Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out the return of Boardwalk Empire... a series that left us with a particularly unexpected, jaw-dropping, and (as many believe) show-destroying cliffhanger (of which there are a few spoilers below). But can it pick up the pieces?
Series: Boardwalk Empire
Premiere Date: Sunday, Sept. 16 at 9:00 PM ET
Number of Seasons: Two going on three.
You'll Like It If: You thought the Roaring '20s were a better time. A simpler time. A time when machine gun violence was at an all-time high, and the legal distribution of alcohol was at an all-time low.
You Won't Like It If: You thought killing off Michael Pitt's character was the absolute worst move the series could make, and that the life of the show died along with Jimmy Darmody.
Cast: Everybody's third favorite actor Steve Buscemi leads a cast of Brave heroine Kelly Macdonald, that-guy-from-Hugo-sans-beard Michael Stuhlbarg, back-from-the-dead Omar Little Michael K. Williams, the haunting Michael Shannon, the even-more-haunting Gretchen Mol, and welcoming cast newbie Bobby Cannavale.
Behind the Camera: Great names like Martin Scorsese, Mark Wahlberg, Terence Winter, and Tim Van Patten. You can't beat that hand.
Synopsis: Atlantic County treasurer Nucky Thompson runs the New Jersey boardwalk, with varying degrees of success (and legitimacy). Nucky controls the crooked cops, the crime rings, the illegal distribution of alcohol... unfortunately, in a business like his, you amount a good sum of enemies.
Where We Left Off Last Season: Nucky had just offed longtime rival and longertime surrogate son Jimmy Darmody; Commodore Kaestner had been killed (by his not-so-surrogate son Jimmy Darmody); Nucky's brother Eli, the sheriff, was placed back firmly back in the treasurer's pocket; new land deals were being made to expand Nucky's control and distribution of alcohol; Det. Van Alden had high-tailed it to Illinois after undergoing some personal and professional difficulties. Additionally, Margaret had explored an extramarital affair with Owen Selater; afterwards, opted to sign some of her and Nucky's property over to the church as a means of seeking forgiveness.
What Might Happen This Season: Many fans have expressed concern that Jimmy's death could mean the end of the show as we know it. From the inception of the program on, Jimmy has served as a chief component of the series' backbone, providing both an emotionally tormented antihero and a rising threat to Boardwalk's main character, Nucky. Now that he's out of the picture, Nucky will seek villainy elsewhere: maybe with Bobby Cannavale's new addition? Plus, Nucky will have to wage his own war between his work life and his home life, as Margaret's disapproval of Nucky's business and her own increase in ruthlessness might pose a greater threat to Buscemi's central figure this year. Additionally, we will likely see a greater exploration of Nucky's relationship with his brethren overseas in Ireland. And are we actually going to get to see Al Capone do something this season?!
Who We'll Miss the Most: Jimmy was a dynamic force for sure, but the real loss can be attributed to the killing off of Aleksa Palladino's deeply depressed Angela. Although her screen time was never extensive, every second Palladino was featured was a treasure for the viewers. Also leaving the show is Season 1's up-on-her-high-horse showgirl/Season 2's tortured unwed mother Lucy Danziger, played by Paz de la Huerta.
Oh, The Places You'll Go: Though largely set on the Atlantic City boardwalk, the show has lent major focus to Chicago and New York City, with an increasingly prominent look at Pittsburgh.
Mood: Can veer pretty dark, especially when brother turns against brother, husband turns against wife, child turns against father... but on the lighter side, there's always Mickey Doyle with a "tasteful" one-liner.
Fan Favorite Characters: Shannon's psychotic Det. Nelson Van Alden, Jack Huston's suicidal World War I veteran Richard Harrow.
Most Cringeworthy Moment: Jimmy Darmody's exploration of an impulse of physical love with his own mother. Don't worry: he's gone now, so that shouldn't be happening anymore. Shudder...
Gore Factor: It is a series about organized crime, and it is on HBO, so you should prepare for some flinch-worthy blood gushers. At least once every two to three weeks, something will incite a disturbed "Augh!" from the viewer.
Attention Span Requirements: Boardwalk does have its fair share of hair-raising shocks and exciting scenes, but the midseason episodes do have the tendency to drag. The slow pace of some of the business-heavy scenes, and the dry nature of the setting and characters will warrant a degree of patience that you have to spend weeks in meditation classes to achieve.
Musical Prowess: The era-appropriate ballads vary from catchy to grating, but the theme song will stick with you through the week.
Educational Benefits of Watching: A history lesson, sort of! Learn about prohibition, about the Jazz Age, about real figures like Arnold Rothstein, Bugsy Siegel, and Al Capone. Of course, it's important to recognize that the show does take liberties before foregoing studies for your next U.S. History test; It is fiction, after all.
Halloween Costume Opportunism: You can put on an old suit and a fedora and call yourself Nucky, but nobody's really going to get it if you don't tell them. Richard Harrow is probably your best bet, although you could easily be mistaken for the Phantom of the Opera. For women, a simple flapper dress from H&M or a consignment store will do. Add a feather for a touch of that stage-girl feel. Maybe forgo mood inducers though. You don't want to end up like Lucy, do you?
Cultural Legacy: Boardwalk Empire is an equal-opportunity debaser, with all depicted cultures and ethnicities earning a criminal limelight: the Irish, Italians, Blacks, Jews, Christians, Germans, Polish, the Dutch... the list goes on.
Water Cooler Standings: The most important question of them all: will you be able to talk about this show with your friends, co-workers, fellow Subway riders? As most of the other big water cooler series, such as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men won't be on air this fall, Boardwalk stands as one of the biggest and most "Did you see when...?"-prone dramas of the season. Competitors of course include Homeland and Dexter, but you're bound to have a few pals who don't subscribe to Showtime. As such, Boardwalk is a good bet to prove you're up to date with all things television.
[Photo Credit: HBO]
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Another year has come and gone…I’m talking of course about 1921. The second season of Boardwalk Empire concluded last night, with an especially significant ending. For those wishing to avoid SPOILERS, I suggest you travel far away from this article (and the Internet in general…you’re bound to inadvertently stumble on it somewhere out there). But for the rest of you who caught the climactic ending of the season finale, I’m sure you’re just as wrapped up in the same big question as I am: what the hell are they going to do now?
If you’ve kept reading, I will assume it is safe to stop beating around the bush: Jimmy Darmody—the “prodigal son” of Nucky Thompson, the heir of the Atlantic City throne, the tortured victim of his own oedipal demons and violent internal storms, the major driving force of the narrative drama and the audience’s emotional investment in the show—is dead.
Now, this wasn’t in all senses a shocker of an ending. In the weeks leading up to the finale, we had all noticed a heightened attention paid to the development and unraveling of Jimmy’s psyche. He was tortured by his betrayal of Nucky, his inability to effectively run the town, his unhappy marriage, and, most of all, his relationship with his mother. During these weeks, I would converse with fellow Boardwalk fans about the series' events. Inevitably, no matter who I spoke to, I always heard the same two comments: “Richard is awesome,” and, “They’re really building up to something with Jimmy.”
I was a skeptic. I thought, "There’s no way they’d kill off such an engrossing, important character.” But my peers proved more skilled in the art of foresight. A few people I know mentioned that they thought the show might decide to kill off Jimmy by the end of the season, citing the expansive attention paid to the character’s internal and the rocky downfall as evidence. Again, I didn’t believe they could do it. Mostly because I didn’t believe the show could really go on without him. But as I was wrong about the choice, I very well might be wrong about Boardwalk’s destiny. But still, I wonder where the show might possibly go from here.
Naturally, Nucky is the central character on the series. But a good deal of his troubles—both internal and external—came at the hands of Jimmy this season. Not only is Jimmy out of the picture now, but the federal case against Nucky was promptly decreed a mistrial. It seems at this time that the primary source of Nucky’s problems will come from Margaret, whose distaste with her new husband's business is resurfacing. Margaret may have squandered a big business deal for Nucky in the last moments of the season finale, but really, is this a big enough conflict to drive the show—even if it results in a personal financial meltdown for Nucky, not to mention a failed marriage (that wasn’t built on too large a promise to begin with)?
Of course, Jimmy’s family (or what is left of it) will prove more directly affected by the cliffhanger. His mother, Gillian, will now likely raise Tommy—but as horrifying as that is, we can’t really expect a period drama about political corruption to rest solely on the shoulders of a story about latent child abuse. Will Gillian take a more pivotal role in the larger story? Might she incite a revenge story on behalf of her murdered son? And if she does continue to spread her evil wherever she can, is anybody other than Jimmy truly all that susceptible to her witchcraft? And can Gillian really even function without Jimmy at all? As far as I’m concerned, Gillian has existed solely as an appendage to Jimmy’s development. Now that he’s gone, I’m not sure what at all they might do with her that works.
So, there seems to be a a lack of prospects for Boardwalk Empire's third season. Nucky’s future seems bland. Gillian’s seems questionable. The New Yorkers are expanding their trade to heroin, which might prove interesting—and there is the little matter of the fact that Al Capone is in the picture. But otherwise, what do we have to really look forward to now? Who will we invest our time in? What character remains that is so rich, so troubled, so enigmatic and yet so relatable that he can drive the show nearly on his own, as Jimmy did these past two years?
Well…there’s always Richard. No one (no one that I know of, at least) can mention this show without bringing up just how fundamentally awesome the physically- and emotionally-damaged World War I veteran is. Richard is somewhat of a contrast to Jimmy-serving characters like Gillian, Angela and the Commodore. Whereas we see him deliver an invigorating world of his own, he sees himself solely as a function of Jimmy. This is best evidenced by the end of the October episode “Gimcrack and Bunkum,” wherein Richard—just bouncing back from a near-decision to attempt suicide—defines himself by his loyalty to Jimmy and his position in his friend’s and boss’ life: just before scalping the head of a man who has been a nuisance to Jimmy, Richard steadily identifies himself: “I’m a soldier.”
So what can be done with Richard? This is uniquely fruitful territory. Richard might decide to carry on Jimmy’s legacy, either as a father to his son or the man behind Atlantic City. Richard might seek a purpose elsewhere—and unlike many characters on the show, he has a value that can harbor a storyline independent of the colorful A.C. world on which so much of our investment depends. Of course, as with Gillian, there is the possibility of revenge, although I don’t know whether I’d assign this sort of drive to Richard, who is not a man consumed by (external) hate. Richard has shown himself to be unique: he admitted affection for a Chicago prostitute, he denounced Eli’s willingness to kill his own brother. He even spoke honestly, albeit subtly, with Jimmy once or twice regarding his own questionable endeavors. Richard has the value of a soul, which will make us root for him more than we might for just about anyone else in the Boardwalk universe. But, like his friend, he is also engulfed by his demons, which will drive him to dark places during episodes to come.
The series might very well rely on what it does with Richard. The writers have built up his character colossally this season, perhaps in preparation for his acceptance of Jimmy’s central role. Hopefully, we’ll see the character pointed in the right direction. Maybe he’ll grow into the villain; maybe the hero. Either one could have its place. But Richard might just be what this show needs to carry on in the era after Jimmy—so hopefully, Boardwalk will use him wisely.
At the height of his power, Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion and sent to prison. Upon his release from jail, Prohibition was repealed and the Chicago mob's chief source of income -- bootleg liquor -- dried up. How did the Chicago mob survive and what was Capone's influence on the mob leaders who would follow him?