Just to let you know beforehand, I am a few episodes into season 3.
In the fall of 2010, Boardwalk Empire debuted and it was supposed to be a colossal sensation according to the critics. The hype it was receiving was justifiable because Martin Scorsese, one of the best directors ever, was named director for the premier and Terrence Winter, who wrote one of the most well-received tv-shows ever, was named the writer. Strangely enough, critics projected that Steve Buscemi would not portray the main character convincingly. Obviously, any avid movie fan recognizes that’s foolish because he played tremendous non-comedic parts in both Reservoir Dogs and Fargo. To be honest, I would go on a limb saying that Steve Buscemi is one of the most versatile performers ever. If he just stayed away from Adam Sandler’s abominable movies, I believe he would not have a stigma that said he could only play one role.
Thus, I believed that Steve Buscemi was an impeccable choice for the role. And as if I was not enthusiastic enough due to the hype and Buscemi, I heard the first episode cost 18 million dollars (the most spent on a pilot ever). That had me counting down the days as I was anticipating perhaps the greatest drama tv-series ever.
But in its 2 1/2 seasons that I have fully watched, it is not even close to being the greatest drama ever.
Surely, I certainly like many things about the show. The acting is top-notch as almost everyone portrays their character convincingly. The clothing, setting, music, weapons, and the dialog, makes it feel akin to a reality television show in the 1920s. The directing is superb. They know how to make scenes exceptionally intense and vivid; they know how to shoot the finest camera angles, and they know how to get the best out of his actors/actresses. In spite of all that, there is a major problem with this show: the writing.
Initially, I thought Terrence Winter marinating the storylines was brilliant idea, because too many television shows rush into the action too fast and thus the action loses its merit. Therefore, when a storyline keeps building, the audience becomes more intrigued and looks forward to the culmination. Winter does a great job in building up intriguing stories, but a show that progressively builds their stories requires a prodigious culmination. Boardwalk Empire hardly ever does that, though. Instead, they spend all this time building up these intriguing stories only for them to fall flat. Furthermore, it is good to have timing for the action. That way it does not become complete overkill, but this show has almost no action whatsoever. Frankly, there is just not enough of a balance between talking and action.
Additionally, the pace of the show can almost be insufferable. I mean, some of the shows honestly drag worse than a chunk of metal handing off a car going down the time. And at times the show becomes so convoluted and hard to follow due these unimportant sub-stories that lead nowhere. They should cut down on the storylines, and just stick to the ones they feel to be important.
In season one, it felt like the feds were Nucky Thomson’s biggest archrival. The lead man after Thomson was Nelson Van Alden, who lived such a structured life that it turned him insane. They spent all this time building him getting close to catching Thomson. He then struck gold when he found a frustrated Lucy Danzinger at an underground bar after being dumped by Thomson. This foreshadowed that Alden would find out all the secrets about Thomson that she knew. Instead of doing that, they wedged Alden into this “Days of Our Lives” bush league soap opera, wherein he gets Danzinger pregnant, his wife finds out he is cheating on him, and he loses his duties as a federal agent because he killed his partner by attempting to baptism him. No, I did not make that up. It really happened.
Then there is the death of Jimmy Darmody. Sure it shocking television, but it was still preposterous to write-off one of the most multifaceted and layered characters on the show. They ultimately did something to surprise the fans just for the sake of doing it. What is more is they invested tons of time in building up this rebellious alliance with people who were treated poorly by Nucky that led to nowhere.
Right before they killed it off, the rebellious alliance sub-plot actually seemed to promisingly be a major turning-point of the show. One of the most engaging stories was when Manny Horvitz realized Darmody sent people to kill him, so he tried to get back at him by killing him in his house. Darmody was not home, but his wife was and was cheating on him with a women. Therefore, Horvitz killed both women.
After Jimmy came home to find out what happened to his wife, Gillian was scheming an idea to tell his Jimmy’s kid. She said to tell them she went to France and eventually everyone will forget about her. This made Jimmy so furious that he started choking her and saying, “I’ll remember”. Louis Kaestner, saved Jimmy from choking her by stabbing him with a spear and then choking him with it. Out of desperation, Jimmy grabbed a knife out of his shoe and stabbed his dad in the gut. Gillian told Jimmy to finish him and thus Jimmy killed his dad.
Everything worked in this scene – the directing, acting and the writing. It also seemed to be the turning point for the show, but everyone who was not killed ended up begging Nucky for forgiveness. Don’t get me wrong, they logically explained why everyone went back to Nucky – because he blocks business off and made a deal with the IRA for liquor—but just because they logically explained it, doesn’t diminish the fact that they ruined a potentially engaging storyline.
Do not get me wrong, I don’t think this is a bad show. The acting, directing, and the setting are all magnificent. But the writing is too inconsistent. I am on now on the Season 3 première, which to its credit has developed interesting storylines, but my biggest gripe about the show remains. Not one of Nucky’s adversaries is on an even playing field and therefore Nucky feels untouchable. Unless this show severely improves in the writing department, it will be classified as an over-hyped disappointment.