UK TV review: Show Me a Hero, Episode 5 and 6
Show me a hero...9
And I’ll write you a tragedy.9
Josh Slater-Williams | On 19, Sep 2015Reading time: 3 mins
Warning: Show Me a Hero is based on actual events. If you don’t know what happened in real life, this review contains spoilers.
Although these episode reviews of Show Me a Hero have largely been on the positive side, a couple of nagging issues have been sidestepped, mainly because some of them have arisen from the first four episodes cumulatively. One of these has been the (for lack of a better term) flavourless approach to the character of Nay Noe (Carla Quevedo): she’s been little more than a vanilla, supportive cipher for Nick Wasicsko’s highs and lows. The second is the unfortunate reading one could make regarding the show’s treatment of its minority characters; despite the nuances that were there in individual scenes of their story lines, the cumulative collection of actual plot points could be seen as that all-too-standard narrative of clichéd poverty and misery. Billie’s story, for example, has been a big one for that.
Among the many triumphs of the series’ closing two episodes is how they largely redeem these issues, offering pretty much every underserved major player a richer depiction than they’ve had in the preceding four hours. Even just showing that Nay has goals of her own does wonders for her characterisation, and then we have her husband’s increasing selfishness becoming an active foil for her career and well-being. It makes their relationship richer, and makes the tragedy of Nick’s suicide even more potent, though it never comes across as calculated manipulation.
Relating to this, another strength of the episodes is how Nick’s demise isn’t explained in a clear-cut fashion; there is a degree of it that isn’t totally understandable, and, not to trivialise a real life death, there’s a refreshing quality to that, as there also is with how thoroughly unsympathetic Nick becomes in the finale. He becomes obsessed with regaining power, throws his wife and longtime friends under a bus, and comes across as though he feels entitled to the mayor’s office, just because he happened to come down on the right side of history – even though his route to that side wasn’t a morally pure one in the first place. One of the best visual cues is of Nick, Nay and Mike sitting around at home, getting news of their apparent election failures through the TV; every time we’ve had an election night scene on the show, the scale of hubbub has decreased every time, to the point where we now have just three people in a living room, with the exasperated brother declaring he’s going to get “another fucking beer”.
Elsewhere, with the town houses very much real and not just in planning, the focus rightly shifts to the people moving into them, and the attempts of people like Robert Mayhawk (a welcome appearance from David Simon regular Clarke Peters) to create a non-hostile dynamic between the new residents and the old, staring white ones. Mary Dorman gets her chance at redemption with her involvement in the integration, but, much more importantly, we get to see the residents – introduced to us through (mostly) lows – take control of their own fates and turn their new homes into a community. It’s truly touching and inspiring. Additionally, where things don’t work out (such as with Billie’s eviction, due to her deadbeat partner and the initial impression that Carmen may not have got a place after all), there is also great emotional power. The finale of Show Me a Hero is where so many of the story lines and characterisations veer away from the rote, but its greatest strength is something that’s been present throughout the miniseries: balancing the political with the human.
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.