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Toasting ‘Boardwalk Empire’s’ Splendid Season

Television promos yield more than their share of hyperbole, with a lot of “can’t miss” and “spellbinding” and “dramatic conclusion” claims.

Boardwalk12_47To their credit, the producers of “Boardwalk Empire” and HBO have let their program do most of the talking as it builds toward this season’s climax, and having seen the last two episodes (relax, no spoilers here), it’s hard to believe those watching the show will be disappointed or feel, pardon the expression, Gyp-ed.

Gyp, of course, would be Gyp Rosetti, the insane mobster with the hairtrigger temper played with an almost simian quality by Bobby Cannavale, who seems to have spent some time watching Paul Muni in the original “Scarface.” At first I wasn’t entirely sure where the Gyp plot was going, but his face-off with bootlegger Nucky (Steve Buscemi) has become a tour-de-force of tension and the sense anything can happen — even more impressive considering the show’s historical moorings, which create some limits regarding who can get whacked when.

Boardwalk12_72Moreover, all the plotting, scheming and shifting alliances have infused the third season of “Boardwalk” with a touch of HBO’s other addictive drama, “Game of Thrones,” only with different turf being ruthlessly fought over.

Tense, twisted and surprising, the last flurry of episodes have been and are so taut I find myself thinking about and puzzling over story beats well after they’re done. They’ve also managed to conjure juicy storylines for a number of the supporting players while showcasing Buscemi better than either of the previous runs. No small feat given the cast members that have been, er, retired along the way.

Initially, there were some misgivings about HBO doing another mob show post-“The Sopranos,” but “Boardwalk” quickly laid such concerns to rest, carving out its own empire within the genre.

Despite the current embarrassment of riches in terms of cable dramas, there’s a tendency for demanding fans to quibble and second-guess even their favorite shows. Yet other than perhaps Michael Shannon’s subplot (and even that improved as the season progressed), such gripes have been muted, and it’s hard to think of a single substantive thing I’d change about this third trip along “Boardwalk” — particularly as it pertains to these last few hours.

HBO has already picked the show up for season four, which qualifies as a no-brainer. Because while I like a drink now and then, if everything on TV could be this good, by all means, bring back Prohibition.

 

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