s how I prefer my stories: with an ending. Even given the episodic nature of television, I much prefer it when each season has its own arc unto itself. A cliffhanger tends to try my patience.
In this case, though, it feels like bad tidings. And while I’m grateful that we won’t be left twisting in the wind if Boss does not come back for a third season, it’s bittersweet.
Anyways, to (mostly) accentuate the positive, why was this season so good? Well, beyond the usual reasons, you had the additions of two really good actors. When I first heard Jonathan Groff was gonna join the show, my first reaction was, naturally, “Who?” Then I heard he’d been on Glee, and well, you can imagine what a grumpus like me thought of that. But as is so often the case, any jumping the gun on my part was unfounded. I think it helped that his character, Ian Todd, who replaced Kitty O’Neill as Mayor Kane’s left hand, was welcomed with little but disdain. And rather than have me sympathize with his character, it made me say, “Yeah, who do you think you are, punk? Waltzing in here?” And then the little cutie-pie won me over by proving himself to be just as amoral and slippery as anyone else on the show. Groff obviously has a face you want to eat right off of his head, and the fact that he can so effectively join Kane in his near-Satanic machinations for power works all the better with that angel-face.
Only thing that kinda threw me for a loop with the finale is how he and Emma wrapped up. A few episodes into the season, major hints began to be dropped that Ian was in fact a bastard son of Mayor Tom Kane himself. Also, in his capacity as Kane’s assistant, he began developing a bond with Kane’s daughter, Emma, herself embroiled in all kinds of power plays. At first, I chalked this up to Ian wanting to have the family life he’d envisioned Emma having, however poorly that turned out for her. And then they hella boned. Hot brother-on-sister action aside, once Emma finds out Ian’s lineage in the closing moments of the finale, Ian’s reaction is pretty flip, like it’s no big. Which is actually really cool for his character, like that’s how twisted the acorn that fell off the tree is. But wouldn’t Emma have vomited all the place or some other sort of thing? I mean, I guess the film Lone Star handled this sort of thing about the same, but at the same time, I dunno. Felt like a non-ending to that powder-keg storyline.
Speaking of ended storylines, it really doesn’t seem like Sanaa Lathan’s character will be coming back at all, season 3 or no. And though that’s a drag, it’s probably the only way it can be. Lathan was another unknown to me, though I did finally watch Contagion not too long after this season’s premiere, and though she’s not in that much, what I saw matched up with what I saw on Boss; that is, she is a very good actor indeed. Her character, Mona Fredricks, began the season as an enemy of Kane’s, working to keep him from displacing the citizens of Lennox Gardens. In a move seemingly born of Kane’s impending mortality, Kane brings her on board his staff to act as his conscience, not unlike what Ezra Stone did for Kane until Kane had him murdered. At first, especially when it seems Kane might be cured of his dementia after all, Kane and Mona do begin to work together, to not only find new housing for the denizens of Lennox Gardens, but also to keep Alderman Ross’s scumbag ward bosses from fleecing the populace.
But as with everything Kane touches, it turns to shit. He immediately has cameras installed in Mona’s house so he can keep his eyes on her at all times (if you follow), and the exact first opportunity Kane has to fuck Lennox Gardens out of existence, he takes it. Mona, of course, is livid, and the scene where she finally confronts him once and for all is some of the finest acting I think either performer has ever done. And then of course, Mona is out on her pretty little ass. Like I was saying, this will be a drag next season because it doesn’t look like she’ll be coming back (then again, I said that about Stoney after last season, and that guy was in almost as many episodes this season as he was last year). But like Kane tells her, her “naivete” is amusing and charming at first, but there is simply no way a person of her purity and conviction can last on this show. Even other “good” characters, like the aforementioned Emma or staunch journalist Sam Miller, turn out to be pretty big pieces of shit.
All in all, Boss season 2 brought to the table deft characterization, mouth-watering dialogue, and even more desperate, power-grubbing characters than last year. And the fucking: wow, a whole lot of fucking (mostly on State Treasuer Zajac’s part, but still). With any luck, we’ll get at least one more season of this show, but if not, the two seasons we have are wrapped up very nicely and can be enjoyed by generations of scumbags like me to come.
Vote Kane in 2012.