The success of a TV show is extremely unpredictable and for a period drama this is even more of a dilemma. If you look at the triumph of a show like Mad Men and the amount of attention given to all the intricate details: costume, variety in realistic characters and the consumer brands used you will immediately realise that portraying such a realistic view of an era is an incredibly demanding process.
With that said I cannot recommend Boardwalk Empire enough both as a period piece as well as a TV show in general. With a creative collaboration of Terence Winter (The Sopranos) and Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, Shutter Island), it was unquestionable that Boardwalk Empire would achieve spectacular response in public viewing.
Boardwalk Empire takes its viewers to Atlantic City in January 1920 (shortly after the Volstead Act had been passed in the USA). The plot follows the obstacles of Atlantic City’s corrupt treasurer Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buschemi). Nucky has two identities throughout the series: one being the faithful politician who seemingly enforces the prohibition of alcohol in his city and secondly an immoral bootlegger who converses with other crime bosses.
…conflicting opinions on the alcohol industry…
The series also explores the life of Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) and his return from WWI as a war veteran. Each episode sheds light on the relationship between Jimmy and Nucky as the treasurer is represented as Jimmy’s paternal figure. Jimmy is introduced to Nucky’s true nature and gradually builds his own confidence in the illegal industry of alcohol import/export making impressions on criminals such as Al Capone.
The historical relevance of Boardwalk Empire is so astonishing in the way that it exposes the numerous aspects of life in the 1920s. Most prominent of the historical characteristics of this series is the prohibition era and the amount of characters created to relay conflicting opinions on the alcohol industry, for example: Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) who looks unrelentingly to expose Nucky and bring justice to the crimes he has committed. Through Jimmy Boardwalk Empire also delves deep into life after World War One and how the everyday man coped with the effect the war had on the US.
…stereotypical gangster/crime genre…
The role of the female characters is significant throughout the show as they all realistically portray women of this period in time. Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) tells the audience of the women’s suffrage movement whilst also presenting the life of a domestically abused housewife. Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) plays the mother of Jimmy and is one of the most interesting characters throughout the series as her feelings towards Jimmy (and actions) are explicitly incestuous. It is the female characters within this series that make it so diverse to the stereotypical gangster/crime genre.
Winter’s creation is a definite watch if you have a predisposition to this type of show, however the variety of sub plots (romantic, comedic and lustful) make Boardwalk Empire interesting for any viewer.