Review of Boss ‘Swallow’

Samuel Breen

boss 300x225 Review of Boss SwallowSPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 3, season 1 of ‘Boss’

This episode starts better with a horse getting drugged and a tablet is forced down its throat. It’s a powerful image that’s also a nightmare. Mayor Tom Kane has wet himself in his sleep as his degenerative illness escalates. Later in the episode he mumbles through a hallucination before taking a wild grasp at reality and kicking out. There’s a device returning whereby the Mayor is at his most violent when he’s on the back foot.

The two candidates for governor repeat the same dance: McCall Cullen’s campaign is falling apart under the guidance of the mayor, while Carcetti impersonator Zajac is shagging his way to victory. Playing a dynamic “responsive” campaign. He’s young, his audience are connected. McCall Cullen on the other hand is under pressure from his financier with whom he’s asking for more support, “quid pro quo”. And refuses to turn to social media, “Facebook? It’s a photo album for god’s sake”.

It’s worth taking a moment to discuss sexual voyeurism. Zajac and the mayor’s press secretary are at it in compromising locations. “Really, here?” she asks, as if a blinds drawn in the office is any worse than overlooking a hotel foyer in sight of the family. Having consummated the relationship in a stairwell. Meanwhile the mayor is hallucinating prostitutes and watching carers undress before him. He watches on with a loss of expression. No that he is cold, rather he is not emoting to something he cannot comprehend. Like his explicit episodes he withdraws from reality. The use of voyeurism in Boss is grounded in the surreal, and adds another angle to a show that is packed with it.

Pharmacology is obviously a recurring theme. I don’t know how it took two back-to-back scenes for me to notice this. Tom has increased his smorgasbord of treatments, and the community public practice is running out of drugs – “muscle wasting.” Now the vicar wants “to go into business” with the drug dealer she’s getting into bed with. She needs cheaper meds. Unless the reason for this theme is yet to be revealed, apart from its recurrence it struggles to carry semantics beyond the obviouseveryone is loaded in someway or other’.

The most exiting moment of the episode comes after the mayor’s sharp tongue, where assistant Ezra Stone who has up until this point been quiet, takes a moment of contemplation as a menacing key rings. What are we yet to see from him? Is he a Machiavelli? There’s something grand and classical about the suggestion that Stone will be more than a serf.

Pleasingly Sam Miller the journalist who asks all the right questions but gets none of the right answers continues to command the plot’s tension. Surely he’s going to find out something of substance? Surely he’ll be able to affect the grander narrative once he finds it. But at the moment he’s out. The plot has settled and the story is beginning to ask questions: what are they doing on the construction site at night? What is the substance they’re disposing of? And why did the episode end with a shot of a CCTV camera?

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