TV Review: Starz Hit ‘Boss’ Returns with More Confidence, Intrigue

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CHICAGO – The Golden Globe Award-winning “Boss” returns tonight for a second season of riveting drama based on our favorite city’s foundation of dirty politics. I thought the first season was strong but drifted a bit at times, lacking the focus of truly great drama. The good news is that the focus is here in the second season, one that feels even more like Shakespearian drama but that justifies its self-seriousness more than in season one with fascinating characters.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.0/5.0
Television Rating: 4.0/5.0

Season one of “Boss” ended with a flurry of activity as Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan) was revealed to be a traitor and was handled the way Chicago’s mob-like power structure handles these kind of things and Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) was thrown under a political bus with Zajac (Jeff Hephner). The depths of First Lady Meredith Kane’s (Connie Nielsen) political wheelings and dealings were revealed and Mayor Kane’s daughter Emma (Hannah Ware) was basically hidden away and used as political currency, separating her from lover Darius (Rotimi). Reporter Sam (Troy Garity) has been promoted but still wants to get to the bottom of Kane’s buried secrets. This year also includes a number of new faces like new aides Mona Fredricks (Sanaa Lathan) & Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff), along with an increased role for Zajac’s wife (Nicole Forester) and a mysterious new player in Darius’ life (T.I.). And, of course, Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) is still dealing with the physical ailment that will soon not only impact his political career but end his life.

Boss
Boss
Photo credit: Starz

Kane’s neurological disorder has intensified at the start of season two of “Boss,” leading to some notable hallucinations (allowing for a very “Macbeth” scene involving a guilty spot that can’t be removed), but the health issues of this Chicago political figure are handled more deftly by the writers. They don’t seem like as much of a storytelling crutch. In season one, Kane’s problems were either forgotten or came up conveniently in key moments. This season they feel more like something that Kane has simply accepted as fact. He’s told he will soon no longer be able to govern. He gets that but he doesn’t stop moving forward. He’s a political shark. If he stops swimming, he dies.

Boss
Boss
Photo credit: Starz

And Kane has a lot of reason to swim this season. The loss of Ezra and Kitty is going to impact his future and it seems clear now that the Mayor is more concerned than ever about his legacy. I love the idea that Kane is starting to consider how he will be remembered now that he knows the end is near. And the final scene of the season premiere includes a shocking development that will send waves through the entire season.

It’s hard to discuss the plot of this season of “Boss” without spoiling the way it unfolds but there’s a confidence to the plotting here that just wasn’t there in season one. The freshman outing of “Boss” sometimes felt a but unfocused but this season flows much more dramatically from political offices to newspaper cubicles to up and down the Chicago streets that the producers use so incredibly well.

The performances are similarly enhanced compared to season one (and even the great Donovan gets to return in ghost form on more than one riveting occasion). Grammer seems to thrive under the more consistent writing, making Kane an even more interesting character than last year. Robertson seemed uncomfortable at first but Kitty quickly becomes one of the more interesting characters in season two. Nielsen, Lathan, Forester — the whole ensemble works.

“Boss” still isn’t perfect. I am thoroughly unconvinced by the family drama as played by Hannah Ware as Kane’s daughter. The scenes just don’t feel honest and don’t crackle with the same energy as the political half of the show. And while Garity is better this season, the writers seem to struggle to include him in the action for a few episodes.

However, even if “Boss” isn’t quite the amazing show that it could be, it is undeniably headed in that direction. If the increase in quality from season one to season two also happens as the show moves into an inevitable third season, “Boss” could easily be one of the best programs on television. It’s almost there now.

“Boss” stars Kelsey Grammer, Connie Nielsen, Kathleen Robertson, Jeff Hephner, Hannah Ware, Rotimi, Sanaa Lathan, Jonathan Groff, Nicole Forester, Troy Garity, and T.I. It returns on Starz on Friday, August 17, 2012 at 8pm CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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