Boardwalk Empire has received near-unanimous acclaim from both viewers and critics alike since its debut on HBO in 2010. The crime drama has garnered 18 Emmy Award nominations and, in its first season, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama. Boardwalk Empire possesses the hallmarks of all great television series: intricate and complex character development, creative plotlines, and fastidious attention to detail.
What also makes Boardwalk truly unique is that it intertwines fictional and semi-fictional characters with historical figures. The Jewish crime boss Arnold Rothstein (famous for his role in the Black Sox Scandal of 1919), his protégés Lucky Luciano (who later in life becomes the boss of the Genovese Crime Family in New York and helps set up the Mafia Commission), Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel (arguably the founder of Las Vegas), and Chicago gangster Al Capone play significant roles in the series. Even boxing legend Jack Dempsey and President Warren G. Harding make cameos. It has, in a sense, become the spiritual successor to another signature HBO crime drama, The Sopranos (1999-2007), as both lead actor Steve Buscemi and series creator Terence Winter had previously worked on the show.
A period piece set in 1920s Atlantic City during Prohibition, the series centers on the corrupt Treasurer Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) who is leading an outwardly legitimate life, while profiting from a lucrative bootlegging operation and becoming deeply embedded in organized crime. However, as recently-departed, beloved character Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) (may he rest in peace) noted in the first episode of the series, "You can't be half a gangster."
Since I cannot give Seasons 1 and 2 proper justice with a summation here of what happened, this is the official recap of the first two seasons in brief from HBO.
Series creator Terrence Winter has hinted that Jimmy's iconic line will continue to ring as a theme throughout Season 3. Season 2's finale tied up some loose ends, but left other storylines up in the air. What will become of Jimmy's friend, disfigured World War I veteran Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), after Jimmy's demise? What about Jimmy's conniving mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol)? Will disgraced former FBI Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) be able to start anew in Cicero, Illinois? How will Nucky react to a fateful decision made by his new wife Margeret Schroeder (Kelly MacDonald)? And what's the deal with the new guy on the scene, Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale)? (Get a sneak peak of Rosetti here).
Tune in this Sunday, September 16, at 9 PM and find out what happens in what is sure to be an explosive season premiere.