Boss Season 2, Episode 7: “The Conversation”
Written by Angelina Burnett
Directed by Nelson McCormick
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on Starz
Kane returns from his treatment in Toronto a ‘new’ man. Which is to say, he’s back to his old ways- politically cunning and almost without sympathy for those who suffer under him. He’s apparently no longer haunted by Stoney and seems guilt-free. He orders a hit on someone. He successfully diverts the media’s interest from his unexplained absence to the unnecessary shooting of a seventeen-year old boy during the riots. He is incisive, also, when determining (by indefinite deferral) the fate of Lennox Gardens. He is clear and open with Meredith when he’s confronted about his voyeuristic impulses regarding Mona. Many viewers will be happy to see this version of Kane again. It’s a slightly different version than the one we saw in season one – he’s cynical, certainly, but a little more sympathetic (he still has affection and respect for Mona, for instance, even though the Lennox Gardens project is facing an uncertain future).
Kane cannot, though, escape the effects of decisions made in his recent, more noble past. State’s Attorney Doyle reveals he’s been investigating the corruption charges Kane instigated, revealing that Kane himself is now a subject of investigation in this context. The investigations range back to 1993, the year of the Lennox Gardens riots. Did the ‘demented’ Kane indict himself on purpose? Was it a way of ensuring that his future behaviour remained in check? Was this also a reason for hiring Mona? It’s an interesting idea, that the unconscious, ‘irrational’ motivations Kane displayed in his behaviour before being treated in Toronto would live on in some way in both Mona and Ian, and in the consequences of the political decisions Kane made.
But the episode also muddies the water in its presentation of Mona as not merely disgusted by Kane’s exploitation of the Lennox Gardens’ shooting (consistent with her character), but also as extremely conservative (inconsistent): she doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d justify the fatal shooting of a seventeen-year old simply on the basis of his criminal record. Whether this is intended to enrichen and complicate her character will perhaps become clearer, but, if not, then such a display of unsympathetic conservatism is confusing.
There are stylistic issues, too, of the same kind that made season one seem so artifical. “The Conversation” shows Boss at its most soapy. It’s not that its writing is bad, generally. However ridiculously ‘important’ and grand its themes are, the drama, the tension, and the expectations and speculations that the plot establishes are often very appealing. Rather, the problem lies in the dialogue, which has suffered from an identity crisis since season one. Too often, exchanges bloated with the import of grand tragedy sit uneasily aside more naturalistic interactions that serve to illuminate Kane against an ordinary, domestic background (the stronger scenes). The artifice of the former scenes is illuminated by contrast to the latter. The approach seems indecisive (perhaps a result of stubbornly maintaining Boss’s original ‘brand’ identity, even while the demands of the story grew to require a different aesthetic approach) and the Shakespearean notes are rendered off-key. It’s probably not too difficult for many viewers to adjust to this (that is, to let it go) but the more compromises the audience is called to make, the more remote its experience of Boss will be.
That said, “The Conversation” is not a bad episode. There are engaging moments alongside the bland, ineffectual scenes (e.g. those involving Zajac), most notably a rooftop liaison between ‘Babe’ Gantry and Meredith. Gantry, led to believe the Lennox contract was his, purchased the surrounding land in the hope that its value would increase dramatically with gentrification. In this scene, his bitterness and anger are vividly presented and establish themselves as potential causes for Meredith’s (and Kane’s) concern. Of course, Gantry might be the ‘old friend’ Kane has decided to kill. Also engaging are Emma’s attempts to halt the administration of drugs to Rutledge and his reaction to this late in the episode. Who wouldn’t want to witness a lucid Rutledge? Such a move would offer a brilliant perspective shift and a way to lead into an intriguing season endgame for Boss.