Sunday, December 5, 2010

Season One Finale of Boardwalk Empire

The first season of Boardwalk Empire ended tonight as it has been proceeding all this too-short season - sweeping, grand, with touches of The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Gangster Chronicles (years ago on NBC) all whipped together in a stunningly appealing and historically accurate piece of 1920s history.

The year was 1920, to be exact.  Harding - backed by Nucky Thompson - is elected President.  We and the people in Atlantic City hear the results on live radio.  Harding promised a "return to normalcy" after World War I.   What we got was one of the most corrupt Presidents in American history - normal, maybe, by Nucky's standards.

Nucky's man also wins the mayoralty in Atlantic City.  This happens after Nucky strikes a deal with Arnold Rothstein - brokered by Johnny Torrio and Capone - in which Nucky agrees to use his political connections in Chicago to make Rothstein's indictment for fixing the World Series go away.  In return, Rothstein gives Nucky a cool million plus the locations of the rest of the D'Alessios.   Nucky has them eliminated - in scenes of near parallel killings evocative of The Godfather - and parlays their murders into a winning cleaning-up-crime political campaign point.

But all's not peaches and cream for Nucky.  In another scenic homage to The Godfather, we see Jimmy, the Commodore (Jimmy's father) and Nucky's brother Eli plotting in a smoke-filled den against Nucky.

Still, it's a big winning night for Nucky - who has a heart - in more ways than politics and crime.  Margaret comes back to him, and the final scene shows the two looking out at ocean, with Eddie Cantor and his goo-goo eyes singing in accompaniment.

A perfect way to end a perfect debut season, with superb writing, production, and acting all around, including relative newcomer Michael Pitt as Jimmy and old-hand Steve Buscemi as Nucky.  In fact, this may well be the best acting Buscemi has ever delivered in his exceptionally good career.

I'll see you here with reviews of life, crime, and politics on the boardwalk next year.

See also Boardwalk Emipre on HBO ... Boardwalk Empire 1.2: Lines and Centers Power ... Boardwalk Empire 1.10: Arnold Rothstein, Media Theorist

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