Boardwalk Empire—Season 1

boardwalk empire season 1 poster review episode guide list
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great actors, great stories



Welcome to the Boardwalk and have fun!

Meet Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi).  He might only be the treasurer of Atlantic City, but he’s really the one running things.  With Prohibition in full swing and his brother Elias (Shea Whigham) and his right hand man Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), Nucky can make anything happen.  A war heats up with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) in New York City over stolen alcohol, and Nucky’s finding pressure from the Feds led by the deeply religious Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon).  When Nucky gets involved with a woman named Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald), Nucky finds new problems with his personal life as well as his political life.


I’m always campaigning…for an Emmy or Golden Globe

With Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg producing it, Boardwalk Empire—Season 1 aired on HBO from September 19, 2010 to December 5, 2010.  The show adapts the 2002 book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson, and the show received multiple awards including Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series—Drama (Steve Buscemi) and Best Television Series (with a Golden Globe nomination for Kelly Macdonald) and Prime Time Emmy awards for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series (“Boardwalk Empire”), Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (“Home”), Outstanding Director for a Drama Series (Martin Scorsese for “Boardwalk Empire”), Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series), Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series (“Boardwalk Empire”), Outsanding Sound Editing for a Series (“Boardwalk Empire”), Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series and nominations for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (“Boardwalk Empire”, “A Return to Normalcy”), Outstanding Costumes for a Series, Outstanding Director for a Drama Series (“Anastasia”), Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Buscemi), Outstanding Main Title Design, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Macdonald).


You know we’re really the stars…right?

The period covered by Boardwalk Empire is really interesting.  I always wondered what it was like under Prohibition to just have alcohol suddenly turn illegal (can you imagine today if on January 1st, you had to get rid of all your boozes?)  The show does a great job capturing this from the opening scene.

Like shows like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire employs some great actors.  Steve Buscemi is awesome as Nucky Thompson and you honestly have a hard time reading him…other than knowing he is a lifetime politician.  I enjoy Shea Whigham as the somewhat dim and slighted brother Elias.  I’ve enjoyed Kelly Macdonald since Trainspotting and liked her turn in No Country for Old Men and think she has a lot of potential as an actress.  Michael Pitt has had a long run in a ton of good independent films, and it is nice to see him in a recurring role.  Michael Shannon has been in a lot of stuff (including his Oscar nominated turn in Revolutionary Road), but sometimes his character is a bit over-the-top (I’m glad he’s getting recognition however).


Just hangin’ with Al Capone…

Boardwalk Empire also has the struggles of Deadwood.  It is based on actual people and events.  Nucky Thompson is essentially Nucky Johnson but his name  was changed since he technically is a fictionalized character.  Other characters are real but have very fixed histories (like Al Capone) so it is hard to mess with what they did since their past is pretty traced.  Still the show does do fun stuff like adding other real characters like Houdini’s brother Theodore Hardeen and Warren Harding.

Boardwalk Empire is a great show and looks fantastic.  The show has a real filmic quality to it and feels like you are watching something bigger.  Though the season does have a cliffhanger-type ending, when compared to other shows, the ending isn’t shocking or that extreme.  I still however look forward to visiting the boardwalk again.

Boardwalk Empire—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:


“Boardwalk Empire”

1.1              Boardwalk Empire Airdate:  09/19/10

It is January 16, 1920 and a new era is coming for America.  The 18th Amendment comes into effect and Prohibition begins at midnight.  Now Atlantic City’s treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is out to become to rule of Atlantic City’s alcohol running plans.  As Nucky takes control his World War I veteran driver Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) wants more for his life.  Meanwhile, a battered pregnant wife named Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) has caught the eye of Nucky after he speaks to her Women’s Temperance League and now has to deal with her abusive husband.  When Jimmy is contacted by a fledgling FBI agent named Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon), he must make a choice between the law or the underworld.  Jimmy and a young gangster from Chicago named Al Capone (Stephan Graham) make a big score that could change things forever between Jimmy and Nucky.


“The Ivory Tower”

1.2              The Ivory Tower Airdate:  09/26/10

Fallout from the killing and the liquor robbery are starting to stack up. Van Alden investigates Hans Schroeder’s death and tries to tie it to Nucky. Jimmy’s involvement in the robbery gets him fired from Nucky’s employment and has him owing Nucky over his deal with Al Capone. The murders have Nucky at odds with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) over the missing alcohol and a relative killed in the robbery. Margaret goes to Nucky for help after being paid for her silence and tells him that she needs employment. A discovery in the woods outside of New Jersey shows that there may be new evidence in the robbery and murder.


“Broadway Limited”

1.3              Broadway Limited Airdate:  10/03/10

The survivor of the shooting is brought in to the hospital, and Nucky and Jimmy realize their future relies on him dying.  Nucky gets a new distributor in Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) angering his previous distributor Mickey Kusick (Paul Sparks) who is now calling himself Mickey Doyle.  Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) suffers from a case of gonorrhea and wants to keep it from getting out. Margaret finds her life on the upswing when Nucky gets her a job at a French clothier but finds herself having to deal with Nucky’s jealous girlfriend Lucy (Paz de la Huerta). Van Alden forces the suspect to give him information, and the information brings danger to Jimmy from Rothstein’s men and hope for Van Alden that Nucky can be taken down.  As Jimmy worries that Angela (Aleksa Palladino) cheated on him when he was away, Jimmy’s mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol) reminds Nucky of his promise to Jimmy out of trouble.  When Nucky learns that Feds and New York are gunning for Jimmy, Jimmy might have to leave Atlantic City forever.



1.4              Anastasia Airdate:  10/10/10

Jimmy tries to make it West and stays with Al Capone in Chicago as Lucky searches for him in Atlantic City.  Nucky prepares for his big birthday celebration, and Margaret finds herself invited when she has to Lucy. Nucky sends his brother Elias (Shea Whigham) out to find out who lynched Chalky White’s associate to keep the African-American votes, and it leads them to the Ku Klux Klan movement in Atlantic City. When the Klan link turns up empty, the real killers are sought out. The Woman’s Suffrage Movement stands to pass and Margaret finds herself as the spokesperson at the Nucky’s party. Nucky tries to get roads to Atlantic City get the alcohol and tourists moving but finds Senator Walter Edge (Geoff Pierson) might stand in his way.  When Al Capone’s actions cause problems in Chicago, Jimmy’s girlfriend Pearl (Emily Meade) pays the price.


“Nights in Ballygram”

1.5              Nights in Ballygran Airdate:  10/1/10

St. Patrick’s Day is coming, and Nucky and his men are seeing the profits.  Rothstein finds him in hot water over his part in throwing the World Series and seeks to find a way to distance himself from it.  Jimmy deals with Pearl’s injuries in Chicago, and finds she’s growing addicted to morphine.  Jimmy’s wife Angela is made an offer by Jimmy’s mother and realizes her life could change.  Margaret discovers the garage behind her is being used as a transport for beer and goes to see Van Alden when Nucky slights her.  As Nucky deals with a revolt by the little people playing the leprechauns at his party, Elias decides to make a power play by giving a speech.  When the Feds close in on his party, Nucky makes a big jump.


“Family Limitations”

1.6              Family Limitations Airdate:  10/24/10

Margaret decides to make a change in her life when Nucky offers her financial support in exchange for a sexual relationship, but finds that the strings attached might be more than she bargained for.  Lucky finds himself in bed with Gillian, and Nucky suspects that Lucky is behind the robbery of one of his men on the boardwalk.  Jimmy vows revenge for Pearl and helps Torrio (Greg Antonacci) take down Sheridan (Frank Shattuck)…which puts him at odds with Al.  Van Alden learns that he needs more results from his boss but also finds himself obsessing over Margaret.



1.7              Home Airdate 10/31/10

When Nucky’s father (Tom Aldredge) has an accident, Nucky and his brother find themselves with his house…bringing up bad memories for Nucky.  Jimmy finds his injured leg feels worst and befriends a fellow vet named Rick Harrow (Jack Huston) who suffered extreme face injuries.  Angela hides her relationship with Mary Dittrich (Lisa Joyce) and worries Nucky will find out.  Margaret debates how to handle her relationship with Nucky and worries that she needs to find stability.  New York makes another move for taking over Atlantic City.  Van Alden gets a big break on the woods shooting and finds evidence to link Jimmy and Al.  Commodore Louis Kaestner (Dabney Coleman) worries that he’s dying and that Nucky is getting too big for his own good.  Jimmy tracks down the man who cut Pearl and settles the score.


“Hold Me in Paradise”

1.8              Hold Me in Paradise Airdate:  11/07/10

Nucky is off to the Republican National Convention in Chicago leaving Elias in charge.  Angela continues to struggle with money, and both she and Jimmy don’t realize his payments are being intercepted by the Feds.  Van Alden’s wife (Enid Graham) struggle to conceive a child and is told by her husband to have faith.  Nucky meets the head candidate Warren G. Harding (Malachy Cleary) and agrees to help keep his indiscretions a secret until the election by taking one of his mistresses Nan Britton (Virginia Kull) and her child back with him to New Jersey.  When Elias is shot during a pick-up, a chain of events might bring Jimmy back to Atlantic City as Nucky prepares for war.  Margaret finds herself put in an awkward situation by Nucky and learns more about his business as a result.


“Belle Femme”

1.9              Belle Femme Airdate:  11/14/10

Jimmy’s back in Atlantic City and working for Nucky as his muscle…much to the chagrin of his wife.  Margaret finds herself learning from Nucky and brings a problem of her former employer to her advantage.  As the war with Arnold Rothstein heats up, the D’Alessio brothers (Al Linea, Nicholas Alexander Martino, and Eric Schneider) are sent after Nucky, and Jimmy is given the authority to eliminate them.  When trying to take down Lucky, Jimmy finds himself under arrest by Van Alden and getting out of it might be impossible.  Nucky tries to replace Mayor Harry Bacharach (John Rue) with Edward Bader (Kevin O’Rourke), but realizes that he might also have to replace Elias due to his injuries with Deputy Halloran (Adam Mucci).  When the D’Alessios get Nucky in a trap, the results could be deadly.


“The Emerald City”

1.10            The Emerald City Airdate:  11/21/10

With the attacks getting closer, Nucky is on the offensive.  Margaret and her children find themselves fearful of Rick Harrow, and they try to understand him as he protects them.  When Mickey Doyle comes to Nucky with information, a plot with Chalky White evolves to bring down Arnold Rothstein and his men.  Jimmy gets information of his wife’s actions while he was away but doesn’t realize that Mary is the source of her affection.  With the death of his source, Van Alden finds himself in trouble and decides to go after Margaret.  As the Women’s Suffrage Movement passes, Margaret finds himself an unexpected spokesperson for the candidate Bader.  Van Alden faces his failure with alcohol and has a chance encounter with Lucy.  Chalky White and Nucky’s plans go south and new danger rises.


“Paris Green”

1.11             Paris Green Airdate:  11/28/10

Jimmy learns his father the Commodore is dying but uncovers surprising reasons behind the cause of his sickness.  Nucky is caught in a compromising position with another one of the women from the housing complex, and Margaret is forced to confront him about her husband’s death.  Angela plans to leave Jimmy with their son and go to Paris with Mary Dittrich hits a snag.  Rothstein finds the charges against him about the World Series aren’t going away and that he might have to travel to Chicago to confront his accusers.  Nucky’s confrontation with Margaret makes Elias fear that Margaret could reveal the truth about what happened to her husband and forces Nucky to make a decision about Elias’ future as sheriff.  Van Alden questions the story of Agent Eric Sebso (Erik Weiner) on how the informant was killed and forces Sebso to make a religious leap of faith…with shocking results.


“A Return to Normalcy”

1.12             A Return to Normalcy Airdate:  12/05/10

The election is coming, and the races are getting tight.  As the attempt on the Commodore’s life is revealed, a bigger wedge is driven between Nucky and the Commodore who believes Jimmy should be the heir apparent to his work.  Margaret moves in with Nan Britton who awaits Harding to win so she can move to Washington, D.C.  Van Alden hides the murder of Sebso as a heart attack and looks to get out of the FBI when he is visited by Lucy with news.  Nucky seeks peace with Rothstein as the World Series scandal heats up and brokers a deal to get revenge on the D’Alessios.  Margaret learns of the loss of Nucky’s child and tries to understand the real Nucky.  Feeling slighted by Nucky’s decision to replace him, Elias turns to an ally that could pose a danger for Nucky.

Related Links:

Boardwalk Empire—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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