UK TV review: Show Me a Hero, Episode 2
"He should get ass cancer."9
Josh Slater-Williams | On 24, Aug 2015
Already seen Episode 2? Read on at the bottom for spoilers.
If parts of Show Me a Hero’s opener perhaps felt a little too calculated, Episode 2 feels much looser and chaotic, as the proverbial excrement hits the fan for both new mayor Nick (Oscar Isaac) and a couple of the non-politicians we were introduced to in Episode 1.
Episode 2 begins in January 1988, with the elected members of the Yonkers city council in talks with the state judge (Bob Balaban), a man sick to death of their continued resistance and attempts to appeal the court-sanctioned ruling to build affordable housing units in more of the city’s neigbourhoods. The council have but a short period to settle on some sites, or the city will go bankrupt within three weeks at best. As Nick aptly puts it: “This mayor thing, when’s the fun part start?”
The problem, as one particularly outspoken constituent reminds him, is that he campaigned on the issue of resisting integration and the fellow councilmen deciding to vote yes also losing the faith of the parts of the city they represent. Thanks to the vitriol they receive at various public meetings, a few of them end up changing their minds, subsequently causing even more trouble. The only one who adamantly sticks with a “no” stance the entire time is Vice Mayor Spallone (Alfred Molina), whose devotion to the backwards thinking of the angry white majority keeps him the most popular figure in the room.
Through several meeting scenes between council and public, this episode exposes us to a lot more of the knee-jerk racial tension in Yonkers. It’s depressing how much of the arguments presented still reflect much of the present day. There’s barely disguised racism in the form of one shouting white voter: “It’s about these public housing people bringing drugs and crime into our neighbourhood and ruining our property values!” One of the flip-flopping councilmen tries to suggest that this is not about race, but a “greed issue”, a question of economics. Additionally, you have slurs aimed at “that Jew judge”, and more coded prejudices from people who genuinely think they’re just defending their own peace of mind and right to maintain the type of living they have: “These people. They don’t live the way we do. They don’t want what we want.”
That last line comes from Mary Dorman (played by Catherine Keener, made up to be elderly), who mutters it to her husband, Buddy (Bruce Altman), at home while watching TV. She begins joining the hateful crowd at the public meetings and hurls one particularly damaging insult at Nick. There’s a suggestion, though, that she could go on to be more understanding and open-minded. She’s already been appalled by the anti-Semitism and physical assault (upon Peter Riegert’s Oscar Newman) by the mob she’s caught herself up in. Reluctant or otherwise, Nick will need any and all allies he can get, especially considering the bullets being mailed his way.
Show Me a Hero is available to watch online in the UK on Google Play, blinkbox, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.
Photo: ©2015 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.
Spoilers and further consideration
– “I miss the stress, give me your stress. I want the stress.” The bar scene early on between Nick and a defeated, depressedVinni is particularly great, and not just because it involves Winona Ryder wishing “ass cancer” upon Nick Longo (Jim Bracchitta), one of the councilmen whose vote changes throughout the episode thanks to constituent pressures. There are a couple of lines in there, too, that almost feel like meta commentary on Ryder’s own fall from favour in the early 2000s.
– The biggest tragedy of the episode strikes Doreen (Natalie Paul), introduced in the prior episode but not touched on in the last review. Her partner’s asthma has played a part in a few of their scenes in the first two episodes, including one here where a flee from police leaves him struggling to breathe. Sadly, a later attack looks to ended his life for good, and the several-months-pregnant Gail is now on her own.
– After a stint back in the Dominican Republic, Alma (Ilfenesh Hadera) comes to the painful decision to leave her children there with family and go back to Yonkers to support them from abroad. Arriving at her old place, she finds the Transformers toy her boy left when they moved out. A period detail turned bittersweet memento.
– “Gentlemen, our object is not to create martyrs or heroes. Our object is to get this housing built.”
Judge Sand declares the city of Yonkers in contempt, with an increasing penalty set in motion until the housing plan is officially initiated. Spallone and the other no-voters also find themselves fined $500 a day, beginning that day. It’ll be interesting to see if the Vice-Mayor’s stubbornness about compromise will stand now he’s at a personal financial loss.
– As mentioned last time, these reviews will be written with no foreshadowing or research into where some of these real-life events actually led for the specific parties involved. So they may well prove amusing to go back and read in a few weeks time, should the theorising about potential character directions prove spectacularly wrong.