TV review: Boardwalk Empire Season 5, Episode 1 (Golden Days for Boys and Girls)
Neil Brazier | On 17, Sep 2014
The Boardwalk is back for its final season, a reduced eight-part run that proclaims “all empires must fall”. In this opening episode, all empires have left Atlantic City behind. Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is in Havana with Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette) but despite wanting out of the game, with the prohibition law set to be repealed, Nucky just can’t resist.
Season 5 picks up seven years on from Season 4 at the end of the Great Depression. While Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) is in chains, Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) is looking to expand his empire outside New York and Margaret Rowan (formerly Schroeder and Thompson) (Kelly Macdonald) finds herself deeper embroiled in corruption than she lets herself believe. As for the Boardwalk, it is only visited in flashbacks to Nucky’s younger days and his meetings with the Commodore (John Ellison Conlee).
These flashbacks don’t add enough to the story, not yet. Like The Godfather: Part II, Season 5 is weaving an additional thread into the tapestry but this is one that feels excessive. With the reduced run, this season’s focus should be on the falling of Nucky’s empire or his ability to adapt and maintain power. His troubled childhood really can’t add much to the character’s development than what’s been shown in the series already. Events that happened in the off season may have been better served – the Wall Street Crash of 1929 could have provided a perfect back drop to the New York crime scene.
This might have given some familiar faces a more deserving send-off as well. The show’s creator, Terrence Winter, hasn’t taken much of a creative licence with the characters based on real people during the series and, as such, former criminal names have been scratched off. This is nothing if not disappointing, as not only is one of the former stars no longer seen on screen, but his disappearance is shrugged off with one throwaway line.
Still, Boardwalk Empire looks and sounds as good as it ever did; despite the show not getting the reception it hoped for last season, that doesn’t appear to have had any affect on its budget. The pastel yellows of Havana offset against the blue-grey of the woods and New York City further emphasise the split between the gangs.
Golden Days for Boys and Girls is a relatively quiet opener heightened with some visceral scenes of violence. There are four main bloody acts that will have you cringing and yelping, all bases covered. Although the episode feels relaxed, like its sunning itself in Cuba, these scenes help remind us that things are still dealt with in blood. All in all, this is a welcome return to the Empire, away from the Boardwalk.
You can watch Boardwalk Empire Season 5 online in the UK on NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – no contract. The subscription includes Seasons 1 to 4 of The Walking Dead ahead of the new season, which will also be available on NOW from October.