Boardwalk Empire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. After three seasons, should you expect the visuals of S4 to differ from what we saw in the past? Nope – the picture quality remained consistent with the initial years of the show/
For the most part, the programs delivered good definition. Some softness crept into occasional wide shots, but that stayed minor and the episodes usually delivered positive delineation. I saw no jagged edges or moire effects, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws also didn’t become an issue.
Once again Empire opted for a subdued, fairly sepia look. A couple of shots in Tampa or on the Atlantic City beach boasted a bit more pep, but the desaturated brownish tint dominated. Given the stylistic choices, the hues seemed fine. Blacks came across as dark and rich, while shadows showed mostly positive presence. A few low-light shots were a bit murky, but not to a serious degree. This was another good presentation.
Lather, rinse, repeat when it came to Season Four’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”.
Expect bonus content that echoes what we found with the first three seasons. Six episodes boast audio commentaries. Here’s what we find:
“New York Sour” - executive producer/writer Howard Korder, executive producer/writer Tim Van Patten and actor Steve Buscemi;
“All In” - creator/executive producer/writer Terence Winter, writer David Matthews, director Ed Bianchi and actor Michael Stuhlbarg;
“Erlkonig” - Korder, Van Patten, and actors Anthony Laciura, Brian Geraghty, and Gretchen Mol;
“The Old Ship of Zion” - Korder and actors Erik LaRay Harvey, Michael Kenneth Williams and Margot Bingham;
“Havre de Grace” - Korder, Williams, Bingham and director Allen Coulter;
“Farewell Daddy Blues” - Winter, Van Patten and Buscemi.
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. Fans who screened the prior three seasons will know what to expect from these inconsistent chats.
Normally I like to select the best and the worst commentaries from the season, but this time, they all seem pretty similar. This means that the strongest – and the weakest – have the same traits. We get a reasonable amount of useful insights but we also find more banal chatter than I’d like. The commentaries still merit a listen, but they never become especially memorable.
Found on all four platters, we get Boardwalk Chronicle. The components run alongside all 12 episodes and split 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”;
“FACTS: The history of the people and events that inspired Boardwalk Empire”;
“SCOUTING THE BOARDWALK: In each episode an icon will appear and a video featurette will show you how the Location Managers of Boardwalk Empire finds the unique buildings and neighborhoods that bring the 1920s to life.”
All of those “Scouting” clips will appear on Disc Four, so I’ll discuss them there. For the time being, I’ll focus on the “Characters”, “Facts” and “Location” aspects of “Chronicle”. These give us a reasonable number of useful details about the series. They cover the expected subjects and throw in interesting elements in a manner unobtrusive enough to one can watch the shows with “Chronicle” activated and not lose track of the stories.
Disc One provides a featurette called Season 3 Revisited. Hosted by Terence Winter, this 14-minute, 32-second piece gives us a quick overview of the series’ third season. It’s a nice refresher, as it gets us back up to date before we launch into the fourth set of shows.
On Disc Two, we find a panel discussion called PaleyFest: Made in NY. It runs 26 minutes, eight seconds and features Korder, Williams, Mol, Winter and actor Jeffrey Wright. They discuss story/character areas, cast and performances, and other series areas. Nothing memorable pops up here, so expect a fairly flat chat.
Everything else appears on Disc Four. The Onyx Club: A Step Back in Time fills nine minutes, 12 seconds with info from Winter, Van Patten, Korder, Bingham, costume designers John Dunn and Lisa Padovani, set decorator Carol Silverman, production designer Bill Groom, historian/author Burton W. Peretti, Tulane University Director of American Studies Joel Dinerstein, authors Lucy Moore and Jonathan Eig, choreographer Pat Birch, and music supervisor Randall Poster. We get notes about set/costume design and music/choreography as well as historical reflections on the era/circumstances. This never becomes a deep program, but it offers a decent overview.
We focus on one actor/character via the seven-minute, 40-second Becoming Harrow. It delivers notes from Van Patten and actor Jack Huston. We find thoughts about the character and Huston’s performance. The show covers the subject well.
Similar to programs on earlier sets, New Characters goes for five minutes, five seconds and features Winter, Wright, Bingham, and actors Ron Livingston, Patricia Arquette, Morgan Spector, and Domenick Lombardozzi. As expected, this piece gives us character overviews for S4’s new participants. It’s useful if you watch it before you view the episodes but it lacks value if seen after you check out all the shows.
Mentioned earlier, Scouting the Boardwalk lasts 23 minutes, 10 seconds and offers details from location managers Audra Gorman and Amanda Foley. They tell us about the various sets and locations used in S4. The individual featurettes remain brief but they add up to a nice take on the different spots.
Season Four of Boardwalk Empire may present its best year to date. It develops its characters and situations well to culminate in a fantastic finale. The Blu-rays show good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. Fans will continue to enjoy the series through this satisfying collection of shows.