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(Sundays at 8:00/7:00c beginning November 2)
The network's description: "Uneasy Lies The Head (November 2): Tommy's frustration with his new role as Speaker Donatello's errand boy leads him to consider a risky career change. With Michael still refusing to speak to Tommy, Colin arranges for both brothers to attend Rose's birthday party. Rose tries to hide her deteriorating health. Eileen struggles to meet the demands of her growing family while becoming more invested in her job at Social Services. Michael's relationship with Attorney General Franklin starts to unravel when Michael hears that Freddie Cork is getting bail. To avoid serious outside scrutiny, Tommy asks Declan to run a special investigation into corruption in the state house. Declan accepts, looking for real justice." A description for "Things Badly Begun" (November 9) was not available.
What did they leave out? Someone doesn't make it to episode two.
The plot in a nutshell: It's been six months or so since we last saw the Caffee clan - as evidenced by a certain character's newly sprouted baby bump (by the way, am I the only one who loathes that term?). In that time, estranged brothers Tommy (Jason Clarke) and Michael (Jason Isaacs) have settled into their new roles - nursemaid to Speaker Donatello (Matt Servitto) and the partner of convenience to fellow mobster Nozzoli (John Fiore), respectively. There each finds themselves increasingly toothless at their jobs as Tommy fetches hand towels for Donatello and Michael can only watch as Nozzoli does as he pleases. Life is equally as miserable for the rest of the Caffees and their extended "family" - Eileen's (Annabeth Gish) new position as social worker is increasingly threatened by her commitments at home; matriarch Rose (Fionnula Flanagan) has taken to drinking during the day and suffering in silence with her growing medical problems; Colin (Brian F. O'Byrne) must smile through gritted teeth as he covers for Michael with Kath (Tina Benko); and Freddie Cork (Kevin Chapman) has made bail only to find himself broke and powerless, forced to take a job selling cars.
In fact the only person that seems to be remotely happy is the formerly disgraced cop Declan Giggs (Ethan Embry, who's character has found a razor and a treadmill), who's slowly mending fences with Cassie (Georgia Lyman). Not surprisingly, said happiness will undoubtedly be ground out of him after he takes a job from Tommy as special investigator into corruption on the Hill. Tommy in turn has hatched a plan to get he and Eilenn out of their respective malaises - help railroad through a controversial new waterfront project (spearheaded by "The Wire's" Peter Gerety) which will fill his pockets with enough money to kiss politics goodbye. As you can guess, it's a plan that inadvertently sets him against Michael, who's taken it upon himself to organize the small business owners against the eminent domain sale for the waterfront project - if only to spite Nozzoli. Yup, it's business as usual in Providence.
What works: It's nice to see the hard luck Declan find some sort of tentative bliss - even if it's as a neutered husband who's stuck playing board games with his wife each night in the hopes of being let into her bed.
What doesn't: Conversely it's not as nice to see the show continue its endless cycle of unhappiness. All of the aforementioned events are simply rearranging the deck chairs on the same theme - life is really fucking miserable. Whether you're a housewife who's trying to make something for yourself outside of home, a politician trying to get ahead or a mobster trying to hold onto what you have - you're always going to fall prey to the harsh realities of life. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with that thesis, it's just there's a mind numbing effect that results from watching it happen over and over and over again. In other words, it's hard to feel sorry for Tommy as he wrings his hands about taking bribes to Donatello, when he's more than eager to take his own kickbacks or sell out his fellow politicians when he needs something. It's hard to give much sympathy to Eileen's plight at work when she was more than willing to trade her marriage in for some pot smoking and extramarital affairs. It's hard to give Michael the benefit of the doubt when he continues his sociopathic tendencies without any sense of remorse - my brother's on TV and I can't change the channel, I'll shoot it; the US Attorney is annoying me, I'll beat the hell out of him; there's a pretty girl making eyes at me, I'll screw her six ways to Sunday and not even bother to learn her name. It's a grind to say the least. Again, I'm not against exploring the various foibles of life in a big city ("The Wire" after all made its bones about showing how screwed up the system is) but I am against...
The bottom line: ...a show that simply wants to wallow in the misery of it.