Brotherhood is the surprisingly original Showtime series, that shrugged off initial comparisons to The Sopranos to become a gritty look at crime, family, and politics in Rhode Island over the course of three seasons.
The center of the first two seasons was the relationship between brothers Michael and Tom Caffee, politician and Irish mob boss respectively. But rather than simply retread the same storylines, the writers shift the focus in the final season on the glaring political corruption that pervades the State House. The Speaker of the House, Don-Don morphs from one of Tommy’s political enemies to his confidant and ultimate benefactor which puts Tommy in the center of the maleovlent political forces that are tearing the state apart.
Public corruption rules the plotlines of the final season. And while that doesn’t seem as gripping as drug deals or more violent forms of rackets, the look inside the way many governments run is both unsettling and riveting. State policeman Declan, last seen trying to patch up things with his wife, is tasked by Tommy Caffee with looking into official corruption. Given a basement office amidst a pile of ancient paper records, Declan is set up to fail. And with his gradual decline into personal hell, Tommy was assured of a half-ass job. But Declan woke up the deeper he dug and unearthed corruption on the Rhode Island waterfront that involved Tommy, Michael, the Italian Mafia, political bigwigs, and crooked developers.
The other plot focus is on the family lives of Michael and Tommy. Their cousin Colin is getting too close to Michael’s girlfriend causing initial tension, then Michael to completely lose control as he struggles to hold his family and criminal empire together. Tommy, on the other hand, wants to maybe leave The Hill, retire from politics and make a new life for his family, especially his wife (played by Annabeth Gish, who barely cracks a smile through the entire series). Both their familial situations, coupled with their increasingly frail mother, dovetail nicely into the public corruption and criminal plotlines.
The last episode spirals downward as Michael’s paranoia continues to pull his life apart and the organization that he barely kept a grip on. The unraveling of this criminal world is alternated against the tightening of the political one. It’s tough to pull off a good last episode from a series with so many intertwining subplots (see The Sopranos). And like the aforementioned Jersey mob show, not every plot is tied up in a neat little package. But by bringing closure to the saga that was the underlying set of conflicts which drove the series, the creators managed to answer many questions and leave the door open for future additions.
Brotherhood’s finale does illustrate one inescapable fact: when it’s all said and done, no matter who holds the reins of the political establishment in the Rhode Island State House or who runs the rackets on The Hill, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.