Last night HBO premiered its new crown jewel of television, Boardwalk Empire, a show based on the era of Prohibition and based on the life of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (name was changed from Johnson to Thompson), our antihero of the show. The show is created by, writer-producer Terrence Winter, one of the writers/producer of the HBO classic The Sopranos. But to bring this show to life Winter got the Holy Grail of directors to direct this pilot episode, Martin Scorsese. Anyone who watched the pilot could easily tell that the episode was one of Scorses’s own.
HBO didn’t have to make much of a choice when picking up this show, it’s about gangsters, booze, sex, and blood, all the makings of an HBO show and a quite a fit to follow up HBO’s other big hit, True Blood. The show takes place in Atlantic City, right as Prohibition has gone into effect in 1920. Our main character, Nucky Thompson, is played by one of Hollywoods most underrated actors, Steve Buscemi. Buscemi is absolutely fantastic in this role as the corrupt politician who is trying to keep his town under control. Is he going to be as powerful of a presence as Tony Soprano? Maybe and maybe not, it’s too early to tell, but I will tell you one thing, Buscemi is certain to entertain us.
However, I believe it will be the other two main characters of Boardwalk Empire, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) and the lovely Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) who are really going to take us for a ride. Jimmy reminds me a little of Jesse from Breaking Bad, he is a smart kid who saw some pretty messed up things while he was fighting abroad in World War 1. He has a wife and a child, a baby boy. He’s a man who is conflicted, though he thinks’ that he is not. He tells Nucky that he’s changed because he’s seen things that no man should see and because of that, he is not the same. Nucky is not sure he believes him, I’m not sure I believe him. However, if anyone can carry this type of character it is Pitt. I have a feeling he is going to end up being one of the biggest presences on this show.
Then we have Margaret Schroeder, the beaten pregnant wife, who comes to Nucky for help. It’s apparent from the beginning that Nucky is fond of her, even though he’s just met her. After pinning blame for a mass murder, that takes place towards the end of the episode, on her husband and has him drowned in the middle of the ocean, he goes to see Margaret in the hospital at the end of the episode. It’s apparent that this woman is going to be a fixture in his life, whether he likes it or not.
The show also fixates on the beginning stories of some of Ameirca’s most famous gangsters such as Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein, but the most notable being Al Capone, played by Stephan Graham. I feel that this will be an interesting story route that could what make this series great. You also have the shows “good guy” FBI agent Nelson Van Alden, played by Michael Shannon, whose stern-faced glare will make for a great foil to Buscemi’s Thompson.
Boardwalk is indeed bringing the gangster genre back to Hollywood and it does it exceedingly well. Scorsese directed a beautifully shot episode that will no doubt lead to his first (and probably not last) Emmy for directing.
Is it going to be the next Mad Men? Probably not, however I believe it will grow to be a great show. With the presence of a fresh young cast and the leading role played by Buscemi, it will no doubt lead to some great episodes of television. It certainly has its work cut out, but I have a feeling that it will be worth it in the end.