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 Cain 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 Providence after fleeing a hit contract years before. The motivation for Michael is that he wants to regain his power hold on his former territory. Younger brother Tommy (Clarke) has taken a far different path in life. Overcoming his family’s ties to crime, he has become a Rhode Island congressman. Far from a “good guy”, Tommy has his own demons. His marriage to Eileen (Gish) is falling apart, but they continue to put up the expected front for his ambitious political dreams. There is a rather clever moral twist on the two brothers. It is Michael who has the traditional family values, willing to make sacrifices for his family, while it’s Tommy who neglects his family for his own political ends. Now it’s his own wife who is having an affair and has become addicted to drugs, something that can fatally harm his re-election bid. The boys have a mom (Flanagan) that would shame even Livia Soprano. She’s manipulated both brothers toward her own definition of family. Finally there’s sister Mary Kate (O’Malley). Outside of the immediate family is their main nemesis, State Trooper Giggs (Embry). You get the impression they were all real tight as youths, but now Giggs wants to get the legal drop on the entire Caffee family. Talk about bitter. This guy has a ton of baggage, from his own marriage break-up to disgrace on the force. He appears to see the Caffee boys as his ticket to redemption.
I will tell you as someone who tried that you simply can’t begin your experience with this series in season 3. 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. Even after watching the 2nd season, 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.
These 8 episodes mark the end for the promising series. It doesn’t hold a candle to that pretty sweet 2nd year release, and it looks like Showtime and the cast and crew knew pretty early that things were winding down. The series enters into an even greater political arena as Tommy begins the season as the assistant to Speaker Of The House Donnatello.At first he finds the position frustrating until he learns how much he can use the influence over his own town’s politics. But will he be drawn into a legislation corruption investigation? These are the kinds of questions that get answered as the series closes. I hope you enjoyed the run, because it’s pretty much over, baby.
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.
Did Showtime pull the plug too soon here? As much as I saw great potential for this show, it doesn’t look like the characters were strong enough to really carry as many years as the Soprano family could. The show never did a good enough job of shaking things up and even without really getting it all, it became too predictable down the home stretch. This one’s only for fans who bought the first two and want to see how it all ends. “It’s outta here.”