Who: Eli Thompson
From: Boardwalk Empire
Pros: Loyalty to his wife and children, and to a lessor degree his brother, Nucky. Complex character.
Cons: Breaks the law if it fits his, or Nucky’s, agenda.
Most Shining Moment: Eli’s character arch took quite a twist after he was released from prison. He went from one of my least favorite characters to one of my favorite. He goes from being an Atlantic City sheriff to a nobody. That humility helps his character enormously. Even when he is given a nothing job under the show’s most annoying minor mob boss, Eli holds his own. His best moment is when he tries to warn a caravan of truck drivers carry a shipment of hooch that there is an ambush in the next town. The truckers ignore him, and the insuring massacre is the start of a gang war. Another excellent Eli moment happens at the end of the season when Nucky and his troops are help up at a lumber yard. Eli drives thru the night to get help from a certain Al Capone in Chicago.
Least Shining Moment: All of Season One.Why I choose Eli: I’m a sucker for flawed, conflicted characters, and Eli Thompson is certainly that. Boardwalk Empire is full of characters I have no business rooting for. A corrupt, murderous sheriff shouldn’t be any where on my list of favorite characters, but there he is. That is in part due to Shea Whigham who plays Eli with employing a full pallet of emotions (from violent to vulnerable, sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt) and in part due to the writers of Boardwalk Empire.
Of course, this being HBO, the show is filled with rude language and R rated behavior. The network doesn’t seem capable — or at least willing — to tell a good story with out bad language, gratuitous sex, and the objectification of women. Given the subject matter of Boardwalk Empire I supposed a certain amount of that is part of the story, but I think HBO takes the simple, titillating way to ratings, when good story telling and terrific acting — which they have in spades — will get them there.
Boardwalk Empire is based on the book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson. The show is now in its fourth season on HBO.