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Review

10/24/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

BROTHERHOOD (Season 3)

(Showtime, Sunday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.)

It’s been over two years since Showtime introduced viewers to the Caffee brothers — one an ambitious politico, the other an equally ambitious gangster. Now Brotherhood heads into its third season, with the siblings still fighting over their respective turfs in a working-class Irish neighborhood in Providence, R.I.

Filmed on location, the show still looks great, performances are across-the-board solid and the gritty portrayal of crime, corruption and clans packs the occasional punch. But for all its plot intrigues and cutthroat characters, Brotherhood’s latest round feels like lots more of the same thing — which may please returning fans, but is unlikely to attract many new ones.

Tommy (Jason Clarke), who first appeared on the scene as a take-no-prisoners state representative, is now reduced to being a gofer for one. In one subtle-as-a-flying-brick moment, Tommy’s boss (Matt Servitto, aka Agent Harris from HBO’s The Sopranos) presides from a bathroom stall and instructs his underling to fetch him the toilet paper.

Meanwhile, sibling Michael (Jason Isaacs) has his own hands full between an attorney general who’s hanging him out to dry and news that gang-leader-turned-lethal-rival Freddie Cork is out on bail.

On the home front, Tommy’s pregnant wife Eileen (Annabeth Gish) tries to do some good in her Social Services job, while Caffee family matriarch Rose struggles with a mysterious illness. Other plotlines include troubled cop Declan (Ethan Embry) trying to redeem himself by tackling government corruption, and a mayoral indiscretion that gives Tommy the leverage he needs to turn some tables.

Brotherhood hasn’t shaken the solemn and self-important tone that sometimes makes the series heavy going. On the other hand, it’s not above exploiting its pay-TV license to deliver the salacious goods with spurts of violence and full-frontal nudity.

Viewers of this season’s first two installments also receive a useful bit of cautionary advice: When someone goes missing under mysterious circumstances, be very careful where you shop for sausage.

March