Wow. To be honest I’m a little speechless after this most recent Homeland. I will try however to explain exactly why and offer my thoughts on these most recent couple of episodes and why they’ve been so interesting.
One of the great strengths of 24’s (Gordon and Gansa’s earlier work and very much the spiritual forerunner for Homeland) early seasons and it’s great weaknesses in later seasons was the sustained tension (in early seasons) and ridiculous padding (in later seasons). The required twists and turns to keep audiences and characters on their toes is a difficult balancing act, lean too far one way and you have mountain lions, too far the other and you have indecipherable and ultimately inconsequential leaps in character logic.
When, last week, Saul discovered the video of Brodie’s confession and showed it to Carrie I was worried simply because I assumed the next couple of episodes would be a series of ‘how did they lose the video?’ antics or variations thereon. Instead Homeland took the storyline by the balls and are heading into what could be very rich and compelling territory. What happens when a US senator has, let’s face it, pretty incontrovertible evidence of not only sympathizing with terrorists but having actively attempted to carry out an act of violent terrorism on US soil and against the very man who he now works for, the Vice-President of the United States.
This is the same rich territory I had hoped they would mine by having Brodie actually carry out his act of terrorism at the end of last season, what an amazing end to a series and a second season of the show dealing with the fall out from a second large scale terrorist attack would have made for unmissable television. I can only hope that the show follows through this time. That we aren’t subjected to a quick resolution in an episode or two with various stretching of the limits of plausibility to get there.
There have been some odd moments in the past 17 episodes from the show, I am hesitant to call them missteps as I’ve discovered what I find implausible and, frankly, ridiculous others embrace and explain for their own reasons and vice versa. However, the guts to throw a black hood over an United States senator and deliver our heroes such startlingly indefensible evidence against him seems to put the show runners in the clear, with no one in the end zone. They are the only ones who can fumble this now, I pray they don’t.
Listen closely and you can hear the sounds of cash registers ringing and execs high-fiving each other over at AMC Headquarters. That’s right, it’s that glorious time of year when The Walking Dead returns to our TV screens, and the network quits pretending it cares about little art-house pieces like Mad Men. With season two ending back in March, I had completely forgotten the show was starting up again. I only remembered to set my DVR because I saw AMC running commercials that said, “Stick with DISH. See if we care, pussies.”
It’s been a few months since Rick and the other survivors escaped the zombie hell that was Herschel’s farm. They’ve spent the winter scurrying across the countryside, looking for shelter and food. We know things have gotten pretty bad for them when we see Daryl stuffing owl feathers in his mouth and the “jackpot!” look Carl gets in his eyes when he comes across two cans of cat food. It’s obviously been a hard couple of months, and not only because of the lack of amenities. Living this way has obviously changed the group in very fundamental ways. But while everyone seems like they’ve made the best of a bad situation – Beth singing by the campfire, Daryl and Carol (the writers missed a golden opportunity not naming her Caryl) making jokes about fooling around – Rick looks like a man constantly staring Death in the face. Whatever it is, exhaustion, or just the weight of the responsibility of keeping these people alive has stretched the man to his limit.
But the prison we all saw amidst Bear McCreary’s Battlestar-esque beating drums at the end of last season seems to have given the group a slight reprieve. This just might be the long-term holdout Rick and the group have been looking for. I was a little surprised they were only now finding it. When we saw it the first time, it looked like the group had basically camped out in the parking lot. And was it really not on any of the maps they’ve been using, driving back and forth? Oh well. Sometimes TV shows do crazy things.
So Rick convinces the group that they should hole up there, at least for a little while. And no one really seems to disagree. I don’t know if this is because they all agree it’d be a good idea, or because the law Rick laid down at the end of last season – the Ricktatorship – is in full force, and nobody’s going to challenge him once he’s made up his mind. So they decide to go in, with the only serious challenge posed them is clearing the place out. And it’s here we see exactly what they’ve all learned after months on the run. The group works like a machine, systematically clearing out the prison yard. Inside, too, although close quarters and no lights made that half of it much harder. Of course, nothing on this show turns out just how Rick imagines it. Herschel gets bitten, and Rick is forced** to hack his leg off with an axe. And just as they’re all catching their breath and wiping Herschel’s leg spray from their faces, they find that they’re not alone inside the prison, that there’s a group of prisoners holed up there as well.
(**Was this just because of the infection one might get from being bitten from a rotten corpse? Because we know now that it doesn’t matter if you get bit or not. Once you die, you turn into a zombie. Everyone’s infected.)
So, more complications in a long string of complications. I also thought it was interesting to see that Rick’s given Lori one big hand to talk to ever since the baby bump stopped holding. Shane may be dead, but Rick’s grudge hasn’t. If Lori hadn’t of spent so much of the series up to this point being such a punk and then acting all shocked and shaken when she found out what Rick had done – despite signaling to him that that was exactly what needed to be done – I might feel sorry for her.
We didn’t get to see much of Michonne and Andrea this week. Andrea’s sick and she and Michonne go back and forth with their, “Just go! Let me die!” routine that we’ve seen oh so many times in the past. Well-tread ground made interesting again because of those two jawless zombies Michonne keeps on a leash. Let’s see more of them.
I had a pretty big rager whenever this show was first announced, but I have to say season one left me a little cold; it threw cold water all over my rager. Season two saw a huge jump in quality, and now, in season three, the show feel’s like a well-oiled machine. If you can get past some of the dialogue, that it. But I suppose as long as the show can keep delivering zombie getting their faces peeled off because their heads are rotting inside their riot gear, I’ll be able to manage. Somehow.
A couple of months ago James asked me to offer some thoughts on a little show called Newsroom. As an ardent Sorkin supporter I was only too happy to do so… unfortunately my schedule was less excited and it never eventuated. This past Sunday saw the return of Showtime’s Homeland, a show I had actually ‘speedwatched’ last year the day before the finale aired in order to find out what all the hype was about. I was not disappointed and while watching it in quick succession did reveal some troubles, they were clearly not big enough to stop the Emmy’s making it rain Homeland a couple of weeks ago where it won numerous awards including Best Drama beating out competition like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey (the show apparently everyone loves).
For those who missed season one the show details the return home of prisoner of war, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who CIA agent, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), suspects of having been turned into an Al-Qaeda terrorist. It was the sort of show that would lull you into a false sense of security for 39 mins of a 40 min episode only to reveal some new bit of information and blow your mind. After a season of is he or isn’t he it was revealed he was in fact a terrorist intent on killing the Vice-President of the USA who had initiated a strike that killed a young boy he had befriended. The season ended with a faulty bomb, a perfectly timed phone call and an operation that would cure Carrie’s bi-polar but also make her forget vital information.
Season two kicks off with a time jump, Brody is now a Congressman, Carrie is teaching English to Arab immigrants and there is trouble in Israel. Carrie is pulled back in just when she thought she was out because an off the books informant of hers has vital information to the Israel situation and another possible attack but refuses to speak to anyone but Carrie. Brody is approached by a family friend of Abu Nazir who informs him that it’s not over yet and that he is still expected to use his new position to help that side.
It was a solid return for a show that I worried had perhaps shown its hand with the season finale last year and would have no where to go. A renewed focus on Mandy Patinkin’s Saul bodes well and will hopefully utilize a character that while hardly background in season one still deserved more screen time.
This is a show that could so easily have descended into cliched action movie tropes (ala 24’s later seasons) but manages to walk a very tight tightrope as it examines the US’s complicated relationship to terrorism. Stick with me over the course of the next couple of months. I’ll be dropping by every couple of episodes or so to discuss where we have come and where we might be headed.
Every now and then, we have to dispense with the silent introspection and get down to the meat and potatoes of storytelling. Well, kind of, at least. “Bone For Tuna” still had a lot of Nucky staring off into the middle distance, but more on that in a bit. What tonight’s episode did primarily was show us the direction the story’s taking. And in that direction lies Gyp Rosetti, who’s fragile ego is going to cause all sorts of problems for Nucky going forward.
Gyp is still pissed that Nucky won’t sell him the rum he demanded in “Resolution,” so he’s decided that until he gets it, he’s going to shack up in Tabor Heights and block off any of Nucky’s other shipments that might be trying to get through. Nucky’s a man with obligations, so in the interest of business, he’s decided to sit down with the man, try and hammer something out so they can all get back to making money. And for a few minutes, it looks like it’s gonna work. Nucky agrees to sell Gyp the rum, with the stipulation that it’s the only shipment he’s going to get. And Gyp says he’ll back out of Tabor Heights. Great. Let’s all go get smashed and laid. Right? Wrong. The thing about Gyp is, he doesn’t just want Nucky’s rum, he wants a seat at the table. He wants to be treated like an equal when he’s with Nucky, Rothstein, and Torrio. So it’s not good enough that Nucky’s sell to him, Nucky also needs to be there to hand him the stuff, and to see him off. When he’s not, Gyp sees it as a horrible breech of protocol. And when Owen dares to tell him good luck – buona fortuna, or bone for tuna – in Italian no less, Gyp’s ready to raze Atlantic City, then salt the earth so that nothing grows there ever again. Ever.
So Gyp goes back to Tabor Heights, and not only is he staying, but he sets the poor fat bastard sheriff on fire, too. That’s just mean. And Nucky, who seems to be suffering from one perpetual migraine this season, will like it none too much.
Of course, even before the unfortunate incident between Gyp and Owen, we saw Gyp sweet talking Gillian, trying to learn a little more about her history with Nucky. So, he obviously has other shenanigans in the works, the whole “bone for tuna” thing just exacerbated them.
But Nucky didn’t steal the spotlight entirely this week. We also saw Van Alden narrowly avoid arrest. Then he got laid. And Meyer Lansky shot a guy.
But anyway, back to Nucky. While we got a lot of pure plot stuff tonight, we got a good look at Nucky’s lingering feelings over the Jimmy Darmody killing. A year and a half later and Nucky hasn’t shaken it completely off. That’s alright. Any excuse the show needs to get Nucky and Richard in a room together to discuss these issues of the soul is fine by me. When Nucky asks Richard if he still thinks about the people he’s killed, Richard tells him he already knows the answer to that. So you have to wonder if any of this is going to get any easier on Nucky. The show’s tagline this season is “You can’t be half a gangster.” But can you go from being a gangster to not being one? Or do we have a Tony Soprano situation where The Life is The Life, and Nucky’s just too set in his ways to ever get out of it?
It’s always been interesting to me to compare Nucky to Margaret in this way. Nucky likes the lifestyle – the money, the power – but it took him a while to really get his hands dirty. Margaret has no qualms about getting her own hands dirty, lying and stealing from those close to her – that was a nice bit of business with the priest at Nucky’s knighting – but she’s disdainful of the material possessions Nucky’s life has brought her. Anyway, think about that and what it means for their relationship (and their eventual reconciling, I’m betting), and we’ll talk more about it next week.
Until then, can we please get back to Al Capone? We can skip over Van Alden and his wife having sex. It’s cool.
I don’t know if this is what “Spaghetti and Coffee” set out to do, but I thought the episode had some interesting things to say about family relationships inside [PrisonMike]The Life[/PrisonMike].
In a perfect world, TV shows do the things they do because the storytelling demands it (it sucks, but Nucky had to kill Jimmy). But there are also more practical reasons making their own demands**. This week we saw Eli walk out of prison after the year and a half stretch Nucky told him he’d have to serve at the end of last season. And I imagine that was part of the reason season three picked up where it did. Shea Whigham’s a great actor, and the show wasn’t going to sideline him for an entire year.
**(You see this sort of thing crop up in other shows, too. Game of Thrones fans will probably have heard executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff say that, going forward, their goal isn’t to adapt the books exactly as they’ve been published, but to take George R.R. Martin’s story and adapt it in a way that’s best suited to television. I’m sure a not insignificant part of that is because characters like Tyrion Lannister don’t appear in A Feast for Crows (the fourth book and theoretically the show’s fifth and sixth seasons) at all. And really, if Game of Thrones had to go an entire year or two without Tyrion, what’s the effing point?)
So Eli’s back, and maybe I’m wrong (probably), but I can see what’s happened between him and Nucky playing a big role this season. Eli’s always been the man handling things behind the scenes not because he wanted to be, but because that was the roll Nucky forced on him. He’s tried breaking out of that mold. We saw him preparing his speech to the Celtic Dinner in “Nights at Ballygran,” trying maybe a little too hard to show everyone that he was smarter and more eloquent than they were all giving him credit for. That didn’t work out very well for him, and neither did his plans to go against Nucky. There, the men he was taking his orders from both ended up dead, and Eli ended up in prison. Now that he’s out, he’s got this do-it-or-don’t-do-it-I-don’t-really-care vibe about him. He knows he has to work under Mickey because he’s got a family to feed and no other prospects. The sting of that whole situation’s probably worn off somewhat in the past year and a half, at least enough so that he sees its necessity without getting too pissed off. Eli made a lot of enemies as sheriff, and he knows it’d be better to work inside Nucky’s sphere of influence than outside it. So he’s just gonna keep his head down, make some money. Not what he envisioned for himself, but he can deal with it.
What I think will really stick in his craw will be his standing with his family. We saw that, while he’s been away, his son’s been forced to drop out of school and take a job, which kind of puts him on funny footing as far as providing for everyone goes. He’s got some work to do to get back into that father figure role. Right now he’s more like the uncle living in the garage. All this can go one of two ways. He can quietly plot his revenge, or he can show everyone that he’s actually worth something, and play an important cog in Nucky’s machine. I’m betting on the latter. The Eli we saw tonight is quiet, wrestling with the decisions he’s made (or rather, the consequences of those decisions), but still focused on what he needs to do to get back up on his feet, as distasteful as that may be. This stands in contrast to the Eli we’ve known, full of bluster and mostly pissed at his brother.
On the other side of town, we see Nucky shacking up with Billie Kent. I was actually a little surprised with how predictable their relationship played out this week (especially after how big a surprise it was that they were together in the first place). Billie isn’t a one-man kind of girl, which is obviously what Nucky’s looking for. I think the contemplative looks he kept giving that ringing telephone were the biggest hint that this split between him and Margaret is only a temporary one.
Finally, we checked in with Chalky White, and saw that his daughter’s boyfriend wants to propose. I guess he’s into the whole self-punishment thing, because he knows what a whackadoodle family the White’s are, and all the crap he’d be opening himself up to once he became a member of the family. And apparently Chalky’s all too eager to take advantage of him, telling his daughter that having a doctor in the family’s going to help them. I don’t know what to make of the way the guy shook Chalky off to help the guy who had just cut off his face. Maybe he won’t be as easy to control as Chalky thinks. Considering how little we’re seeing some of these characters this season, I’m sure we’ll know how everything turns out five or six seasons from now.
Eli’s a family man and has always been a family man. Many of Nucky’s relationships have been superficial, but he’s realizing now that that’s just not cutting it anymore, and needs something deeper. And Chalky, while I’m sure he loves his family very much, isn’t afraid of using them for his own purposes. It’s easy to see the split between Nucky and Margaret and Eli blowing over, but I’m not sure where things with Chalky are headed. Although I can’t imagine the show spending any time on it and not intending to pay it off somewhere down the road.
It usually seems like each one of the four main networks has its own flavor. FOX is kind of edgy. CBS programs almost exclusively for 60-years olds, etc. That doesn’t really seem to apply to ABC. They’ve had lots of success with a whole range of shows. Whether it’s Lost, or Desperate Housewives, or Once Upon A Time, it seems like this is the network that’s got a little something for everyone. And this year’s Fall lineup is much the same, with a wide enough selection that you’ll probably find something here you’ll like. Unless last year’s Charlie’s Angels remake left such a bad taste in your mouth that you’ve given up on the network for good. Which is totally possible.
Zero Hour is one part Indiana Jones, two parts DaVinci Code, a pinch of The Exorcist, and Doctor Greene from ER. We saw a ton of shows like this right after Lost became such a huge hit. And when I say a ton, I mean like a metric shitload. Networks could not wait for Fall to roll around so they could strap us into our Lay-Z-Boys, pour that gruel in our mouths and massage it down our throats. But the numbers have tapered off these past couple of years. How Zero Hour will do is anyone’s guess, although I have to say that I think the cards are stacked against it, regardless of how good it is (or isn’t). I think shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica have made us incredibly impatient when it comes to TV. There are very few shows whose mysteries we’re willing to wait months (or in some cases, years) to discover the answers to. With a show like Zero Hour, we probably wouldn’t be waiting a year or more between seasons, but if the show doesn’t grab us right at the start, we’re not going to stick with it. Plus, it’s also possible the show’s just bitten off more than it can reasonably chew. I mean, there’s an argument to be made that Lost did the same thing. But that show’s mysteries were built up and added to over years. Look at everything we’re being asked to keep track of in Zero Hour. And that’s just the first episode.
Red Widow is based on a crime drama out of Holland, which isn’t exactly Scandinavia, but is still another notch on the belt of European television’s conquest of America. So, what’s it about? Well, Radha Mitchell plays a woman whose husband is killed by the mob. To protect her family, she has to go to work for the people who murdered her husband. Doing what, exactly? Well, we don’t know. The trailer is kind of ambiguous. In any case, I find it’s always a smart move to be weary of shows on network television that involve the mafia or organized crime. Can you guys imagine how bad The Sopranos would have been if FOX had ever taken it to series? That’s not a world I would have wanted to live in. We’ll have to wait until next year to see how this one pans out.
Although I doubt Nashville is a show I’m going to be tuning in to week after week, I think it could turn out pretty good. Just like Lost and all the serialized dramas that came after it, there’s a big rush to capitalize off of Glee’s success, so I’m glad the people who are making these shows are finding other ways to do the music rather than just have their characters spontaneously burst into song. As for the people in it, I hate Hayden Panettiere, and I don’t know if my pure and undying love and devotion to Connie Britton is enough to overcome that. I guess I have a lot of pondering to do. Anyway, the music stuff looks interesting, but it’s going to be a delicate balancing act with Powers Boothe (the world’s most gravelly voice!) and the whole political angle. It even seemed like it was tacked on to the trailer, so I have no idea how the show’s going to handle it.
What is this, 1994? I expected to see ads for Malibu Country in between episodes of Home Improvement and Boy Meets World. Listen, I’ll be the first one to say that television is a wide, open space, and that there’s room for all sorts of shows out there. BUT… I firmly believe that there are some shows that we as a culture have just moved beyond. There’s a reason you don’t see many shows like Family Matters anymore. And while the multi-cam sitcom may be fighting on (look at CBS as Custer’s Last Stand), the tone, that “hey mom and dad, let’s sit down at the end of 30 minutes and discuss what we learned this week” schmaltz that was a mainstay of 90s television is all but dead.
But let’s not pretend that Malibu Country is a good show that’s just falling victim to a pessimistic audience. The show is truly horrible. The acting is bad. The writing is worse. Lily Tomlin (really, how did that happen?) looks like every scene is a struggle between getting through her lines or burning the place down. All I can say is keep calm and carry on. We’ll have to endure a few weeks of this before it’s canceled.
I’m an optimist as heart. I want network television to swing for the fences and tell big stories. It’s just that I’ve been burned so many times before that my natural inclination is to approach shows like Last Resort with the same caution a divorced 40-year old might approach that guy in the bar who seems really nice and wears an expensive watch, but I don’t know, probably reads fanfiction. I’m optimistic, but I’m cautious. I have to be. Last Resort is about the crew of a submarine that refuses to fire nuclear missiles on Pakistan, and after refusing is fired on by the US government. After barely escaping, the crew sets up shop on the fictional island of Sainte Marina — which kind of begs the question why they weren’t ordered to fire on a fictional Middle Eastern country — and declares itself a sovereign nation. So, pretty heavy stuff. My concern is that the network doesn’t really have the brass to make this as dark as it should be. But, it does star Andre Braugher, and that guy doesn’t just look at you, he looks in you, so the show just might be able to pull things off. This is probably the show I’m most excited about this Fall.
666 Park Avenue
Interesting bit of trivia about this show: In it, Terry O’Quinn is actually playing John Locke. He always plays John Locke. Bet you didn’t know that. Anyway, I guess it just wouldn’t be ABC if they didn’t throw into something with some supernatural/otherworldly angle into their Fall lineup. My biggest gripe about show’s like this is how long can it go on before people get sick of it? Do Robert Buckley and Mercedes Masohn just keep discovering freaky s**t about the building every week? Are they going to discover the building’s dark secret and we watch season after season as they try to escape? There’s a good story in here somewhere, just not sure it’s one that lasts six or seven seasons.
Stay tuned. Next up is FOX.
I’m not sure where a show like Boardwalk Empire ends, as compared to a show like Breaking Bad. It isn’t a show that has a definitive “end,” so unlike Breaking Bad, which will probably end with Walt’s death (we’re all thinking it), Boardwalk allows us to drift in and out of these characters’ lives, months or even years down the road.
“Resolution” picks up on New Year’s Eve 1922, a year and a half after the events of season two and exactly three years after the series premiere. Nucky seems to have taken Jimmy’s admonition that “you can’t be half a gangster” to heart, and when we meet him he’s in an empty apartment building with Mickey Doyle and Manny Horvitz, questioning a thief who stole alcohol from one of their warehouses. After calming the guy down and getting him to give over the name of his wheelman, Nucky tells Manny to put a bullet in the guy’s head. So maybe Nucky hasn’t completely balls-to-the-wall with the whole gangster thing. But at least he’s dropped the whole “I’m a businessman” pretense.
But whenever we see Nucky and Margaret alone, it seems they’ve dropped one charade for another. As you might have suspected, Nucky’s still pretty pissed about all that land Margaret handed over to the church at the end of last season. And as soon as the last guest has left their New Year’s party he’s in her face, throwing the whole thing in her face again (like married couples do). At the end of the episode we see that their relationship has gotten much worse than heated arguments, with Nucky sleeping at the Ritz while Margaret stays at home. We also see that Nucky’s taken a new concubine, Billie Kent, who’s a friend of Eddie Cantor. Billie and Eddie perform at the Thompson’s New Year’s bash, but it’s not until afterwards that we discover how she probably got the gig.
So not an ideal situation for Margaret. But it’s not like she’s sitting at home all day every day, kneading her hands and furrowing her brow. She’s settled into her role as a philanthropist, touring the hospital the church used the land for. Although we do see her and half the show’s characters following the story of fictional aviatrix Carrie Duncan, the first woman to fly nonstop across the continental US. At the episode’s end we see Margaret standing on the beach, one of several who have come out to watch Duncan fly overhead. The symbolism is about as on-the-head as you can get. Duncan is a woman who’s breaking barriers in a way Margaret can’t.
Outside of Nucky and Margaret’s not-marriage, several other things have changed, and I enjoyed the way the show didn’t try and explain them all, choosing instead to let viewers catch up and figure things out on their own. We’re introduced to Gyp Rosetti, one of the new season’s main antagonists. In some of the show’s promo material I heard Rosetti referred to as someone who can’t take a joke – which is kind of funny considering that’s what he accuses everyone else of – and the writers definitely set that up in the very beginning. When Rosetti’s car gets a flat tire, a good Samaritan stops to offer some help, saying that he’s got some “three-in-one” in his car. When Rosetti asks what that is, the guy says, “Oil. What else would it be?” So Rosetti does what any reasonable person would do and beats him to death with a tire iron. It’s in these over-the-top meltdowns that Rosetti really reveals who he is. At the New Year’s party, when Nucky announces to his gathered underworld guests that from now on he’ll only be selling liquor to Arnold Rothstein, and not Rosetti, he flips, going around the room and insulting everyone who may have been sympathetic to him or maybe offered some help.
Across town, we see Gillian – now the madame of a high-class bordello – carrying on as if life were nothing but rainbows and sunshine. There’s always been something off-putting about Gillian, and that wasn’t helped last season when we discovered just how far her, ahem, relationship with Jimmy went , but this whole thing with Tommy and trying to convince him that she’s his real mother just feels dirty to me. Then there was her veiled threat to Richard after he tried reminding Tommy about who his parents really were. So, I guess we can chalk him going out and shooting Manny’s face off up to pent-up frustration. But you have to ask yourself, if Richard killed Manny because of Angela, can Nucky be far behind?
We also check in with Van Alden, living just outside Chicago and making his living as a door-to-door iron salesman. It seems that, in the past year and a half, Van Alden’s married his German au pair and the two have had another child. You’d wonder how Nelson could possibly be able to fit into the show’s story this season until you see him cross paths with Al Capone, who’s visiting a flower shop owner who earlier in the episode was making fun of Capone’s deaf son. In Boardwalk’s first episode, Nelson referred to being a Prohibition agent was “godly work,” and I imagine he’ll be drawn back into the fight, whether or not he has a badge backing him up.
I’ve read a few articles lately praising Boardwalk Empire for its acting, writing, set design, and everything else, but lamenting the fact that it doesn’t really seem to be about anything. I have to say I disagree, and partially blame that perception on the endless comparison between Boardwalk and that other HBO crime drama, The Sopranos. While The Sopranos dealt often with more existential issues (watch the show’s last scene between Tony and Uncle Junior to see what I’m talking about), Boardwalk Empire deals with the circumstances that led to creation of Tony’s world. While I see The Sopranos as an analytical drama, I see Boardwalk as more structural. Neither show fits perfectly into those definitions, there’s a lot of overlap between the two, but both are as good as the other. I admit that I haven’t sat down to watch The Sopranos since it went off the air in 2007, so I may go back and realize I’m full of crap, but right now I consider Boardwalk Empire to be one of the best shows on TV. And there are times when I enjoy it even more than I do Breaking Bad. I know. I’m sorry.
In any case, Boardwalk Empire seems to like Boardwalk Empire. The show knows what it is, and has I’d say from the very beginning. It knows what it does well and this feels like a season beginning in a place that’s very sure of itself. And if tonight’s premiere was any indication it’s going to be a great year for the show.