I had been doing synopses/discussion of each episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire but at some point, it became a little bit cumbersome. I was so busy frantically scribbling down notes that I was missing the meat of the show. Sure, I was getting the mechanics of it, but I wasn’t enjoying it to the maximum degree. So around episode 7, I bailed on the idea and figured I’d re-visit the show later with a “Ten Great Moments”. But I’m too impatient. Even with two episodes left in the season- plenty of time for another great moment to be piled on here- I’ve opted instead to post my list early. Here, in my opinion, are the ten best moments from the first season of Boardwalk Empire.
1. Richard Harrow says “Eye do”
I know this might be hyperbole but I can’t think of a cooler murder/assassination/death in recent TV/film history than the one that Richard Harrow doled out in episode seven. Pairing it up with the music from Phantom of the Opera, sequentially, made it all the better. The whole sequence was pure genius.
2. Chalky’s father was a woodworker. And then…
Having been wronged (seemingly) by the Klan, and with someone in front of him there to pay the price, Chalky White unleashes hell.
3. Jimmy Darmody’s hit on Charlie Sheridan
It worked on so many levels. It helps establish that Darmody is no longer the green, mistake-prone kid that Nucky sent west to Chicago. It helps establish that Darmody is a rising star. It helps develop Al Capone as power-hungry and jealous in the same episode. And it gives Chicago to Johnny Torrio. The method with which the tension is built, and the way the hit was orchestrated, hearkened back to classic mob movie hits like Michael Corleone’s murder of Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo in The Godfather.
4. The French Way
Those first three things on my list were for the fighters amongst you. This one is for the lovers. What a fantastic, and memorable, scene it was. You may recall that Jimmy and his wife (who we later found out is either a lesbian or at least bi-sexual) are preparing to, um, “be amorous” with each other. But she alerts him that it “isn’t a good time”. His solution? “We could try it the French way”, which he learned during World War I in Europe. Turns out that “the French Way” is good old fashioned oral sex. Vive la France!
5. Lucky Luciano has gonorrhea
This was uncomfortable, maybe a tiny bit humorous, and one of the more shocking things we’ve seen in the series to date. The gist of it involved Lucky Luciano at the doctor getting a cure for gonorrhea. It involved some kind of tire iron thing shoved into his Mr. Happy, and then some sort of zinc sulfate cure was applied. If you are a man and not a doctor, and you saw it, I’d bet $5 that you winced, grimaced, or got sick to your stomach.
6. Al Capone’s Wake-Up Call Service
Capone sneaks into a sleeping Darmody’s room, past Darmody’s girlfriend/prostitute named Pearl, and wakes him up… by firing a gun into the pillow next to Darmody’s face at point blank range. Then, as Darmody clutches his ear wondering where his hearing has gone, Capone cackles maniacally. It gives us a glimpse of Capone as fun-loving, completely reckless, and ultimately very dangerous. It also was one of several moments that’s made Capone my favorite character to date.
7. $3,000? I don’t need no stinking $3,000.
Early in the season, Nucky is angry at Darmody for causing so much stress by knocking over the liquor shipment in the pilot episode. Darmody’s punishment is to round up $3,000 and give it to Nucky. And he does so. He has to sweat, bleed, and claw his way to finding the money but he manages to do so. And Nucky’s response, upon being handed the money, is to immediately piss it away on the roulette wheel. It was a brilliantly subtle way to show us how powerful Nucky was, how he liked to show off that power, and how much he needs to be the alpha dog in Atlantic City.
8. I’ll take “impure thoughts” for $500, Alex.
Nelson Van Alden is obsessed with Margaret Schroeder. But he’s also a very devout man, a boy scout at heart, desperate to live the life that his good Lord wants him to live. And so upon having impure thoughts about Margaret, he punishes himself in a bizarre, ritualistic way that entails whipping his own back to the point of scarring.
9. Darmody meets Mommy’s “kissing friend”
Of course, Jimmy’s kid was referring to the woman, not the photographer guy in the picture. But it didn’t stop Darmody from destroying a camera, scarring a small child (who was being photographed) for life, tossing the photographer out the window, and beating him within an inch of his life. James Darmody is a jealous man.
10. Van Alden makes a gutsy move
Having found a survivor from the Darmody/Capone heist in the pilot episode, Van Alden is insanely driven to crack the case. When the shooting victim refuses to give up any information, and alive by a mere thread, Van Alden shoves his hand into the blood and guts of the open wound and ruthlessly tortures him for information. It speaks volumes about the type of character he is.