in a way, this is the bootlegger Sopranos (sprawling, twisted narrative and strong characters, wives brothers lovers and kids included) meets Martin Scorsese's noir imagination and smooth stagecraft.
not for the faint of heart, nor for children for that matter - the sex & violence quota is always met and then some; there's some fairly brutal stuff here, artfully staged though it may be.
the look of it all is beautiful, beautfully shot and art-directed down to the last gritty, or glitzy, detail;
the cast is superb and exhuberant, anchored by Steve Buscemi who at times seems to be in "Stan Laurel as an evil mastermind" mode as the "you can't be half a gangster" prophecy from season one comes definitely true.
on the other end of the scale, you have this larger-than-life villain who verges on parody at times but is as scenery-chewing as they come (alla salute, Bobby Cannavale!). the same can be said for the two standout female perfs: Kelly McDonald as the resourceful, strong-hearted woman looking for a way to redemption, and Gretchen Mol as the high-class, manipulative maitresse with a mother's weak spots both deliver top-notch work here.
supporting roles are good throughout; it's so cool to find the Omar guy from The Wire as Chalky White here; and the Michael Shannon character is especially memorable, although he was way more integrated in previous seasons than he is here. the parable of the special-agent gone rogue has an impressive climax in this series, but he is almost isolated in a story of his own, making no major dent in the main storyline. still it's always interesting when he's around and somehow you feel they're having him bide his time for some later development in this Hbo epic.
altogetherm it's engrossing, high-quality, hardboiled Prohibition-era brew, but with a well thought-out human side.
you'll find it especially satisfying if you have a strong taste to begin with.