Boardwalk Empire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. If you saw the first two seasons, you’ll know what kind of visuals to expect from this one.
As always, sharpness was good but a bit inconsistent. This meant some wide shots tended to be a little soft, which I figured was a combination of the cameras used and the photographic style desired. Whatever the case, overall definition seemed positives, so the softness was mild. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Don’t worry about print flaws, as they failed to appear.
Like most period pieces, Empire opted for a subdued, fairly sepia look. More prominent hues appeared at times, but the general impact remained a bit desaturated. Within those parameters, the colors seemed well-rendered, and blacks looked pretty deep. Shadows showed nice clarity for the most part; a few were a bit dense, but those weren’t a big issue. Season Three gave us perfectly acceptable – and often superior – visuals.
Lather, rinse, repeat when it came to Season Three’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. Like prior years, the series tended to be fairly dialogue-oriented, so much of the material remained environmental. Nonetheless, the occasional action sequences brought the mix to life in a fine fashion, as those used the spectrum well. This mainly meant lots of guns and explosions, all of which presented appropriate bang for the buck.
In terms of audio quality, the track satisfied. Music was rich and full, while speech appeared distinctive and natural. Effects showed positive delineation, as they boasted clean tones and nice impact. Bass response appeared taut and delivered a good punch at the right times. As was the case in the past, the audio lacked the ambition for a high grade, but the material seemed worthy of a “B”.
Season Three’s extras echo the kind of content found with the first two years. Six episodes boast audio commentaries. Here’s what we find:
“Resolution” - creator/writer/executive producer Terence Winter, director/writer/executive producer Tim Van Patten, and actors Steve Buscemi and Jack Huston;
“You’d Be Surprised” - co-executive producer/writer Howard Korder and actors Michael Stuhlbarg, Bobby Cannavale and Stephen DeRosa;
“Sunday Best” - Korder, co-producer/writer Steve Kornacki, director Allen Coulter and actors Shea Whigham and Gretchen Mol;
“Two Boats and a Lifeguard” - Winter, Cox, and actors Michael Shannon and Meg Chambers Steedle;
“Two Impostors” - Korder, Coulter, Buscemi and actor Michael Kenneth Williams;
“To the Lost” - Winter, Van Patten, Cannavale and actor Chris Caldovino.
Across the various tracks, we hear about cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, period details and historical elements, themes and story elements, and other areas. Like the commentaries for prior seasons, these have their ups and downs. I think the best come with “Resolution” and “Impostors”; the former sets up Season Three well, and the latter gives us the richest examination of a particular show, mainly via Coulter’s insights.
“Surprised” probably fares the worst, as it tends to come with a slow pace and not much data. The rest are all decent to good, so the bunch remain worth a listen. Expect inconsistencies, though.
Found on all five platters, we get Boardwalk Chronicle. This runs alongside the episodes and splits into these categories:
“CHARACTERS: displays which characters are in the current scene along with a brief biography”;
“LOCATION: shows where the current scene takes place”;
“NEWSREELS: details some of the real-world events and key figures that inspired Boardwalk Empire. This icon will appear twice per episode, enabling access to one of 24 historical featurettes relevant to Season Three.”
All 24 of those “Newsreels” will also appear on Disc Five, so I’ll discuss them there. For the time being, I’ll focus on the “Characters” and “Locations” aspects of “Chronicle”. S2’s “Character Dossiers” fulfilled a similar purpose and proved to be useful. The same holds true for “Chronicle”; it’s an efficient and unobtrusive way to avoid confusion through the episodes.
Disc One provides a featurette called Distilling Season 2. Hosted by Terence Winter, this 14-minute, 22-second piece gives us a quick overview of the series’ second season. It’s a nice refresher, as it gets us back up to date before we launch into the third set of shows.
On Disc Five, we get the bulk of the extras. American Empires offers an interactive feature that promises to let us “get a closer look at America’s Prohibition-era gangsters”. This means a mix of text, photos and maps to let us learn more about the real-life figures and situations that influenced the series’ drama. “Empires” provides a surprisingly rich overview and gives us a lot of good notes.
Alluded to earlier via the “Boardwalk Chronicle” feature, Newsreels includes 24 individual featurettes. Via the “Play All” button, these run a total of one hour, two minutes, five seconds and provide notes from Winter, Korder, Flappers and the New American Woman author Catherine Gourley and researcher Ed McGinty. The “Newsreels” examine at historical elements/personalities related to the series’ era and how these facts connect to the show’s characters/situations. These move at a brisk pace as they mesh history and fiction in a satisfying pace. I like the “Newsreels” a lot, as they bring us a very nice elaboration on the series’ narrative.
In the 29-minute, 56-second Director’s Chair, we hear from Van Patten and Coulter. They chat about the season’s visual look, themes, their approach to the material and how they mesh their respective episodes, and specifics about aspects of S3. Occasional notes repeat info from the commentaries, but “Chair” still works well, especially via the analytical way the directors reveal the techniques they utilize.
Scorsese on Season 3 lasts four minutes, 34 seconds, and offers the filmmaker/series executive producer’s thoughts about the series and changes for S3. Scorsese tends toward generalities and tells us little of value; honestly, this feels like a promo piece.
During the four-minute, 57-second New Characters, we hear from Winter, Steedle, and actors Arron Shiver, Michael Zegen and Stephen Root. As expected, they talk about roles and actors who debuted during S3. A few decent notes emerge but this is a fairly fluffy featurette.
The set also includes a DVD Copy of Season Three. This gives us the episodes alone without any extras.
After two good years, Season Three of Boardwalk Empire continues the series’ solid run. Maybe eventually it’ll sag, but so far it remains involving and engrossing. The Blu-rays provide generally positive picture and audio along with a nice set of bonus materials. Fans should find more of what they like from S3.