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Boardwalk Empire - Eldorado & Series Review

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If there was ever a gangster drama I would recommend to anyone looking for something thought provoking, vicariously thrilling, and with beautiful scenery and visuals, Boardwalk Empire would be it. Only having five seasons, the series masterfully takes historical events and carves and paints an intriguing and meditative character study of main character Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on real Enoch Johnson and novel Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Crimes, and Corruption of Atlantic City) through the turmoil of Atlantic City primarily set during the Prohibition Era and Jazz Age.

It's the story of a man who kept on fighting for something he lost long ago and ultimately lost sight of what should of been really important. The series was smart by not visually revealing the youth and devil-deal-making turning point of Nucky until it's final eight hours by prominently pointing out that underneath all the romantic narcissism, excessive intellectualism, and themes of the nonsensical or illogical, was a mystery of one man's true identity.

Character actor Steve Buccemi has been flawless in what has to be his best role to date, proving just how much flawfull humanizing the man can portray, a departure from more secondary and comedic roles, has been an astounding and mostly rewarding ride! But Boardwalk really just has had a great cast all around from Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Seth Graham, Kelly McDonald and Gretchen Mol to Michael Pitt, Dabney Coleman, Vincent Piazza, Bobby Cannavale, Jefferey Wright, Patricia Arquette, Matthew Letscher, and Micheal Stahlburg to name a few.

It's writers too have also been brilliant with both it's intricate and blatant dialogue, spouting verses that could be compared to Homer-esque or Shakespearean booze-bending riddled speech with great theatrical and political intrigue. This for me is Terence Winter's, Howard Korder's, Stephen Levinson's, and Tim Van Patten's best work, which no doubt seems to have been the perfect fit with executive producer Martin Scorsese, as Boardwalk visually matches Scorsese's more recant historic bio-pics such as Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and Hugo, while also bringing the touch of a psychological thriller like that of his and novelist/screen writer Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island (Lehane actually was a consultant on Boardwalk's fourth season and the two are about to team up again for a Shutter Island prequel series for HBO tentatively titled, Ashcliffe).

So who is Nucky Thompson and what was Boardwalk Empire really about? It was about corruption and innocence lost, for, and by in which, experiencing such loss can one never again give into true genuine sentiment and be sorry or offer forgiveness to others. Boardwalk's final season and final episode sealed Nucky Thompson's fate, one that echoed through the series from it's last two episodes of the second season, when James Darmody ran away from Princeton and joined the army after a romantic pursuit by his own mother, who had James when she was very young thanks to a young Nucky Thompson wanting to get ahead, which is then furthered by the true villain of the series, whom is also James' father, The Commodore, and Nucky's brother Eli, pushing James to not only ruin Thompson, but kill him that results ultimately in James' death from the gun of Thompson himself.

Every season thereafter referenced, alluded, and juxtaposed James "Jimmy" Darmody and his death through several other characters in similar positions to him, (Owen Slaughter, Gyp Rossetti, Eddie Kessler, Roger McKallister, Rowen Smith, Richard Harrow, Chalky White), which in turn always reflected Nucky himself. Those characters also mostly resulted in unnecessary and/or lack of compassionate deaths of those closest to Thompson and/or those who come to associate to Gillian Darmody.

Although I had hoped the final episode rightly titled, "Eldorado", would depart from the standard tragedy of gangster drama by providing more of silver lining in it's final images, I can't say that I am dissatisfied or that I don't understand the choices made. When I go back to the episode, "In God She Flourishes" and I think about the scene where James and fellow students discuss the themes and ideas behind the novel The White Devil, it becomes clearer to see why Boardwalk wanted to present three generations (note: "3 in 1" concept) of Darmodys falling into corruption, would be the end of Thompson. As one student says, it's a philosophy about people all become corrupt in an already corrupt society and Nucky too had fallen into the acceptance of the pedophilia whims of the Commodore for the sake of his new-found family including hopes of being a father that he was never going to be, where his pain of that loss and betrayal to young Gillian seems to be the reason why he continued to buy off the people around him, instead of whole-heartedly offering love, protection, and forgiveness.

There were so many great scenes and metaphors in the final episode. I particularly liked the idea of swimming past the surf line and being so far gone that you don't know it, until it was too late. I also loved Nucky going into the future-fortune telling tent surrounded by nothing but dark blue curtains (the ocean, emptiness, void space) and the voice and image of a woman, similar to Billie Kent, only gave him a surreal riddle of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star asking him the same question Mabel's father (and the series) has been asking, how I wonder what you are!

What also put Nucky's final choices in perspective was a juxtaposing scene of Al Capone (Seth Graham) talking with his deaf son. So much of the time Capone comes off as a manic, all consuming, comedic brute without class or sentiment, but this scene with his son behind closed doors made point that much of what world saw of Al Capone in public, was not always who Al Capone was. This tender scene just made Nucky look so much worse, as he passed around cash instead of emotion to those closest to him, let alone being half-baked to Gillian all before realizing that it was too late for her, and before running away to make some grand escape. I loved the final scenes of young Nucky about to take Gillian's hand, while as older Nucky reaches out to Joe Harper Tommy Darmody while dying on the boardwalk planks--a metaphorical holding on and letting go, allowing his story to be incredibly moving, heartbreaking, & tragic, especially with that final shot of him swimming for that one gold coin, as seen in the opening scene of season five, The Golden Days of Boys and Girls...

Ultimately Boardwalk Empire shows us what flashy glamorous legends are really made of and how corruption ruins life resulting in the fallings and risings of empires, questioning integrity, especially when sometimes humans get so caught up in the gamble of wanting to make something of themselves, they can easily take it all in vein and loose sight of what should be humanity's best trait, love. Boardwalk Empire is a treasure worth searching for, just remember to take it easy on the bottle and hold onto your loved ones before you do.

About the Author - Darthlocke4
Laura Becker (Darthlocke 4) is a long time commentator, TV addict, and aspiring writer participating with other fans on SpoilerTV. She writes reviews and analytic type articles. Some of her other interests include philosophy, cultural anthropology, reading, drawing, and working with animals, as she grew up and continues to work on her family's horse farm.
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