Boss Season 2, Episode 4: “Redemption”
Written by Julie Hébert
Directed by Phil Abraham
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on Starz
Perhaps there’s no better way to evoke sympathy for a character than to have his newfound sense of good doubted by those closest to him. There’ll be no sympathy without the viewers’ trust in Kane’s motives, though, and “Redemption” is Boss’s fourth attempt to establish it. There are, predictably, complications: as Meredith tells Kane, there’s reason to believe that his sudden “shift towards the sentimental” is a consequence of increasing mental decline. We’re thinking the same, obviously, but hoping otherwise.
In “Redemption”, we watch as Kane confronts his past directly in a fairly impromptu and Media-free visit to Lenox Gardens, in which he admits past sins and tries to convince residents that he’s now trustworthy. It’s a success – a fairly incredible one – and Mona’s declaration about her own personal struggles in facing the Gardens is what, eventually, shows Kane the way. He should continue to confront what haunts him.
“Redemption” is uneven, almost divided in half. The first half nudges forward the supporting characters’ stories in an obligatory and mechanical way. The second, more engaging half allows us to spend time with Kane, to see how he reacts to the mistrust of his family and cohorts – and, as importantly, to the judgmental voice of his own conscience, a role he’s given to Ezra Stone. (The presence of Stone in this capacity, incidentally, is effectively realised; the direction of such scenes in this episode is sophisticated and Stone’s voice is convincing as that of Kane’s internal antagonist.) The second half also gives us some implicit soapy backstory to Ian Todd, who, it appears in the penultimate scene, has a hushed history with Kane.
The structure of each of the past few episodes has been formulaic and repetitive: Kane has an objective, struggles to overcome certain obstacles, ‘wins’, then the victory is tempered by a further complication. For some viewers, this structure will work for the reason that they want to believe in Kane, to trust his motives, and see him ‘win’ – as does Kane himself. Other viewers, those with an ambivalent response to his trajectory so far, are likely to feel suspended between optimism and cynicism. Perhaps the latter response is what the creators of Boss are aiming for: a view of Kane as a mystery, mainly unto himself. If it’s intentional, then credit should be given to the writing and direction: the audience should, and hopefully does, find itself questioning its response to Kane’s victories and failures, continually uncertain as to whether or not their trust is misplaced.
Once again, there are too many key scenes – or, rather, too many scenes which are burdened with the tone of narrative significance. Thankfully, they can be divided into two camps: those that dutifully nudge the story along, and those that explore the depths of characters rather than merely ‘reporting’ them. Arguably, it’s the latter camp which genuinely engages viewers: the Kane family dinner; Mona facing the residents of Lenox Gardens; Zajac rattled by Kitty’s re-emergence as an opponent; and Kane, alone at home, a broken father and husband, finding the truth within himself – he must come clean to those who bore the brunt of his past mistakes.
One of the strongest characters in this episode is Lenox Gardens itself. It’s a bleak, concrete hive of exploitation. Ross’s men bully and threaten its residents into lending their signatures to a class-action lawsuit against Kane and his development plans. Ross and company are also, at least partly, responsible for the presence of drugs and dealers. Meanwhile, Kane’s development threatens to displace them, permanently, though he promises otherwise. For more than twenty years, the residents have suffered at the hand of capitalism and corruption, both inside and outside the Garden projects. Why should they trust him now? Why should we?