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Tako Tuesdays: The Game Beyond the Game

disclaimer #1: this post has nothing to do with Duck sports. So if you fall into the "Duck football junkie" category of readership, rather than the "degenerate who reads anything we write" category, this won't be for you. If you're a member of the Tribe of Skipstothecommentssection, then fear not. There's room for you at this hoedown.

disclaimer #2: this post contains spoilers to three of the greatest TV shows of all time: HBO's "The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire", and AMC's "Mad Men". I don't feel bad about spoiling The Wire or Mad Men, because you've had more than enough time to watch them, and if you haven't by now, your empty shell of a life is not nearly an apt punishment. But Boardwalk Empire's season finale aired last Sunday, so if you're behind on the show or planning to watch it, stay away

To recap, nothing to do with Ducks, and SPOILERS.

95% of basic cable villains are creepy-looking people who do bad things. The other 5% are the anti-heroes, the two most current and notable examples being Mad Men's Don Draper and Breaking Bad's Walter White. They are brilliant, and they are deranged. One sells meth, the other sells ideas. They operate in dark and corrupt universes, and the audience takes pleasure in watching these men battle immense personal demons.

But what Mad Men lacks is the time to truly develop a supporting cast; we've seen Pete Campbell's sliminess, the evil housewife genius of Betty Draper/Francis', and the entitled debauchery that is Roger Sterling, but more than anything else, it's a show fueled by the battle between Don Draper and Don Draper. What HBO does so well is it allows space for their multitude of anti-heroes to interact and develop among other, equally damaged people, and adds a shit ton of murder. And my two favorite relationships, two that I think parallel each other in a number of ways, are The Wire's Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale, and Boardwalk Empire's Nucky Thompson and Jimmy Darmody.

"I'm just a gangsta, I suppose."

The foundation of both these relationships is a fundamental difference in how to run an empire. Barksdale and Darmody are the gangsters; they've killed, they have no qualms with getting their hands dirty, and their preferred method of solving a dispute is with bullets. Nucky and Stringer are the brains; Nucky Thompson rose to his position as Atlantic County Treasurer through a carefully measured system of extortion, election rigging, and pocket greasing. Stringer, with the help of a few community college business classes, perfected the art of the drug empire from the ground up. Stringer and Nucky are playing chess; Avon and Jimmy are playing Battleship. The difference is, Nucky's web of dirty money and Avon's scare tactics are the established ways; the change in methodology is the rift, but the change is headed in different directions.

"You think I don't know how to play this game?" "I think you don't even know the rules."

The two characters attempting to alter their landscapes, Jimmy and Stringer, soon find that themselves in over their heads with people they can't control. Jimmy aligns himself with his father, The Commodore, and Nucky's brother Eli in an attempt to take Atlantic City from Nucky. After The Commodore suffers a stroke, Jimmy finds himself in charge of, among others, the city aldermen formerly under Nucky's control, as well as The Commodore's contingency, who don't take well to Jimmy's methods. He quickly finds, he isn't cut out to be a boss. Things were simple as an infantryman in The Great War. Things were simple serving as Nucky's muscle. Likewise, Stringer Bell begins to make moves in a new direction while Avon is serving time for a drug conviction. He concedes territory to rival bosses in exchange for a connection to premium product. He aims to launder his drug money as a fledgling real estate developer, but soon finds out that the legitimate business world is just as corrupt as his criminal enterprise, only more vague and unfamiliar. Lastly, and perhaps most vital to Stringer's fate, he pits two of the most charismatic and ruthless killers in Baltimore, Omar and Brother Mouzone, against each other.

"I want my corners!"

It is their betrayal that dooms both Stringer and Jimmy. Nucky and Avon provided a status quo, and both were more than comfortable continuing their winning formulae. And both Stringer and Jimmy made business decisions that carried personal weight. Stringer ordered a hit on Avon's cousin D'Angelo; Jimmy gave the okay for an attempt on Nucky's life. Stringer conspired with Avon's rivals, gave up Avon's territory, and tried to make Avon into something he wasn't. Jimmy drove Nucky out of office, cut off his supply of illegal liquor, and landed him in front of a federal jury. Something had to give.

"I died in the trench, years ago."

Jimmy Darmody's downward spiral claims the lives of an evil (his father), and an innocent (his wife Angela). And eventually it claims his own, at the hands of his former mentor, Nucky Thompson. Stringer Bell was eventually cut down by Omar and Brother Mouzone, who were led there by a vengeful Avon. The path to the deaths were similar, but Nucky killing Jimmy, and subsequently becoming more like his victim, ushered in the first age of the modern gangster, while Stringer Bell's death was a stifling of evolution. Nucky Thompson was more than a common thug, but realized he had to become one to survive. Stringer Bell was more than a common thug, but couldn't escape his environment.

"The king stay the king."