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Blu-ray Review: Boardwalk Empire Season 2
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Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Blu-ray Image

Boardwalk Empire — The Complete Second Season
Blu-ray l DVD
CREATOR: Terence Winter
DIRECTORS: Timothy Van Patten, Allen Coulter, Jeremy Podeswa, More
WRITERS: Terence Winter, Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki, More
STARRING: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Jack Huston, Shea Whigham, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Anatol Yusef, Gretchen Mol, Paz de la Huerta, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dabney Coleman, William Forsythe, Anthony Laciura
HBO Studios
RELEASE DATE: August 28, 2012

I’ve made my love for HBO no secret, with two of my all-time favorite shows going strong right now in Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, and a slew of others I’ve adored over the years. So instead of reviewing season 2 of Boardwalk on Blu-ray, I’ll just be swooning about it for a bit before sharing what bonus features there are to enjoy.

Where season 1 established the incredible collection of characters the show has to offer, season 2 expands on them (those who have survived, anyway), creating an intricately crafted web of often interconnecting storylines. The primary focus of the second season is again Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and James Darmody (Michael Pitt). But instead of being the boy Nucky helped to raise, Jimmy has reunited with his estranged father, the Commodore (Dabney Coleman), and is leading the charge to take control of Atlantic City and the alcohol coming in and out of it. As you might expect, Nucky isn’t fond of anyone trying to muscle him out of his position of power, let alone the man he’s helped to make who he is, and the two go to war. The results of this power struggle trickle down, affecting anyone associated with the two parties and leading to some interesting new business partners.

Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire definitely expands to more locations outside of Atlantic City, with plenty of visits to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and even Ireland, where Nucky takes a peek into Irish whiskey. The multiple locations mean less time spent on the actual boardwalk, which is a shame because of how remarkable that set is, but opens the door to new scenery and characters.

The characters may just be my favorite thing about the show. There’s so many of them, and the variety of personalities is stunning. You’ll love some; you’ll hate others; and every one of them feels important and has a part to play. The cast of characters is so impressive that it means no character is safe, and that danger is one of the most compelling factors watching the show. Big or small, supporting or seemingly crucial, any one of them could be dead before the episode is over, and the show’s creative team would have a handful of others already primed and ready to step out of the background and into a role as a major player in the storyline going forward.

And of course one of the reasons the characters are worthy of such praise, in addition to the writing, is the performances of Boardwalk Empire‘s great cast. Someone like Michael Shannon, who throws down what I consider to be Oscar-caliber stuff on this show, continues to be impeccable as he keeps at his fight against the buying and selling of illegal alcohol while trying to secretly see Nucky’s former flame, Lucy (Paz de la Huerta), through her pregnancy after their one-night stand in hopes of bringing the child home to his infertile wife.

Then there’s one of the few newcomers to the season, William Forsythe, who plays Philly butcher Manny Horvitz—someone who’s warm and friendly when you’re on his good side, but who also later proves to have icier blood than most when you wrong him (with a shout out to fellow newcomer Charlie Cox, as Nucky’s new problem solver from Ireland, Owen Sleater).

And my personal favorite character, Richard Harrow (who I like to call the Phantom), played perfectly by Jack Huston, the grandson to John Huston and nephew to Anjelica Huston and Danny Huston. Richard continues to grow as one of the best characters on the show, as he stands loyally by the side of Jimmy while continuing to battle with the pain that comes with his disfigurement. If I had one hope for the future of the show, having not yet begun the just-started third season, it’s that they keep evolving Richard until he becomes an important individual character and not just an important supporting one.

Season two is a bit of chaos as everyone scatters, trying to figure out who’s an ally and who’s a foe, with some characters spiraling out of control and slowly losing their grasp on their own situation. It also ended with some jaw-dropping events, one of which should be devastating to Nucky’s plans and have major implications on the coming episodes. The second season is just as good—if not better than—the first season, and if the third follows suit, it’s a show that will continue to climb the ranks as one of the best ever for a lot more people other than just myself.

SPECIAL FEATURES

As is usually the case with an HBO release, there’s lots of great features to enjoy. One thing new from the season 1 Blu-ray release worth note is that season 2 comes with a couple of DVDs of the season as well, giving you other options to watch if needed.

Back to the Boardwalk — A 15-minute recap of season 1 so you can refresh your memory before watching season 2.

Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode 11 — The crucial episode 11, “Under God She Flourishes,” is played with picture-in-picture commentary from the shows cast and crew talking about what went into the episode and critical decisions that were made, as well as how they went about executing them.

Living in 1921 — An in-depth interactive guide looking at the year 1921, allowing you to learn more about the history (the rise of the Tommy gun, polio, heroin, Irish immigrants, and the KKK), the people (women in positions of authority, a new generation of gangsters like Luciano, Lansky, and Siegel, African American community and education, and the legend of Jack Dempsey), the culture (speakeasies, moral standings, dining out, marriage in the ’20s, and the advertising boom), the trends (fashion, hair and makeup, and gangster styles), and the arts (golden age of theatre, music, radio, literature, and the silent films) that defined that year.

New Characters — A look at the two major newcomers to the series, Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe) and Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox).

Updates to the Boardwalk — A featurette looking at some of the new sets that were created by production designer Bill Gordon for season 2.

The Money Decade — The roaring ’20s are explored, including styles and trends and all of the important, world-changing things that were happening at the time such as prohibition, the popularity of gangsters, automobiles, and moving pictures.

Trailer

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