Boardwalk Empire – Season 1 episode 1 (pilot) review

by Lisa McGarry

From the writers of the Sopranos comes the long awaited ‘Boardwalk Empire’, a gangster show set in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1920, at the beginning of Prohibition era. Steve Buscemi (sopranos, Armageddon) plays Enoch Thomson (“Nucky”), a crocked politician who publicly supports the prohibition law, but privately runs the black market underground bootlegging business with a team of wise guys and the ‘board’ bosses, including the Mayor of Atlantic City and the Sheriff of Atlantic City – Nucky’s brother, Eli. He is accompanied by his right hand man, Jimmy (Michael Pitt), who has recently returned from fighting in World War 1, and is trying to climb the ranks of the mob ladder.

This first episode sees the start of Prohibition and the organisation of one of the biggest money making enterprises of that era, bringing together the gang leaders of all the powerful states such as Arnold Rothstein and his two young recruits, ‘Lucky’ Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham) both of whom are now famous names in gangland today. The episode shows the forming and function of the enterprise, with a dangerous point proved by Jimmy, who’s nose has been put out of joint having not received a promotion, and the introduction of Margret Shroeder (Kelly Macdonald) a beautiful pregnant woman who appeals to Nuckys better nature when needing help.

The episode was directed by Martin Scorsese and was the most expensive pilot ever made, and you can see why. The detail of this production is amazing, the swinging jazz age is captured as if it was actual footage of the time, and the acting is phenomenal. Watching a young Al Capon and Lucky Luciano gives you a completely different perspective of this periodic gangster show, making you feel like you are above history looking down, rather than looking back, and it is no wonder it has already been recognised by the industry with a cabinet full of trophies including a golden globe for best dramatic series and Best Actor in a dramatic series for Buscemi.

The series has, in my opinion, already lived up to its expectations, with an addictive plot and mesmerising performance from Steve Buscemi, in particular with the little insights to his thoughts and feelings via very subtle double takes he does, for example when he is outside the incubator shop.

The second episode is to be aired tomorrow at 9 on Sky Atlantic Hd, followed after that by a weekly episode starting next week, I urge you to watch what I believe will be history in the making (again).

This article was written by our newest blogger Anna Howell – Devoted mother, partner and English Literature student by day, telly addict by night – life is all about balance.