Brotherhood

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10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27
Showtime

A crime drama that premiered last year on Showtime and misidentified as something of an Irishman's "Sopranos" returns for Season 2 looking scads more mature and sure-footed and perhaps destined to be one of TV's most underrated shows. And this is coming off a rookie year when it was honored with a Peabody Award.

"Brotherhood" is packed to the gills with exceptional writing and acting, boasting a compelling blue-collar story line that's roundly unsettling. It's anchored by two actors named Jason: the exceptional Jason Isaacs as East Coast organized crime thug Michael Caffee and Jason Clarke as his ruthlessly ambitious politician brother Tommy. The series is shot on location in Providence, R.I., and that washed-out ambiance focusing on the Irish neighborhood known as "The Hills" tends to permeate every frame. Moreover, its unapologetic character-driven sensibility fuels a unique mind-set replete with people whose situational morality keeps the audience constantly off balance. Good and evil intertwine with an alarming complexity.

The new season opens with an immediate answer to the question of whether Michael survived the vicious beating from unknown attackers that he endured at the end of the previous campaign. Tommy is looking every ounce the shady local pol, and on top of it he's got to endure the aftermath of his wife, Eileen's (Annabeth Gish), infidelity. Then on top of that, the family's estranged cousin Colin (Brian F. O'Byrne) has shown up out of the blue, drawing the immediate suspicion of family matriarch Rose (the incomparable Fionnula Flanagan).

The first pair of hours screened for review pick up six months after Michael's near-fatal assault at a wedding that left him with some brain issues. But that doesn't stop him from trying to re-establish his mob territory with crime boss Freddie Cork (Kevin Chapman). Tommy is still incensed at his wife's indiscretion as he runs a re-election campaign. The death and ill will remain overpowering in "Brotherhood," which plays to the point that while nothing trumps family ties, nothing unravels like them, either.
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