When I watch something as uniformly superb as Show Me a Hero, it champion to the people around me. Yet it seems to me that, due to the lack of bombastic high-concept, the show is being unsung by most audiences much like Mayor Wasicsko himself. It’s not the ratings juggernaut it should be. Perhaps, it will go down as a missed opportunity for those who initially missed and be an unearthed bijou for those who find it later in the sands of time.
Before he runs for another term in the mayoral race, Wasicsko has been honored for his philanthropic stance on the housing initiative. When he meets with an aide for support in the next election, he pontificates about he committed a “courageous” act and suddenly his prideful egomania is beginning to disturb his tenets. Like Ozymandius from Greek mythology, Wasicsko is starting to worship himself a little too intently.
The city government is stacked with white politicians but they require a member from the other side of the fence to represent their point-of-view. Bob Mayhawk (The Wire veteran Clarke Peters) is that spin-doctoring consultant. Peters’ authoritatively fastidious voice brings a wisdom when he goes door-to-door to preemptively soften the smooth transition into the neighborhood.
A rallying cry at an African-American group meeting acutely pinpoints the negative terminology that the white populace uses to demoralize their community (“Tenants” over “residents”, “low-income” equates to “low-class”, etc.). In 1991, the housing debacle might be a few years ago but it is still fresh in the long-term memories of the more ardent voters and he has been earmarked as the “face” of that ordeal.
Clearly, Nick isn’t sufficed with a subordinate post and we can feel the rancor when he holds a conference to announce that he is relinquishing from the upcoming candidacy. Once Martinelli has withdrawn, the election culminates in a cliffhanger verdict with a recount of absentee ballots. Speaking of serendipity and rolling the dice, the potential residents in the townhouses are being randomly chosen by a lottery drawing.
Of course, novelistic showrunner David Simon is shrewd enough to show that the screening process is not above being preferential and selective about who they permit. For her part, Norma doesn’t particularly grovel for special treatment because of her legally blind status. When she is accepted into the brownstones, her reluctance is quite funny. Furthermore, Paul Haggis stages it like a Hooverville game show.
As with most David-vs.-Goliath stories, there are a few triumphs. For instance, Doreen Henderson (Natalie Paul), who was a menial crack addict. Now, she has rehabilitated herself and is now an upstanding community organization leader. With this, we gain twinges of admiration for her reversal. Meanwhile, our collective ire is constantly raised when Billie Rowan (Dominique Fishback) is oblivious to the short-sighted quagmire she is in with her excuses for her delinquent boyfriend who is also the deadbeat father of her multiple children.
At a seminar, the new residents are given lessons on etiquette (a condescending demonstration on how to properly cincture trash bags). But Mayhawk is the voice-of-reason when he asks if the residents still want to move in based on his stringent guidelines. He sagaciously states it is an adjustment and difference has an existential price.
The miniseries has largely censored itself from our kneejerk reaction to the word “nigger” but when a white neighbor yells it from their car, we recoil in fear and aggravation anew. Wasicsko is not the humble civil servant he once was and his peacock showboating is causing friction with Nay (Carla Quevedo), his wife, to the point where she is unceremoniously terminated.
By its conclusion, Show Me a Hero is a proletariat, emotionally paralyzing masterstroke that is another feather in the cap of those powers behind the scenes who deemed the subject worthy of broadcasting to a wider audience of all ethnicities. The lump-in-the-throat moment is when a haughty Caucasian woman ceases her stride to introduce her poodles to an adolescent black child after months of being aloof.
Regardless of your persuasion, it was nearly impossible to watch it idly without furor, empathy and compassion. The thought-provoking questions are we’ve seen Nick inebriated on city-wide power and his own influence but was it for right purpose and who benefited from it? Paraphrasing Norma, was the defeat worth the fight?
Rating: 5 out of 5