Imagine Atlantic City in the 1920s: gambling, corrupt politicians, gangsters, bootlegging, parties, ladies of the night, the boardwalk and the beginning of Prohibition. Now envision a show that brings this to life. In steps Nucky Thompson, Atlantic City's duplicitous Treasurer, then Jimmy Darmody, a WWI vet who has been Nucky’s apprentice since he was a child; also Nucky’s brother Eli who’s Sheriff in town. Now add a beautiful woman, Margaret Schroeder who Nucky trusts and confides in, but comes with her own baggage. Where there is illegal activity there must be the law—this job falls on Nelson Van Alden, a Prohibition agent (but not for long) who fiercely chases after Nucky early on. Last but certainly not least, Chalky White a powerful African-American gangster who is at the top of the black leadership in Atlantic City and is an early ally to Nucky and was crucial to Nucky’s early political influence. Put all this in a bowl, mix it up, serve and you get Boardwalk Empire.
In the beginning, the operation ran smoothly. People paid their fee to Nucky, who although holds a legitimate position in Atlantic City’s government can’t keep his hands clean and is involved in all aspects of local affairs. If you sold booze, had a boutique on the boardwalk, or owned any business of any kind, you had to pay for the privilege to run your business. Nucky’s pockets were filled often and frequently. He is a man with many flaws, but before you judge Nucky, he also has a conscience and believes in making money before starting war. Nucky’s muscle is his brother Eli who keeps order in the palace. Nucky’s other muscle is Jimmy, who’s newly home from WW1 and would do anything for Nucky. As mentioned before Nucky holds a legit position as AC’s Treasurer, and his political ties are as thick as a 15oz steak. From Senators, to Mayors all the way up to the President, Nucky is involved one way or another.
As time progressed, people became greedy, people wanted a bigger piece of the pie, and the younger ambitious ones wanted to push out the older establishment. Jimmy, Nucky’s underling made some mistakes and ended up in Chicago where he befriended a young Al Capone, and the two began to slowly run things in Chicago from booze to prostitution. While Jimmy was in Chicago away from trouble, Nucky was ambushed by rival Arnold Rothstein, a powerful New York gangster who fixed the 1919 World Series and had Charles "Lucky" Luciano under his wing. But the rivalry ended when Arnold needed Nucky’s political connection to free him from indictments due to fixing the World Series. After Nucky helped Arnold, they went into business together. Still Nucky had a good hold on his empire until he was arrested for voter fraud. It was then that Nucky realized who were his real friends.
During Nucky’s time behind bars his brother Eli, Jimmy and Commodore (Nucky's mentor and predecessor in Atlantic City and Jimmy's father) began to conspire against Nucky. Their plan was to overtake Nucky’s hooch (liquor) import business, pay off Nucky’s political friends and use the political influence to get Nucky locked for voter fraud and get him out of the way. Luckily for Nucky, he still had friends in the government, the support of his live-in girlfriend (future wife) Margaret and Chalky White, who himself was imprisoned for killing a Klansman and who increasingly becomes a bigger player as the seasons continue.
Boardwalk Empire has so many engaging plots and twists, it’s like being on a rollercoaster. As the series moves on, the dynamic between Nucky and Eli is a must-see. The back and forth between Chalky White and Dr. Narcisse, an underworld ringleader from New York, as the two battle for power and money also can’t be missed. There’s no doubt season 5 will be the best season yet!
Catch season 5’s premiere on September 7th at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.