Sunday, February 13, 2011


Along with creator Blake Masters, Brotherhood was largely written and produced by Henry Bromell, who ran the underrated Rubicon for the too-brief time it was on the air. The show also co-stars Jason Clarke, who now plays the male lead on Shawn Ryan's new FOX cop drama The Chicago Code. These were reasons enough to check out Brotherhood, as if it didn't seem interesting enough on its own.

The show tells the story of two Irish brothers in Providence, Rhode Island; Tommy is a prominent member of the state's legislature, and Michael is a particularly unhinged member of the city's organized crime underground. The two are held together despite their very different worlds by their common upbringing and their amazingly bitchy mother, who came over from Ireland in her youth but blames pretty much everything she sees wrong in the world on illegal immigrants. Other significant characters include Tommy's wife Eileen, who hides a self-destructive side under he perfect politician's wife exterior, the brothers' Irish cousin Colin who becomes Michael's right hand, and Declan, an old friend of Tom's who is turned against him by his career as a detective. Although the show has a definite plot with plenty of twists and turns, it is primarily character driven, painting a rich tapestry of their messed up and interwoven lives while also offering up scathing critiques of how broken many of our country's institutions are.

It's hard to say who you're supposed to root for, because none of the characters are innocent, but none are truly beyond redemption either. Sure, Michael extorts from people and sometimes even kills him, but Tommy ruins plenty of people himself making deals to ensure his own prominence in the government. It's not a very pretty picture, especially with how often the series shows that the two systems that are theoretically completely dissonant, crime and politics, are actually permanently linked together. You can just enjoy the show for the graphic violence and its often hilariously bumbling criminals, but there's a lot more to it if you care to look. The way the show handles gaps between seasons is interesting; many shows take a similar strategy of assuming that a certain amount of time has passed, but few allow so many apparently significant events and developments happen off-screen, as if there's just some chunk of the show missing. Similarly, though the show was canceled after its third season, the finale works well enough as a conclusion to the story. Sure, there are places they could have gone with all of the characters, but there's something of a finality to the way the brutality of the violence peaks in the last episode, and being a show about the lives of the people in it, I don't really see a more conclusive end point that would have been better. People live for a while, and then they stop. Brotherhood is a show that explores that in a really interesting way.

No comments: