T.V. Series Review: Boardwalk Empire

By Chris Bunton

Boardwalk Empire is a great T.V. Series that centers on the building of Atlantic City, Prohibition, the Depression and a man named Enoch “Nucky” Thompson.

“Nucky” Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi is a fictional character based loosely on the real life person, of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. And that’s part of the fun of the show for me. It was enjoyable looking up the characters and finding out who was real and who was not.

Many of the characters were based upon real people and depict their rise to power, or their fall from power. Such as Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Charlie Luciano, and George Remus, were real people. But, characters such as Albert “Chalky” White played by Michael K. Williams who recently passed away is a fictional character made up loosely of several people including a boxer at the time.

The show is wonderful in depicting the era the characters are living in. Advancements in technology are shown. The characters discuss books, radio shows, plays, and movies of the time. Songs from the era are also played at various times when appropriate.

The program does a great job humanizing the characters. It shows the rise and fall of Al Capone, played by Stephen Graham, as a crazed killer. But, it also shows his love for his brothers, and his deep love for his deaf son, while struggling with his embarrassment of it.

It shows Charlie “Lucky” Luciano played by Vincent Piazza, as a bright eyed ambitious young man, who grows up to be a ruthless, calculating leader. He, along with his partner Meyer Lansky played by Anatol Yusef, play major roles in the show.

If you like social issues, the series displays the plight of women at the time, and the things they had to do to survive. The treatment they were subjected to, and were often made to accept. It shows the division of classes, and races. It gives a taste of what the medical and mental health systems were like at the time as well.

The show has so many good actors and characters over its play time, that we cannot list them all in our short review. But, some of my favorites are Nelson Van Alden, who is a fictional character played by Michael Shannon. He is a Federal Agent, who displays the effects of the corruption of the times. Kelly Macdonald plays “Nucky” Thompson’s mistress and wife. She is a picture of women who rose from rags to riches, and tries to use her position to do good, but is also touched by corruption. Gretchen Mol plays Gillian Darmody, who is the mother of Jimmy Darmody played by Michael Pitt. She is a picture of a woman who grew up with nothing, and does anything she can to survive. But, also shoots herself in the foot at every turn.

The series was created by Terrence Winter and was based on a book by Nelson Johnson, entitled “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City.” There were many writers, and directors throughout the series. It was produced by Terrence Winter, Martin Scorsese, and Mark Wahlberg, among others.

I watched the series on HBO, which was its original network.


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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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