2016.8 Boardwalk Empire Season 5 (Blu ray)
Another tv series boxset. Another viewing bingefest. Four episodes on Day One, two more on Day Two, followed by the final two episodes on Day Three. Hell of a way of watching a tv series. The only better way of watching this show would have been being able to watch all five seasons in quick succession, which I’m sure many future viewers will do through boxsets and streaming.
Indeed, I’m rather envious of people doing that- discovering the shows pleasures and secrets in the space of weeks whilst up to now we’ve only been able to do so over the years. Shows like Boardwalk Empire will I’m sure have a second life because of that. Maybe it will get a reappraisal over time, because while it was a critical darling (and rightfully so, in my opinion) from the start, the show never seemed to capture audience attention; certainly it was no Sopranos and would quickly fall under the shadow of the Game of Thrones juggernaut. When the show finally ended with its fifth season last Autumn I wonder how many people were still watching.
Perhaps it was the slow burn? I don’t know. It was always a good show to me but some were off-put by the slow pace (what is it with peoples attention spans these days?). Technically it was accomplished, just like everything else on HBO- the production was film quality standard, and the cast were always excellent, Steve Buscemi simply magnificent throughout in a role he seemed born to play. Perhaps it was misconceptions. Perhaps the public wanted a 1920s-era Goodfellas, which Boardwalk Empire clearly wasn’t – yes the show could be very violent, at its best shockingly so, unleashing that violence without warning. But it was always more than just the violence. Boardwalk Empire was always a character piece, and a study of greed in a desperate, brutalized society of riches, poverty, and racism.
As it turned out, it was also a show about consequences, never more so than in this truncated final season. Using flashbacks both to Nucky’s childhood and young adulthood, it showed us those decisions that the young Nucky made that led to him becoming the Nucky that we saw from season one. These early formative events are juxtaposed by seeing Nucky in the ‘present’ of 1931 as he struggles to stop his empire crumbling around him. As we near the end of the series we witness the fateful moments that set in motion those events and relationships that the series chronicled in seasons one to five. Everything has consequences, and everything is set in motion when Nucky agrees to do the Commodore’s dirty work and send the young Gillian to him to sate the old man’s filthy desires. “Don’t do it,” I muttered helplessly at the screen, knowing full well that it was inevitable. The act sets Nucky on the path towards the wealth and power that he craves, to everything he will become by the start of series one, but it also seals his final fate that we see at the end of season five, and all his troubles in between. And in something of a revelation, Gillian Darmody turns out to be the chief victim of the whole saga, putting her actions of the whole series into a whole new perspective. It doesn’t really condone what she would do, but it does explain everything and lends her some sympathy.
I understand some fans didn’t like the final season, but I really enjoyed it, and I thought the last episode was a great ending to the show. It gave a weight and pathos to everything we had seen before over the five years, so much so that I look forward to one day watching the whole series again from start to the finish, only this time having the perspective granted from those last few moments of the last episode. Boardwalk Empire was always a very good show, but with this finale, it actually became a great one.