Boss Season 2, Episode 8: “Consequence”
Written by Paul Keables
Directed by Jean de Segonzac
Boss Season 2, Episode 9: “Clinch”
Written by Julie Hébert
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on Starz
Closing in on the finale, “Consequence” and “Clinch” have some heavy lifting to do. The loose strands and split ends of the season so far need to be woven and trimmed to allow for a finale unburdened by exposition, mystery, and plot games. The first of these episodes is a let down: mostly functional (save for its climax), “Consequence” acts on its obligation to present the return of Kane as a brilliant puppet master, healthy and lucid. As storytelling goes, it’s a fine plan, yet the execution is clunky. Boss is clearly too big for its boots: it has a full hour to do its job, but the more it packs in, the more likely it is that each component (scene, plot point, etc.) is rendered with such clarity that we come away feeling simultaneously spoon-fed and confused. “Consequence” suffers greatly for that reason.
And yet, there are welcome developments too. For one, Zajac’s an active character again, his enthusiasm renewed and his objectives personal and clear: revenge on Kane. Sam Miller gets what he wants from his trip to Alternalive. And Mona’s darling Lenox Gardens is to be sacrificed to help balance the books.
This episode has Boss in full political thriller mode. With Kane lucid, and without the past obscuring or informing his view, Boss seems a very conventional show. It’s enjoyable, however: Kane won’t accept failure and his strategies for winning result in some satisfying manipulations. One scene in particular, in which Kane offers Ross’s newly-appointed ward bosses salaried positions to maintain control over their actions, has Kane at his most smug. Presumably it raises a similarly smug grin from the audience as well.
So for those who are still onboard, Boss maintains a certain dramatic power. It shifts the focus of our sympathies with each move – first with Kane and his redemption and now with everyone who has allowed themselves to trust and invest in him, as we watch them struggle for independence from Kane.
And then there are episodes like “Clinch”, with its assured tone, fluid narration, almost transparent direction (by Boss’s standards), and convincing performances. Moreover, its drama is earned. In an effective misdirection, we watch as Kane unveils his plan to transform Lenox Gardens and the surrounding land into a casino. The approach to this moment is paced so well that this turn of events has us equally cheering for Kane and weeping for Mona. Generating that kind of dual sympathy for two ideologically opposed characters is, obviously, no easy task – the writing and direction have to be complementary. Other episodes directed by Mario van Peebles were some of the best of both seasons and Julie Hébert, who wrote this episode (and the excellent “Redemption” from earlier this season), is also an accomplished TV director (The West Wing).
But what of Kane’s dementia? We know that his time at Alternalive all but eradicated any signs of Lewy Body. We also know that Boss has been using Kane’s disease as a trump card throughout this season. The way it toys with the audience’s expectation that the dementia will return is obviously manipulative (rather, its manipulation is obvious), and is, at once, one of Boss’s weakest and strongest aspects. If the show would be just a little more subtle, its misdirections more engaging throughout the season, we would actually be surprised next week when Kane’s ‘internal corruption’ reemerges en force.
However, we don’t yet know the difference it will make to Kane’s situation and trajectory. It’s possible that the version of Kane revealed at the outset of this season – earnest, regretful, socially responsible – will return. In that scenario, we can imagine Kane’s prior regret and self-loathing grossly amplified in light of his recent, lucid actions; we would expect a cracked shell of a man. Given this show’s almost perverse taste for surprise, however, the audience can reasonably expect only that whatever expectations it has will be dashed.