Well in a fictional City Hall, run by a fictional Boss who was also the fictional Mayor of the very real city called Chicago, that most American of American cities according to Mayor Tom Kane – that was exactly what the situation was.
Of course I’m talking about the starz Original TV Series called Boss. Well, the series Second Season will premier on August 17th – this Friday night. As you know, if you’ve been reading my columns, that this year I’ve covering selected TV series in addition to my film reviews.
We started in February with the NBC series Smash. then in late June we began coverage of the HBO Series The Newsroom, which has just two episodes left before going on hiatus. That brings us up to the present. I am quite eager to see what happens to Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, played by the 5 time Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer, in the 2nd season of BOSS.
In this post, I’ll give you enough background from Season 1 to prepare you for Season 2. This is a dramatic series shot on location in Chicago. The series was created and written by Farhad Safinia. Episode One was directed by Gus Van Zant.
To set the opening episode in motion, we have the traditional gospel song Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down. You can check it out via this clip of the opening credits
As the series Season One begins, we meet Mayor Tom Kane, he’s being told that he has DLB – Dementia with Lewy Bodies – a neurological disorder that is clinically similar to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. His doctor is giving him the bad news in an empty warehouse, as Kane is not about to go public with this information, so he could not be seen at the doctor’s office.
While keeping this serious medical issue under wraps – Kane doesn’t even tell his wife Meredith Kane (Connie Nielsen) – Kane sets in motion his plans for the upcoming Illinois gubernatorial election. The incumbent Governor, McCall Cullen (Francis Guinan) has served 3 terms after being not only backed by Tom Kane, but he’s also been in Kane’s back pocket all these years too. Kane is going to maneuver behind the scenes and throw his support to the Illinois State Treasurer – Ben Zajac played by Jeff Hephner.
Kane is the Mayor of Chicago. In reality, he runs the state as Governor Cullen is his man. As Mayor, Kane deals in favors like back me on this City Council vote, and I’ll see that you get this contract. Chicago has long been known for its backroom deals, and Kane is a master of this quid-pro-quo. While much of what he does has the veneer of being legal, some of it is quasi-legal, and some of it is distinctly illegal. Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is just the surface of how Kane operates. Only when this proves troublesome or problematic, then stronger measures are taken – like the threat of contracts being not renewed or granted, like coercion, extortion, and as you’ll come to find out – Kane has stuff done that is even worse. But the Chicago citizens have long closed their eyes to this kind of stuff; get it done – any way you can. We don’t care how – as long as it gets done.
When Kane wanted to push through a bill about the O’Hare Airport extension, some of the Alderman, didn’t care for just rubber stamping the proposal. They wanted a debate, and then a vote. When Kane wouldn’t budge, the sanitation workers staged a wildcat strike at the urging of their Aldermen; the ones opposing Kane. Kane said, I don’t give a fuck. The streets can run with shit [for all I care].
As Kelsey Grammer plays Kane, we watch his charismatic style and we watch him as becomes a monster. His debilitating disease is making inroads, so he has our sympathies. Yet he is as ruthless as they come. As he says, Those who cross me will feel my wrath. He’s like Tony Soprano, a guy you wouldn’t want to cross. Only Kane is not a mobster, he’s the Mayor of Chicago.
Kane is married to Meredith Rutledge, the daughter of a former Chicago mayor. Some might call it an alliance rather than a marriage as Kane is not only the Mayor of Chicago, he is also a king-maker. Their marriage is publicly strong, but privately, they live under separate roofs. Meredith is adroit in playing the political game just like her husband.
Kane and Meredith have a 32 year old daughter Emma (Hanna Ware) whom they are estranged from. Emma is an Episcopalian priest and beyond that she runs a local health clinic. Beyond that she has a drug problem. Her current lover is a drug dealer. He can supply Emma’s clinic, as well as get certain drugs for Emma that Tom Kane needs. Kane had been procuring his drugs through a connection provided by Ezra Stone. But that source dried up when the guy got busted.
Kane’s has two main staff. The first is Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan). ‘Stoney’ is Kane’s political adviser, as well as being Kane’s right hand, he’s quite likely the bagman, and he can get things done – like those things which Kane needs to be fixed ‘permanently’. He is a sage politician, and adviser and is well-respected in town, despite his willingness to arrange things that Kane needs to get done, but can’t be a part of getting them done. Like disposing of the drug connection guy.
Kane’s Executive Assistant is Kitty O’Neill (played by Kathleen Robertson). She’s a single woman who is driven by passion, attracted to power, and is probably unfamiliar with the term loyalty. In Season One she will carry on an affair with State Treasurer Ben Zajac. At the outset Zajac accepts Kane’s help and advice. But he is a political animal just like every other character in the show. He is convinced by Governor Cullen and his cronies to drop out of the gubernatorial election and instead, then challenge Kane for Mayor next year. But Kane gets wind of it, and sets his own trap. Kane tells Kitty that he might step down.
After all he is facing the fallout from the O’Hare Extension scandal (toxic waste material), his daughter’s drug problems, a hostile press, opposition on the City Council from the Aldermen, his disease which no one knows about. Kitty immediately calls Ben Zajac. So when Zajac lets it out about Kane, Kane has found the leak. His own Executive Assistant.
By the end of Season One, we find that no one, not one character in the entire series – isn’t above switching loyalties. Even Kane’s wife Meredith betrays him by forming an alliance with Zajac. The opposition to Kane was engineered by Ezra Stone. To get the toxic waste scandal off the front page, Kane tips off the police about his own daughter’s drug dealing connections. Emma is arrested.
Kane has the investigative reporter, Sam Miller – he’s the one who was snooping around about Tom Kane’s illness, he’s also the one who uncovered the toxic waste problems. Kane calls in a favor from the newspaper’s owner. He has the owner promote Miller to Editor of the whole newspaper in exchange for backing away from Kane at least for the short-term.
Ezra Stone is killed by Kane’s hitman. Kitty O’Neill is pregnant with Zajac’s baby. Zajac himself is exposed when Kane orders incriminating photos of him in an affair sent to Zajac’s wife and to Alderman Ross. Ross was spearheading the opposition to Kane, and it was his wife who appeared in those photos with Zajac.
The lawsuit from the DuPage County town called Bensenville, where the toxic waste was dumped was dropped. Why? Because Kane found out from Kitty O’Neill that she had also told Meredith about Kane stepping down. And Meredith had immediately plotted with Zajac. Kane will allow Meredith to remain his wife but she would have give him proof that she was on his side. How? By getting the lawsuit to go away. So she has to sleep with the father of the lawyer heading the lawsuit, and for that, this father will have the suit dropped.
It’s not that something is rotten in Denmark. Instead things are rotten to the core in Chicago, as Kane called it the opening two minutes of the entire series – Chicago, that most American of this country’s cities. Betrayal is the byword of the series. Kane is indeed a monster, yet you can’t take your eyes off him. This series is strictly for adults as sex, drugs, criminal activities and adult language permeate the whole show.
Season Two of BOSS begins this Friday night on the starz network. Check back here for weekly recaps. Check out the trailer for Boss: Season Two below.