The fifth and final season of this period gangster drama looks forward as well as backward. We leap ahead seven years from the previous season to leave the Jazz Age and land in the Great Depression of 1931, and Nucky Thompson has hardened. Gone is the lightness and charm that Thompson the politician once exploited to cloak his booze-running; he's now a rumrunner based in Havana, Cuba. Some episodes also flash back (a la Godfather II) to Nucky as a young man embarking on a life of corruption.
Similarly, his former rival Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) returns, darkened and physically scarred, without a trace of sympathy. Other characters are not so lucky, including Nucky's brother, Eli, who's hit the bottle. America in the Depression has fallen on hard times, even for gangsters. Do they find redemption and does this superb series offer closure? No spoilers here, but the level of writing and acting remains consistently high in the final season of Boardwalk Empire.
This three-disc set offers four insightful commentaries by Terence Winter, Buscemi, Piazza and key writers and directors. Remember: there are only eight episodes in season five.
"Scouting the Boardwalk" takes the viewer on a guided tour of how the location scouts found a unique setting each episode. We glimpse the clever ways the production turned a building in Central Park into a Havana bar and transformed an old estate in Yonkers, New York into Chicago's Lexington Hotel. The featurette reminds the viewer that Boardwalk Empire has journeyed far from its Atlantic City roots, taking place in Cuba, Chicago and New York. Season Five barely resembles Season One.
Unfortunately, this is the only featurette on this set. Deduct points for this stinginess, but not from the drama contained within this set, which bids farewell to the greatest gangster drama produced by American TV since The Sopranos. (HBO)