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Boardwalk Empire “Friendless Child” Review (5×07)

19 Oct

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“Dumber than I knew.”

Tony Soprano. Vic Mackey. Walter White. We’ve had our fair share of main characters with empires, characters brought down and crushed under the weights of their own powers, but what those characters don’t seem to have in common with Nucky Thompson is an opportunity to recover some semblance of morality. Yes, Nucky’s lost everything and the future belongs to people like Lansky and Luciano, but there’s a small ounce of redemption to be found here, a true confrontation of the past and all the terrible things he did.

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Boardwalk Empire “Devil You Know” Review (5×06)

13 Oct

boardwalk-empire-devil-you-know“Ain’t nobody ever gonna be free.”

In this environment of violence and corruption and death, power and allegiances may shift, but one thing remains constant: the environment, one that is restricting and cruel, unrelenting and indifferent to the plights of its inhabitants. All empires eventually crumble, and what’s left is the need for survival; what’s left is the question of whether you can make peace with the inevitability of your mortality.

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Boardwalk Empire “The Good Listener” Review (5×02)

14 Sep

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“Live long enough to cash out.”

Nucky Thompson, like Johnny Torrio, is nearing the end of his run, and he’s reminded of that fact at every turn. However, Nucky being the person he is, he won’t get out without finding some way to satisfy the burning greed that resides within his heart, the craving for power that drives people in this environment to kill and retaliate and kill some more. He realizes that if he dies, he’ll open up routes for others to build their own empires, and he’s not having any of that because his legacy needs to be under his own control, not under the mercy of the young up-and-comers.

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Boardwalk Empire “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” Review (5×01)

7 Sep

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The season premiere of the final season of Boardwalk Empire is framed by two acts of attempted reinvention, two stories about the same person in two different time periods. We have young Nucky and present-day Nucky, the former getting into the business and the latter attempting to change the business, and through flashbacks, we see just how our main character’s roots developed and why he’s at where he’s at right now.

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Boardwalk Empire “Farewell Daddy Blues” Review (4×12)

25 Nov

Boardwalk-Empire-Farewell-Daddy-BluesBoardwalk Empire is a show about corruption and crime. When corruption and crime are present, there’s only one way out: death. And so it goes for Richard Harrow.

Still, let’s start with Nucky. He’s the kind of guy that will, at one point, manipulate Valentin Narcisse with feigned, over the top racism, identifying and latching onto that weakness and twisting the master manipulator to benefit himself. At another point, he’ll attempt to use that same type of manipulation on his family; the thing is, it won’t work. He keeps insisting that he’s doing the right thing, but for him, like for all businessmen, doing the right thing requires something in exchange. Of course, Eli can see through the bullshit; he knows he’s the one that truly cares about the family, and Nucky’s trying to manipulate that weakness. Nucky’s like the parent that buys his kid a bunch of presents to make up for a bunch of bad decisions and help him feel better about himself. He doesn’t like getting his hands dirty, and, unlike in previous seasons, he isn’t as successful at the end as he wants to be.

In fact, not really anyone ends up better off after this episode, save for maybe Al Capone. Chalky and Narcisse are the two criminal masterminds clashing over a pot of revenge, lust, and anger, and they both wind up worse off; you’d expect one of them to come out on top, but at the end of it all, they’re both beaten into the ground in their respective ways. Narcisse is forced to submit to the “white man”, the epitome of all his hatred and the very weakness Nucky exploited, and Chalky loses his daughter, forcing him to hide out and live his life in constant fear.

It’s not a very happy ending, and it’s made all the worse by Richard Harrow’s death–kudos to Jack Huston for portraying such a brilliant character over the course of the series. He’ll be missed. Harrow’s a guy that came back from the war and had nothing waiting for him; all he had was the skills he learned, and all he wanted was to somehow fit in with and function in society. He was actually able to come to terms with who he was without becoming someone like Nucky, and that just make his death hurt all the more. The worst thing is that he died having accidentally killed an innocent woman; it’s something I’m sure some of these other characters wouldn’t give a second thought to, but for Richard, he has to die with that guilt. On the surface, he may not seem much better than the rest, but he is. The problem is that it doesn’t matter in this world.

Nevertheless, that ending is in line with the themes of the show, and my, what a fantastic ending it is. In a sequence similar to the one in “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, Harrow dreams about the life he never had and the face he never had, but when reality kicks in, we realize he’s now waiting for the waves to roll in.

GRADE: A-

SEASON GRADE: B

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Kudos to Jeffrey Wright and Michael Kenneth Williams for creating one of the most riveting television dynamics I’ve seen.

-Eli killing Knox is extremely satisfying; in fact, the similar “gun to the head” scenes draw parallels between Knox and Nucky; they’re both seemingly powerful people getting caught in this web of crime, and you realize how little they actually possess.

-Torrio got shot like, 50 times, and still lived.

-I know it wouldn’t really fall in line with his character at that point in his arc, but part of me really wanted to see him going on another shooting rampage…and then Van Alden pulling up in the getaway car with Richard’s family in the back, and then a tearful reunion while Van Alden glowered in the background, and then all of them driving off into the sunset while everyone else cried.

-I’m looking forward to the Van Alden-Eli dynamic, as well as more Margaret-Rothstein.

-Thanks for reading, guys. See you next year for Season 5.

Credit to HBO and Boardwalk Empire for all pictures. I own nothing.

 

Boardwalk Empire “Erlkönig” Review (4×05)

7 Oct

627-2This is going to be very brief, but I wanted to say a few things about this episode.

-Eddie Kessler’s death is one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the year, which is really impressive for a character that has only come into his own in the last few episodes. Just as Nucky has finally started to take notice of him, so do we. It’s understandable, though, why Eddie jumps off that balcony. He’s been shunned his whole life, forgotten, ashamed. He spends his final days in an interrogation room, truly alone, and it’s better for him to end it all. Devastating.

-Van Alden, Al Capone, and Frank Capone is a powerhouse trio that I never would’ve become tired of seeing. However, Frank is gunned down here in a powerful scene; Nelson’s about to try and distance himself from his current puppet-like role, but this happens, causing Al to turn him into an ally in his quest for revenge.

-Nucky essentially interrogates William in an episode in which Eddie is being interrogated. Although I’m not a big fan of William’s storyline, his scene with Nucky is extremely well done. It also shows that he’s a Thompson at heart.

-It’s hard not to feel sorry for Gillian, who’s trapped by her own addiction. Gretchen Mol is fantastic in this role.

-Fantastic camera work by Tim Van Patten. The riot scenes are beautifully filmed.

-Now we’re getting going. The first part of the season was a little slow, but it’s now kicking into high gear.

Credit to HBO and Boardwalk Empire for all pictures. I own nothing.

Boardwalk Empire “New York Sour” Review (4×01)

10 Sep

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This is always a show that has reveled in its atmosphere. Even in its lower points, the cool, calm ambience is intoxicating, bringing you in deep. It’s a difficult task with such an expansive cast, but Boardwalk usually pulls it off.

Season 4 opens in the aftermath of the bloodbath initiated by the delightfully evil Gyp Rosetti, the major driving force of Season 3. It’ll be interesting to see how the show regroups after losing someone as charismatic and antagonistic as him, and the premiere already shows signs of wheel-spinning. However, it’s a table-setting episode that accomplishes what it sets out do: introduce new characters and move things into place for the rest of the season.

Although Rosetti’s dead, we can already see the effects of the recently ended all-out war. Nucky’s living situation is far from glamorous, and we can see that he’s nowhere near as comfortable as he was earlier. He’s always been a guy that tries to avoid trouble when he can, and his flaw is believing that others will ignore looking into him if he says so. His way of doing business is paying people off, and he tries to grab as much as he can without entering the fray. For example, as Rothstein is leaving the meeting, he remarks that he isn’t sure if Nucky would kill him or not. Nucky seems both shocked at the content of the insinuation, as well as the idea of an insinuation itself. He wants, and believes, everything to be clean and easy, but as we know, being a gangster isn’t all sunshine and flowers.

In other affairs, Gillian’s now trying to take custody back of her son Tommy, while at the same time running a secret prostitution scheme in her house. She’s been going downhill much faster than Nucky has, and a shady Piggly Wiggly businessman can only spell trouble.

The show also checks in with Al Capone, a person that seems to be gaining confidence and poise as the days wear on. He shows restraint in dealing with a boy that spells his name wrong in the paper (the nerve!), and his business seems to be going well.

Finally, another person whose confidence is growing is Chalky White, played by the magnificent Michael Kenneth Williams. The show seems to be delving more into the African American side of the race relations, and it’s a welcome change, if not only to give Williams more screen time. He deals coolly with an especially shocking scene in which Dunn stabs Dickie Pastor, a talent manager that visits the Onyx Club. It comes after Dickie walks in on Dunn and Mrs. Pastor, and the scene eventually descends into dark, visceral madness.

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The premiere generally moves a bit slow, but that’s to be expected after last year. I’m really looking forward to the remaining 11 episodes.

Grade: B

Other thoughts:

-Richard Harrow is back, and he’s killing people! I could probably watch him doing that all day.

-The final scene is great. Harrow’s been a lonely voyager, just trying to get home. However, unlike Nucky, he’s not a stranger in his own home. The scene right before this shows Nucky staring into the distance, not sure what his place in the world is.

-Nucky’s nephew Will is introduced, which provides some interesting familial dynamics for the show to explore.

-New character Warren Knox is extremely intriguing. He seems fine on the outside at first, but he later murders a couple of people and has a drink. He’s like the Todd of Boardwalk Empire, I tell you.

-No van Alden or Margaret yet. I really hope that Shannon is integrated more into the main story this year. He’s a fantastic actor, and I want to see more of him.

Credit to HBO and Boardwalk Empire for all pictures. I own nothing.

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