September 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm #226147
Returns Sunday, September 25th at 9pm on HBOSeptember 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm #226149
I am hoping for the best w/this. The season finale set up so many potential engaging stories and based on the critics reax, it seems like engaging stories will be served up this time around.September 25, 2011 at 7:04 am #226150
Episode Title: “21”
Synopsis: In the second-season premiere, Nucky is rocked by an insurrection in his inner cirlce; Chalky’s life and livelhood are threatened by a vicious KKK attack; Margaret copes with her son’s disciplnary problems; Angela vies with Gillian for Jimmy’s affections at home; Van Alden shows his wife Rose around town as an anniversay present.September 25, 2011 at 10:46 am #226151
by Brian Lowry
Alcohol is the mood-enhancer of choice, but I confess to blasting through the first half-dozen episodes of “Boardwalk Empire’s” second season as if they were crack cocaine. Seamlessly picking up from the intrigue that closed the debut run, this period gangster drama juggles an impressive assortment of characters, expands the presence of its better supporting players and, yes, serves up dollops of gruesome violence and (mostly) gratuitous nudity. If every drama on TV could be this compelling, here’s one vote for bringing back Prohibition.
Year one ended with bootlegger/political fixer Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) being closed in on by one-time allies from all sides, among them henchman Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt); Nucky’s brother the police chief, Elias (Shea Whigham); and the Commodore (Dabney Coleman), an aging lion who happens to be Jimmy’s long-lost pop.
Tightening that vise yields an absorbing game of cat and mouse — complicated by the feds launching legal action against Nucky over voter fraud, and the Ku Klux Klan’s violence against his supplier, Chalky White (the sensational Michael K. Williams of “The Wire”).
Granted, that spoiler-free recap doesn’t come close to accounting for all the show’s moving parts (HBO’s printed credits list a dizzying 30 characters), as former “The Sopranos” producer Terence Winter and his team have concocted a dense array of plot threads, admittedly not all of them equal.
Among the highlights are Nucky’s uneasy romance with Margaret (standout Kelly Macdonald) — the immigrant he helped turn into a widow — who proves tougher and more resourceful than one originally might have guessed; and some fine, moving material involving Richard (Jack Huston), the disfigured World War I veteran Jimmy took in last season.
A less-satisfying element centers on tormented federal agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon), whose extramarital dalliance with Nucky’s one-time g.f. (Paz de la Huerta) is unconvincing, playing mostly like an excuse to lob easy jabs at the character’s religious hypocrisy.
Given the real-life figures passing through Nucky’s revolving door — from Al Capone to members of the Harding administration — “Boardwalk” would seem to be confined in terms of who can catch a bullet without rewriting history.
The storytelling, however, is consistently bold and lusty, providing a fascinating window into a little-seen era, along with all the violence and sex viewers have come to expect from the gangster genre. (“The Sopranos” baton-pass also becomes more overt with the addition of Dominic Chianese, a.k.a. Uncle Junior, in a small recurring role.)
A few creative flourishes feel a trifle heavy-handed — starting with Shannon’s philandering fed. Unlike Nucky, though, “Boardwalk” isn’t campaigning for anything except the gratitude of a pay-cable audience (and award voters) eager to take refuge in its sordid charms.
By that measure, the show doesn’t just go down smoothly; it’s good to the last illicit, intoxicating drop.September 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm #226152
I liked the first season a lot, I did think they had a lot of problems, but I generally liked it. Hopefully this one will be better.September 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm #226153This post was found to be inappropriate by the moderators and has been removed.September 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm #226154
My patience as a television viewer has steadily increased the older I get, and considering how much I loved Rubicon when it was on, I guess you could say I’ve got a soft spot for the newest-founded genre, Slow TV. Even so, watching this premiere, I can certainly see why Boardwalk Empire is STILL not for everyone. It’s moments of action were quickly curtailed by a bunch of guys standing around in a room talking. I find it interesting, but a lot of people won’t.
Nucky just can’t catch a break, can he? All he wants are some damn roads leading into Atlantic City, and he can’t even finish a real estate meeting before his live-in assistant runs to his side and lets him know that there are bodies dropping across town. To see him deal with the aftermath of the KKK attack on Chalky’s watering hole, by making appearance at both Black and White churches, before having Chalky arrested (“for his own protection,” he tells Eli), we realize that he is still a Politician with a capital P. That he then has the gall to tell Jimmy that “your father is duplicitous” is nothing short of ironic. Understandably, Chalky is upset, and not-so-subtly threatens to turn the Black community in Atlantic City on Nucky at the drop of the hat. After all, Chalky has things at stake here too, even excluding his own life. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen Chalky’s family; I’m even more positive we’ve never met his very talented son Lester (who my television viewing mind tells me will likely end up the victim of violence by season’s end).
Meanwhile, Jimmy seeks advice from his father the Commodore, who is looking in much better health than when we last saw him. To see him sell off Chalky’s load mirrors his interception of the delivery to Rothstein last season, in the sense that Jimmy is taking matters into his own hands, and no good can come of it. I liked his moments with Angela, with Tommy, and especially with Richard, one of my favorite characters on television currently. Speaking of Richard, did we really need to see him scrapbooking pictures of the All-American family? I tell ya, when this show wants to make a point, it can really beat you over the head with it, at least visually. But to see how he reacts to Jimmy’s home, to his home-cooked meals, was pretty heartbreaking. “How does it feel?” he asks. “To have everything.” Jimmy sits glumly at the breakfast table, while Richard is happy just to take two biscuits for the road.
As always, the Van Alden subplot was both humorous and annoying. As Mrs. Van Alden gasps at the brochure full of “the names of houses of ill repute,” I suddenly come to understand why Nelson finally broke down, went out to a bar at the end of Season 1, and did the nasty with Lucy; that stoic, conservative life could drive a lesser man crazy. But then again, Van Alden seems to exist less to resemble the federal presence on the Boardwalk and more to represent the hypocrisy of Christianity during the time period. It’ll be interesting to see if they actually give him some decent material this season.
I want to see more of Nucky as a family man, or at least, more scenes with him and Margaret. As the “On next week” preview suggests, she seems to be his rock, the one who encourages him as the world falls apart around him. And like Skyler in Breaking Bad, I wouldn’t be surprised if she dips her toe into the business very soon too. We can at least be certain that her son Teddy will start to behave more like Nucky in future episodes. Buscemi’s character gives the kid what I call the Sour Patch Kids disciplining (first he’s sour, then he’s sweet), but it’s clear that Nucky knows what we can assume — that his burning down his childhood home might have instilled in Teddy a certain fascination with fire.
This episode brought us up to speed, but I feel like we’ll need more than some of its bold-faced thematics to keep us coming back. Solomon Bishop’s introduction, with Nucky getting put in bracelets for election fraud, should get us started on an interesting foot next week.
Grade for “21”: B+September 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm #226155
Very strong premiere. It took the show a while to find it’s groove, but it seems primed to really hit it’s stride this year. Lots of great moments — the KKK raiding Chalky’s warehouse, Nucky’s duel speeches to the public, Gillian’s weird, incestious vibes towards Jimmy, Van Alden’s strained visit with his wife, and just about all the scene’s with Jack Huston.
Excellent start to Season 2. Can’t wait to see where this war goes.
Oh, and on a side note: did anyone get a weird vibe with Margaret’s son Teddy? First the nun mentioned him being close with the priest, and then he started to get undressed in front of Nucky. I’m probably thinking into it too much, especially since they did write it off as Teddy having been beaten by his father and all…
Episode Grade for “21”: A-September 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm #226156
“Yes” to the mention of the priest, but “no” to the removing of his suspenders. Teddy even said he was “getting ready for the belt” when Nucky walked in, as he assumed he would be physically punished. But I’m curious if this relationship with the priest that was hinted at will be explored later down the road.September 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm #226157
This show grew on me in season one, but it’s so slow, and so many scenes are spent discussing the minutiae of schemes and double-crosses that I find my attention constantly flagging. I have, however, come to love the absurdity of the Michael Shannon character. He has a bizarre, sinister quality that’s welcome when this show gets overly dry, which is often.September 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm #226158This post was found to be inappropriate by the moderators and has been removed.September 26, 2011 at 9:41 am #226159
I really like Richard too, but I thought the whole scrapbook scene was a little over-the-top. I also liked the guy who spoke in the third-person, so as not to discuss his own involvement directly.
I want to Google some of these actual men, but I worry that (this being a show based in history) that might spoil certain characters’ fates for me.September 30, 2011 at 12:13 pm #226160
Really enjoyed the premiere. Just like I hope, they delivered on that promising season 1 finale. The characters had purpose and I love the supporting characters felt more fleshed out like Chalky and the Phantom of the Opera. Even that cartoon Agent Van Alden was tolerable. Though there’s one thing that left me going hmm. It seems like they might be doing some Oedipus mess w/Jimmy and his mom which has me going “GROSS!”. And any time Paz de la Huertta says “Daddy” makes me grin something awful.October 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm #226161
Episode Title: “Ourselves Alone”
Synopsis: Concerned with losing his grip on Atlantic City, Nucky deliberates a countermove while trying to learn who within his inner cirlce betrayed him. As agents scour the Treasurers’s office for incriminating evidence, Margaret strikes a pose from the past to help Nucky avoid further trouble in the present. In New York, Arnold Rothstein puts Jimmy on hold, but Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano loom as possible trading partners. Chalky is badgered in prison by Dunn Purnsley, a jailmate with an ax to grind; Owen Sleater, an advance man for Irish nationalist John McGarrigle, scouts the Thompson residence; the Commordore introduces Eli to “the men who made this city”.
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