Created by Terence Winter and executive produced Martin Scorsese (who also directed the pilot episode), Boardwalk Empire ended in 2014 after five successful seasons on HBO, in which the series garnered 18 Emmy Awards. Now available as a 19 disc Complete Series set, Boardwalk Empire takes place in 1920’s Atlantic City, New Jersey, and chronicles the life of county treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), who, with the rise of prohibition, sees a “can’t-miss” business opportunity.

Without jeopardizing his job as treasurer, Nucky gathers together associates to get into the bootlegging business. Gangsters are a big part of the operation, power struggles with men such as Lucky Luciano and Al Capone were par for the course. As one might expect, alliances are formed and broken. As the series began, James “Jimmy” Darmody (Michael Pitt) worked for Nucky, but quickly branched out, wanting to take control of Atlantic City himself; Elias “Eli” Thompson (Shea Whigham) works alongside his older brother and uses his position as the Sheriff to help where he can; New York mob kingpin Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) goes into business with Nucky, and Nucky strikes a deal with African-American gangster Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams).

Nucky has a lot of oars in the water at home as well. He has a mistress named Lucy Danziger (Paz de la Huerta) but for him, what is a fairly orderly personal life is turned on its head by a burgeoning relationship with Margaret Thompson (Kelly Macdonald). Margaret is unlike any other women he’s dealt with before. As Boardwalk Empire progresses, more about each of the main characters is revealed, relationships shift, and we learn how secrets of the past affect the present. The relationship between Nucky and Jimmy is an especially complicated one, though Nucky does his best to make the younger man look good. In the end though, pressure from New York City forces Nucky to action. After all, winning at all costs, is most important. By the end of the third season, a mob war of sorts breaks out.

By the mid-twenties Al Capone (Stephen Graham) becomes a bigger presence as his power increases, and Nucky begins a period of reclusiveness. As the final season begins, things don’t look good for Nucky, as everything seems to be closing in. But really, when you’re building an illegal empire, things probably aren’t going to end well.

From the start, Boardwalk Empire was a well done show. I remember saying several times during the first season that each season had the look, and feel of a mini-movie. Renowned for its attention to period detail, the first episode cost $18 million, the most expensive pilot episode produced in television history. The sets are absolutely stunning, and certainly go a long way in giving the show a realistic feel that few period pieces ever truly capture.

The cast is even more memorable. All of the key players here do great work, with Michael Pitt rising to the occasion as Jimmy, particularly as his character’s story arch reaches its peak; Michael Shannon shines as uptight, morally conflicted Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, and Stephen Graham impresses as Al Capone. Obviously though, the series’ success rises and falls on the performance of Steve Buscemi’s Nucky. Frankly, this seems like a role he was born to play. He has the right balance of strength, and controlled emotion (all the better to manipulate people with), to come across as someone who could control Atlantic City.

While the ending is decidedly predictable, getting to the finale was a fun mix of drama, dark humor, and suspense. If you haven’t had the chance to check out Boardwalk Empire, now would be a great time to do it.

Like most HBO shows, Boardwalk Empire looks excellent on Blu-ray. Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the image is fantastic, providing excellent detail and a lifelike appearance. Skin tones look natural throughout. There are no compression artifacts, DNR, or edge enhancements to speak of. I did notice some slight noise in a few nighttime scenes, but it didn’t mar the viewing experience in any way.

The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix provides a fabulous listening experience. Surround channels are used throughout the series to create a rather enveloping environment. Directionality is perfect, spreading well to all channels. Ambient and background noise is crisp and clear. Dialogue is clean, and easy to understand throughout. Action scenes are given an ample amount of bass. There’s nothing to complain about here.

English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch subtitles are included.

In terms of extras, this Complete Series collection gathers together all of that previously released material and bundles it together, but also includes an exclusive bonus disc.

Season One:

  • Enhanced Viewing Mode (HD)
  • Character Dossier (HD)
  • Audio Commentaries:, six audio commentaries are available: “Boardwalk Empire” with creator/writer/executive producer Terrence Winter; “Anastasia” with Winter and actors Steve Buscemi (Nucky Thompson) and Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White); “Family Limitation” with director/writer/executive producer Time Van Patten and writer/supervising producer Howard Korder; “Hold Me In Paradise” with Winter and director Brian Kirk; “Paris Green” with Korder, director Allen Coulter and actor Michael Shannon (Nelson Van Alden); and “Return to Normalcy” with Winter and Van Patten.
  • Atlantic City: The Original Sin City (HD)
  • Speakeasy Tour (HD)
  • Making Boardwalk Empire (HD)
  • Creating the Boardwalk

Season Two:

  • Audio Commentaries: Six commentaries are available: “21” with writer/producer Terence Winter, writer/director/executive producer Tim Van Patten and actor Michael K. Williams; “Gimcrack and Bunkum” with executive producer Howard Koder and actor Jack Huston; “Peg of Old” with Korder, director Allen Coulter, writer/producer Steve Kornacki and actor Charlie Cox; “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” with Winter, Van Patten and actor Steve Buscemi; “Under GGod’s Power She Flourishes” with Coulter, Korder and actress Gretchen Mol; and, the most anticipated of the bunch, “To the Lost” with Winter and Van Patten.
  • Character Dossiers (HD)
  • Back to the Boardwalk (HD)
  • Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode 11 (HD)
  • Living in 1921 (HD)
  • The Money Decade (HD)
  • New Characters (HD)
  • Updates to the Boardwalk (HD)
  • Season Two Promo Spot (HD)

Season Three:

  • Audio Commentaries: Six episode commentaries are available: “Resolution” with creator/writer/executive producer Terence Winter, director/executive producer Tim Van Patten, and actors Steve Buscemi (Nucky Thompson) and Jack Huston (Richard Harrow); “You’d Be Surprised” with executive producer/writer Howard Korder and actors Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein), Bobby Cannavale (Gyp Rosetti) and Stephen DeRosa (Eddie Cantor); “Sunday Best” with Korder, director Allen Coulter and actors Shea Whigham (Eli Thompson) and Gretchen Mol (Gillian Darmody); “The Pony” with Winter and actors Michael Shannon (Nelson Van Alden), Charlie Cox (Owen Sleater) and Meg Chambers (Billie Kent); “Two Impostors” with Korder, Coulter, Buscemi and actor Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White); and “Margate Sands” with Winter, Van Patten, Cannavale and actor Chris Caldovino.
  • Boardwalk Empire – Director’s Chair (HD)
  • Newsreels (HD)
  • Scorsese on Season 3 (HD)
  • New Characters (HD)
  • American Empires (HD)
  • Boardwalk Chronicle (HD)
  • Distilling Season 2 (HD

Season Four:

  • Audio Commentaries: Six episode commentaries are available: “New York Sour” with executive producer/writer Howard Korder, executive producer/director Tim Van Patten and actor Steve Buscemi; “All In” with creator Terrence Winter, writer David Matthews, director Ed Bianchi and actor Michael Stuhlbarg; “Erlkonig” with Korder, Van Patten and actors Anthony Laciura, Brian Geraghty and Gretchen Mol; “The Old Ship of Zion” with Korder and actors Erik LaRay Harvey, Michael Kenneth Williams and Margot Bingham; “Havre de Grace” with Korder, director Allen Coulter, Williams and Bingham; and “Farewell Daddy Blues” with Winter, Van Patten and Buscemi.
  • Boardwalk Chronicle (HD)
  • PaleyFest: Made in NY Panel (HD)
  • The Onyx Club: A Step Back in Time (HD)
  • Becoming Harrow (HD)
  • New Characters (HD)
  • Scouting the Boardwalk (HD)
  • Season 3 Revisited (HD)

Season Five:

  • Audio Commentaries: Four episode commentaries are available: “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” with executive producer/writer Howard Korder, executive producer/director Tim Van Patten, and Steve Buscemi (Nucky Thompson); “Cuanto” with creator/executive producer/writer Terrence Winter, Korder, Buscemi and Vincent Piazza (Lucky Luciano); “Friendless Child” with director Allen Coulter, Michael Zegen (Bennie Siegel) and Ben Rosenfield (William Thompson); and “Eldorado,” the series finale, with Winter, Korder, Van Patten and Buscemi.
  • Scouting the Boardwalk (HD)

Bonus Disc:

  • The Final Shot: A Farewell to Boardwalk Empire (HD) Cast and crew reminisce about the show, with many of the cast relating how they landed their parts. Nearly everyone is included here, and three is discussion of the sets, costumes, locations, and more.
  • Anatomy of a Hit (HD) Terence Winter, Tim Van Patten and Howard Korder take us through a few of the show’s greatest “hits”.
  • Building The Boardwalk (HD) The production design team discusses the extensive set used during the series’ first three seasons.
  • Shooting The Series (HD) The directors of photography, Jonathan Freeman and Bill Coleman discuss how the show was lit.
  • Designing the Series (HD) Members of the crew discuss how they tried to achieve authenticity, and accuracy in the design of the series.
  • Visual Effects (HD) Crew members discuss the challenges they faced in their efforts to seamlessly incorporate visual effects into practical shots.

*The set also includes Digital Copy + UltraViolet.