These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
YMMV: Boardwalk Empire
Alas, Poor Scrappy: Not many audience members were big fans of Angela, Jimmy's wife, but even the most ardent members of the character's hatedom were shaken by her brutal death at the hands of Manny at the end of "Georgia Peaches".
One with a generous dose of Fridge Horror: could Margaret's son Teddy be a budding sociopath? Mention is made of his bed-wetting and pyromania, which are both considered key indicators of the condition in children. Furthermore, considering that he's probably mature enough to understand human mortality and the fear that comes with it, it could be seen as quite a Kick the Dog moment when he taunts his mother by pretending that his legs have stopped moving, suggesting that he's caught polio from his sister.
The episode where he chased his little sister around with a hammer, and that serial killers have often had some form of traumatic childhood... in this case, an unstable, violent alcoholic who routinely beat his wife in full view of the children.
Was Roger a genuine good guy that had the misfortune of running into Gillian, or was he planning to con her out of her money? Both?
Was Margaret really in love with Owen at some point or was it just sexual attraction?
Even more reasonable is to ask the question with the roles reversed...
Two seasons after Luann Pratt confessed to be behind the Commodore's poisoning, there are still people who think that the real poisoner was Gillian and that Luann was bought into covering for her.
Angst? What Angst?: Emily catches polio in the second season and is a source of great angst for the main couple. O'Neill mentions that his daughter has polio in the first season... and that's about it.
Author's Saving Throw: Casting notices for Season 2 stated that Eli had 4 boys and 4 daughters. The boys were named Michael, Patrick, Brian and Dermott. However, Michael's name wasn't stated on screen. Come Season 3, "Michael" was now named Patrick (who had been named on screen) and William was now Eli's eldest child. Now, as for who was that dark haired kid that Eli called Patrick, however...
The death of Jimmy at Nucky's hand was extremely divisive amongst the fanbase.
Jimmy as a character could be considered to be this. He's either one of the most interesting and compelling characters on the show or he's poorly written and dull. Those who find him interesting are divided in turn over if he is an Anti-Hero or an outright Villain. And then there are the fangirls who drool over him no matter what he does.
"Under God's Power She Flourishes" split the fanbase for Gillian; either you think she's a heinous, abusive bitch who ruined her son's life at least twice by exploiting him, or you feel bad for her for continuing the cycle of abuse she herself experienced.
The season 4 finale was extremely controversial. Killing off your biggest Ensemble Darkhorse will do that.
Joe Harper turning out to be Tommy Darmody and murdering Nucky in the finale is sen either horribly contrived and hokey, a poetic and fitting way to end the show or a little bit of both.
Those that think that Jimmy's death ruined the show and it isn't the same without him vs. those that think Jimmy's death is when the show solidified itself as having guts and capitalized on the potential it showed in the first season.
Rosetti going berserk is not played for comedic sociopathy, but sometimes his reactions and his mental process are so absurd that it can't be taken seriously at 100% either, and then again the guy has his Laughably Evil moments.
In-universe, Jimmy can only make a WTF? face and laugh when the still recovering Commodore sarcastically commands him to "show 'em your cunt... lift up your dress, let yourself be fucked" in response to Jimmy's poor handling of a strike engineered by Nucky.
But the opening theme, "Straight Up and Down" by The Brian Jonestown Massacre stands out in spite of its anachronism.
"Carrickfergus" over the final scenes in "Nights in Ballygran", as sung by Loudon Wainwright III.
"Life's a Very Funny Proposition" (sung by Stephen DeRosa as Eddie Cantor) in "A Return to Normalcy".
"My Buddy" sung by Stephen Graham (and Henry Burr) at the end of "Blue Bell Boy."
"Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" by Lois Deppe and Earl Hines at the start of "Sunday Best."
While Kathy Brier did not return as Sophie Tucker for seasons 2 and 3, she did sing the songs in the montage opening each season: Irving Berlin's "After You Get What You Want (You Don't Want It)" and Billy Higgins' "There'll Be Some Changes Made".
Richard Harrow is one awesome guy. The writers have seemingly recognized this: he was upgraded to a regular in Season 2 and in Season 3 was given a love interest and a fair amount of screentime despite having almost no association with the main plot.
Both Babette and Odette (the prostitute Richard loses his virginity to) have a surprising number of followers, despite being extremely minor, Out of Focus characters.
Joe "The Boss" Masseria has a lot of fans too, in part because of the research that went into the character(i.e, speaking the genuine Sicilian dialect), and in part because in comparison to colleagues like Gyp Rosetti, he has his head on straight, which actually makes him scarier.
Growing the Beard: The final three episodes of season two. Killing off three main characters in Angela, the Commodore, and Jimmy, depicting Parental Incest on television, and having one of those deaths be of Jimmy, who is arguably a protagonist was fairly brave.
Season 4 is also argued by many critics as seeing the show reach another level and has gotten much more notice than prior seasons.
Watching Nucky's father withering from dementia in Season 2 can be heartbreaking when you consider that actor Tom Aldredge died in mid-2011 and this was, in fact, his last role.
Gillian's intentions of raising Tommy herself, as she may be planning to be more than a surrogate mama.
This exchange between Nucky and Jimmy in the pilot:
Nucky: I could have you killed.
Jimmy: Yeah, but you won't. (...) You can't be half a gangster, Nucky. Not anymore.
Note that Jimmy is actually right about this. Nucky doesn't have him killed, he does it himself.
Atlantic City, along with the rest of the Jersey shore, was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Sandy halfway through the third season's airing.
"I will protect this with my life..."
The meeting between Richard and Chalky in "White Horse Pike" initially seemed like a tease to two fan favorites teaming up together.
Eddie Cantor's comment to Billy Kent, when he asks what she knows about Lucy. "The next one won't know a goddamn thing about you either." Indeed, even Nucky himself, traumatized as he was by Billy's death, got over her pretty quickly when he moved on to Sally.
Richard and Jimmy—they start out sharing a Lingering Gaze in the hospital, and then Jimmy brings him along to Atlantic City and bargains with Nucky to get him a job, defending him whenever someone makes a comment about his appearance. Richard, in turn, who has no personal stake in any of the Nucky/Rothstein/D'Alessio madness, immediately starts offering to help Jimmy by offing people left and right. ...OK, so it's dark, but there's something very sweet about the two shell-shocked veterans bonding that way.
"What Does the Bee Do" has Angie getting in on the bromance and admitting they're good for each other. And "Gimcrack and Bunkum" made their bond pretty apparent:
Richard: Would you fight for me?
Jimmy: Of course I would. Right down to the last bullet.
How does Jimmy decide to spend his last night on Earth? Laughing and drinking with Richard.
One could easily see that Jimmy shares a more intimate bond with Richard than he does with Angela, his own wife. The scene at Babette's where he tells Richard that they both did it can be seen as Jimmy seeking approval from Richard.
There's also Jimmy and Al, going back to the pilot. They bond over being the low men on the totem pole, then rise through the ranks together. By the time Al drops by Jimmy's house in Jersey in "A Dangerous Maid", playing with Tommy and speaking Italian with Angela, he comes off as Jimmy's ex, complete with tension with Richard.
There's a part where Al acknowledges their relationship might be "a little fruity" while they're both shopping for suits
All of Team New York are basically married to each other. There's all of Luciano and Rothstein's interactions in Season 1, with Rothstein treating Luciano like a very well-kept pet. He dresses him, teaches him how to speak, and when Luciano does something wrong, Rothstein's there with a quiet "Charlie, no" and a restraining hand. Lansky and Luciano take over the Ho Yay in Season 2, rarely out of each other's company and always acting as a unit.
"some things, Charlie, you just have to swallow."
Hell, in Luciano's and Lansky's first scene together, Luciano acts incredibly defensive when the D'Alessio brothers use an ethnic slur against Lansky.
This goes even further in season 3, where they act like Benny Siegel's doting parents. A scene of them sending him out to make a heroin deal plays more like it's his first day of school.
Luciano comments on Meyer's beautiful face. What's even better is that he says it in Yiddish.
When Masseria makes a remark how Jews have sex through a sheet and therefore a joyless bunch, Luciano asserts otherwise; specifically that Meyer does it like a sailor on shore leave. It's not clear exactly how Luciano knows that.
And Lucky says that Meyer hurts his head. The way he says it can be mistaken for 'heart' very easily too.
And after selling him out to Masseria in "Margate Sands", Rothstein muses sadly over Lucky's ongoing impetuousness and pleads to Meyer that he "understand".
In Season 5's episode "Friendless Child", Lucky and Lansky disbelieving Benny's story about being kidnapped and demanding him to come back to New York seems like 2 parents scolding a child for playing hooky.
Between the physical contact, faux paternalism, and particular focus on Jews as both traitorous and 'passionless,' Masseria's persistent attempts to get Lucky on his side have an almost predatory subtext.
The brief exchange between the four NYC gangsters in "New York Sour" has a lot of Ho Yay for such a short scene.
In "All In", Nucky tells Meyer to talk about himself. Meyer immediately starts in on his work with Lucky, and ends up talking about how they met.
Lucky and Meyer's argument in "The North Star" plays like a break-up scene, complete with Lucky storming out and Meyer left smoking alone.
The poker game between Arnold Rothstein and Nucky in "All In" is loaded with dialogue that could easily be turned into Ho Yay.
Rothstein: ...Do you recall our first encounter, Mr. Thompson?
Rothstein: ...I figured you for a straight.
Rothstein: ...always ready to stick your fingers into a piece of pie.
Nucky: I don't like pie.
Rothstein: Well, I *have* learned something new about you.
Then, the meeting in "The Milkmaid's Lot," where Nucky tries to enlist the help of the other gang leaders against Gyp Rosetti, only to have them all reject him and leave. The way he repeatedly calls after Rothstein, by his first name ("Arnold? Arnold?!") invokes a lot of Ho Yay.
Idiot Ball: After being characterized as an intelligent plotter who is gunning for Chalky's territory, Doctor Narcisse positions himself behind a large window with his back to the street during a conference, making him a sitting duck for an assassination attempt. Only Plot Armor saves him.
Iron Woobie: Tonino. Aside from having to put up with his highly unstable boss, Gyp Rosetti, Tonino is forced to watch as said unstable boss brutally murders Tonino's cousin.
Paul Sagorsky is crass and reprehensible, but also a broken Shell-Shocked Veteran capable and probably in need of warmth.
Van Alden may be a despicable, fanatic with a high body count but damn does his life utterly suck.
Willie Thompson. As a result of his prank gone wrong, he ends up throwing his roommate under the bus at Nucky's behest.
Gillian does heinous things that may put her well past redemption, but her storyline is nuanced enough that the writers make her walk or jump the line between pitiable and pitiful. In season 4 Gillian is so pathetic after his forced heroin addiction costs her everything that you'll probably have some level of pity for her. It helps that it's capped off by a Heel Face Door Slam.
Agent Knox towards the end of Season 4. He may be brutal and uncompromising but considering who he's after. He doesn't reach full Woobie status until the end of Season 4. Try not to feel a tad bit sorry for him when he's undermined at every turn by Hoover and his career starts going down the toilet despite genuinely wanting to erase organized crime.
Just Here for Godzilla: Complaints against characters whose storylines "stand in the way" of the iconic violence of the roaring twenties are not uncommon. To a lesser extent, this reaction is sometimes shared by viewers who know that slow character development is the name of the game in an HBO show.
Gyp Rosetti, as evidenced by Bobby Cannavale's Emmy win.
Warren Knox is quickly become this as well.
Mickey Doyle's obnoxiousness becomes enjoyable at times because it leads to someone putting him in his place, often violently.
Magnificent Bastard: Arnold Rothstein. Smart, well-dressed, not above selling out his own men or making deals with enemies for a profit, "allegedly" fixed the World Series, and once made a man choke to death on a cue ball for his own amusement.
Nucky at the end of "Margate Sands". Despite having almost everything stolen from by Rosetti, Nucky manages to trick Rothstein into taking his recently acquired brewery in return for convincing Masseria to pull his support for Rosetti. Then he ambushes and massacres all of Masseria's men as they withdraw, and convinces Rosetti's own bodyguards to kill him. He then sends one of Masseria's few surviving men back to New York to tell Masseria not to mess with his affairs ever again. Nucky then tips off the government about Rothstein's purchase of the brewery, and they make preparations to arrest him.
Memetic Badass: Teddy to some parts of the fandom (in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion, obviously).
Manny Horvitz. A YouTube user lamented that Richard killed him, arguing that his destiny was to go to Germany and destroy Hitler with his own "fists of Jewish glory".
Eli killing George O'Neill in an attack of drunken rage.
And for those who were not convinced yet, he suggests killing his own brother in the next episode he is in.
Eli seems to be coming back out from the opposite side of this in the third season. For varying degrees of good, at least he's trying hard to fit in and be a good brother again.
While Van Alden kicks a lot of dogs, the usually pointed Moral Event Horizon is drowning Sebso in front of a black congregation and then leaving while showing his gun and badge so they'll be too afraid to say anything. Oddly, he only begins to Pet the Dog well after that.
Manny's comes in "Georgia Peaches" when he murders Jimmy's wife and her lover in cold blood.
Gillian's first one comes in "Peg of Old" when she talks Jimmy into letting the hit on Nucky stand.
Gillian racks them up in "Under God's Power She Flourishes". She doesn't give a flying fuck that Angela died, plans to tell Tommy that she abandoned him to party with her friends in Paris, tells Jimmy to kill the Commodore and calls Richard a simpleton (in the guise of throwing a police officer off the trail of Angela's murder). Just to add fuel to the fire, the flashbacks reveal that at Princeton, she had drunken sex with Jimmy, freaking him into joining the army.
Another one comes in "Sunday Best", when she shoots up Roger, her replacement-Jimmy, with heroin, and drowns him in her bathtub. This one is justified in-universe because she needs to prove Jimmy's death to gain control of the Commodore's house and money, but rather than admit the hard truth, she takes this way.
Nucky has several key and potential moments:
In "To the Lost", wherein throughout the episode, he reveals himself as The Sociopath, with his affable side appearing to a significant degree to be just a front. This culminates at the end of the episode, in which on the pretext of letting Jimmy take revenge on Manny, instead coldly murders Jimmy as Manny and Eli watch. That Jimmy expected this and was thus committing Suicide by Cop doesn't really make Nucky's actions any better.
Even worse, he makes Jimmy's body disappear, adding unnecessary torture and economic hardships to Jimmy's mother and son, and one season after Jimmy's death it's still unknown what happened with it. Nucky then has the gall to present his "respects" to Gillian in her own home when he is informed of the death of fake!Jimmy.
The murder of Roland Smith arguably crosses the horizon more. While Jimmy was no saint and had tried to have Nucky killed, Roland was barely more than a kid. It seems as if Nucky only did it to prove a point to Owen.
The finale emphasizes that he crossed it before the main events of the series, in 1897, when he sold out Gillian to the Commodore, and his own soul in the process, "to get ahead". Interestingly, Gillian is not mad with Nucky in the present day, as he's been good to her, in his own way.
The Commodore crosses it once his fondness for child rape becomes evident.
Gyp Rosetti crosses it during his Establishing Character Moment, killing a good samaritan for using a term Rosetti didn't understand, and it only gets worse each episode he appears in.
Louis Gossett Jr's one time appearance as Chalky's old mentor.
Jim True-Frost appears briefly for one episode, but merely the name of his character has a lot of shock value. He's Eliot Ness.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Lucy has improved in leaps and bounds between the first season, where she mainly whined and had a lot of sex, and the second season (especially in her pregnancy storyline). That entire storyline rescued not only her, but Van Alden, his wife and the plot device in general.
It happens to Eli in season 3, thanks to him being a completely broken man after spending two years in jail, and far more loyal to Nucky.
Lucy's not very popular among the fandom to say the least, though this could change after episodes like "A Dangerous Maid" where she is more exposednote In the other sense of the word and shows signs of falling into despair.
Season 2 made everybody pretty much hate Eli, but even more so when he survived it in the end. Fortunately, he was rescued in Season 3.
Billie Kent seems to be fairly loathed by most of the fanbase.
Margaret slowly but steadily becomes one along the second season, and she only gets more hated in the third. Some hate her because she is a hypocrite (and this is apparently worse than being a murderer), while others that are Just Here for Godzilla think that every minute dedicated to her subplots is one less that can be used to show the gangsters going at each other's throats.
Willie Thompson. Where to start? His major Took a Level in Jerkass from the dutiful eldest son who helped a crippled Emily on Easter in Season 3 to a belligerent wangsty sociopath in Season 4 on the flimsiest of justifications, his Karma Houdini status after poisoning a rival Jerk Jock and then framing his roommate with the help of Uncle Nucky, his subplot that appears to consume most of the screentime, forcing more beloved and/or historically important characters out of focus, yet hardly ever seems to be going anywhere, being the studio's Replacement Scrappy for Jimmy Darmody despite lacking any of the complex personality or charm of Jimmy...
Daughter Maitland teetered on the edge in Season 4, with many fans considering her a thin character who didn't justify Chalky falling so hard for her. Then it became set in stone in Season 5 as she's the reason Chalky doesn't get his revenge on Narcisse.
Squick: This is HBO. Sex and violence are the name of the game. If nothing else, Steve Buscemi's O-face'll get ya.
Jimmy's mom jumping over, wrapping her legs around and then kissing him. While "wearing" nothing more than panties and pasties.
Jimmy and Mommy finally doing it onscreen.
Lucky Luciano getting treatment for gonorrhea. It involves sticking needles and various devices with zinc sulfide into "little Lucky".
Lucy and Van Alden's sex scene was just wrong, and was extremely hard to watch.
Lucy and Nucky's relationship when one realizes that Steve Buscemi is old enough to be Paz De La Huerta's father. It doesn't help that Lucy has a tendency to call her lovers "Daaaaaaaaaadddddddyyyyyyyy".
Gillian giving birth at thirteen is bad enough but it reaches new levels when you find out the father was the Commodore who would have been fifty-four at the time.
The badly-burned Prohibition agent in "Age of Reason".
Holy mother of God, the scene in "Peg of Old" when Slater garrotes a guy in a men's toilet, slicing his fingers off as the guy tries to get free. We actually SEE the severed fingers and gushing blood. And oh, how dirty that toilet looks.
And Nucky gets shot in the hand in the same episode. Fingore all around!
Richard blowing Neary's brains out in "To the Lost", complete with a giant close-up of the back of his head.
A woman having a bloody miscarriage in a hospital hallway, in front of a tour group.
Babette casually mentions her tapeworm diet.
Richard Harrow's massacre of Rosetti's men, both during and when the show displays the aftermath.
Which is carried on to the Season 4 premiere, where he shots a man through the cheek and while otherwise paralyzed, he is still capable of murmuring a "why...?" while blood pours to the ground from his open mouth.
The victim of Willie's prank gone wrong, a Jerk Jock, shits himself to death. And we see his body on the bathroom floor, bleeding from the mouth. Repeat: he SHITS HIMSELF TO DEATH. Gah.
Lucky, who had earlier discovered he had the clap, making a blood bond with the entire New York mob.
Tonino's amputated ear is shown very graphically, with the camera being sure to zoom in on it in a spiral for several seconds before cut to black.
Strangled by the Red String: Van Alden and Sigrid. He hired her as a nanny in season 2. In a short period, she apparently fell madly in love with him, so much that she was willing to go to another city with him, take a new identity, have his child and even commit murder for him, despite showing no signs of attraction to him before the finale of season 2.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Two lines of dialogue inform that A.R. has shrugged off his end of a major Gambit Pileup and his legal problems in the gap between seasons 3 and 4. Granted that another war between Nucky and A.R. could have potentially felt like a retread of season 1's plotline.
A brief meeting between the two in season 2 shows that Richard and Owen see eachother as Worthy Opponents and offers a tantalizing hint at the two of them having a rivalry and a potential violent confrontation in the future. Sadly, the two never share any significant screen time together ever again.
It is crystal clear that Jimmy and Angela were supposed to appear for more than two seasons. Backstage problems forced the writers to exit them earlier.
Perhaps the biggest example is the Time Skip between seasons 4 and 5 skipping the story ahead to 1931. Most disappointing is that we miss 1928-1929 completely, historically a time period that saw the death of Arnold Rothstein, the crash of the stock market, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the Atlantic City conference.
Richard Harrow. The poor guy cuts pictures of families out of newspapers and glues them into a book because it's as close to actually having a family as he'll ever get.
A pregnant Lucy being forced to stay inside and not have contact with anyone because Van Alden is basically paying her to keep quiet about everything.
Which is ratcheted up to eleven when she goes through hours of labor by herself. Even those viewers who couldn't stand Lucy probably had the urge to hug her.
And is then taken another step further still when it becomes clear that Van Alden never intended to pay her.
Angela. Sure, the fandom was quite divided about her in season 1, but only the most cruel could think that she deserved any of what she got in season 2.
Tommy Darmody. Starting off as a Cheerful Child, as the seasons progress his mother dies, his father dies, his grandmother tries to brainwash him into forgetting about his mother and isolates him from contact with most people except for Richard, he's used as a hostage by Gyp Rossetti's men and traumatized for months following Richard's killing spree to rescue him, his grandmother is arrested for murder, and when it finally looks like he may have a chance for a normal life with a loving family his Parental Substitute, Richard, dies. By the time of the finale he claims he doesn't have a home anymore and finally loses everything when he's arrested after killing Nucky in retribution for Jimmy's murder.