Taking In The Boardwalk

Kish and I have enjoyed watching the first season of Boardwalk Empire, which ended Sunday night.  I like the deliberate pace of the show and its fascinating recreation of the early days of Prohibition, and I particularly like its central character, Nucky Thompson.

Thompson has been brilliantly played by Steve Buscemi.  It is hard not to like the character or appreciate his complexity.  Nucky is corrupt and ruthless, but also a soft touch.  He is refined and a bit of a dandy, but also able to get down and dirty in protecting his turf.  He is a master manipulator of those around him, but also easily manipulated.  He maintains an iron grip on his emotions, except when he remembers his childhood and his mistreatment by his bullying father.  The contradictions that make up his character seem endless.

As the season draws to a close, Nucky has developed a new ally — his paramour, Margaret — and has ended the gang war that generated the attempt on his life.  He will know no peace, however, because other forces are  lining up against him, including his mentor, the Commodore, and his loutish brother, who cannot appreciate that Nucky has made him what he has become.  Whether those forces allied against him will include Nucky’s strong man, Jimmy, is left up in the air, and will give us a reason to tune in when next season begins.

I would be remiss, too, if I didn’t mention the depth and richness of this show, which is filled with intriguing characters who demand more screen time.  These include Jimmy’s forlorn wife, who is trapped in a marriage to a violent man who terrifies her, the proud Chalkie, struggling to make headway in a racist, white man’s world, Jimmy’s mother, who is willing to do whatever it takes to advance Jimmy’s prospects, the barely restrained, scripture-quoting revenue agent who is constantly on the verge of giving in to his baser passions, the naive Nan Britton, who expects to move into the White House with newly elected President Warren G. Harding, and Jimmy’s masked and emotionally scarred fellow World War I vet — among many others.

This is a show that offers a lot to the attentive viewer.

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