In the latest in our series on television parallels to Game of Thrones, freelance critic Jeremy Mongeau compares it to HBO’s other huge investment from the 2010-2011 television series: Boardwalk Empire.
We’re some time away from seeing how Game of Thrones chooses to end its story, but that doesn’t stop us from speculating about who will live and die, trying to figure out who’s going to end up on the Iron Throne. This weekend, Boardwalk Empire wrapped up its own saga of power struggles and high-stakes war, and did so in style. We’ve seen who survives, who dies, and who thrives. So many fates on Thrones are up in the air, but on Boardwalk, they’ve all made their hard landings.
The two shows have been linked from the start. Both were developed during HBO’s wilderness years late last decade, after The Sopranos and The Wire had finished their runs. A new wave of dramas like John from Cincinnati and Tell Me You Love Me failed to catch on, and HBO’s biggest rivals, like AMC were nipping at their heels. HBO didn’t just want a hit, it wanted a phenomenon: a show that could bring in viewers, critical praise, and tons and tons of awards. No wonder HBO was drawn to Boardwalk and Thrones: both shows were about fending off rivals and holding onto hard-earned territory.
Thrones, of course, was based off irresistible source material. Boardwalk was adapted from a book as well, but the real draw came from the talent involved. The showrunner was Sopranos vet Terence Winter, and the director of the pilot was cinematic icon Martin Scorsese. Both shows came with big pedigrees and even bigger budgets (Boardwalk‘s pilot cost an unheard of $18 million). They were designed to be event television; the type of shows you couldn’t miss. And in the end, both found ways to deliver on that promise.
The two shows are both obsessed with the same themes: