Raise a glass to Empire’s final season
IF ever there were a TV series whose narrative had logical starting and ending points, it’s Boardwalk Empire.
It’s a show about gangsters in Prohibitionera America. Its opening episode began with a final toast to legal drinking as the U.S. entered the 1920s, the period in which consumption of alcohol was banned by federal statute.
As it enters its fifth and final season (Sunday on HBO Canada; check listings for time), a decade has passed (including a bit of a fastforward jump to 1931 as the close-out set of eight episodes begins) as American society is on the distributor of Bacardi Rum whenever Prohibition ends. Of course, he’s not the only mobster looking to grab control of the legithooch market. While in Havana, he crosses paths with Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), who offers up a lame story about being on vacation with his wife but is clearly — as subsequent events quickly confirm — on the same mission that Nucky is. And really, it’s a pretty good time to be pondering a leap toward legitimacy. Back home in the U.S., gangland tensions are at an all-time high, and Chicago boss Al Capone (Stephen Graham) is becoming more powerful, more ruthless and more unbalanced at a disturbing pace. The rise of the crime lords is not unopposed, however — federal treasury agents, led by Eliot Ness (Jim TrueFrost), have declared their own kind of war and will employ both firearms and forensic accounting to gain the upper hand. As always, Boardwalk Empire is beautifully presented and deliberately paced; the attention to period detail is meticulous, and the acting — both in the big, operatically dramatic sequences and in the small, intimate, character-revealing moments — is superb. What makes this final season of important characters — Nucky and Atlantic City — came to be what they are. There’s also a suggestion in the early going that Boardwalk Empire will at least attempt to tie up some of its loose ends by the time this abbreviated final season concludes. Several other important characters — most notably Margaret Schroeder Thompson (Kelly Macdonald), Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) and Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) — are placed in situations that offer great potential for a rousing finalseason wrap-up. The series’ logical end is in sight. Whether Nucky ends up on the right side of the law — or, for that matter, the right side of the sod — remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Boardwalk Empire will exit as a totally legit TV classic.