October 4th, 2010
01:57 PM ET
We’re three episodes in, “Boardwalk Empire” fans, and I'm banging the gavel. Let's make it official: “Boardwalk” is an absolutely fantastic show.
Hasty decision? Nope. Jumping the gun? No way. I've been watching TV for quite some time, and when you know, you just know. My taste in TV has evolved, but the gravitational pull to certain characters in certain shows has stood the test of time. Over the years, I have intently followed central figures as they navigated their respective storylines, and occasionally tried on their shoes to see how it felt to walk in them.
Somewhere between Rocky Balboa, Cliff Huxtable and the brash, infinitely evil J.R. Ewing from "Dallas," I've openly rooted for the main guy/gal to wiggle out of the self-induced jam whether he was hero, villain, or some combination of both.
Fast forward a few years after those others, and in walks Tony Soprano. The guy who is a little bit "Huxtable" and a whole lot "J.R" was always rooted for in any situation like he was the "Italian Stallion." Do I dare call Tony a "reprehensible hero?" Well, yes - because that's exactly what he was, and continuing that trend is “Boardwalk Empire's” Nucky Thompson.
The difference is that I don't think I was this attached to Tony three episodes into "Sopranos." Nucky may not be likable or the coolest kid in the class like Tony seemed to be, but he is an endearing figure in a peculiar way. More than anything, I think I'd loan him my last two dollars based on his entire approach to the goings on in Atlantic City's world. I'll have to keep an eye on this notion, because Nucky's hovering in the realm of "my favorite uncle" status pretty early on.
Speaking of Atlantic City's world, many readers have commented on “Boardwalk Empire's” masterful depiction of the time period. The visuals run the gamut from striking to subdued, but every detail in the costumes, set design and the art direction of this show is downright impeccable. Last night's episode wasn't just a sticky note left on the fridge reminding us of the talented cast and crew, it flat-out blew the doors off the icebox.
The episode picked up with a critically injured witness brought in to the hospital. By my count, this tone-setting scene was the first of a few that had me doubled over in disbelief.
Things took off from there at a great pace with the introduction of Chalky White, Nucky's "replacement" for Mickey Doyle's operation. That story was pretty warm, but the temperature shot up to sweltering after one of Chalky's men was lynched with the words "liquor kills" sprawled on the car beneath his cold, dead feet. I think we all have an idea of who was responsible, and Nucky knows that situation is a powder keg that could blow everything.
Speaking of being “doubled over in disbelief": Can we talk about the view of Lucky's (1920's method) treatment for gonorrhea? I chose to delete that scene from my mental hard drive, and doubled over doesn't really do it justice. How this guy is known as "Lucky" is beyond me.
Another scene that left me flabbergasted was when Agent Van Alden reached into Simon's infected wound. Actually, scratch "doubled over"; in reality, that was more like being balled up in a fetal position. The cinematography and editing of what we didn't see made as much of an impact as what we saw, and although I suffered watching, I liked each of these well-crafted moments. I think I overheard myself asking, "Wait, did he say...?" and "Seriously, is that...?" a few times. The writers really got me there.
Meanwhile, Van Alden made a highly entertaining move knowing Simon is one of Rothstein's men, and left the mess squarely on Nucky's doorstep. As things heat up, I think Rothstein is another likable, meticulous figure. There were so many good scenes, but I'll give a big nod to Rothstein's poker game, and Nucky's talk with Jimmy as he sent him on his way with some cash and a simple "Good luck James..." Terrific.
The show isn’t complicated, but it’s by no means simple. The situations (such as the Mickey Doyle conflict) are quickly becoming a layered, complex web of storylines that are all woven into the fabric of Nucky Thompson, and the writing in that regard has been very good so far.
As for other characters, Margaret Schroeder (played by Kelly Macdonald) is becoming a favorite. Her story seems to present some intrigue we're promised to see down the road. Lucy Danziger is pretty annoying as Nucky's main squeeze, but Paz de la Huerta is delightful, which means she's doing a fine job in the role. Last up, the D'Alessios are poised to bring drama to the boardwalk, and I look forward to seeing what they've got up their sleeves also.
As the show ended, there were high-fives and fist pumps all around as Nucky brings his muddy feet in from the rain, signifying the true mess beginning to dirty up his pristine world. The significance was a clever stroke in the show's storytelling.
I know I said this last Monday, but I stand behind this statement: This was the best episode thus far.
When the show began three weeks ago, the water cooler crowd was merely a chosen few. These days, “Boardwalk Empire” coffee chat has been standing room only, and I can't wait for next week.
Loved, kinda liked, or hated the show? Let us know!
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