Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Blu-ray Review
The penultimate season of HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is more of the same and by this point, you either like the show or you don’t. Following the trend from the third season, the fourth season introduces a single bad guy that challenges Nucky, this time in the form of Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), who not only moves in on Chalky (Michael K. Williams), but starts to make his way to Nucky’s territory. But unlike other seasons, it can be argued that the star of the fourth season is not so much Nucky, but it’s actually Chalky as most of the season seems focused on him and his love interest, Daughter (her name, not his actual daughter). The show doesn’t lose or gain anything by the change of focus since Chalky suffers many of the same flaws as Nucky, mainly that we don’t really care about him one way or the other.
My favorite part of the last couple of seasons of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ has been Richard (Jack Huston), who steals every scene as the scarred war veteran and is actually one of the few characters we do care about. Unfortunately, he’s completely separated from what’s going on in Atlantic City, so we have a different storyline for him in the fourth season. I enjoyed his scenes and storyline fine, but I would have rather had him with Nucky somehow, which would have made me care more about Nucky’s plight. A similar thing can be said about Nelson (Michael Shannon), who is now in Chicago working for Capone (Stephen Graham). I actually started to like Nelson more this season, but again, I wanted his story to cross with Nucky’s more directly.
Each of the three seasons has tried to insert a likeable character into Nucky’s gang and the fourth season chose Eli’s son, Willie, to fill that void and it didn’t really work. For starters, Willie was a little whiny throughout the show, but the real problem was Nucky’s treatment of Willie. For half the show, we watched Nucky talk about getting out and moving to Florida, but he seemed to have no problem taking Willie under his wing and teaching him the ropes of the trade, even though Eli asked him not to. The contradiction and the frustration from that triangle was a distraction to the rest of the show.
Jimmy has been gone for two seasons, Owen left last season, Margaret shows up sporadically and Richard has very little to do with Nucky in the fourth season. So the problem with ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is that the audience has no one to root for and we’re left following really bad guys pitted against other bad guys. The quality of the show is as high as it ever has been and the dialogue and structure of each episode is top notch, but the show has failed to consistently connect to the audience on an emotional level, so it’s no surprise the show hasn’t received the accolades as some of the other HBO shows have. I liken it to ‘Deadwood’ in the sense that it’s a good show that captures the time beautifully and has given us a lot of interesting characters, but at the end of the day, we don’t really care about what happens to them.
The fourth season was the first time I got the feeling that the showrunners didn’t know where they were going. Characters seem to change direction (Nucky wants to live in Florida?) without reason and other characters seem to float aimlessly (I didn’t like where they took Richard), which made me think there was no grand plan for Nucky and the gang going into the fourth season. But like I said earlier, if you’ve stuck with ‘Boardwalk Empire’ this long, then the fourth season should be a no brainer. It has everything you liked about the show before and nothing more. And with the fifth and final season coming up soon, we’ll see where they take these characters.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE SEASON 4 BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Boardwalk Empire continues to look amazing on Blu-ray and it’s still one of the best examples of crystal clear black levels available.
Audio: The audio was also very well done.
Commentaries on six episodes: I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to a bad commentary on an HBO show. These commentaries are a must listen for all fans of the show as each one goes into great detail about the making of the show and how they were made.
Boardwalk Chronicle: Each episode has this feature that runs with each episode, pointing out facts and details and giving you the option to watch a featurette about a specific aspect of the show. This is a very impressive feature.
Playfest: Made in NY Panel (25:56): Terrence Winter and a few cast members take part in a Q&A about the fourth season. But the panel actually takes place halfway through the fourth season, so it really only covers the first five episodes. I enjoyed the discussion, but it was odd because there was so much they couldn’t talk about.
The Onyx Club: A Step Back in Time (9:02): The crew talks about the grandness of the club and how it inspired scenes and moments.
Becoming Harrow (8:01): Given my affinity for the character, I enjoyed this featurette which focused on Jack Huston’s performance as Richard Harrow. For those wondering how they make his face look like that, this feature will answer that question.
New Characters (5:58): A feature dedicated to the new characters in season four.
Scouting the Boardwalk (22:56): Each location gets a mini featurette.