Boardwalk Empire – Season Wrap Up

By. D.G. McCabe

This article is a week late, so I’m just going to give some quick reactions then get onto a review of a movie that I recently saw in theaters.

– I really don’t understand why television critics find Nucky Thompson to be such a boring character.  Whenever you think he has become a complete monster, he surprises you.  For instance, I thought for certain that he had Eli killed, but instead has had him shipped out to Chicago to hang out with Al Capone and Nelson Van Alden.

– As much as I’ll miss Richard Harrow, there really wasn’t much left for the character to do.  I still wish they hadn’t written him out in such an agonizing way, but the more I think about it the more it fits the character.

– Season 4 was probably the best season of Boardwalk Empire, at least since season one.

Anyway, more recaps and analysis next season!

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Boardwalk Empire – One More Episode

By: D.G. McCabe

It’s been a few weeks since I did a writeup on Boardwalk Empire.  Since the last few years’ season finales have been utter bloodbaths, we’re going to do something a little different: survival odds for some of the key characters.

1. Joe “Joe the Boss” Masseria – Will Nucky set up the meeting of his “partners” in the Florida-AC-NYC scheme?  If so, Masseria could meet the same fate Nucky has in store for Dr. Narcisse.  Still, the real Masseria survived for quite a bit of time after 1924, and the show has been fairly true to fact when it comes to the major events in the lives of the historical characters.  Odds of survival – 100%.

2. Dr. Valentin Narcisse – I would love, love, to see Jeffery Wright return for another season or two as the foreboding, sinister, brilliant doctor.  Still, the last two seasons have dispatched the main antagonist in the final episode and Narcisse is too arrogant to get out of Atlantic City before Nucky comes down on him.  Odds of survival – 40%

3. Chaulky White – Chaulky’s days appear to be numbered, but they have been all season and he’s escaped death three times.  It would be a crazy twist if he survived all of those attempts on his life only to be whacked at the last minute.  The writers have a lot of places to go with Chaulky and I think they’ll keep him around.  Odds of survival – 80%.

4. Eli Thompson – Nucky may have figured Eli out, but what is he going to do about it?  He doesn’t seem to be in a particularly fratricidal mood these days.  Eli could also turn the tables on Knox, or use him to bring down the non-Nucky Florida conspirators.  I don’t think he’s that smart though, and his probably screwed.  Odds of survival – 30%

5. Agent Knox – This depends on the fate of Eli.  I can’t see them both biting it in the next episode.  I could see Eli or Nucky shooting Knox, and no Knox pretty much lets Eli off the hook with Nucky.  Maybe.  Odds of survival – 30%.

6. Nucky Thompson – Nucky is in trouble, but the show revolves around him, arguably more than any other show on television or at least on HBO.  Odds of survival – 100%

7. Richard Harrow – The writers would have to be sadistic to whack Richard at this point.  Boardwalk Empire is a dark show, but having Richard die after finally getting his life in order would be a total waste.  Odds of survival – 90%

8. Mickey Doyle – How the f is he still alive?  Odds of survival – 100%

Can’t wait for this Sunday’s season finale!

(c) D.G. McCabe

Boardwalk Empire, Season 4 So Far

By D.G. McCabe

I’m a little behind on my writeups for the continuing adventures of Nucky Thompson.  This is going to be short one just to get back on track.

So here is a list of five observations:

1. You should never, never, never underestimate Chaulky.

2. Nucky may have overcome his tragic flaw from seasons past (his tendency to get sentimental and lose focus), but with every solution there are new problems.  He just seems detached from everything at this point.

3. We still don’t know how some of these storylines relate to the main story.  The Chicago, Richard, Gillian, and now, Margaret stories are mostly disconnected from everything else that’s going on.

4. Narcisse is not unstoppable.  Indeed, his biggest flaw is his massive ego, which can be exploited pretty easily in the right hands.

5. We still don’t know what the end game is for this season.  Some of the dangling threads can be tied up quickly, some not so much.  One could argue that whereas last season was too singularly focused, this season is all over the place.  Still, it’s been enjoyable so far, and I like the unpredictable aspects.

More on Sunday night!

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Boardwalk Empire Season 4, Episodes 5-6

By D.G. McCabe

The last two weeks in the continuing adventures of Nucky Thompson have wrapped up a few threads from the first part of the season and setup the endgame of the season’s second half.  Although this season of Boardwalk Empire is far superior to last season, it is a bit disjointed so far.  The Chicago storyline and the Richard storyline, while good, are totally unconnected to Nucky Thompson at this point in time.  A show like Game of Thrones can, and has to, have several such unconnected plots, but Boardwalk Empire begins and ends with Nucky Thompson.  It is at it’s best when it is a character study of its protagonist. That being said, I’m interested in how the writers are going to tie the seemingly unconnected plots to the main story.

The major theme of the season, that Nucky is making the right moves while everything outside of his control collapses, has been amplified the past two weeks.  Before episode five, Nucky was largely unaware about the chaos surrounding him.  In the last two weeks he has learned that his nephew is being charged for murder, his butler has jumped out a window, and his Florida deal is on life support.  The only chip to fall in place at this point is for him to discover Dr. Narcisse’s plot to push Chaulky aside and flood Atlantic City with heroin.

Speaking of which, Jeffrey Wright’s character has been physically absent the last two weeks, but it doesn’t feel as though we are far from his influence, or far from him re-asserting himself.  I’m anxious to find out what his next move will be.

Finally, one of the tragedies of Boardwalk Empire is that sometimes just when it is fleshing out its side characters, they are dispatched.  Eddie is the most recent example of course, but Owen was just getting interesting last year, and Jimmy represents one of television’s great wasted opportunities.  I realize that this is a brutal world, and it’s logical that those characters died when they did, it just feels incomplete.

Anyway halfway through the season!  More next week!

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Boardwalk Empire, Season 4, Episode 4

By: D.G. McCabe

Arnold Rothstein always wins.  In the first season, he famously states that he never takes a bet that he knows he won’t win.  He always has the right cards. Until he doesn’t.

The centerpiece of last night’s episode was a poker game in the basement of the Onyx Club where Rothstein and Nucky square off.  The “new Nucky” is on full display here, outplaying Rothstein, the man who can’t lose.  In the world of Boardwalk Empire, no one stays on top for long, but Rothstein’s apparent decline is especially compelling since he’s the man who always says, and seemingly always does, the smart thing.

This, of course, leaves an opening for Meyer Lansky to start building his notorious rum-running business.  The real-life Lansky is largely credited for turning organized crime into big business, and either died a millionaire or a pauper depending on who’s story you believe.  Nucky doesn’t know it yet, but he just backed the right horse in a major way.

Still, while the walls aren’t closing in on him like last season, danger is coming from unexpected locations.  Eddie’s been taken in by a psychotic G-man, Chaulky pissed off the wrong Harlem gangster (although Narcisse wasn’t used very much this episode), and his nephew just whacked someone by giving them an overdose of laxative.

What’s different this season, however, is that the danger largely comes from outside forces beyond Nucky’s control.  Most of the drama of the previous three seasons was largely of Nucky’s own creation.  He underestimated Rothstein in season one while taking Jimmy and Eli for granted.  The latter sewing he reaped in season two.  And of course, last season Nucky was on love leave, and it seemed that all he made were self-destructive mistakes.

Still, Nucky is used to being in control.  We’ll see next week, and this season, what happens when Nucky’s problems come from forces beyond that control.

(c) D. G. McCabe

Boardwalk Empire, Season 4, Episodes 2-3

By: D.G. McCabe

The plot of Season 4 has starting moving forward at a quickening pace.  This is where I don’t get critics who say that Boardwalk Empire is “slow” or “boring.”  We already have several brutal murders, a fantastic new antagonist (Jeffery Wright’s Dr. Narcisse), and of course high levels of tension throughout the storyline.

The first thing I noticed about the last two episodes is how observant and strategic Nucky can be when he’s not on “love-leave.”  He now tosses showgirls aside like stale bagels and conducts his business like a well oiled machine. Even this week’s Florida sub-plot could be a wise play, since it is clear that Nucky has a chance to expand his reach down there.

We as the audience, however, know that this can’t last.  If there’s anything that the first three seasons of Boardwalk Empire have proven it’s that Nucky Thompson has the capacity to be mindlessly vicious and epically self destructive.  Bobby Cannavale’s now-Emmy winning Gyp Rossetti largely capitalized on these aspects last season, and the new antagonist, Dr. Narcisse, is a lot more intelligent that Rossetti.

Speaking of which, I can’t say enough about Jeffery Wright’s performance so far.  Wright is a well regarded character actor (best recognized as Felix Leiter in Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008), and most media outlets felt his casting was a substantial coup for the show.  His Narcisse is sophisticated and smooth, but at the same time dangerously unpredictable and clearly capable of Gyp Rossetti style psychopathic violence.  I really hope he’s not only a one season antagonist at this point.

Anyway, more of the continuing adventures of Nucky Thompson next week!

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Boardwalk Empire – Season 4, Episode 1

By: D.G. McCabe

When last we left the continuing adventure of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), our hero had narrowly escaped his complete destruction at the hands of a one-dimensional, mustache-twirling villain.  Last season was by far the weakest of the three so far, with the never-ending crazy of Gyp Rossetti (Bobby Cannavale).  There was also way too much re-tread ground to live up to the meticulous plotting of season one or the epic, Jimmy (Michael Pitt) vs. Nucky battle of season two.  Clearly the show did itself a great disservice by dispatching Jimmy and replacing him with a lesser antagonist.

Thankfully, the first episode of season four is better than any episode of season three.  The writers seem to take special joy in pointing this out to the audience, the way they so quickly dispense with the “Nucky loves another showgirl” plotline and quickly dispose of the “out of town gangsters hate Nucky” setup.  Certainly the New York and Chicago crews will have their place in this season, but perhaps, finally, the never ending Nucky vs. Rothstein rivalry/friendship/rivalry will finally stop going round and round in circles.

Richard is back of course and just as efficient as ever, although it isn’t explained who these men he is killing are and why he is dispatching them.  He is far away from Atlantic City, and having already taken revenge for Angela Darmondy (Aleksa Palladino) and rescuing Jimmy’s son from his insane, drug addled grandmother (Gretchen Mol), it is an open ended question what part his is going to play in the larger plot this season.

Speaking of Gillian, I’m a little surprised that the writers brought her back, but overall it is a good thing.  She is completely insane and evil, but unlike a certain maniac from New York, we know why she is the way she is, and who’s fault it is (mostly Nucky’s).  Hopefully they give her some more to do this season except brood in a whorehouse.  We’ll see.

Next week: The guy who’s in all the trailers enters the stage, and he’s pissed!

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe