Boardwalk Empire - The Complete Fifth Season

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday January 13, 2015

"No one goes quietly." You can almost sense the ghost of Tony Soprano drifting through the final episodes of HBO's Roaring Twenties / Prohibition Era drama "Boardwalk Empire," even though the truncated fifth season (a mere eight episodes) leaps forward into the early 1930s. As the last handful of the show's hours reel past, major characters bite bullets (quite a few, in some instances), so that the threads from the first four seasons are left tied up or snipped clean -- nothing dangling here, and certainly no mid-action snap to black, which was how "The Sopranos" ended.

"Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fifth Season" almost feels like a miniseries in its own right, with a surprisingly self-contained story arc that honors what the series has done previously but also steps away from narrative ruts that were starting to feel a little too restrictive and narrow. The season spends a considerable amount of time in flashbacks to Nucky's childhood and early career as a deputy; by the time the final episode reaches its Greek Tragedy-like final twist, it feels like we've just sat through a very long feature film.

It's not much of a swan song, story-wise, with promising new avenues sputtering out and a finale that feels a bit rushed and too neatly engineered. But the production remains handsome right up to the final scenes.

The Blu-ray set, unlike the previous home releases, skimps badly on extras. There are four audio commentaries, and four "Scouting the Boardwalk" segments, each looking at a particular location. For working, or aspiring, location scouts it might be thrilling; for everyone else it's barely interesting. The lack of a retrospective, or even the already-produced "Inside the Episode" segments that aired after each episode when they first aired on HBO, rankles. (You can see those segments, along with a half-hour featurette on the show's final episode, at www.hbo.com/boardwalk-empire#/ )

As if in apology, the set includes an extra disc with the first two episodes of the Steven Soderbergh-produced historical medical drama "The Knick" (which airs on Cinemax), as well as a card granting digital access to an online "sampler" of premiere episodes for four other HBO series: "Girls," "Looking," "Banshee," and the upcoming Duplass brothers-produced series "Togetherness."

All in all, this is a vaguely unfulfilling end to a series that often felt a little insecure about its own identity. Completists will want to add Season Five to their shelf; casual fans may find it something of a curio that they can watch and enjoy on its own.


"Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fifth Season"
Blu-ray
HBO
$79.98
http://store.hbo.com/boardwalk-empire-the-complete-fifth-season-blu-ray-with-digital-copy/detail.php?p=737462&v=hbo_shows_boardwalk-empire

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.