The programme centres on Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, corrupt Treasurer of Atlantic City, and the first episode is set in 1920, just as Prohibition begins. Gangsters, bootleggers, gamblers and prohibition agents are all tossed into the mix.
It ought to be explosive stuff, but I found parts of the first series strangely non-gripping. We spent the weekend watching the first and second series, as Mr Robot was ill and confined to the sofa. I think if I’d been watching it weekly on telly, I would have given up part of the way through the first series. The first episode, directed by Scorsese was brilliant, but later things seemed somewhat unventful. Nucky is mostly on top of things in that first series: he’s getting in plenty of illegal alcohol, indulging in vote rigging and racking up favours owed by politicians – he even falls in love with a naive young woman whose husband is a brute. As Nucky, Steve Buscemi is brilliant. The problem is that some of the other characters are simply dull, and while it’s important to the narrative to see the characters as real people with home lives, it’s pretty sapping to the story. It wouldn’t be so bad with a bit more tension between cities and rival bosses, but you don’t really feel that.
The second series, with Nucky fighting for his personal and political survival, and with the jostling for position between rival bootleggers becoming more deadly, is much more lively and interesting. I don’t want to say too much about the plot as it will spoil things if you haven’t seen the show, but there’s definitely more action.
|Margaret Schroder - look at the embroidery on her coat!|
I loved the costumes. They’re exquisite. It’s rare that you see a programme where the men’s costumes are as beautifully thought out as the women’s, but it’s the case here. Chaps with an eye for fashion will love the suits, and I really like the noticeable but not loud checked fabrics that Nucky favours. African-American bootlegger Albert 'Chalky' White also has noteworthy suits, in wonderful jewel tones. I did comment to my husband in one scene, “I bet you’ve got hat envy now.”
The costumers resisted the urge to go high 20s for the women; dresses are still mostly ankle-length, hats have brims, and by the second series the only major female character who has a bob is gangster Jimmy’s rather bohemian wife – in other words, it’s all in keeping with 1920/1921. But the details! When the characters are wealthy, you can really see it in the quality of their clothing. In the second series there’s a scene where Margaret travels to New York to visit her long-lost family, and the embroidery on her coat collar is just perfect. In many of her scenes, while her fabrics are matte and quite muted in colour, there’s luscious embroidery to add texture and a deco touch.
Overall, I suppose the programme hasn’t been the roaring 20s heaven I anticipated. I love all the period music, it looks fantastic, and some of the actors are great. However, it feels lacking in pace, somehow, and in many places in the first series, a tad confused. The second series is better than the first; here’s hoping for something great in the third.
Note: we purchased the DVDs. I get nothing for the Amazon link, it's there for your convenience!