BOARDWALK EMPIRE: First Thoughts

A few words about the premiere of HBO’s fabulous Boardwalk Empire. Hands down it’s the best new show I’ve seen in a long time (nothing against Caprica, Community, and Modern Family, but this show is on another level right out of the gate). Visually, it rivals everything and anything on the big screen (it better with Scorsese at the helm). The actors are superb (with Steve Buscemi and Michaels Pitt and Shannon the episode’s standouts). And when you consider that talent like Michael Kenneth Williams is waiting in the wings for his closeup, this show hasn’t even gotten started (and as an opera lover, I was also delighted with¬†Anthony Laciura’s performance as Eddie Kessler). What a pilot! Buscemi, a veteran character actor of some of the best films in recent memory, gets a chance to do humor, menace, and tenderness. Might Nucky Thompson join the pantheon of Tony Soprano and Don Draper as classic TV antiheroes (I don’t think it’s too soon to say yes)? I’ll confess that it took some work keeping the assorted characters and their alliances straight, but then again, it took me a couple of episodes to comprehend how everyone factored into the Barksdale Organization during The Wire’s first season. I caught on pretty quick, and what a ride it was. Despite the gangland backdrop, hands down the most disturbing sequences focused on battered wife Margaret Schroeder (did they actually kill a puppy to elicit such screams from the little actress playing the Schroeder daughter?). From Kelly Macdonald’s first scene with Buscemi, it’s obvious that Nucky sees Margaret as a chance at some kind of redemption and perhaps the figurative reincarnation of his late wife. Yet I did not see her husband’s murder at the climax coming. Rather, I saw the Schroeder character as something of an adversary for weeks to come. And if the creators are willing to take things that far in the first episode, I can’t even imagine what else they have up their collective sleeves. The one low point of an otherwise exhilarating night of television? The credits sequence. The look of it worked, Nucky standing before an ocean of bottles. But the music took me out of the period, so if I have to give something a thumbs down, that’d be it. Still, suffice it to say, I’m already hooked. What’d everybody else think?

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