This isn’t your typical no-brainer TV (actually, does it even count as “TV” when I’ve just finished watching, in its entirety, on DVD?). I like this series a lot. It’s brutal, smart, funny and often pretty ridiculous.
And yes, to all the more-established fan boys, I’m very aware it’s April, 2015, and the series began 5 years ago and ended last year, in October. I tend not to follow hype. The series was quite popular (I read up about the ratings/popularity post-watching), but I never knew it existed. How fucking sad.
I’ve been out of touch with TV for quite a while. With the amount of reality trash and not being able to afford a monthly subscription for SKY, the only time I really switch on the box is to watch DVDs. Besides, I’m fed up of people going on about Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones all the time (and I have Terminator and Alien boxsets on my shelves, which are much more fun).
I’m glad I randomly came across this, though, as fate would have it (ok, alright, I admit, it was actually the girlfriend and her mate that introduced me to it last year and said I “MUST WATCH IT AND STOP BEING SO BLOODY SCEPTICAL”). It took me a while for me to embrace it, but I’m glad I finally did.
Now I’ve just finished watching the 56 hour-long episodes over the course of five seasons. Took me about six months to get through it all (was told, I had to wait for the girlfriend). Now I have absolutely no guilt in saying this beats anything I’ve seen of late. By a long stretch.
Buscemi nails it. He’s nothing like the person he’s supposed to be based on (Enoch Johnson). He’s skinny, talks proper and wears tweed jackets. But he’s clever, hypocritical, ruthless when need be. He fucks with politicians, the police, his women and barely lifts a finger – mostly supping from his glass of illegal liquor.
It owes to Sopranos and The Wire for its arty and dramatic take on serious themes such as Capitalism and all its ism’s; law, crime, corruption — all of which are nicely intertwined with real-life historical events, such as the prohibition. I don’t think Boardwalk’s in the same league as Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s up there.
There’s a lot of talent on display here. Aside from the beginning of series 5 (the show’s low-point), the writing and directing is consistently involving. Tension builds; and the acting goes way beyond most things seen on TV.
The guns, tits and gore sell it, of course, but the characters do it for me. I’m a character person, always have been. The characters have to be interesting, internally/externally conflicted for me to sustain interest. Michael Shannon’s transformation from God-obsessed Federal Agent to Al Capone’s henchman is cracking; there’s a rivalry between Chalky (Michael Kenneth Williams) and Dr Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) that heats up the more it goes along.
Stephen Graham is great as Al Capone; over-the-top, sure, but hilarious, nonetheless. He snorts coke and shoots people with big guns:
And this guy, Gyp, is fucking nuts.
Richard Harrow is the pick of all Boardwalk’s characters, for me, though; fellow war veteran Jimmy Darmody comes a close second. Both of the them are deeply conflicted – Richard, especially. At times, it’s like they can’t bear the living the life of a killer; they’re both intelligent, strong-willed and have the potential to succeed in other things, but have become poisoned by the system. The more they try to escape the world, the more it drives their lust for greed, power and violence.
The moment they meet for the first time at an army hospital towards the end of series 1 is one of the scenes that stays with me. They’re not “sociable” characters, really, but they find common ground in talking about their murderous methods.
Assisted by a post-prohibition drink, below is a short poem I decided to write in-between episodes about it. Does this count as writing for TV? ‘Cause it’s not, you know. I just really like BW.
Sitting in with Richard and Jimmy
They’re going to tell them if they’re “normal”
(more efficient killers).
Come back from war
– the Tin Man and veteran need more oil.
Not many questions from the man
in the mask; and Jimmy’s hair needs
to be kept well in place.
We barely notice their eyes, their reading in the hallway.
Who are these men other
than exaggerations of who we are?
And who’s to say this is anything like
we’re meant to believe?
Offer them a smoke;
show them the Boardwalk for the guns, glamour and greed.
They’ll be dead in a few hours
and no one will even care.