I had been holding onto Boardwalk Empire for months and had only managed to watch four episodes. The other night, it was time to finish and by 3am, I was finished. The show definitely goes into my top ten HBO shows (which by default are the best on tv), along with Six Feet Under, The Wire, The Sopranos, and others but I’m not going to go into details about the entire show now.
What I have been thinking about is how the addition of one character in the 7th episode—Richard Harrow. The most difficult task for a writer is to maintain tension in the middle. It’s easy to start and fairly easy to create an intense climax (just blow something up if in doubt), but to keep an audience interested in the middle is very hard (case in point, second season of 24 where Kim gets chased by a cougar and runs into a crazed hill-billy in the woods for 3 or 4 episodes. Man did that suck!). Boardwalk is so far about 24 there is really no comparison, however, it still has to deal with the middle.
Richard Harrow is a brilliant twist that increased my interest. Harrow is a WW1 veteran who one of the main characters, Jimmy Darmody, also a Great War vet, meets at a veterans hospital. Harrow was a sniper who had half his face blown off and is struggling, as many vets did, to reintegrate into society. Jimmy befriends him and ends up employing him in the bootlegging/mob game Jimmy is a close part of. Harrow wears a half mask in order to cover up his hideous wound and was makes him even more intriguing is the hollowness of his soul. The War made him a cold-blooded killer and in one chilling scene, he casually explains to Jimmy that they can flush out some bad guys if he kills their families. Jimmy, who himself has killed people and worked with the mob in Chicago, and even he is surprised by Richard’s callous disregard for innocent life.
The writers found a little gem when they came up with the Harrow character and it adds another element of tension to an already brilliant show.