Boardwalk Empire’s second season took the series in a darker, more cerebral direction. Instead of giving viewers just another Godfather tale, the writers and producers were able to delve into the convoluted psyche of the gangster. Dreams, aspirations and beleaguered origins were all pushed past the boiling point. The curtain was pulled back on the romantic illusion of the Roaring 20’s – presented in season one – giving viewers an eye-popping tale of deceit and corruption buried beneath the sands of the boardwalk. Magnetic performances from Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Pitt, Jack Huston and Michael Shannon made season two one of the most mesmerizing series of 2011.
The Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Blu-ray collects the entire season on five discs. It comes with a startling amount of bonus content and featurettes with the cast and crew.
Season 2 focuses on Nucky Thompson’s (Buscemi) fall from grace. The infamous treasurer of Atlantic City, and bootlegging master, faces internal and external threats. Season one primarily featured Nucky’s legal run-ins with Agent Nelson Van Alden (Shannon) over bootlegging. Now, his problems have expanded due to election rigging accusations.
Jealousy becomes a central theme in this season as various opponents to Nucky’s reign band against him, trying to carve out their own piece of the Atlantic City pie. As Nucky’s circle begins to shrink, we start to see more of the interaction between the IRA and the roots of organized crime in America.
Margaret Schroeder (Macdonald) is put to the test as Thompson’s live-in mistress. As the person closest to Nucky, she is pitted against several temptations as well as opposition from the law. We start to see more of Schroeder’s past and learn about her reasons for coming to America.
Several early episodes are devoted to developing Chalky White’s (Williams) character. As the leader of the black community, we start to see more of how important he is in running Atlantic City. Legal problems and a Klan attack lead to several great scenes with White.
Agent Van Alden’s troubled personal life spirals out of control and ricochets into his professional life. Although he is an inherently a dry character, the choices he makes that buck his character profile lead to a few great scenes.
Jimmy Darmody (Pitt) takes on a whole new role in season 2. He rises up to become one of the most compelling – if not torn – characters on the series. Darmody’s origin is also expended on later in the season, giving viewers an introspective – and somewhat awry – look into his past.
The Season 2 Blu-ray is packed with an exceptional amount of bonus content. In addition to character dossiers, the Living in 1921 feature offers up several featurettes. These video segments are broken down into the history, people, culture, trends and Arts of 1921. Each category has about five to eight featurettes, which tie in story elements from the series to their historical roots. Cast and crew take you through historical lessons as well as archival footage of the 1920s. A few of my favorite featurettes include: IRA true stories, the connection between Bayer pharmaceuticals and Heroin during prohibition, and basing the character of Esther Randolph on a real US Attorney.
Other special features include: “The Money Decade”, New Characters, Updates to the Boardwalk and “Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode 11.” The “Secrets of the Past” featurette is a picture-in-picture enhanced viewing of Episode 11. As one of the most talked about episodes of the series, this is definitely a great bonus feature that every fan should watch. It features interviews with the cast and crew. “Updates to the Boardwalk” is a behind the scenes look at season two with Production Designer Bill Groom and Creator/Executive Producer Terence Winter. “The Money Decade” featurette focuses on the romanticized decade, offering insight into the trends of the era and what defined the gangster style.