STARZ’s Boss is a series about Chicago Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) and his life in the wake of a revelation made by his doctor that he has a degenerative neurological disorder. He doesn’t share the news with anyone and tries to manage it himself, continue his mayoral duties and repair damaged relationships along the way. All the while still as cutthroat a politician as he’s ever been, if not more so. This is not a series for the faint of heart. It is hard-hitting, well paced and doesn’t let up once the pressure is on.
Grammer is fantastic as enigmatic Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, Kathleen Robertson as the serious, smart and sexy Kitty O’Neil and Martin Donovan as loyal Ezra Stone give solid back-up to Grammer’s intense character. Can I just say, I LOVE the names of these characters…Kane, Kitty, Ezra. It makes the show seem even more like something straight out of a pulp fiction or graphic novel. This show delves into a topic I have wondered about myself. With dementia based disorders on the rise combined with the age of so many of our politicians, I have often wondered how many people in power are afflicted with such a disorder without us being aware of any such issue.
EP 1 Listen: The cast of Boss is introduced brilliantly. We know are given a peak into everyone’s personality and character right off the bat. In the opening of the series, we find that Mayor Kane is being diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder by Dr. Ella Harris, played by Karin Aldridge. He receives this diagnosis in a secluded location and does everything he can, using sinister means to ensure his secret is not disclosed to anyone. Kane stays in office and has no plans to divulge his condition to anyone else. His marriage to Meredith, played by Connie Nielsen, is nothing more than one of convenience as is no surprise when politics are in play. His daughter, Emma, played by Hannah Ware is estranged and a former addict turned minister and inner city clinic worker who works hard to distance herself from her father. Emma meets Darius Morrison at the clinic she works at, and is drawn to him or his drug supplies and connections, but initially we aren’t clear which. Then there is reporter Sam Miller, played by Troy Garity, who is suspicious of something regarding the Mayor, but doesn’t seem to have a good grip on what may be going on. He does an unflattering piece on Meredith regarding a school she was working to improve and immediately puts himself out of favor with the Mayoral family. We also meet State Treasurer Ben Zajac, played by Jeff Hephner, working toward being elected the next Governor of Illinois. Kitty and Zajac quickly start an intense affair. This brings us to Governor McCall Cullen, played by Francis Guinan who will stop at nothing to take down Zajac, while Kane has made it his mission to get the young Treasurer in the Governor’s office. During the course of the episode a construction project is put on hold due to a very public discovery of Indian artifacts, which the Mayor needs to go away and wheels are put in motion to make that happen.
EP 2 Reflex: We find Kane struggling with the effects of his disease in a very public moment. Meredith comes to his aid quickly and flawlessly, but the moment is not missed by Miller, who spends the episode determined to find what is going on. Emma is still drawn to Darius, but will not give in to addiction or attraction, we are left wondering what might happen between the two in the future. Zajac and Kitty continue their affair, very publicly taking risks during their sexual interludes. In the same instant that we see the exhibitionist nature of Zajac and Kitty’s escapades, we are also introduced to Zajac’s family. Zajac knows just as well as we all do that Kitty must be after something, but just what that might be is not yet known. Kane has a very cursory meeting with Emma who is the only person that has an inkling of what’s going on. Miller reveals to Kane’s wife Meredith that her husband is going to see a neurological specialist. Her job is quickly becoming to cover him and ensure his reputation remains intact. Politics being what it is, the Mayor sets up the current Governor to seem that he has a same sex lover based on a totally innocent interaction and quickly shuts down any chance the Governor had of being re-elected. We learn that the distance between Emma and her parents was not on her end, but the senior Kane’s doing. In the wake of the revelation by Miller, Meredith does some of her own snooping, but is unable to figure out what is going on with the Tom. Miller goes out to the burial site that was found during a construction project and sees that something is amiss in the form of workers with nothing to do and thousands of bags of hazardous waste being taken off-site. Emma goes to Darius for drugs, but he stops her and gives her himself instead. The Mayor is losing footing as those normally on his side start questioning him. Though we are already aware of his marriage as a sham, we see Mayor Kane’s infidelity in the form of a call girl, whom he turns away instead of what we assume is the usual slap and tickle. He instead goes to his catatonic father-in-law to confide in him, use him as a sounding board of sorts and to get a glimpse of his own not so distant future.
EP 3 Swallow: The Mayor is on a downward turn, his vulnerability is becoming more an more evident when he wets the bed and his wife catches him, though she still doesn’t know what is going on. The Governor comes across confident during a press conference, but Kane has a reporter working for him and manages to disarm the Cullen; make him seem like he’s hiding something. Kane meets with his doctor, the one he threatened earlier in the season to get advice and medication. She goes along with it out of fear for herself and her family despite the mayor’s apologies. Kitty is still working hard with the Treasurer on his campaign among other things right in the middle of his campaign headquarters. The thrill is too much for the two of them to resist, no doubt to their detriment later, as the risks just keep getting bigger. Miller continues to dig into the the goings on at the site that was uncovered in Ep 1. Emma is getting desperate for drugs. Not for herself, but for the clinic when her patients are lacking the care they need. In the meantime her father continues to purchase pills on the black market to avoid being discovered. The situation lends itself to a strong possibility for a connection between all parties involved in a later episode. Meredith seeks out Dr. Harris, who rebuffs her attempts to discover her husband’s secret. Mayor Kane continues to learn more about his condition, which seems more and more hopeless the more he learns. Miller is digging deeper and deeper into the conspiracy and is starting to get into some dangerous territory. Darius and Emma continue their relationship and when Emma asks Darius for help getting drugs for the clinic, he agrees. The Governor crawls on hands and knees to ask the Mayor for help and to work with him moving forward, but Kane tears him down and humiliates him. Ezra and Kitty both seem disturbed by his tirade, but don’t confront the Mayor about it. Kane turns now to confiding in the call girls he has come to his place, still not using them for their intended purpose. I feel they are just there to add to the boob factor that seems to be prominent in this show. Dr. Harris is being relocated permanently by the man that apparently does Mayor Kane’s dirty work, in order to keep the Mayor’s secret, under the threat of losing custody of her son. Despite her cooperation, she is still perceived as a threat to the Mayor and as such, the Governor’s race. People in power…always wanting more power. Meredith realizes that she may have made a grave mistake and sealed Dr. Harris’ fate with her last visit to the woman. Mayor Kane confides in Emma about his condition. Emma is convinced that all her father wants is someone to take care of him and be there for him as his disorder progresses and she turns her back on him. Miller’s digging yields some interesting results after he takes a sample of the water on the construction site.
Gone is the Frasier that we all know and love from Cheers and the title role that Grammer filled for so many years. Enter the hard-nosed, unapologetic and desperate Mayor Kane. There is no crossover, no difficulty seeing Grammer as someone new, rather it is hard to think of the man we see on the TV screen as anyone other than a cutthroat politician bent on his own agendas despite being faced with a debilitating and bleak future. This cast works together seamlessly and boy can they keep up with Grammer. The chemistry is palpable, particularly between Robertson and Hephner, there is heat generated between these two like I have never seen on the small screen. Outside of their torrid relationship, the Mayor’s own broken relationships with his daughter and wife are not lost on us, not one bit. Even the day-to-day interactions with the Mayor’s advisers and staff are believable. This show is fast paced and is not losing momentum any time soon. Keep an eye out for my next installment of my Season One Boss review/recap as I move on to Disc Two.
Season One of Boss is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on July 24 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
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