Review – Boardwalk Empire Full Series Review

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.

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Review – Ozark Season 1


A financial advisor is forced to move his family to a rural community when the money of one of his firm’s clients goes missing.
For years, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) has led a very uneventful life. As a financial advisor stuck in a marriage on a downward slope, he has had little in the way of excitement of late. However, the life that he has been struggling to hold together is thrown into even greater disrepair when one of Marty’s clients, who just so happens to be part of a huge Mexican drug cartel, discovers some of his money has gone missing. When Marty promises to make the money back, he is forced to relocate his entire family to the Ozarks, where it would seem even more trouble awaits.

Ozark is one of the latest shows to come from Netflix, and, my word, is it a knockout. Billed as a mix of Breaking Bad and Fargo with a little bit of Jason Bateman thrown in for good measure, this certainly seemed to have all the ingredients that would make it a roaring success with Netflix users. All I can say is the ten episodes flew by, and I already very excited to see where season two takes us.

A few things occurred to me whilst I was watching this. One of those things was that Jason Bateman is brilliant. I might be jumping the gun a bit here, but I can definitely see where people were coming from when they were likening this to Breaking Bad. I was getting some serious Walter White vibes from him at times (before he became Heisenberg at least). He was doing what he was having to do for the sake of his family, and I think you always get interesting performances from people when they play a character dealing with those circumstances. Laura Linney’s character, Wendy, grew on me as the show progressed, and I think she really came into her own in the last few episodes when Wendy accepted the situation she was in and decided to take control. One of my other favourite characters was Ruth Langmore, who has a very significant part to play in the whole story. She was played by Julia Garner who really drew you in with her performance, and I’m intrigued to see how her own story plays out from here because she was so good.

I was a big fan of the story told here. I liked the idea of all the upheaval the family faced right from the off, but I also liked how it was never once plain sailing for them even after ‘settling’ in their new home. The Byrdes ruffled so many feathers when they landed, and the ripples were felt all throughout the show. What stood out for me though was the fact it wasn’t like a problem occurred, the main character solved the problem, and then a new, completely unrelated issue arose, but more the idea that new antagonists came along and the story evolved and then carried them with it. I’m not sure if that makes sense to you guys, but for me it does and I’m hoping that if you’ve seen the show, or are going to see it, you’ll find out what I mean. 

The writing that went into the show was just as good as every other aspect of it. It combined so many different things and balanced them perfectly in my opinion. There were some super intense scenes, but there was also a fair amount of dry, witty dialogue which is always a hit with me. This all helped to keep the show moving along nicely, and meant you didn’t get worn out watching it because there was some variance in the overall tempo.

On the whole, I think you should give Ozark a go. This is a show that has the potential to become yet another of Netflix’s huge hits, and I think that’s a good indicator of the kind of quality you’re getting here. If you liked Breaking Bad, which I did until they ballsed up the final season, then this is definitely a show you should pay some attention to. And if you’re just some one who likes a kind of alternative crime thriller type thing, you should also give this a watch. Ozark is going to go onto big things I reckon – jump on the bandwagon now and save yourself the task of having to catch up before everyone else has the chance to ruin for you.

Review – Riviera Season 1


When a billionaire businessman dies in an explosion on a yacht, it is up to his new wife to figure out exactly what happened to him.
Georgina (Julia Stiles) is the wife of the super rich Constantine Clios. When an explosions engulfs a yacht party that Constantine is attending, he dies and Georgina is widowed. It is in these dark times that she learns her husband’s riches were maintained through violence, deception and murder, and Georgina must do things she never thought she would in order to protect the family she married into little over a year before.

Riviera is the latest big budget show to be brought to us by Sky Atlantic, and it is also the latest show to not really deliver all that was promised. I’ve to be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it. It started well, but then it dipped, only to pick up again with two episodes remaining. I guess I expected better from the channel because they show so much potential with all their promos.

One of the main things I struggled with was the fact that I didn’t really like any of the characters. To me, none of them were that interesting. One thing I had read about the show was that Georgina, played by Julia Styles, would undergo a Michael Corleone-esque transformation (no points for guessing why I decided to watch the show). There were times when I could see this, but it wasn’t until quite late on, and even then it didn’t seem to be that enduring. It felt more like they tried to make the character of Georgina like that, but it simply didn’t work for her. And because that character wasn’t very engaging, I struggled to connect with the performance from Stiles. Anyone could have played Georgina, and the same could be said for all the other main characters. There was simply no one who I’ll look back on and say, ‘You know what they were great in? Riviera.’ In a sentence, the dull characters made for dull performances.

There also seemed to be some real pacing issues with this show. It started off brilliantly, and I think it was one of the best first episodes I’ve seen in a while. It really set the show up nicely with all the intrigue and the questions it raised. But then it never made use of much of what it set up in the first episode. The plot became very drawn out over the next handful of episodes before picking up again in the last two. This was a huge issue because there were ten episodes in all, so I watched about 7 weeks of nothing, but like an eejit I stuck with it because I thought the first episode was awesome and they would surely make use of the foundations at some point soon. I think one of biggest reasons it seemed to drag on so much was because it started on so many different possible strands and ended up losing itself (and me) along the way. Ultimately, the real problem was it didn’t really know what story to follow, so tried to tell multiple ones all at once.

All in all, Riviera wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. Looking back now, there wasn’t much that I actually liked about it, and I’m not fussed whether it returns for a second season or not. I can’t say that I’d recommend the show because it just wasn’t nearly as good as it’d looked to be. The characters were the biggest downfall because they could’ve been it’s saving grace, however they were all so wooden and as a result gave you nothing to cling on to. The bottom line is, there was potential here, but not for the first time with a film or TV show, it was wasted.

Review – In The Dark Season 1


In The Dark is a TV show that was brand new this year. It follows Detective Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) as she embarks upon two separate case in two two-part stories. I have to be honest and say that I was not overly impressed by this programme. It was only watchable at best, which was quite disappointing considering the amount of talent boasted by the cast.
Before I get into any real slating of the show, I’ll quickly cover the main performance. The obvious place to start is with MyAnna Buring, who was the main draw for me here. I’m a fan of her work due to Ripper Street and the characters she has always seemed to portray – I’ve never been able to accuse her of playing meek women, and that’s why I like her work so much. In that respect, I should’ve been all over her as Helen here, but something just didn’t click for me. I don’t think that’s down to Buring’s performance though. Much of this show was held down by the script, which was very clunky in multiple places, quite often losing rhythm at key points in the story. And, as is often the case, good actors were brought crashing to the ground by it.

In The Dark was adapted from a series of books which just didn’t seem to translate very well to the screen for how many problems this show was laden with. The biggest issue as I’ve pointed out already was the script – it was very unnatural in places. It just seemed knock the pace of the show for six at some of what were supposed to be the biggest points in the two stories. When it makes audiences sort of recoil a bit, I think that’s a sign that something isn’t up to scratch. You just knew that this wasn’t the way people really talk, and it took a huge amount away from the show.

I’m not even entirely sure how to feel about the story. Both seemed to be quite generic plots that could just as easily have been part of any other show crime show. There just wasn’t anything particularly special at all about either tale, and as for the ending to the second case? How about we just ignore the fact that it tried very hard to give us an edgy finish that absolutely did not float my boat? I just don’t understand why you’d try and do that when the majority of the rest of the show up to that point had been something of a shambles.

Anyway, you might have gathered by now that I wasn’t sold on In The Dark. I don’t think it’ll be making a return, but if it does I shan’t be watching it. It was a huge disappointment considering what could have been done with it, and I think I’ve pointed out in previous reviews that I really hate seeing wasted potential in whatever I watch. So much more could’ve been done with this, but in the end, it failed to deliver.

Review – Ripper Street Full Series Review


London Metropolitan’s H Division turns to solving crimes in the wake of the Jack The Ripper killings.
When Jack The Ripper took to the streets of Whitechapel in the late 1800s, it was up to the men serving a particular police force to hunt the perpetrator down and put the fears of the public to rest. However, while The Ripper may have disappeared seemingly without a trace one day, his crimes were set to haunt London for a long time to come. The trio dealing with the aftermath are Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen), Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and police surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), who all have their own personal struggles on top of the work they do by day.   

So, my favourite show, Ripper Street, came to an end this week. The last ever episode of the programme aired on Monday night, and I have to be honest I don’t think there has ever been a more bittersweet ending to a TV show from my point of view. Even now, almost a week after watching the finale, I’m still not entirely sure how to take it.

Ripper Street first came onto our screens back in 2012. The first season introduced us to the three main characters who would quickly grow on viewers. One by one, each character had his secrets revealed, and then developed upon as the seasons progressed. In the driving seat is Matthew MacFadyen as Edmund Reid, the main protagonist of the show. The writer’s of the show really put Reid through the mill, and MacFadyen had to run with these trials and tribulations whilst maintaining his character’s core values, which I think he did very well. What I really liked about MacFadyen’s performance was that he always showed Reid had immense integrity. No matter what state he was in during the show, Reid was always very true to himself; he always did what he believed was the right thing to do for himself at any given time. His actions may not always have been the good thing to do, or, as the show progressed, the lawful thing to do, but for Reid they were always the right thing, and that sort of conviction he had.

After Reid, you have Jerome Flynn as loyal sidekick Bennet Drake, whose promotion in later seasons causes ructions that never really disappear. This character, along with any character in this show who ends up being of any significance, could be talked about for hours if I was to sit next do a full in-depth study of him. I think of the three leads here, Flynn’s character was the most complex, and I personally think that it is he who best personifies the kind of Whitechapel in which this show is set.

Now we move onto one of my favourite characters, Captain Homer Jackson, or Matthew Judge if we are to use his real name. I absolutely loved Adam Rothenberg’s interpretation of Jackson. He was tremendous throughout the whole show, and I believe I can safely say that he had one standout moment in each and every episode. Rothenberg was gifted some of the greatest lines in the script, and followed this up by delivering them perfectly every time. Without a doubt, it was he who gained most of my affection, with his glorious one-liners and sometimes wise words. That and the fact that he was probably the character with the best heart of all of them.

While these three were largely the staples of the entire series, there were also a number of series regulars. MyAnna Buring played Long Susan Hart, or Caitlyn Swift, and was also a favourite of mine because of the kind of woman she portrayed. She was unconventional for the time, a woman elbowing her way into a man’s world, and watching her in each and every episode was wonderful. She possessed all the qualities that made Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman so fantastic, but for a female character such as this to appear in a period piece was an added bonus.

Before I move onto anything else, I must point out that life for these characters was not a bed of roses. This, of course, was caused by numerous villains who cropped up from season to season. Now, while each season had a stand-out antagonist, the series itself did have an overall winner in the bad guy department. This has to be Jedediah Shine, played by the phenomenal Joseph Mawle. This guy made a prolonged appearance in both seasons two and five, and he just got worse and worse as time went by, and for someone like myself who is rather partial to a good villain, this was great to see. The performance put in by Mawle was on another level entirely, and he definitely deserves more recognition for the part than I think he has received. He actually made my skin crawl, and to watch him made me feel a whole range of emotions, which I think is a good sign.

Now we can finally move onto something other than the characters and the actors who played them. Ripper Street is kind of a hybrid of a formula show and those with a continuous narrative for their entire series run. For the most part, there was a new crime to be solved each week, but there were also a number of threads that ran through and connected each episode.I’m a fan of this approach because there is always something to bring you back to the next episode, but each week also has new life injected into it by the latest case the team are set to solve. What I also loved about the story is the fact that Jack The Ripper always seemed to have a presence. Ultimately, it was his crimes that haunted H Division, and gave Reid his motives, and so while the show was not directly about him, despite what the name suggests, The Ripper did have a very important part to play throughout the whole show.

Besides Ripper himself, there were other continuous threads that spanned the length of the series, and as far as I’m aware, none of them had happy endings, which I’m glad about because for life to have worked out to be a bed of roses for all the characters would not have been fitting for the show. Of course, having spent four or five seasons following thee characters, when their time came it was a rough moment in the show. I think these ends were handled very well, and whilst different for each character, every one of them was brutal. For me, this showed perfectly the capabilities of the writers for the show, who clearly knew that they didn’t need to make every character a martyr for the audience to feel the full impact of their demise.

That being said, one thing I do think was butchered was the show’s finale, but even that comes with a caveat (and the story of how this show came to be so significant to me). Ripper Street came to end long before this fifth and final season was in the pipeline. After ratings dropped during season two, the BBC cancelled the show, and there was a huge outcry from the fans, including myself. Petitions were created, and letters were written (still perhaps the finest bit of writing I’ve ever done if I’m honest), and after realising what a major cock-up they had made, BBC looked to continue the show with another network in a co-production deal. Eventually, Amazon took the show on, and split the budget with the BBC, but the episodes released on Amazon had to be trimmed down before they were shown on TV so as to not disrupt the schedules. Ultimately this meant that that there were scenes cut from the version of the show that I’ve seen, which now brings me back to the series finale. According to Amazon subscribers, the final episode was cut to ribbons before being shown on TV, which is potentially why it felt as flat as it did, so I can’t completely attack it for that. However, I can say that had I have been in charge of the writing and had decided to kill off all the other main characters, or take them out of the game in some way, Edmund Reid would also have been dead by the end of it. I wouldn’t have had him murdered, but he would have succumbed to some sort of illness or death by natural causes because come the series’ end, he had nothing left to live for, you know? His life’s work was more or less complete; the only thing left unfinished was the actual Jack The Ripper case, which I personally would have liked to have seen slowly cause him to lose his sanity, or compromise his health in some way that led to him dying. It just didn’t feel right that it finished the way it did, with him sat back at his desk without any of the people closest to him beside him.

Anyway, I think I should probably stop whittling on now, at 1,500 words I’ve taken up enough of your time and hardly scratched the surface of the show. I think I may do individual reviews of each season at some point in the future because there is so much more I’d like to cover, such as the different characters from season to season and the relationships between them all, the different stories that took hold and the wonderful sets and costumes as well. What I’ll say is if you have seen Ripper Street, get in touch and let me know what you think of it, and if you haven’t, please do give it a go. You might think there have been some spoilers here but I really don’t think they’d ruin the show at all. As you can probably see, I cannot recommend Ripper Street enough – it’s a show that grabbed me right at the start and never let go, and I think it is one of those shows that has shown the power of good TV and also the power of the fans too. This was a fantastic show, and I’m sad to see it go, but I’ll never tire of rewatching the box sets, which is a true sign of the magic Ripper Street possesses.

Review – Fearless Season 1


A human rights lawyer with a reputation for defending lost causes sets out to prove the innocence of a man accused to murdering a 14 year old girl.
When Emma Banville (Helen McCrory) is asked to look into the conviction of Kevin Russell by his partner, she agrees to take on the case due to the huge miscarriage of justice she feels has taken place. As she begins to root around, she not only ruffles the feather of Detective Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku), but she also discovers that Russell’s conviction was part of something far greater. Determined to prove his innocence, Emma goes to every length imaginable, putting a huge strain on her personal life, but also potentially putting herself in danger.

So, the latest big drama offered to us by ITV came in the form of Fearless. The show, starring Helen McCrory as the lead, had a mixed response initially, and start with looked set to be another in a series of shows that promised the world yet failed to deliver it. Thankfully though, I can tell you now that, at least from where I’m standing, this actually turned out to be one of the better shows the station has produced in a while.

While there were a number of high profile British stars in this show, and one face from slightly further afield, there is no denying that this was McCrory’s time to shine. She owned every scene as Emma, and it was always when she was on-screen that this drama was at it’s best. She just had such a presence, and she provided Emma with an air of determination that couldn’t be ignored by the audience or those she was pitted against in the show. Wunmi Mosaku had the same sort of vibe about her in her role, as did Robyn Weigert (also known as Jane from Deadwood). In fact, this was a very female-centric cast and storyline, which we seem to be seeing more and more of. The character of Emma Banville was an excellent part, and the other two were pretty good as well. It’s good to see mainstream British TV making this transition at long last!

As I’ve already mentioned, this seems to be a show that divided viewers. Personally, I wasn’t sold on the first episode at all, but stuck with it anyway. I have to say that I’m glad I did persevere because Fearless really picked up in the second episode. After this point, the story didn’t suffer as many pacing issues, although some did still crop up from time to time, mainly when McCrory was not on-screen. There were a lot of intricacies woven in, and you got a snapshot of Emma’s personal life without it becoming another huge subplot. I think the problem a lot of people had was it was set out much more like an American-made TV show, and so was more slow-burning than other shows you usually get here. Again, British TV is gradually introducing more shows of this nature, but I think it’s going to take audiences a while to get used to it. 

One thing that did cause me some issues however was some of the camera work. It was most noticeable during that first episode that already had it’s issues, but at points later on it reared its head again. It was really unsteady in some shots and was very off-putting. As the show went on, I didn’t take issue with it as much – whether this was because I got used to it or because the story improved, I don’t know. What I do know is to me that didn’t feel like the style of filming that worked for the programme.

On the face of it, Fearless was bit of a mixed bag. It certainly had its share of good and bad points, but I thought that, in the end, it did okay. There’s been better shows, but there has also definitely been a hell of a lot worse. The thing to take from this is how it differed from what is generally shown – how it opted for a narrative over its six episode run as opposed to a more formulaic plot, and how it gave most of its time to female lead characters. There’s plenty to be improved upon, but Fearless definitely took it’s first step in the right direction. Will it return? Who knows? But I wouldn’t be too disappointed if a second season did come my way.

Review – Broken Season 1


A priest acts as the glue that holds a broken community together in present-day England.
Father Michael Kerrigan (Sean Bean) is the parish priest for an urban community in the north of England. Week in, week out, he plays the role of confidant and counsellor to his parishioners alongside his mandatory church duties. However what he deals with on a day-to-day basis, alongside the trauma he has struggled with since being abused as an altar boy, leads him to question everything he has always believed in, and whether any of what surrounds him, including himself, can ever really be fixed.

Well, I’ve to be honest here and say that this was a show and a half. Broken is the show that this country needs right now because of what it covered. It highlighted so many of the things that are going wrong at the minute; shed a light on social issues that perhaps not everyone is aware of, or if they are, is not familiar with just how serious a problem they might be. What made this so great though was the fact that despite dealing with some very real issues, the show delivered plenty of laughs along the way. Not bad for a drama with Austerity Britain at the heart of it, eh?

I loved Sean Bean as Father Michael Kerrigan. He was so human and sincere with everything he tried to do, and it was so obvious that he struggled with a number of the church’s policies that are a bit outdated today. Bean really was tremendous in the role, and made me totally forget that I’d ever seen him as any villainous character in the past. He brought a sense of genuine compassion to Michael, and also a hefty amount of personal struggle, and I’m sure that this was helped massively by his own working class upbringing. Bean was also flanked by a number of familiar faces, including Anna Friel, Adrian Dunbar (Ted ‘Fella’ Hastings in Line Of Duty) and also Ray Donovan’s Paula Malcomson, which was nice to see, because it felt like there was a lot of celebrity backing for the social change that needs to take place before too many more people fall through the cracks.

Broken was written by acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern, who has brought us some excellent pieces of television on more than one occasion before, and who has also collaborated with Bean before this. Shows that I can recall include Accused and Common, and it’s clear that McGovern has a major talent in bringing us prime time viewing that centres around big contemporary issues, however he also has a knack for not making things too depressing all the time. He well and truly excelled himself here, covering a number of problems faced by the less fortunate in this country right now such as the faults with the welfare system and the lack of provision for mental healthcare on the NHS. McGovern offered so much food for thought with his latest project, and I for one am certainly looking forward to what he brings us next.

That’s it really, I don’t know what more I can add. Broken made a statement on mainstream British TV that was watched by millions at a time when a statement needed to be made. It is essentially a very simple drama done very well, with some very significant people behind it, believing in the message it delivers. I feel as though this review might have done the show a massive injustice, and I can only apologise for that. All I can say is if you haven’t seen Broken yet, whether you live in this country or not, watch it, because I believe it could very well be a reflection of what is going on in many places, and shows exactly why things need to change.