The last two episodes of Show Me a Hero were both invigorating and depressing, as the housing actually gets built and the lives of the families in the projects rise, and Nick’s (Oscar Issac) star begins to twinkle. His name has become political poison, and the Democratic Party isn’t behind him when he wants to run for mayor again, with his nomination for a JFK Profiles in Courage Award in hand. The new pick is Terry Zaleski (Daniel Sauli), a fresh-faced and ambitious politician who sees the mayoralty as a stepping stone to Albany and Washington, but little else. Nick decides to run for councilman in a different district, and wins a close battle, but can’t take being second banana (or worse) to the new mayor. Zaleski has it comparatively easy; the housing crisis has been mostly accepted, even though a pipe bomb damaged one of the buildings, and Jack O’Toole (Stephen Gevedon) keeps fighting the war.
Even Mary Dorman (Catherine Keener) has moved on. HUD has sent a consultant to organize transition assistants to help the families chosen to live in the new townhouses fit into their new neighborhood, and that consultant, Bob Mayhawk (Clarke Peters, who played Lester Freamon on The Wire) knows what he’s doing. He asks for names of residents who fought the housing, and goes recruiting. When he visits Mary’s house, he’s polite without being patronizing; she serves coffee and cake, and he carefully wipes the crumbs from her coffee table onto a napkin. Once he has his team together, the story shifts to focus on them, and their important role in the modest success that Yonkers became. The camera is sympathetic of Mary’s fears; she’s one of the few whites in the group, and when Mayhawk compares a neighborhood to a watering hole on the African veldt, it looks as though she might bolt from the room. But she sticks with it, and by visiting the families who applied for the townhome lottery, she sees what they are trying to escape. Instead of cementing her fears, it helps blossom her empathy. She sees they have more in common than not, that they are just like any other people trying to raise a good family.