The Complete Second Season
Nucky begins to lose his grip on his “Boardwalk Empire” in the violent but straight-up, 100-proof spectacular second season of HBO's latest Emmy-stealing series.
With the third season of this powerful Prohibition-era period piece ready to roll out its bootleg barrels — and gun barrels — again this Sunday night, now is a good time to catch up with the action on Blu-ray with HBO Select, DVD or digital download.
Adapted by screenwriter and producer Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”) from a book about real-life criminal kingpin Enoch L. Johnson, “Boardwalk Empire” stars Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the corrupt treasurer of Atlantic County, New Jersey, who has risen to control Atlantic City — “the world's playground” — during the early years of Prohibition.
Nucky's beginning to pay the price for his power after the 1920 election when he comes under investigation for voter fraud and there are rumblings of insurrection within his circle of allies, including his former ward Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt, coming on like a blond Brando), a Princeton honor student who left school to fight in World War I and came back a scarred young man; his mistress, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), a young Irish beauty whom he saved — along with her two small children — from an abusive marriage; and even his younger brother, Eli, the corrupt county sheriff.
It's bad enough that he has federal agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon at his scowling, scary best) — a zealous protestant prone to brutal violence — dogging his trail, and hungry hoods like Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Al Capone waiting for Nucky's position to weaken so they can muscle in.
The characterizations are uniformly fascinating, especially Buscemi's as the coldblooded yet oddly sympathetic crime lord (2011 Emmy, Best Actor in a Drama Series), and the production values, acting, writing and direction remain first-rate thanks to executive producer Martin Scorsese, who won an Emmy for directing the series pilot that set those high standards.
And the season careens to a shocking finale involving the demise of a major character that must be seen before tuning in to the third season premiere.
The '20s never roared louder.
The Blu-ray edition includes the documentaries “Living in 1921” and “Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode 11 (reflections on the pivotal episode “Under God's Power She Flourishes”), a character guide, a “Back to the Boardwalk” recap of season one, audio commentaries and much more.
— Gene Triplett