Writers’/ producers’ vanity can be a terrible thing and even more so on a series that you really want to like so badly. That’s exactly what happened to Boardwalk Empire. After having finished the cut short fifth season I’m more than ever convinced that the actual product crushed under everyone’s ambition.
I totally do get what they were trying to do on an idealistic level, yet it seems they never managed to infuse it with the necessary energy to pull through and obviously such a grand story arc could easily have required like 15 full seasons to do it justice (the initial two-year gap between each season’s story timelines clearly wasn’t totally unintentional) and at the end they simply ran out. I could of course repeat what I said for series one through four here as well – this feels all too much like being forced to watch all three parts of The Godfather, Goodfellas and other genre classics over and over again in an endless loop and at some point you eventually become so depressed and worn out that you just beg to be shot by one of the mobsters to be relieved of this pain.
Naturally all this is compounded by this season being totally cobbled together to “tie up the knots” as they say. You see it everywhere that they barely managed to pry the funds from HBO‘s management let alone have any room left to do something really extraordinary. Lots of static shots on restricted locations to not have to deal with too much set dressing and set extensions. And even though a lot of characters reappear one last time, you see the actors “phoning it in” just as well. It’s like they were called in for only one or two days to shoot their lines and then be done. I would even dare to theorise that in quite a few scenes the actors weren’t mutually present to interact with each other and only the different shots/ takes edited together to retain the illusion.
All of this is even sadder when you think how things could have turned out. Ironically I even rather like the idea with those flashbacks to the young Nucky (though I feel sorry for the twenty-something one having to wear those awful fake crooked Steve Buscemi teeth). It could have been something had they decided to introduce these elements earlier and stick with that sort of narrative structure for other protagonists as well (imagine seeing what drove Capone to be the way he was and all the others), but as it is, it’s just too obvious that they only used it as a means to plug (plot) holes or gaps. It’s also once again painful to see how people get “plugged” (shot and so on) because nobody had a better idea how to end their storylines.
Overall I have very mixed and conflicted feelings not only about season five but Boardwalk Empire as a whole. I appreciate the intentions, the production values, individual episodes or specific aspects of individual story strands, but ultimately it never really makes sense as a complete story. Too many things seem irrational and most importantly there aren’t many relatable characters that keep you interested. It’s like everyone goes out of their way to not like them and do really dumb and bad things. Of course I’m going to watch it again and may be then I’ll like things better, but for now this has been two months with some rather disappointing evenings popping in those DVDs…