HBO has put some extra cash in the pockets of organized crime and re-upped Boardwalk Empire for a fifth season, just three episodes into Season 4. The move continues HBO's tradition of quick renewals, and was likely nudged along by Boardwalk's performance at this year's Primetime Emmy Awards: In addition to Bobby Cannavale's surprising win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama on Sunday, the series also bagged trophies for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour), and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series. HBO hasn't announced an episode count or target air date for Season 5, but if history is any indication (and shouldn't it be, for a period piece like this one?) "12" and "fall 2014" would be pretty safe bets.
Boardwalk Empire's still-young fourth season is averaging 7.5 million viewers per episode, according to HBO, and the show is almost certainly hoping that it will continue to earn critical recognition now that it's introduced even more potentially award-winning characters in Ron Livingston's Roy Philips and Patricia Arquette's Sally Wheet. Jeffrey Wright's Dr. Valentin Narcisse may even be an Emmy lock. Only three episodes in, the guy is quite an intriguing villain, and a perfect foil to Michael Kenneth Williams' criminally underutilized Chalky White.
While the show can be a tough watch at the beginning of any given season thanks to the ever-expanding cast, its record of turning in excellent season finales—as Cory pointed out in his review of the Season 4 premiere—is enough to make us happy that the writers will get to continue their efforts. So far, Season 4 feels more like a Ken Burns documentary on organized crime than a serialized TV show, with several enterprises operating independently in Atlantic City, New York City, Chicago, Indiana, and even exploring the wilds of Tampa, Florida. But even as Nucky Thompson keeps turning a profit on Prohibition, we know from the bloody Season 3 that Boardwalk is willing to wipe the slate clean when necessary.
In fact, the biggest question mark going forward may be whether Steve Buscemi's fictional protagonist should survive to see another season. The Chicago storyline, led by the excellent Stephen Graham as Al Capone, and the show's recent reintroduction of Michael Shannon's Van Alden to relevance, have been the highlights of Season 4 thus far. Plus, fan-favorite characters like Richard Harrow and Chalky White have proven they can carry the show when necessary. Could Boardwalk Empire ever go Nucky-free? Would you want it to?
Has Boardwalk Empire's sprawling storytelling kept you interested?
AIRED ON 10/26/2014
Season 5 : Episode 8