BOARDWALK EMPIRE 9 pm Sunday | HBO
It hasn't exactly been the must-see appointment TV HBO wants it to be, but "Boardwalk Empire" has proven itself on many fronts — a perfect ensemble cast (especially Michael Shannon and Michael Pitt), gorgeous set design and some great poetic (and "Goodfellas"-level) memorable violence.
However, I remain unsold on Steve Buscemi as a leading man. Granted, his ego-heavy, power-hungry 1920 politico is an interesting dude, but I'm still waiting for his charisma and gravitas to set in.
Still, it's hard to ignore that "Boardwalk" is one of the best new series of the year, finally finding solid footing in recent episodes.There are many questions leading into the season finale: How will Nucky get his revenge on the D'Alessio clan? Will Margaret (a wonderful Kelly Macdonald) choose the easy life or stick to her morals? And to what new levels of creepiness and depravity will Agent Van Alden (Shannon, an Emmy lock) stoop?
The drama's greatest success isn't Buscemi's performance or even the expertly staged shoot-em-up gangster action. It's the detailed depiction of these fallible, complicated people — relevant in any century. JORDAN BARTEL, B
THE WALKING DEAD 10 pm Sunday | AMC
The highly touted (Entertainment Weekly named it the season's best new show) AMC end-of-the-world zombie series ends its six-episode run this weekend.
While TV hasn't seen gory and gruesome scenes like this in a long time (if ever), the show hasn't reached its full, awesome potential due to hammy performances, stereotypical characters (hello Merle, everyone's least-favorite Southern racist) and groan-inducing dialogue (can someone shut up elder wise-man Dale?).
As with a lot of zombie tales, "Walking Dead's" action has been stellar but the writing has sucked. (Executive producer Frank Darabont reportedly just fired the entire writing staff. Nice!) Luckily for us, this bad-ass show is finally inching toward meaty plot development: The remaining humans (led by Andrew Lincoln as deputy sheriff Rick Grimes) have made it to the Centers for Disease Control. Is there a cure on the horizon?
Maybe, but more exciting is the fact that a zombie show is willing to take us past surviving walker attacks and into what's next. For that, I'll be watching. WESLEY CASE, B
Photos by HBO, AMC