Review: Show Me a Hero (Episodes 3 & 4)

The public’s reactions to art can be mighty extreme. The general consensus for True Detective Season 2 was that it was inferior, stupefying and overall, lacking in substance. Now we are graced with the arrival of Show Me a Hero which is bountiful with multifaceted themes, well-rounded characters and sociopolitical, ripped-from-the-headlines prevalence….and people are bemoaning that it is too leisurely. I guess you can’t win with some message boards. I, on the other hand, cherish a show like this.

As the camera revolves on a dolly around his desk, the newly minted, overburdened Mayor Wasicsko realizes that the issue of the city in contempt transcends party lines and funding. Despite this, he hasn’t lost his rhapsodic view of what Yonkers can and should be. On the porch of a house, the youngest mayor waxes idealistically about a view directly to his council office and how his future children will idolize their father.

Like The Wire and other anthology series, the focus is mostly communal and tribal. The potential residents of the 200 homes are not faceless hordes and they are also not demonized as thug stereotypes or welfare peons. Single moms sit outside of their low-income housing and they are frightened of their “upstate” environment. Maybe more scared than the WASP-y constituents who are opposing the ruling.

Although it isn’t explosive with ultraviolence from gun battles, this is just as immediate and nerve-shredding with higher stakes than usual. The city is verging on costly budget cuts (police force suspension, water and trash services, etc.) and on the whole, Yonkers will be bankrupt in a short span. It has a race-against-the-clock urgency that doesn’t require triggers or bombs.

Henry J. Spallone (Alfred Molina) proposes that Yonkers will degenerate into the “trash” that is already established in the Bronx. Molina imbues truly vitriolic bigotry in Spallone as he reconnoiters the slums with incriminating photos. His bullish behavior is a blistering indictment on the white-collar phobia of sharing and desiring a monopoly on quality living.

When Wasicsko is negotiating for an appeasement with two council members on the opposite end of the issue before a midnight deadline, Haggis captures the swaying sentiments of Sidney Lumet’s Twelve Angry Men. Politicians are classified as laughingstocks in popular culture, but the outcry of a few virtuous politicians during this period overturned that belief.

The most wrenching storyline is a former retirement-home employee who has recently been diagnosed with advancing complication due to diabetes. Her government-certified health aide are averse to traveling to her neighborhood but her son is optimistic that they will eventually uphold their responsibility. It is a bleak depiction of the “fearmongering” that Sussman denounces.

Near the conclusion of his first term, Wasicsko is already challenged by Spallone who is wielding the widespread approval rating that the housing expansion was an incorrect judgment. Since I was unaware of the outcome in the election, the show is still capable of dazzling me with the element of dramatic surprise. Like Frank in True Detective, Nick hallucinates a vision of his father in a graveyard but it is much more profound and meaningful.

Inflammatory subjects like teen pregnancies are addressed with refreshingly aboveboard veracity. Of course, they are casualties of statistics but David Simon and Haggis don’t gloss over their interior thought processes. Additionally, Show Me a Hero is a rallying call-to-arms for the “silent majority” who are being muffled by the outspoken faction.

The Fitzgerald quote that the title is based on is germane for the disillusioning sight of watching Wasicsko pack up his office after Spallone’s landslide victory. While he is no longer the mayor, his in-home remedies of caulking and light fixture repair show he still possesses a constructive backbone for public service. It’s safe to say I’m eagerly anticipating the final chapter next Sunday.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

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