Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Boardwalk Empire' as Allegory of Capitalism

This Sunday will see the premiere of the second season of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, a period drama that critics have been raving about since its inception last September. Indeed, it is the best writing that I have witnessed since The Wire was on television.

Some have pointed out that the show describes how "criminals became our leaders," as the show reveals levels of government corruption, from the City Treasurer all the way up to the highest office, the President. I, however, would go a step further and say that the show, not only reveals the beginnings of capitalism, but is an allegory for capitalism imperialism itself.

In the pilot, we meet Jimmy Darmody, a young man coming back from War World I, who is very impatient with the tasks he has been given by the show's main character, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, the City Treasurer who runs Atlantic City. Jimmy sees all the money going through Nucky's hands and is not content with just being a driver. He confronts Nucky and tells him, "All I want is an opportunity." To which Nucky eloquently responds, "This is America, ain't it? What's stopping you?" Jimmy views this as permission to pull a truck heist that sets many storylines in motion. Later on, in this same episode, after Jimmy gives Nucky his cut of the heist money, he reminds him that he can't be "half a gangster" anymore. Indeed, some of the first season does revolve around just how much Nucky is willing to do to insure his place as crime lord of Atlantic City.

Early in the first episode we also meet some of the big gangsters from New York and Chicago who are there to meet with Nucky, and throughout the series we see them teaming-up, double-crossing, killing, and making deals with each other. It's never personal; they care only about profits and expanding their territories. And everyone knows that in capitalism the number one rule is, "expand or die."

Not sure how much this new second season will explore these topics, but it will be fun to watch as the entire cast is very talented and the writing is top-notch.

No comments:

Post a Comment