Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ranking the Boardwalk Empire Seasons

Talk about a late ass post!  Hello everyone and welcome back to Infinite Wisdom on Boardwalk Empire.  I am you your guide for the night, El Guapo.  It's been a long time since I've updated this blog and I'm here to tell you this will be my last.  For the Boardwalk Empire blog.  I'm still writing updated my other blogs folks so no need to panic!  (We're not.)  Some might be wondering why I wasn't recapping the 5th and final season of Boardwalk Empire when my recaps of season 4 were so good.  Well, there's this little thing called not having a subscription to HBO.  That didn't help my situation.  Sometime around the summer my HBO subscription was ended and I had to go months with HBO programming.  (I know, right?)  This period of time, or Hell as I sometimes refer to it, went on through the first couple of weeks of the 5th season of Boardwalk Empire.  So by the time I started watching it and was on full catch up mode I saw no reason to write weekly recaps.  I did, however, want to rank the 5 seasons of Boardwalk once the series had come to an end.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  So why the delay?  A couple of reasons, actually.  1) I'm a busy guy.  I have shit to do and I have other blogs that have to be updated.  (Not saying I don't value this blog.)  2) I was in shock after the finale and it took a while for me to find my bearings. 3) I wanted everyone to have a chance to watch the finale so I wouldn't have to worry about spoiling the ending for a reader.  I mean, seriously, 3 weeks is enough time.  If you haven't gotten around to the finale you better have a valid excuse.  Possible excuses: my dog got sick; house got burned down; I am deceased and heaven has slow WiFi; my religion requires I wait a full month after the show ends to watch the finale.  So with that said let's to my spoiler-filled rankings of the 5 amazing seasons of Boardwalk Empire.

5) Season 4 (Chalky Vs Narcisse)
This wasn't s bad season by any means.  I definitely enjoyed it.  But if you take into account the other amazing seasons of Boardwalk, this one brings up the rear.  The biggest problem with this season was that it started a bit slowly.  It wasn't until about episode 4 or 5 when this season really starts to heat up.  But there were some components that I really liked.  I liked the dynamic between Nucky, Eli and Willy.  It was fun to see Nucky adopt a son from his brother and the strain it put on Nucky and Eli's newly repaired relationship.  We finally got a good dose of Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano which we had been deprived of until that point.  Chalky finally got his own story line complete with an arch nemesis in Dr. Narcisse.  The most interesting part of the season came from Chicago and the beef between Dean O' Banion and Al Capone and how Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller was involved.  Plus we got to meet the rest of the Capone brothers.  The death of Eddie was a huge shock that took a while to recover.  Gillian's story was really sad and there came a point when I stopped hating her and started to feel sorry for her.  I didn't like the fact that we only got a few episodes with our good friend Richard Harrow, especially when he had such a great story line in season 3.  Then we had to say goodbye to him forever in the finale in what was probably the hardest goodbye at that point since Jimmy Darmody's death.  (We'll get to that.)  What we got of Richard Harrow, we got fewer of Margaret Thompson/Schroeder/Rohan.  Initially I thought this was a good thing because I despised her so much, but then I started to miss her.  Who knew?  

4) Season 5 (The End)
Some people loved the season, some people didn't.  I'm one of the people who liked the season. While the flashbacks of Nucky's past didn't necessarily tell us anything we didn't know, it did successfully set up the last scene of the finale.  And by that I mean it made us like Nucky again (in case you ever did and stopped) all the way until he souls his soul for a chance to be the Sheriff.  This season was all about tying up lose ends.  Nucky's attempt to sell alcohol legally in the US was a waste of time for the most part.  But his battle with Luciano and Lansky was what got this season really going, especially the last few episodes.  Chalky White got a good farewell as a man who really had nothing else to live for.  His death  was telegraphed but I don't think it was intended to be a surprise.  I full on felt sorry for Gillian Darmody in the nuthouse.  And the flashbacks certainly made her actions in the previous seasons (getting to it) a little more forgivable.  Definitely more forgivable than Nucky's actions.  Nelson Van Alden and Eli Thompson were a fun combo out in Chicago.  Van Alden's wife turned into a total bitch this season, but I'm guessing that's what marriage does.  Put Eli and Nelson in the loop with a maniacal Al Capone and we got great TV.  Nelson's death needed to happen.  After his whole journey since season 1, I couldn't see Van Alden coming out of this series alive. But one of Al Capone's best scenes was one where he wasn't beating up a member of his crew with a small replica of the Empire State Building.  No, it was the scene with his deaf son where Capone says goodbye to his kid.  Not gonna lie, my left eye got a little watery.  (Didn't drip though.)

I really thought Mickey Doyle would make it out alive, but alas I was wrong.  Sally Wheet's death had to happen to make way for the most compelling story line of the season.  The return of Margaret Thompson.  All it took was one season without Mrs. Thompson and I was begging for her return.  Margaret and Nucky have such a great chemistry and it comes through this season.  (Better chemistry than chemist/meth cook Walter White and his wife.)  I never thought I would say this but season 5 Margaret is likable.  Now onto Nucky's death.  I gotta admit, I did not see that coming.  Not sure if the math was right but 15 year old Tommy Darmody taking revenge was a great ending.  Especially because I totally forgot about the little guy.  Looking back on it, his childhood really sucked.  (Dad, mom, surrogate dad dead.  Grandma in nuthouse.)  I was in shock the rest of the day.  Thank you for the memories.

3) Season 1 (Welcome to Atlantic City)
Part of the greatness of the first season was the wonder of being in a new world.  And by new I mean 1920.  We meet our main characters at the start of prohibition in Atlantic City.  We of course meet Nucky Thompson, who at the time is treasurer of Atlantic City and the linchpin behind the bootlegging operation in AC.  This season is probably Nucky at his best, and by best I mean personality wise.  This season you can get away with saying Nucky isn't such a bad person.  The relationship he has with Margaret is one of the more interesting plot lines of this season.  We get to see Margaret's transformation as she gets sucked into Nucky's world.  I liked Margaret the first season because she still hasn't completely transformed into the person she was in the 2nd and 3rd seasons.  She is smart and well spoken and for a while can be seen as the moral compass of the show.  Nucky's relationship with his brother at this time shows hints of Eli's jealousy which carries over to season 2.  Chalky still doesn't have the meaningful role he has in the upcoming seasons but his presence is still felt.  Arnold Rothstein opposes Nucky for the most part of the 1st season.  For the rest of the series he and Nucky are close partners but they have a shaky start in season 1.  This feud is not as interesting as some of the others throughout the series but it works.

What really made the first season what it was is Nucky's relationship with his surrogate son, Jimmy Darmody.  I really liked Jimmy.  My mom and my girlfriend really loved Jimmy.  Jimmy is obviously a torn man after the first World War and wants to look after his family.  But after Nucky banishes him from AC we are treated with the Jimmy and Al Capone combo in Chicago.  This is where we also meet Richard Harrow who plays a bigger role in the next couple seasons.  But for the most part Richard plays Jimmy's number two guy.  Jimmy also has conflict with his wife, Angela, who doesn't seem to connect with him as he thought would happen after he returned from the War.  Couple that with Jimmy and the odd relationship he and his mother have and you come out with Jimmy being the most interesting character of season 1.  Let's not forget about Agent Nelson Van Alden, the no-nonsense federal agent who is obsessed with getting Nucky for the murder of Margaret's husband.  For me, this was an unlikable Nelson Van Alden.  He was self-righteous and obsessive.  At the end he ends up killing his own partner and cheating on his barren wife with Nucky's old jawn.  (Jawn=girl)  He got was coming to him though when he discovers he got the girl pregnant.  The ending of this season sets up season 2 perfectly with a group of men plotting against Nucky Thompson.

2) Season 3 (Nucky Vs. Gyp Rosetti)
Can one character carry an entire season?  Yes he can, if that character's name is Gyp.  But we'll get to him in a minute.  This season we are treated to a powerless, fugitive Nelson Van Alden who is now taken the name George Muller.  Something happens this season with Nelson, something hard for me to to comprehend.  He becomes likable!  I credit this to the fact he is no longer in a position of power.  Back against the wall Van Alden/Mueller is more humble and you really get to feel for him.  Plus he upgraded his wife with the Bulgarian (?) babysitter.  Wife is more attractive and much more helpful.  Plus this season we get more Al Capone and we get introduced to his beef with Dean O' Banion.  This season we get to see Charlie Luciano and Meyer Lansky try to escape Arnold Rothstein's shadow.  However, Arnold Rothstein being Arnold Rothstein has the upper hand.  We also get to meet a young Benny Siegel work with Luciano and Lansky.  The show also gives us a peak in Chalky White's home life as his daughter gets engaged.  Margaret Thompson and Nucky Thompson are now separated living separate lives.  Margaret is on full "Let me do some good things to make up for the fact I've done some pretty bad things" mode.  This time her cause is providing prenatal care for women.  (Which isn't a bad cause.)  She also goes back to having an affair with Owen, Nucky's bodyguard and errand runner.  (By errands I mean he goes and kills people for Nucky.)  Owen ends up in a box at the end of season.  Eli returns from prison and struggles to get adjusted to his new life.  He also struggles throughout the season to get back in the good graces of his big brother.  Nucky's affair with Billy Kent shows us a weaker Nucky than we are used to.  I wasn't a fan of this relationship.

What really put this season up this high was the introduction to Gyp Rosetti.  With Jimmy gone you had to fill the void with an unforgettable character and let me tell you, I still haven't forgotten Gyp.  Gyp was insane.  He was extremely short tempered.  And nearly every scene he was in ended with violence.  He had some of the best lines throughout the season and his attack of Nucky's empire made for entertaining television.  He's the only antagonist, other than Luciano and Lansky in season 5, to have Nucky Thompson with his back against the wall.  Let me tell you, nothing-to-lose Nucky is way more fun than regular Nucky.  This calls for Nucky to rely on Chalky White, who I'm going to argue is Nucky's only true friend throughout the series, and Al Capone.  So, thank you Gyp!  It's too bad we only got him for one season.  Can't talk about this season without mentioning Gillian and Tommy Darmody.  With his parents deceased, Tommy is living in a whorehouse that his grandma is running.  Gillian does crazy shit this season, like killing a young man who looks like her son Jimmy.  There is a silver lining because Richard Harrow is there to watch over young Tommy.  This season Richard Harrow also finds love and the possibility of having a family starts to less and less like a pipe dream.  His biggest moment, however, was his Terminator-style rampage at Gillian's whorehouse taking on Gyp Rosetti's men.  What a season indeed!

1) Season 2 (Nucky Vs. Jimmy)
There's no talking me out of this.  Season 2 was the best season of the entire series.  Let's start with Nelson Van Alden.  Lucy, pregnant with Nelson's seed, is hiding out in Van Alden's secret apartment.  Nelson is desperately trying to keep this a secret from his wife.  He as a deal with Lucy that once she gives birth to the kid, Nelson will buy the baby from her.  Eventually Lucy does give birth and Nelson's wife discovers the secret apartment with Lucy and the baby.  She leaves Nelson and later Nelson's secret about killing his partner comes to light.  Van Alden has to relocate to Cicero with his nanny/new wife.  (Things weren't good for the federal agent in season 2.)  Nucky's year isn't much better.  People are lining up to band together and take him down.  Starting with the Commodore, this new coalition against Nucky includes Jimmy and Eli.  Jimmy plots to take over Atlantic City with the support from his father, the Commodore, and his right hand man, Richard Harrow.  Nucky, meanwhile, just wants to build a damn highway to the AC.  Well, that and sell alcohol illegally.  Nucky gets arrested for election fraud and even worse has an incompetent lawyer.  Nucky does get some help though from Owen, and Irish kid who does the dirty work from Nucky, and his old nemesis, Arnold Rothstein.  Things at home aren't that much better.  Emily, Margaret's daughter, gets polio.  Margaret, in true Margaret form, somehow believes that her daughter's sickness is due as punishment for her actions in the past.  Margaret also finds her long lost family who does not accept her back.  Later on she has an affair with Owen, which she will later feel guilty about, but continues in season 3.  

Meanwhile, Jimmy isn't having a swell time neither.  (Nobody had a good time in season 2.  Nobody.)  It's clear that his wife doesn't really love him.  His wife is also a lesbian, but that's beside the point.  While he's trying to assume his position as the main bootlegger in Atlantic City, he soon realizes that he's not as good at the whole politicking things as Nucky.  He also makes a deal with Manny Horvitz which ends up with Jimmy owing him a large sum of money.  Realizing that Nucky is not going down easily, he goes along with Eli's plan to kill Nucky, a plan that eventually fails.  He also hatches a plan to kill Manny Horvitz, another plan that fails.  (Jimmy is not good at planning.)  In response, Manny attempts to kill Jimmy at his home, only to find Jimmy's wife, Angela, who he kills.  The penultimate episode of the season features flashbacks to Jimmy's college days where we find out that Jimmy slept with his mother.  It's very disturbing, but explains a lot.  Nucky, in the meantime, comes to find out that Margaret has been called to testify against him.  In order to protect himself he asks Margaret to marry him, which she eventually agrees to.  With Jimmy's back against the wall he decides to help Nucky with his trail to get back into his good graces.  Nucky beats the trail and things look to being good again.  But he's got a quick errand to run.  He calls Jimmy to tell him he has Manny Horvitz.  Jimmy knowingly shows up to his own execution.  Nucky notches his first kill on show.  This was the biggest moment in the show's history and probably still is.  Season 2 is when Boardwalk Empire found its stride and certainly earned its top spot on my list. 

So that's the end of my list.  Coincidentally that is also the end of this post and this blog.  I hope I gave this show the proper send off.  This has been one of the favorite shows since it premiered.  I enjoyed following the show and all its characters and I loved writing about the show as well.  It earned a Hall of Fame spot in my heart (and on my DVDs shelf).  Make sure to follow me on Twitter @ELGUAPO3 and Instagram @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME.  Follow my other blogs Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo's Brain and Infinite Wisdom on the NBA for more Guapo.  Thank you for your time and thank you Boardwalk Empire.    

1 comment:

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