Sadly I have no new slant on Boardwalk Empire after its third season. The show remains logically put together with interesting characters and some very fine performances. But I don’t care about any of the characters.
Nucky remains the hero of the story, for all intents and purposes, and yet why should we like him? The fact that Gyp Rosetti was such a psychopath felt like a deliberate attempt to get us to root for Nucky. But Nucky is in the credits, he isn’t going anywhere and he remains a greedy, selfish, murderer. We desperately needed a reason to like Nucky back in season one. Don Draper, Walter White and Dexter Morgan all have their reasons, their better moments or their excuses for why we should like them. Nucky is certainly more reluctant to kill than most of his adversaries but that’s about it.
He spent the first half of the season ignoring his business to chase Billy Kent around which did little to endear him to us. Similarly I think Margaret, who could be the heroin, isn’t. It’s hard to be sympathetic when you are constantly frowning and suffering. I felt the writing didn’t establish believably that she and Owen were actually in love and willing to run away together. Their sexual tension just morphed into that over a couple of episodes before he wound up in a box. There was no shock or disappointment in that moment. It seemed obvious that there would be no happy ending for either of them.
I know there are some who find Richard Harrow’s story compelling and he certainly generates more sympathy than most on the show. But I don’t think Boardwalk as a show gives you much hope that any of these characters are going to escape the carnage to come. I don’t feel invested in Richard finding love or saving Tommy because he is sure to still be in Atlantic City next season. Gillian isn’t dead and will surely come knocking so we will have to deal with all of that again. I thought Richard’s rampage through the halls was actually pretty flat. Again there was no suspense that anything of consequence was happening because Gyp’s men were all faceless goons (ironic given their killer).
Van Alden remains in the same place he has always been. I imagine we all cheered him on when he pressed the iron to his colleagues face and unleashed the beast within. But he, like Margaret, is destined to look and be miserable and fail to escape the corrupt world he walks in. As I’ve said repeatedly the lack of straight characters, who obey the law, weakens the show immeasurably. Criminal acts have little consequence if they aren’t contrasted with law abiding behaviour.
The wider political game was interesting to watch and helped by the strong performances from Capone, Luciano, Lansky and Rothstein. But throughout the season I kept wondering why gangs of armed men weren’t employed to assassinate people. The bloody sequence where Bugsy Siegel narrowly missed out on killing Gyp was undermined by the question: why was he alone? I didn’t think the final denouement was well explained either. Wouldn’t Mellon be furious that his distillery was being shut down again after Nucky persuaded him to restart it?
I don’t think Boardwalk can compare to any of the other cable shows I cover in more detail. Without emotion a show can’t become great. I appreciate that for those who can’t stomach science fiction a gangster show is preferable. And if you enjoy the show for all it has to offer, sans emotion, then that’s great. It’s perfectly enjoyable to watch as a pass time but I want more from my TV than that.