Boardwalk Empire: An ”Expensive” Pilot Episode?

”I’ve always been interested in the idea of a long-form…novel-like approach to storytelling’‘–Martin Scorsese in The Making of Boardwalk Empire

So last Sunday was the premiere of HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire. For us who do not live in the U.S., we may not able to catch it on its original broadcast, so I guess we have to wait until the whole first season is finished and when good fellas at HBO release the DVD version of it. Nevertheless, thanx to generous uploader out there, I managed to get the first episode, i.e. the pilot, and watched it with high expectation.

Before the show was launched, I knew that there are going to be big names working behind and on the screen for this period drama set during the prohibition-era Atlantic City in the 1920s. Terence Winter, a veteran of The Sopranos’ Emmy award winning screenwriting team, created the show based on a book by Nelson Johnson, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. Mark Walhberg is in it as an executive producer, Steve Buschemi plays the leading role as a corrupt politician Nucky Thompson, and to top it off, Martin Scorsese directed the pilot episode.What more can you ask?

My first impression of the pilot is that it’s definitely an expensive one. Expensive mise-en-scene with expensive cast and an expensive looking mise-en-shot. So from stylistic point of view, I am already hooked. As far as narrative goes, I’m not too sold on the core storyline between Nucky’s take-a-walk-on-the-wildside by flirting with organized crime and so forth and his ambiguous moral ambivalence of being a supporter of the Prohibition law while importing alcohol only to be sold at higher price to cash in more cash obviously; oh and his initial compassion with Kelly Macdonald’s domestic violence victim housewife character, which I suspect will be pursued even more detailed in the forthcoming episodes.

Perhaps BE’s pilot characterise a different type of the so-called ‘quality tv’ poetics, in which a gradual build up is maintained at a relatively slow pace with minimum climaxes as if the showrunner is saving them for more surprises and mysteries in the upcoming installments; in contrary with Lost’s or Breaking Bad’s spectacular pilot episodes with bombastic events and actions done and happened to the characters. Perhaps I am too hopeful because of my experience with The Wire’s slow narrative build up.  I guess that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Nonetheless, I am anticipating more narrative twists and shouts in the subsequent episodes of Boardwalk Empire.[In particular, with Michael Kenneth Williams’, a.k.a Omar Little of The Wire, acting in the upcoming episodes!]

Check out the Making of Boardwalk Empire on HBO’s website here:

    • Vincent
    • October 23rd, 2010

    This looks to be an exciting series, I will watch the first 4/5 episodes and tell you what I think.

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