***SPOILERS*** SEASON 3 Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire has been a growing favorite of mine since the brilliant, Scorcese directed premiere with the exhilarating shotgun opening, cut to the “3 Days Earlier” flashback. However, after this third season I believe it may have truly earned it’s spot amongst the top tier in this Golden Age of television. With so many amazing moments, characters, dialogue, and film techniques on the table we could easily talk about the harrowing turned uplifting Richard Harrow storyline which included some good old fashioned beach sex for our lovable cyclops. The Beauty and the Beast archetype has never been done so perfectly!
And of course it’s hard not to mention Owen’s shocking death scene, one of the most horrifying single images I’ve ever witnessed in a series. The last time we see Owen alive it’s painfully obvious he could die, but so much confidence has been instilled in his character we can’t imagine what would happen if Nucky loses his #2. We are misled by the fist pumpingly great scene of loving embrace between Richard and his lady waking up on the beach. We go right from the “woohoo Richie got laid!” storyline to the mysterious crate. We don’t see what happens to Owen, only the end result. This masterfully executed (no pun intended) technique allows our minds to speculate on the exact way Owen dies, making it all the more horrifying. The strong young man we last see ready to kill is now a withered fetal lump. Our worst nightmare as an overly conditioned television audience is our hero dying without any explanation. Where was the standard glorious, bravado filled death scene where he spits in the face of Masseria we “should” have seen? Nowhere to be found, making us piss or pants a little bit as we are forced to imagine the torture our hero endured. As brilliant as it was, this was not my favorite technique used this season.
The best technique of the entire series was utilized with Eddie, Nucky’s personal assistant. This relationship is where the writers of Boardwalk are able to accomplish something I’ve never seen done before. For two and a half seasons now we have seen Eddie in almost every episode. He has been there, steady as a rock for us just a he is for good ol’ Nuck. He provides comic relief, support, and is an echoing voice of reason throughout the series for our protagonist. Eddie is whatever Nucky needs him to be. He is equal parts driver, verbal punching bag, confidant, etc. depending on Nuck’s mood. He is a fixture that has always been there and we don’t question that because Nucky doesn’t. There are times when the audience might think something like “I wonder if Eddie ever goes home and where is “home” for him?” but that thought is immediately forgotten when another more pressing issue is bound to quickly bubble to the surface. The most we learn is that Nucky took him in when nobody else would.
Nucky and Eddie’s relationship reaches genius level television, when Eddie can no longer be that permanent reliable fixture he has been for the past twenty something episodes. Eddie is shot and doesn’t even tell Nucky until he is passing out from blood loss in the getaway car. Nucky is forced to realize that his old faithful pal is indeed human. When they are finally at the safehouse Chalky has provided Nucky comes to the realization that Eddie might die and he is responsible.
It all finally hits the audience at the same time it hits Nucky. We know absolutely NOTHING about Eddie. He is the only character who has been consistently in the show, yet is never allowed to open up to us. The audience is forced to literally become Nucky at this point. We are feeling the same exact feelings as Nucky at the exact same time. We have been forced to assume that Nucky knows at least something about Eddie’s personal life, but realize at the same time as Nuck that we know nothing about who he is or where he comes from. With how important Eddie is , we should be ashamed as Nucky is for taking his faithful companion for granted. Eddie lives only to serve Nucky and we learn just how self absorbed our protagonist is in real time, as he learns it himself.
This takes the television experience to a new level of immersion. It’s been a technique almost 3 seasons in the making that pays off unequivocally. We are no longer watching a show at this point; we have physically become apart of it, not having any inside knowledge hidden from a character nor having any information withheld from us for the sake of a surprising plot. This emotional realization is happening simultaneously for both the main character and audience, creating a deeper connection and illusion of reality than I have ever felt before in TV series. I tip my hat to you Boardwalk Empire writers, i can’t wait until next season!