Let’s talk about the end of ‘Show Me a Hero’

Senior Television Writer
08.30.15 118 Comments

HBO

A few thoughts on the end of “Show Me a Hero” coming up just as soon as we get our clams to go…

I said most of what I had to say about this wonderful miniseries before it debuted, but now that all six hours have aired, there are some things that are easier to discuss now.

Start with the suicide of Nick Wasicsko, which I inadvertently learned while looking up some details about the Yonkers court case, but which ultimately didn't diminish my appreciation of that part of the story. If anything, knowing where Nick was going to end up made the unwritten “…and I'll show you a tragedy” half of the miniseries' title hit even harder. Nick wasn't the only hero in this story – and, as the miniseries detailed, it was as much the work of all the lawyers involved as it was his attempts to get some of the stubborn councilmen to switch their votes – but the controversy over his actions cast him out of office and didn't let him directly enjoy the fruits of those actions. By the time he's betraying friends like Vinni just to feel important again, and knocking on townhouse doors late at night, desperate for any of the residents to thank him, he's become a pitiable figure, yet wonderfully played as always by Oscar Isaac.

The most powerful part of the miniseries' concluding chapters, though, involved the four women whose stories had been running in the background of the earlier chapters. On the one hand, Simon, Zorzi, and Haggis struggled at times in the earlier installments to make those stories feel as vital as what was going on at City Hall; on the other, all of that background was necessary so we could truly appreciate what it meant to each woman to wind up in one of the townhouses, and to understand why better housing wasn't a magical cure for all their problems, even as it helped some of them immensely. 

Those scenes were also examples of how effective patient storytelling can be, as my office got quite dusty when the poodle woman finally stopped to talk with Doreen's son about her dogs, and when we simply saw Mary and Doreen chatting on the porch like the old friends they had become by that point. Something so small and familiar and taken for granted as that is exactly what Doreen, and the ACLU, and Nick, and everyone else in favor of the new housing was fighting for, and those visuals make the argument far more eloquently than all the earlier words could have.

The choice to run photos and footage of the real players in this story – to show that Nick really did wear the white tux when he married Nay, and that the council meetings really were that contentious – along with the closing credits was a lovely final touch. This was a fine example of Simon the agitator and Simon the educator working in harmony, and I'm glad HBO still makes room for his wonky projects.

What did everybody else think? Too much Springsteen? Not enough?

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