Boardwalk Empire II

There is no doubt television serials allows characters and plot to develop more than cinema ever could, and the second season of Boardwalk Empire has shown how the more time a quality drama is given to develop, the better it gets.

The first season was decent, but second season has matured to magnificence as layers of characters’ past are gradually revealed, continually shedding a different light and understanding to all that has gone before.

While maximizing the benefits of the medium of television, Boardwalk Empire is influenced from the best of cinema; its cast and set are befitting of a programme that became the most costly in television history to produce. But it is the style that adds flourish to the deep stories, perhaps best exemplified by the reference point of the sound of an accelerating train in the penultimate episode during a prolonged flashback sequence that leaves the viewer in awe.

New characters are even nastier than before, as there’s trouble busting in from out of state, with Manny Horvitz a particular piece of work; the violence, greater than the first season, is graphic and gratuitous at times, but it is the plot developments that continually fascinate, sometimes to the point of open-mouthed surprise.

Amidst the quest for power, vengeance and money, the flawed characters and the complex personal relationships, morality is at the heart of Boardwalk Empire. Jimmy Doherty and his family are major players in their own right as his split from Nucky brings its own logistical problems. Jimmy clearly has a moral compass, seemingly not diminished by his time in the army, a straining family set-up and a current occupation that involves callous violence and killing.

Nucky meanwhile remains a ruthless politician, preaching different values and promises to diametrically opposed groups within minutes, while doing everything possible to hold onto first power, and then liberty, as the feds continue to corner him. Season One showed his own messy family matters; his still bitter, vengeful and corrupt brother Eli has a chip on his shoulder longer than the boardwalk, and now wants to build his own empire, becoming a constant and growing thorn in Nucky’s  side, as problematic as the authorities looking for his scalp.

At times Nucky is hanging on by the skin of his teeth, but he has the wise second head of Margret to offer support; she has an answer for everything and a resourcefulness and willpower that are occasionally invaluable to him. Yet she has her own weaknesses of superstition, temptation and a past of her own she yearns to reconnect with.

Agent Van Halden, whose eccentricities and extremity came to the fore in Season One, continues to have Thompson in his sights. He shows his strength of principle when faced with blackmail, yet the story also highlights the paradox of a man who seeks to impress his wife, while spending most of his time avoiding her with his own secret life in New Jersey.

With writers, directors and producers from The Sopranos, it is perhaps no surprise that Boardwalk Empire is developing into to an intelligent, multi-plotline weighty drama, laced with style and symbolism. But, as with Seasons Four and Five of The Wire, the second season of Boardwalk Empire shows how a story can sometimes best be told over two seasons, rather than one.


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