Friday, March 2, 2012

Boardwalk Empire: You Can't Be Half a Gangster

Let’s see; let’s see! What do I do when the choke-hold of a to-do list gets to me? I start a new television show and dissolve into it.

This week’s choice: Boardwalk Empire

I didn’t like it all that much at first: felt like it might break my heart or disappoint. Been watching too much Mad Men & The Wire: is there any hope for these anti-heroes? 

& then I encounter two characters that I couldn’t quite shake. 

Margaret Rohan Schroeder is unforgettable and hooked me in right away. She is played well by by Kelly MacDonald: subservient to the times and bias towards her gender and immigrant status but with an independent and fierce streak (watch an early episode when she champions the woman’s right to vote to a Senator, and you can feel the spark behind the banter). 

Kelly MacDonald also played the unforgettable maid in Gosford Park (oh, Clive Owen, how you smolder). It’s no wonder she’s the voice of Pixar’s feminist spin on the princess tale (in one trailer, we see Merida literally rip her too-tight dress so she can win her own hand in marriage: let’s goooo). 

& then there is Jimmy Darmody: the kid who pulled himself up by the bootstraps, made it to Princeton, and then ran away fight a war (his personal demons as well as his country’s). I wouldn't give pretty-boy Michael Pitt a second look in real life, but he burns in Boardwalk Empire

Talk about an anti-hero: mother had him when she was 13, ruined by the war and dysfunction (“I am what time and circumstance made me”), smart but tortured. It’s a young Don Draper. The photographs won’t do him justice. You have to see him chew his jaw, hear the way he shapes stories, and watch the snap of violence that fills him.
His demons fill him, and yet there is kindness. The viewer should hate this murderer, but they can't help but root for him. 

& did I mention that I was both lured into The Wire & had to take a break because Season 4 hits too close to home? Well, one of my favorite characters is Omar: the Robin Hood of the streets of Baltimore who defines three-dimensional character (he’s openly gay, has a moral code – if less than traditional – and remains fiercely independent in a world run by crews and gangs). 

Well, he’s in Boardwalk Empire, and I dare you to try and look away in the scene where he talks about his father’s bookshelves (also, peep the bow-ties). 

The above characters hooked me into the show, and now it fills me. Comparisons to The Sopranos are unfair. For me, it's all about the characters. I can’t help but hope Margaret Schroeder makes it out alive. 


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