28 January 2012
Review: Boss S01
It seems I tend to write mostly about negatives in this blog, and if I do write about the positives of a thing it's usually because they inspired me to some idea which I thought was interesting. I'm actually quite okay with this, except...
Neither of this applies to Boss. There aren't any significant flaws that I feel are worth complaining about (shock!). While I intensely enjoyed the experience of watching Season 1, and can't wait for the next season, I find myself at a bit of a loss at describing exactly what is so great about it. But it is great. The greatness is not underrated- currently the Metacritic score is 78, and the user score is 7.7. I would have been happier with something like 85 or 90, but it's not a huge deal. I started this blog in the first place because I thought I had something to say that wasn't really said- and while I didn't really make a detailed survey of Boss's reviews, from what I've seen, most of what I thought should be said, was, and is said.
I suppose I liked the characters, even though they are all corrupt, vile scum. It was interesting how the justification for their evil-ness was not ham-fistedly shoved in my face, nor was it ignored. I don't know a damn thing about what politicians are really like, granted, but they seemed real enough. The correspondence to reality aside, I was not irritated by any nagging "But why does he simply not do that!?" type questions.
It's a bit weird, really. Everyone in this show is a despicable, contemptible asshole. I think some were meant to be "sympathetic"- in that they aren't explicitly and deliberately conniving jerks who rub their hands wıth glee in anticipation of their future exploits as jerks. I still hated those "not-deliberate-jerks"; perhaps in part because they were the good guys but they didn't win, and I didn't like that, admittedly. But even so, they were also cowards, or weak-willed, or stupid, or delusional. While unlike the "villains" of the show I was somewhat sorry to see them get screwed, they always "brought it upon themselves" in a sense. The funny thing is, sometimes they only brought things upon themselves because they really had no choice, or they were simply unaware of certain crucial facts which changed everything... Yeah, I liked the story, too. I guess it's sort of the thing that TvTropes would call a Thirty Xanatos Pileup- everyone is constantly scheming and the schemes inevitably overlap and collide.
It's not just that everyone is a chessmaster character, though. That's another thing I liked- they're just reasonably intelligent people as you would expect from those in their station, and they are understandably doing the best they can to look after themselves. It all rather makes sense.
The story, similarly, is enjoyable to follow as it constantly casts characters in very different lights from episode to episode. The finale's "big reveal", in particular, was incredible to watch.
I liked the stylistic aspects of it, too. For one, the dialogue was lovely. It was perhaps somewhat fantastical compared to what such people would sound like in real life, but who cares? It was wordy, it was fancy, it was elegantly convoluted, it was half-poetry, especially during the monologues, and I loved every bit of it. It was interesting, unique and fresh. I didn't feel like I was being fed lines from some big book of stock TV-series lines. They weren't probably weren't very original when judged by actual literature standards, but for a modern, mainstream TV-series? The dialogue in Boss blew me away.
The music was also perfect. For others it may have been just good, perhaps, but when I heard Erik Satie playing not once, not twice, but three times, I was already in love with the show as far as the music is concerned. There were plenty of slow, tense scenes with characters sitting in silence, and the minimalist piano score worked great for me in those.
Boss is basically a story about a corrupt (he's not exactly corrupt in the sense of being a cartoon kleptomaniac embezzling politician- but just like everyone else, he's not above ignoring ethics when his career is at stake, and it often is) Chicago mayor (played by Frasier!) trying to hold on to his power. It's a series where half the characters are magnificent bastards, and the other half, just bastards. You hate all of them, but there's this morbid fascination with which one will screw over which one next, and how they will all get out of the most recent trainwreck.
Yes, thematically, it's about corruption, unrestrained ambition driving underhanded measures, but also grim determination. "You survive one day at a time." the characters keep reiterating, and it actually works. It's very interesting to watch it work, too. Not just because the plot is interesting, and the characters are interesting, but because the whole spectacle is so polished and sleek in its rendering.