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Ah, Deco, we hardly knew ya … No, don’t freak out yon plethora of Ethan Embry fans – and you know who you are – I don’t mean to mislead. Your hero ain’t a goner, at least as far as I can tell. But like I said, we hardly knew him, at least compared to the thrills and massive face time Rhode Island’s Finest is getting this season on Brotherhood.  

As y’all know, I raved about the Brotherhood’s first season – here. The story of the two brothers Caffee from the rough side of Little Rhody; one a political climber, the other an all-out felon, and their assorted familial and gangland connections, grabbed the heck outta me. After a slowish start, season 1 built to a fabulous finale with Michael, the long-lost older brother and resident thug, cutting a bloody swath through the RI underworld on the road to reclaiming the high place he forfeited with his absence. Unfortunately for Michael, his rise coincided with RIPD officer – and old Caffee pal - Declan Giggs’ plummeting decline. Following Deco’s complicity in his partner’s murder cover-up, also involving - guess who? -  that handy to have around Michael Caffee on board for cleanup, his world begins to fall apart. As Deco was at heart a decent guy, the demons that plagued him became too much; his decision to be honest with his wife about those pesky mood swings turned out to be ill-advised as she makes like a tree and …you know. Suffering a huge meltdown, Deco decides to take his ire (-ish?) out on Michael to the point that you can see Deco’s footprint in the bloody pulp that was Michael’s skull. 

So that’s where we pick up, kids. Michael is being upgraded to outpatient status after months in the hospital after treatment for the brain injuries suffered under Deco’s patent leather Oxfords. Of course, for Michael, it’s not so much a matter of his doctor allowing him to leave as opposed to his being fed up and tipping out the door. Upon his return to the loving arms of his adoring, formidable mama, Rose, it becomes apparent that perhaps the high-tail out of intensive care wasn’t the wisest option. The sight of the ferocious mobster Michael Caffee, a shuddering, trembling zombie; open eyes rolled up under their lids in a silent, sudden seizure is one of the most chilling things I’ve seen on TV. His snaps back to normalcy are as instantaneous as the grand mals, and every bit as jolting as the sight of his seizures. Tricky thing that Michael is completely unaware of these episodes or any trigger of their onset, other than knowing there’s something amiss. This makes the vicious criminal who lives in a world where the strong prey upon the weak utterly vulnerable. It’s an amazing development for this fascinating character, as he already has to overcompensate for the loss of face amongst mobsters for having been so soundly pummeled. It’s only a matter of time before this unseen enemy has its way with Michael and watching him this season is like waiting for a bomb to drop and wondering where its fallout is going to hit. 

On to the other younger Caffee, Tommy. Our politician has nothing but blue skies ahead as far as his career is concerned. Under the wing of kingmaker, Judd Fitzgerald, Tommy wields more influence this year and works his inner Machiavelli in a series of plays designed to further increase his power. His lack of hesitation at relentlessly using the system, secrets, lies, nepotism, and any other weapon at hand makes for a very mucky Tommy. All this deed dirty at work seems to stem from the fact that mucky doesn’t begin to describe the situation Chez Caffee between Tommy and his wife, Eileen. Last season we watched Eileen whose public face as a loving wife and mother living in domestic bliss couldn’t be more at odds with the troubled woman who cheated on her husband and did any drug she could get her hands on. Again, it seems that anyone in Rhode Island who wants to unburden themselves of their sins better do it in the business end of a confessional in a church in another state. “You can’t handle the truth” must have been quoted with the Caffee circle in mind. Tommy hasn’t taken Eileen’s revelations too well and the two now live very separate lives within their own homes. Tommy, barely able to look at the mother of his kids without seeing her indiscretions, treats her with all the respect of a smear on his shoe. Yay for some excellent and well-deserved (- and delivered) vituperative dialogue! Disgusted with Eileen and feeling some political oats of his own, Tommy starts down an ugly path of getting his own back. 

One might absurdly reckon that all being amiss in their household would urge Eileen to perhaps make an attempt at putting down the Charlie, or, perish forbid, getting some therapy to deal with the issues that neither she, nor the Brotherhood writers have been able to identify. But, no, why would she tend to the destruction of her family and everything she holds dear when she can continue sticking her nose in pretty white powder and being a big old plot device? So, for the lack of progress with the Eileen scenario, I give the big gas-face. I’m not thrilled with Tommy’s devolution in trying to keep up with his wife’s shenanigans, either. This season seems very Michael Corleone in Godfather II, now that we’ve seen him get a little low in the first season, how dirty can we make Tommy in season 2? It's all a bit Deus Ex Machina, frankly, and not worthy of the great performances given by Jason Clarke and Annabeth Gish. 

Besides the pushing forward of Deco this season, Brotherhood’s writers seems like they’ve decided to let some more of the other supporting cast members have greater visibility with amped-up storylines. To wit, we have Moe, one of the Irish gangsters who famously lost an ear last season. He’s been tied to Michael as a wingman by their boss, the ever bulldog-like Freddie Cork. Mo is part comic relief, part plot device as his loose-cannon antics makes life complicated for Michael. We’re seeing more of Tommy’s girlfriend, Kath (- who eerily reminds me of Drea De Matteo’s Adriana from The Sopranos), and Deco’s estranged wife Cassie’s yo-yo behavior with the wounded Deco is of no help to him whatever.  

A minute more about Deco: Since Cassie’s dumping of the poor sod, Oxycontin, copious amounts of alcohol and the local knock-shop have become his new best friend. Poor boy just can’t get right. Add to his woes the ambitious new police chief who blackmails him into going undercover in the very precarious role of gang boss Freddie Cork’s pet cop, and you have all the ingredients for a barrel of laughs. As you watch Deco’s torture, mostly at his own hands, you wonder how low can this guy sink? I guess that’s more for us to find out this season. Ethan Embry keeps us glued with a fearless performance (- I like ‘em fat, I like ‘em proud!) that’s nearly designed for Emmy notice. Who knew the little boy from Dutch and the gangly feller from Can’t Hardly Wait and That Thing You Do could pull off utter debasement so well? 

The big addition to Brotherhood this season (- besides the banging new theme song! I need some room to Riverdance!) is Brian F. O'Byrne as Colin, the brothers’ cousin migrated to Ireland as a young boy and back to make a big splash in Little Rhodey. As Rose lets it be known, there’s something wrong with the boy and sure enough, we’re watching Colin seduce sexy civil servants on City Hall furniture, become an all-too willing accomplice (- read: enabler) to Michael, and mix a mean Molotov cocktail. He’s a scream, this Colin; his dry, deadpan humour a welcome lift for the enforced gravity of this new season. It’s too early to tell what’s going to become of this new thug on the block, but he fills in a welcome place as Michael’s new BFF. Brian F. O’Byrne, Tony Winner and fugitive of the Oswald State Correctional Facility (- HBO’s Oz, to you, chitlins), brings a great energy and gives a nice focal point to the Caffee dealings. 

That’s a lot of my gripe with season 2; the lack of energy and focus with the main cast. Not to say that my adored Luscious Malf … I mean, Jason Isaacs and the other leads aren’t giving fantastic performances, but past the first couple of episodes you see precious little of Michael and throughout almost nothing of Tommy (- outside of some immediately tedious extramarital philandering). Rose almost has nothing to do. How do you waste the brilliant Fionnula Flanagan? - By just having her stand around and glower and do not much else, that’s how. Granted, it’s a glower like no other, but as I said in my review of Season 1, I was waiting for her to have more to do before I vented frustration with the writing of this faceted gem of a character. Neither she nor Eileen has shown any growth as characters and I’m starting to worry. I only saw 4 episodes, but it’s only a 10 episode arc, get a move on, fellas. I believe the writers’ intention to bring out the supporting cast has diluted a lot of the intensity of the previous season. While unlike last year, season 2 starts right off with the action, what gripped me in that first season was the study of this family, in particular the Caffee brothers. In these first four chapters, there’s precious little interaction between the two brothers and that’s a big no-no, as Isaacs’ and Clarke’s chemistry is naught short of electric. Now, with the storylines featuring everyone else and the milkman, we’ve lost the plot – literally. Let’s see some truth in advertising, dear writers, and remember the show is called Brotherhood. I’m going to hold on to hope that things get back on track and keep watching. I’m not giving up just yet on what’s still one of the most compelling hours on television. 

 

~ Mighty Ganesha 

Sept 30th, 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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