The season two premiere of A&E’s The Cleaner is a number of things. Most of all it’s probably the best introduction newcomers could hope for in a series’ sophomore year. Season 2 puts together a tremendous ensemble cast, weaves an intricate and detailed story, and ties it all up with a guest starring role by the boss from Office Space. Summer season or not, The Cleaner proves why it’s A&E’s highest rated drama and why your DVR’s should be set to record each week.
Based on a real guy The Cleaner follows William Banks (Benjamin Bratt) as he helps drug addicts get on the straight road, especially those who don’t want to make the change. It’s notable that Banks’ business is based on breaking the rule we’ve all heard: the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Banks instead will kidnap, tackle, cajole, or flat knock the eff out any of his clients to get them started. As an addict himself we forgive his rough tactics.
But it’s Bratt’s performance as Banks that sells the show. Going in it may appear that you’ll get a rough show with a Dog the Bounty Hunter style leading character: a rough guy who does what he thinks is good and right. Banks is far more subtle and interesting as he is now battling the world of divorce due to his chosen life of saving others. He also cares vastly for each client he takes on and will clearly do anything for them. Even if that means running them down, tossing them in a van, and then sedating them until they’re sober enough to talk rationally.
\ The most surprising thing about The Cleaner is how the divorce is handled. Melissa (Amy Price-Francis) and William share numerous scenes in the first episode of season 2 that are heartwarming, funny, and ultimately tragic. It’s a story that feels so true where there’s no hate, only some unseen force that is keeping two people who love each other from being together as they want. This also keeps the option of the divorce being called off wide open, but I’d like to think that however Melissa and William resolve their problems it will be handled with as much care as this awkward phase of not knowing what to do has been.
Tonight’s premiere story is about TV anchorman Davis Durham (Gary Cole) who has been sober for nearly 21 years. Durham and his wife met Banks way back in their early rehab days. Things turn for the worse as Banks realizes his old friend is using, and then learns that Durham’s wife has terminal ovarian cancer. The story of these three friends (and yes, Whoopi Goldberg is indeed around as Banks’ former sponsor and Durham’s current one) as they try to deal with all of the little horrors of life and living is remarkable for a single episode storyline. Most shows save this kind of story for season long arcs.
I’m not entirely sure how the show as a whole runs, but if season two’s start is any indication The Cleaner is high on the list of must watch shows. There’s a truth to everything that goes on for these people. Banks’ philosophy that we all have our problems and imperfections, but it’s getting up each day to face them that makes us who we are is a cornerstone for what makes the show so great.
The Cleaner - Season 2 Premiere
Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Amy Price-Francis, Grace Park, Esteban Powell
Premieres: Tuesday, June 23 at 10:00 p.m., ET on A&E