Brotherhood sort of follows this mold and sort of doesn't with its second season.
We start out a few months after the last episode of the first season. Michael Caffee has been demoted somewhat in Freddie Cork's crew following the brain damage he suffered from his attempted murder. His right hand man Pete has been working in a garage ever since their falling out over Pete's falling off the wagon. Michael is also shacking up with Kath pretty regular too (Lucky man. That's one thing about this show: There are certainly some attractive "real-looking" women in the cast.)
Tommy Caffee is campaigning for reelection as state rep for the seventh district - arguably the only thing keeping his marriage to Eileen together. He is civil with her ever since she told him about her cheating and drug abuse, but cold. After some prodding by the smarmy speaker of the house, Tommy takes to fucking around on Eileen out of a misplaced sense of revenge.
Declan Giggs has started drinking on the job and spending most of his nights at one of Freddie Cork's whorehouses ever since Cassie left him. However, this behavior does not get him kicked off the force but instead made part of an undercover task force. His CO figures that if he keeps fucking up, Freddie Cork or Michael Caffee will approach him about helping out on a few things. If only the CO knew how much Declan owes Cork and Caffee already...
So there's some pretty good stuff going on in season two. Good mob stuff, good dirty politics stuff, good "in too deep" undercover cop stuff, good family drama stuff. Good show. But when you look at the main storylines I laid out up top, not a whole lot really changed or changes later on in season two from season one. You really might as well have called it season 1.5 or something. I mean, it's good - really good, actually - but it isn't GREAT like I thought it might be, like I thought it had the potential to be.
A perfect example is what happens to Pete McGonagle. After I watched the first episode I was like, "Where the fuck is Pete fucking McGonagle?" The guy is far and away the coolest character (the fan favorite - like Silvio Dante or Dan Dority or Omar Little or Roger Sterling) and he doesn't even show up till episode three and then only as a fucking corpse? Fuck that! But I rolled with it, thought about what that meant for Michael Caffee now that he didn't have a right hand man and confidante.
But then Colin shows up. Colin is a cousin of Michael and Tommy from Belfast who shows up and promptly proves himself violent and charming and - waddaya know - Michael Caffee's brand new right hand man. So fan favorite Pete had not so much been lost to us as he was merely recast by a dude with an Irish accent. And don't get me wrong: Colin is a cool character, a definite fan favorite kind of guy. It's just that, well, I was hoping for a new dynamic, a new direction.
Same thing with the whole part about Tommy being the cheating spouse this time out instead of Eileen. Yeah, that's different for his character and we learn some new things about him through the journey, but it kind of feels cheap in that it is just a reversal of the roles instead of a fresh direction, a new story. Now Tommy gets to be a bastard and Eileen has call to complain instead of the other way around. I mean, it's solid but it ain't blowing your fucking hair back, is it (Though, like I said earlier, there are some very pretty women in this show and adultery is another excuse to see them naked and fucking. I must be pretty spoiled to be bitching about it.)
There are still plenty of reasons to watch Brotherhood even if it is not an astounding show like those mentioned up top. My favorite episode of season one was the hyper-eventful wedding reception finale episode where tons and tons of shit goes down in the span of just a few hours. This season has not one but two similar mini-movie episodes (read: episodes you submit for Peabody Awards) just like it.
The first and better episode is the one where Michael and a demented contract killer wait for their mark to come home so they can off him while we also follow Tommy's moral dilemmas on election day. The other Peabody contender takes place on Thanksgiving where we get to see numerous characters prepare and enjoy/fuck up their family dinners while major gangster shit/undercover cop shit goes down. These episodes, despite their gimmicky-ness, stand out for me the way the "College" episode in The Sopranos does: They hold up strongly on their own, rest of the show be damned.
In the end, Brotherhood remains a hell of a good show with many of the things I liked about the first season still holding true. Thing is, it just doesn't blow your mind or become a better, different show the way many of the modern TV canon has managed to do so as of late. Basically, my complaint is that the bridge was reinforced and painted pretty instead of blown up and reconstructed.