I think it’s safe to say that HBO changed the face of television with the arrival of The Sopranos back in 1999. The show raised the bar for television across the board. Before we knew it, many of the cable networks were scrambling to offer up the next show that would generate the same praise from critics and audiences alike. To this day that show has generated more subscribers to a pay network than any other. So, we really can’t blame the network’s rival Showtime for trying to have their own Sopranos. And that’s exactly what The Brotherhood is.
The focus of this crime drama centers on two brothers. It’s the classic sibling rivalry story. It’s Caine and Abel; it’s Jacob and Esau. Michael (Isaacs) is the criminal brother and the eldest. In the first season we have Michael returning to
I will tell you as someone who tried that you simply can’t begin your experience with this series in season 2. There are so many characters and plot threads that the writers assume you’ve caught up on that it will leave you unable to settle in. The first year appears to have ended with a hit attempt on Michael. Obviously he survives, but it seems it was somewhat of a cliffhanger. Fortunately the first episode provided a neat little recap of the first season, but all in all I was left feeling like everyone understood but me. The series is absolutely worth your time, however. The writing is rather clever, and the production values are high. Mostly you’ll fall into the trap of actually caring for these characters, which owes a lot to some provocative performances from the entire cast. It’s violent, to be sure, but no more so than The Sopranos was. It’s a grittier, less Hollywood style of storytelling, and as the warning admonishes: For Mature Audiences Only. This is not one for the kiddies.
Each Episode of Brotherhood is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I never saw the Showtime broadcasts, but I assume this transfer is comparable. Black levels are solid, which is great because there is a decidedly dark tone to even daylight scenes. Colors and flesh tones also share that darker tone, but the image stays crisp and sharp throughout.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not really anything to write home about. This is a very dialog heavy presentation, so you can expect everything to be front loaded here. It’s all clean and clear, but I found the overall lack of dynamic range here to be a little disappointing. There are gunfights and such, and they appear to be rather dull in the audio department.
I’ve heard it said that this is basically an Irish version of The Sopranos, but that would be an oversimplification and frankly unfair to The Brotherhood. The similarities certainly can’t be ignored, but this show has a decidedly different feel to it overall. The brother angle, not surprisingly considering the title, is far more what this series is about. If you liked The Sopranos, you will be inclined to like this show, but I give you two warnings. First, start from the beginning. Do yourself a favor I was not in a position to do. Make sure you’re up to speed by the time you watch these second season episodes. Second, don’t go in with the expectation that you’re watching the HBO show. They are not the same, and you will color your perceptions unnecessarily to the point that you won’t give these characters the opportunity to tell their own unique story. Otherwise you’ll end up feeling like “a stranger who wandered in at four minutes to midnight”.