Monday, November 23, 2009

Catching Up #45: Brotherhood: Season Three by Blake Masters

The third season of Brotherhood, Showtime’s series about a Providence congressman and his Irish mob boss brother, is also the show’s final season and that’s a damned shame. It wraps up nicely and all, but there’s no getting around that it feels rushed, like nobody at Showtime knew what they had. Then again, most television viewers probably didn’t even know it existed so it’s no wonder they cut that shit short. Still, it’s a damned shame all around because Brotherhood was more than just the poor man’s Sopranos.

This time out, Tommy Caffee is basically the Speaker of the House’s bitch, doing the man’s dirty work and losing his soul more and more every day. Soon enough, Tommy sees a way to get out of politics and off the Hill all together in the form of a waterfront project that he is in a position to get a nice chunk of down the line. His brother Michael is running things now that Freddie Cork is in the can, and he’s having a tough go at it. He’s cheating on his wife and paranoid that his cousin Colin is fucking his girlfriend, and his paranoia is kind of warranted. Colin is deeply in love with Kath and she’s feeling slighted enough by Michael to maybe take him up on a good fuck.

Meanwhile their mother Rose is suffering from Cadmium poisoning from her many years working at the jewelry company and Tommy’s wife Eileen is pregnant with their fourth child. Also, Freddie Cork eventually makes bail and Michael’s not sure if he knows that yes, it was him who served Freddie up to the Feds. The Caffees’ friend Declan is working homicide and trying to put his marriage back together, but Tommy gets the bright idea to assign Dec to a puppet task force investigating corruption in the House. Little does Tommy know that Declan isn’t just a fuck-up drunk anymore, he’s trying to do right, so it’s a bit of shock when Dec starts getting closer and closer to Tommy’s own illegal dealings.

So that’s a lot of shit to deal with in eight short episodes, but creator Blake Masters and crew make it flow nicely and in an unforced manner. Because this is essentially Showtime’s answer to The Sopranos, there’s plenty of sex (including the most graphic and hot sex scene I’ve ever seen on television) and some kick-ass violence and mob stuff, while also some sharp satire and knowing depictions of middle-class life. But if you’ve watched the previous seasons, you’ve come to expect that shit.

What really surprises this time out is how fleshed out not only Colin becomes, but Freddie Cork. We got to see some of the inner-depths of Cork last season when his gay son died, but in the third season the fan favorite (or is “Fuckin’ Moe” the fan favorite since Pete died?) really gets to shine. When he’s released on bail, his lawyer strongly advises him not to do any shady shit. Cork’s assets are all tied up as well, so he needs to earn somehow. Seeing how on his tax returns he’s a car salesman, he calls in his chips and works at the dealership for real, only to find that he’s actually a bit of a natural. Of course, he eventually gets back in with Michael and the rest of his old gang, but instead of the hot head we’re used to, he shows himself to be extremely wise and self-sacrificing, the kind of leader that Michael Caffee will never be.

Colin gets lots of airtime this season as well, at first drinking and drugging himself into oblivion to take Kath off his mind, then trying to hide his feelings and actions from Michael, who will surely kill them both if he gets wind of their affair. Shit, Michael’s so fucking crazy these days he doesn’t even need a good reason to suspect anything is going on.

It’s all very smart and exciting and promises to come to a very gory head at end (and I mean, you’re expecting the-end-of-the-world-style tragedy by the close of the show), but like The Sopranos, the writers decide subvert your expectations somewhat. It’s still a disturbing and sad wrap up, as is fitting for such a dark show, but not the bloodbath you might’ve expected.

So I’ve mentioned The Sopranos like thirty fucking times in this review and to be honest, that shit isn’t fair. There are similarities to be sure, but it’s a lot to lay on a show that is really great on its own terms. Despite the revisionist assholes out there who say The Sopranos was over-rated, it truly isn’t. It is the most painful, smart, satiric, entertaining, bleakly true and ballsy exploration of American upper middle class life we’re likely to see ever again (yes, that statement is huge, but it’s true – and I love me some The Wire but there’s no getting around the greatness of The Sopranos), so pitting the decidedly modest but still wonderful Brotherhood against the show is not really fair at all. Its aims are smaller, but its aims are true as fuck.

Actually, because this is, you know, my fucking blog and I can do whatever the fuck I want, let me use some space in this review of shit you’ve probably never seen before to plead a case for The Sopranos. I don’t think we’ll ever see such a viewpoint properly expressed in television again. I mean, the show was basically an anti-drama in a lot of ways. Where damn near all stories are about a character changing, The Sopranos stayed brutally honest to a theme we rarely see handled well: man’s inability to change. The show is essentially about people who have shots at redemption, only to turn it down because it is hard to change, because they’re lazy or financially satisfied or their family and friends are terrible influences. I mean, think of Vito Spatafore, Carmela, Tony himself, both of their fucking kids – they all give in to the temptations of either the mob lifestyle or American middle-class life in general.

Then there’s just the writing itself, how eventually the show became about brilliantly undercutting and subverting your expectations of the storylines. They’d build something up to look like it was going to lead to the biggest pay off of all time, then fuck you over with an even more random turn. Shit, the randomness of life is something an entire other blog post could deal with as well. Then there’d be major plot things that would just pop up out of nowhere and be handled in that very same episode (I’m thinking particularly of numerous season five episodes – the most entertaining season of TV of all time, a close second being season three of The Wire). But through all the randomness and fuck yous, the mob shit was always engaging and violent and approachable and the suburban shit was painfully familiar. And it was probably the funniest show of all time too.

Okay, I’ll wrap this shit up now because you can probably find similar views elsewhere on other blogs that do this shit better. What was I talking about again? Oh yes, how Brotherhood season three was really fucking good, if a little shorter than it should’ve been. See that shit. Also, respect The Sopranos. Or see that shit as well, but if you haven’t seen it yet, what the fuck? Are you fucking culturally illiterate or some shit? Wow, this turned into a fucking mess, but like I said, it’s my blog and I can do whatever the fuck I want.


pattinase (abbott) said...

We liked the first two seasons a lot but never found another living soul who was watching it. Not surprising they yanked it.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Brian and I had been working our way through The Sopranos. I think we were up to season 4 when we decided to take a break and check out Brotherhood. I don't think you can call me revisionist, since I haven't seen all of The Sopranos and never watched it in its original run... but I like Brotherhood a lot better. Brotherhood's writing is tight, while I find The Sopranos meanders and has disconnected elements that don't do anything to develop character or contribute to the story. I think the main thing is, I'm not hooked on Sopranos and if I never watch the rest of it I'll be just fine, but Brotherhood had me glued to it. We just finished it last night and what an ending. What a show.