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Review of Boss ‘Reflex’

Samuel Breen

boss1 300x199 Review of Boss ReflexSPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 2, season 1 of ‘Boss’

Mayor Tom Kane feels power begin to escape him as he suffers from an episode in front of the press. It’s a warbling windy oscillation that channels layers of sound, depicting a dizzying effect, ringing between his ears. “I do believe that those playing the ‘no’ game will come to see sense,” he says before retracting from reality, lowering his head and going mute. The press wait on as time begins to stretch. The American flag drapes. On these words the mayor speaks of the balance of power. The counting of votes tipping away from him, and in those same words his own self-control departs.

Reflex opens scrappily. The looseness of the first episode has developed a little collateral for narrative management and scenes are clunkily assembled and briskly edited. The disparate themes need collating. However, instead of doing so, the direction opts to keep them ragged, as if we’re watching the outtakes from the previous episode. Scruffy reiterations rather than knowing developments.

The episode suffers from a lull born out of its main story: two smear campaigns to disgrace the outgoing governor. The first a faux amis. It is footage of the incoming Zajac taken from his collage days, scuffling with a black man. A historical incident that becomes “chump bait” for the media and “a turd in a bow” for any his opponent – bon mots indeed.

The crescendo of the violence is undone by its weird execution. The beating we are shown that apparently took place at night is well lit, and the politician in the footage looks older, despite meaning to be 20 years younger. It transpires that he was saving the victim, despite the footage suggesting otherwise. Were it not for the poor continuity in lighting the surreal effect may have paid off, but the mistakes reframed this plot device as troublesome and sloppy. The other smear footage is innocuous and absurd but by there time it’s delivered I’d suspended all disbelief.

We find better ground with Tom in his office in a calmer, more reflective mood. Grammer is excellent in these scenes and hints the drama can escape the noisy political pastiche that looms large. His dialogue is easy and intelligent, capable of eking out the levels required. Additionally, it’s these quieter moments that befit the pastel colouring of the show, the theme of submersion does not require a blackout visually.

There’s an effective piece of theatre in the episode as Meredith (Tom’s wife) reads to a group of children. The tale narrates the losing of balance. While doing so Tom speaks in his wife’s ear before taking over the reading as she becomes distracted by the private message. It is a cute play between the two and a lovely comparison to the public lives of the pair. It’s slightly absurd but is outweighed by its porcelain drama. There’s a real sense that the show knows what it wants to be and knows what it is trying to do, but there’s a creeping tension of whether it can follow through.

Elsewhere the mayor’s daughter oversees a dwindling church audience and has more dynamism. As much as she’s a moraliser her own intentions are left out of the picture until, “Are you clean Emma?” is dropped from nowhere. So here we have the vicar, the Florence Nightingale character already debased by her environment.

Last week was a ruse. She’s less a frontline saint and more a holier-than-thou vagrant returning to her vice, cocaine in all its forms: powder, rock, needle. Charming. She’s also taken up with her dealer which despite her status as a minister of god, doesn’t seem particularly shocking. If anything it’s a cheap romance to sex up this dry metaphor of a plotline. The weirdest addition to this is a poster in the drug dealer’s room with “power to the people” across it. I can’t get my head around American politics enough to establish whether this is meant as a McCarthyist symbol of hell or a signpost for the rise of the Proles. Or maybe pathos, in that it should read “powder to the people”. Probably all the above but it’s a strange ambiguity to confront from a British living room. Especially so late in the evening.

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