#4- Boardwalk Empire (2010-Present) 3 Seasons
If there was ever a show to be right up my ally, it’s Boardwalk Empire. Anything that deals with organized crime, mafia figures, HBO and Prohibition, I’m all in on. As a teenager I grew up on the romanticism of organized crime and the prominent people that make up it’s history. Boardwalk Empire is all that and more. So it was easy for me to pick up the various gangsters and know who ran with what syndicate and crime family. So for the uneducated mafia fan, picking up the secondary gangsters was probably a tough deal, considering when fully dressed, they all look the same; coat, tie and fedora. But when you get past that part, Boardwalk is such an entertaining show due to its level of story offered over the span of 3 seasons. It mixes and switches gangsters, booze, women and violence. But its deeper than that, it weaves characters from Philly to Ohio to the shores of Jersey in an all-encompassing drama. After Boardwalk identifies the players in the political game and criminal game (yes the main complaint is the first half of season 1 is a little slow), the show takes off. And as of right now, just like its main character Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, shows no signs of slowing down.
Much Like our #5 show Homeland, Boardwalk has gotten better every season. The potential it shows over the long haul for both storytelling and character development are exciting (doesn’t hurt to know how the mafia element will unfold in the coming years, excitement might be an understatement). The progression that the main character, Nucky has shown, is captivating. As the motto for season 3 goes, “you can’t just be half a gangster.” His killing of Jimmy Darmody in the season 2 finale was a benchmark moment from him. And his all out war with Gip Rosetti in season 3, put an exclamation point on the series as a whole. Buscemi nails the quick witted, business savvy and ruthless (yes i said ruthless) Enoch Thompson. The Nucky character has grown exponentially over the three seasons. He is now his own man, his own force, his own boss. To be respected in the circles of other syndicates and crime leaders. When it comes to dynamic leading men, he doesn’t look to be the whole package but he definitely is.
But what makes the show strong is its plethora of secondary characters. The phantom masked Richard Harrow, who has gone from quiet background noise to full fledged lethal assassin in no time adds a dimension of unpredictability. For anybody who saw the season 3 finale, he went into freak-mode against a whole brothel full of Rossetti’s gangsters. To say that scene was riveting might not be doing it full justice. He’s almost become the Omar (from The Wire) for Boardwalk Empire, proving that anyone can be got. Speaking of Omar, our former “Robin Hood of West Baltimore” trades in his trenchcoat and shotgun for the dapper dressed Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire. His vital role in protecting and keeping Nucky alive while also ensuring equality or a chance at it on the boardwalk should be a major role in season 4. While he’s not as charismatic as Omar was in The Wire, Chalky more than has his share of moments. The villains in season 2 and especially season 3 just bring more nail-biting drama to the show. While Jimmy Darmody wore the bad guy hat well in season 2. Few can top what Gip Rosetti pulled off in season 3. His fly by night ruthlessness and reasoning always had you on your toes. You never knew what he was capable of. One of the better villains I’ve seen from a drama series that only lasted one season. I could go on and on about Boardwalk’s endless list of characters but those are just a few. A strong show can always lean on an assortment personalities and Boardwalk is a reminder of that.
To wrap up, Boardwalk’s arrow is pointing up. It laid the groundwork in season 1. Built and expanded on what it did well in season 2. I really enjoyed the power struggle between Nucky and Jimmy. And the rise and certain fall of the young, dynamic Jimmy Darmody, but let’s face it, he had to die. And at the hands of Nucky was the only way it should have went down. Season 3, well, they just upped the ante ten fold. If the first 2 seasons were about the setup, then season 3 cashed in on every dramatic turn. It was a season full of edge of your seat twist and turns, by the end you were almost dizzy. But everything felt viable and not out of the realm of possibility. And the progression of certain characters and the storylines that are now open for the following season just make everything so exciting. When a show can mix visual eye candy with good acting across the board, it has something. When the storyline keeps getting better and better without losing its audience or integrity, you really have something. When you can mix all that together, you have a can’t miss program. Boardwalk, well done.