Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 6 Old 07-31-2014, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review

Check out our review of this compelling HBO Series that chronicles the life and times of Nucky Thompson, the undisputed ruler of Atlantic City, who was equal parts politician and gangster.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: HBO - 2013
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Feature running time: 720 minutes
Genre: TV Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Spanish Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Latin, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Kelly MacDonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigam, Michael Stuhbarg, Stephan Graham, Vincent Piazza, Michael Kenneth Williams, Anthony Laciura, Paul Sparks, Jack Huston, Jeffrey Wright, Stephen Root, Gretchen Mohl, Patricia Arquette, Ron Livingston
Directed by: Various
Written by: Various
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 19, 2014

"When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings"

My Take:

Season 4 of the Emmy Award®-winning series traces the continuing rise of organized crime and the expansion of Nucky's (Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi) empire into far-flung territories, while also taking a closer look at the rapidly expanding role that African Americans played in U.S. culture throughout the 1920s, with the addition of Chalky White's (Michael K. Williams) Onyx Club and a new gangster from Harlem (played by Emmy Award® winner Jeffrey Wright). It's a season filled with music and dancing, but not everyone has reason to rejoice. Get caught up before the fifth and final season debuts this fall.

America in the 1920s. The Great War is over, Wall Street is about to boom and everything is for sale, even the World Series. It is a time of change: Women have the right to vote, broadcast radio spreads the news, young people rule the world, and Prohibition gave birth to various criminal enterprises.

On the beach in southern New Jersey sits Atlantic City, a spectacular resort known as "The World's Playground," a place where rules don't apply. Massive hotels line its famous Boardwalk, along with nightclubs, amusement piers and entertainment to rival Broadway. For a few dollars, a working man can get away and live like a king -- legally or illegally. The undisputed ruler of Atlantic City is Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, (Steve Buscemi) a political fixer and backroom dealer who is equal parts politician and gangster and equally comfortable in either role.

Because of its strategic location on the seaboard, the town is a hub of activity for rum-runners, minutes from Philadelphia, hours from New York City and a day's drive from Chicago. And Nucky Thompson takes full advantage. Nucky has carved out a niche for himself as the man to see for any illegal alcohol. He is an equal opportunity gangster, doing business with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Lucky Luciano, (Vincent Piazza) Al Capone (Stephen Graham), and Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci).

The show also stars Michael Kenneth Williams ('The Wire') as Chalky White, the leader of the city's African-American community; Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden; Gretchen Mol as Gillian Darmody, an opportunistic ex-showgirl; Jack Huston as Richard Harrow, a maimed war veteran; Shea Whigham as Nucky's resentful brother Eli; and Kelly Macdonald as Margaret, Nucky's recent wife.)

'Boardwalk Empire' is inspired by the non-fiction book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City" by Nelson Johnson.

Atlantic City, February 1924: Picking up 8 months after the events of Season 3, Nucky Thompson is laying low at the end of the Boardwalk after barely surviving an overthrow by gangster Gyp Rossetti. But the calm will be short-lived, as Nucky faces new challenges, including a clash with a violent Harlem power-broker, a battle with his brother Eli over Eli's college-age son, and the irresistible lure of lucrative - and perilous - opportunities in Florida.

As with season three, we thoroughly enjoyed Boardwalk Empire Season four. The world of Nucky Thompson and his cohorts is brimming with seedy characters, double dealing, gangland violence and hidden passion. Several interesting new faces add a new and complimentary element. This includes Jeffrey White’s prim, proper, conniving and dangerous Dr. Narcisse who has his hands in a number of dirty pots while making for an excellent foil to my man Chalky White, and the introduction of J Edgar Hoover, and the Bureau of Investigation. The resulting/associated conflicts coupled with the tension between Nucky and Eli (mostly over Eli’s son Willie) serves as the foundation and in some cases the catalyst for some of the season’s best moments. Speaking of Chalky I was happy to see him get a larger share of this season’s plot. I also liked how the Italian Mafia element, notably Al Capone and his minions, were integrated along with the Nelson Van Alden subplot.

Arnold Rothstein and Margaret have diminished roles this season which I found disappointing and I was also saddened to say goodbye to one of my favorites but there is still so much depth to the character base. Relationships some old and new are both developed and tested and there is no question that the ante is upped as blood has to be spilled if “order” is to be restored. Aside from the mob mentality there are several subplots that make for great diversions. As alluded to earlier the Chalky/Dr. Narcisse subplot is just excellent. I didn’t find the Gillian (Gretchen Mol) offshoot which ties into last season and expands into this one to be all that good and frankly serves as an unwelcomed distraction to the remaining and better subplots.

The writing and direction is excellent as the narrative stays on point drawing closer to the inevitable conflagration that leaves devastation in its wake. I like the fact that characters that you would deem as indispensable aren’t and plot points that seem trivial wind up being thematically systemic. New cast members in season four include Jeffrey Wright as Valentin Narcisse, a violent Harlem power broker who tries to muscle in on Chalky's action; Ron Livingston as Roy Phillips, a business and romantic prospect of Gillian's; Patricia Arquette as Sally Wheet, a Florida speakeasy owner; Brian Geraghty as Federal Agent Warren Knox; and Domenick Lombardozzi and Morgan Spector as Al Capone's brothers, Ralph and Frank.

The finale befits the events preceding and I loved the ending which left enough narrative threads to fuel the potential for the fifth and final season.

Season Four is spread out over four BD-50 dual layered Blu-ray discs. The bonus content is integrated and viewable by selecting the Enhanced viewing option or as applicable individually. There are also six audio commentaries by writers, directors, and cast members that further enhance the viewing experience. After having watched the show previously I found that it quickly becomes addicting and season three is no different as it has plenty of twists, turns and surprises as we follow the 1920’s era riff raff from New York Chicago and of course New Jersey. I look forward to the next season and what lies in store for this excellent TV series.

Parental Guide:

The show contains violence, language, sexual content, nudity and strong thematic material.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): [img] [/img]

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season comes to Blu-ray Disc from HBO Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.

This high definition video presentation looks great and features a distinctive visual aesthetic that utilizes a reserved chromatic palette which makes use of sepia tones and muted primaries. This along with the application of filtering/lighting provides the period style look the show’s creators were striving for. Certain sequences/elements make bolder use of color with noticeably deeper saturation. Contrast and brightness are well balanced which results in distortion free and satisfying image quality. Blacks appear deep and punchy but delineation in low level scenes can range from very good to average. Flesh tones are a bit on the bland side but retain enough complexional variety to avoid appearing lifeless. Close ups offer appreciable texture and subtle refinement. Wide angle shots, especially those shot in the natural light of day, have excellent depth, with sharp resolute definition quality that is rarely questionable. I didn’t notice any signs of compression or video related artifacts.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound keeps pace with the video and is quite good. Dynamics are robust and highs are crisp without being strident or edgy. Dialogue is rendered with defining tonal expression and room penetrating depth through the center channel. The front soundstage is diffused with excellent separation and clearly articulated detail. The presentation makes ample use of the entire surround platform. At times it opens up quite nicely to create an involving surround mix containing a mix of directional and ambient sounds. Bass response doesn’t reach subterranean levels however it appropriately supports the source elements and provides an appreciably tight, and punchy low end.

Bonus Features:
  • Boardwalk Chronicle - an interactive, in-feature guide which offers character and location info as well as historical facts that are woven into each episode.
  • Scouting the Boardwalk - hear how the locations manager of Boardwalk Empire finds the unique buildings and neighborhoods that bring the 1920s to life in each episode.
  • PaleyFest: Made in NY Boardwalk Empire Panel - a Q&A with creator/executive producer/writer Terence Winter, executive producer/writer Howard Korder and cast members of Boardwalk Empire after a screening of episode five, "Erlkönig" - courtesy of The Paley Center for Media.
  • The Onyx Club: A Step Back In Time - an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the creation of, and historical inspiration for, the massive new set in Season 4.
  • Becoming Harrow - actor Jack Huston details the origins, story arc, and evolution of fan-favorite character Richard Harrow
  • New Characters - meet the new faces of season four: Dr. Valentin Narcisse, Roy Phillips, Agent Knox, Sally Wheet, Frank and Ralph Capone and Daughter Maitland.
  • Season 3: Revisited - get reacquainted with season 3 of Boardwalk Empire with this recap featuring creator/executive producer/writer Terence Winter.
  • Audio Commentaries - six commentaries with the cast and crew including Terence Winter, Steve Buscemi, Michael Kenneth Williams, Gretchen Mol and more.
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Boardwalk Empire is a well executed character driven show that pushes the envelope with its gritty period based theme which is drawn from the book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City" by Nelson Johnson. Being a fan I appreciate its evolving, multi-layered story and enjoy the depiction of real life people set into dramatic motion. Season Four continues in that vein with its compelling, violent and dark composition that is enhanced by apt direction and a superb ensemble cast. The show looks and sounds terrific in high definition and contains an assortment of fan friendly bonus features that enhance the experience on Blu-ray Disc. This four disc set is a must have for fans and comes recommended if you’re looking for a rewarding and darkly entertaining TV series.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS4910 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

Ralph C. Potts
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post #2 of 6 Old 07-31-2014, 11:22 AM
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One of my favorites. Season 5 is right around the corner, great time for a refresher! I will be sad to see this show end.
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post #3 of 6 Old 07-31-2014, 12:42 PM
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I have been meaning to watch this show for at least a year. Great review, I expected an audio score in the 90s
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post #4 of 6 Old 07-31-2014, 03:08 PM
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I love this show, however, I was devastated after watching the final episode. I won't miss season five but it'll be a tough watch. Ralph, I think you know what I mean.
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post #5 of 6 Old 08-06-2014, 06:14 PM
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This season was packed with interesting material and what a shocking season finale.
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post #6 of 6 Old 08-07-2014, 03:58 PM
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Season 5 will jump ahead a few years (1930s) and back as well (1890s).
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