There’s always a worry in finally being able to watch something you’ve been waiting ages to see.
Regardless of whether it be a film or a TV series, there’s a fear that it won’t meet expectations that have had plenty of time to grow.
So when I discovered the box set of Boardwalk Empire was on Now TV at long last, you can imagine my apprehension.
Well, I am over the moon to be able to say that it met every one of my expectations. I was so contented with the Prohibition-era set crime saga that I was kind of gutted when it came to an end. You know something? I can say I’ve watched plenty of good TV shows with multiple seasons, but I don’t remember any of them being as consistently good as this one. From the very first episode right up until the very last, it was rock solid. I would struggle to say the same about any show I’ve watched over the last few years.
One of the main things owing to the show’s consistent appeal was the eclectic mix of characters that were all brilliant in their own ways. And of course, where you find fantastic characters, you also find even greater performances. There’s too many for me to cover them all in this review of the full series, but I’ll cover some of the most honourable mentions.
Steve Buscemi is the ideal person to play some like Nucky Thompson. He’s played some right greaseballs during his career, and I think his turn as Nucky might be a beautiful culmination of them all. Buscemi probably isn’t the first man who comes to mind when trying to create a notorious gangster, but he absolutely owned the role and it’s hard to think that there would ever been a point where anyone else was in contention.
A truly star-studded cast stood alongside Buscemi here. Kelly MacDonald played Nucky’s wife Margaret. She underwent quite the transformation over the five seasons. Michael Kenneth Williams, a favourite of mine from The Wire, played businessman Chalky White and was as charismatic as ever. However, if I was to nail down any of the main performances for the sake of this review, I’d have to cover those put in by Stephen Graham and Michael Shannon.
Graham played the infamous Al Capone as he rose through the ranks to become a made guy. It was a very interesting performance, and certainly an entertaining one too. His Capone was a scrappy little terrier of a man, and he had the power to completely change the dynamics of a scene in seconds.
It is Michael Shannon’s performance that will stick in my mind for the longest though. That man can fucking act. Shannon was on another level entirely as Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden. He was exciting watch, and every time I thought he’d peaked he just smashed through the glass ceiling. Every. Single. Time.
Storylines across the five seasons were fantastic, each one throwing up surprises that kept everything interesting. The writing constantly introduced us to new characters who were determined to topple Nucky’s empire one way or another. If I had to isolate one season though, I would have to go with season 3. The balance struck between all the different elements of the show was just a tiny bit more perfect on this occasion than it had been on all the others. That being said, all the others knocked it out of the park – even season 5 where I must admit I started out sceptical due to the massive amount of change that had clearly taken place between it and the one before it. I kept the faith though and was rewarded for doing so, is it went of to be one of the greatest final seasons and final episodes I’ve seen.
Written aspects aside, a 1920s drama wouldn’t be the same without all the costumes and the music – two things that define a period I think. The show always looked the part, and I think the attention to detail that the costume department possessed really shone through. There was never any disputing when in history this was all taking place because of it.
I really, really enjoyed Boardwalk Empire. There was nothing that I didn’t like about it if I’m being honest. The great mix of brilliantly well-written characters and the ways their stories intertwined, plus the flair of the roaring 1920s made for a barrage of viewing that made me feel like my life was missing something when it was over. For a history nut like myself, this was a real treat, but trust me when I say an interest in the past is not essential to fully engage with this one. An appreciation for good TV will suffice well enough.