Inspired by real events, HBO’s robust drama chronicles the advent of Atlantic City and the Prohibition-era kingpins who made it a haven for drinking and gambling, including corrupt politician Nucky Thompson and mobsters Arnold Rothstein and Al Capone.

There is a subtle complexity to the character of Nucky. He is not just a “bad” villain; a simple,one-dimensional caricature. Instead, he shows loving emotions, such as his desire to have children and his attraction to the good-hearted, honest immigrant girl. He doesn’t just commit crimes or violence for enjoyment of evil, but its often part of a Machiavellian purpose. He doesn’t just take from the community, but he gives back as well. Perhaps he is the benevolent dictator or Philosopher King that Plato imagined. In many cases he redistributes wealth to those who need it most. Even if he is primarily doing it to serve his own interests, he is providing a critical function and service to the community and time in which he lives.

The series also makes stinging criticisms of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and how powerful political and economic interests often manipulate naive, well-intentioned fools. Even today, soft drugs like marijuana are illegal, while far more addictive and socially harmful products are legal. Marijuanna has been kept illegal because the powerful alcohol and tobacco lobby groups don’t want competition to cut into their profits.

“Boardwalk Empire” improved drastically in its second season by fine-tuning what didn’t work in its freshman year. Assassination plots can go on for far too long in serial drama, but it needs a certain dynamic to frame the action. Chalky White adds something to the mix this year, but it seems so telegraphed in terms of race relations. Black people didn’t have a good time in the 1920s, we get it. Let’s focus more on this show’s crazy nudity factor.

Every character, no matter how minor, has a distinct personality. The characterization in general is probably my favorite aspect of the show. While many great shows have maybe 2 or 3 really prominent, deep characters, Boardwalk has at least 5, between Nucky, Jimmy, Eli, Margaret, and Nelson van Alden, each equally layered and fascinating. On the wings we have real-life figures like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, who are already strong characters and sure to gradually take more prominent roles as they grow into their infamy. Even characters like Chalky White, who seems to be almost comic relief at times, routinely demonstrate real depth and are acted just as well as the primary cast.

The fourth season took some interesting turns, but everything ultimately moved too slow for my tastes. Especially since this upcoming season is supposed to be the final one. Also, why did Jack Huston’s character have to die? He was the most interesting thing about the show this year and we never got a legit pay-off for him. Also, Michael Shannon and the other agents didn’t get to do anything but get played by the Man. The less said about his fighting with the wife…the better.

The push to make the fifth season so short works when they want to juxtapose Nucky’s rise and fall. However, it makes the supporting cast look like they got the short end of the stick. Chalky White’s fate is left incomplete, as we spent more time wondering about how he ended up incarcerated and why. Maybe, that was me. I get up and use the bathroom a lot during this show. I take notes, but they become doodles of Steve Buscemi fighting various Kaiju while dressed in Depression era garb.

The DVD comes with all of the special features from the past releases, featurettes and commentaries as the special features. The A/V Quality is pretty sharp for standard definition. That being said, the transfer still plays flat when compared to the HD master. The Dolby 5.1 track keeps all channels pumping. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase to completists and the few serious fans that remain.

Release Date: 05/19/15

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