Preview: Brotherhood 2.1-2.2

Brotherhood

In the US: Starts September 30th on Showtime

In the UK: Probably on FX as per season one

Brotherhood was a somewhat surprising show during its first season. A somewhat odd combination of gangster drama and local politics, it starred a Brit (Jason Isaacs) and an Australian (Jason Clarke) as Irish-American brothers from Rhode Island. Clarke is a local politician trying to do the best for his constituents by playing the political game, simultaneously trying to stay clean. However, his efforts are undermined by his brother, a notorious gangster who returns to the neighbourhood after a long absence.

Season one was remarkable for being hard-hitting in both areas of its remit, without giving in too much to the pressures of dramatic forms (more realistic than The Sopranos? Maybe). It also had an exceptional visual style, with long, quiet, well composed scenes of astonishing stillness.

Thankfully, season two looks like it’s more of the same, which will either delight you or put you off.

For those worried by the season one cliffhanger that either a magic reset button was going to get pushed or the show would head off in a dramatically different direction, the season openers have managed to tread a careful path between the two. Relationships are still falling apart, no one’s off the hook about anything and life is pretty much hell. Particularly local politics.

Isaacs’s character, Michael Caffee, last seen getting beaten round the head into a bloody mess, isn’t quite the same character, though. The producers have thankfully realised that massive head traumas are not easy things to recover from and Isaacs is now brain-damaged and clearly a lesser man than he was last season. He has memory loss, spatial awareness issues and blackouts and he’s not going to get better. Isaacs does a fine job of making caffee frail, despite his violent nature, even changing the character’s voice and walk. Much of the first two episodes – and probably the season – is about Caffee’s attempts to reestablish himself as someone to be reckoned with, and how people try to take advantage of his new vulnerabilities.

Although I’ve said it before, the show still remains a somewhat “eat your greens” show, without The Wire‘s redeeming humour to get you through the patches of bleak misery. You’ll be taking as many anti-depressants as Clarke’s wife (Annabeth Gish) by the end of any episode. All the same, one of the most intelligent shows around at the moment and worth watching. Still.