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Created By:
Terence Winter
Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Michael Pitt, William Hill, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Kenneth Williams, Aleksa Palladino, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg
Writing Credits:

Atlantic City, 1920. When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings.

Atlantic City, 1921. In a city whose fortunes have soared in the wake of Prohibition, Nucky Thompson is paying a steep price for wielding ultimate power in “the world’s playground.” Though the 1920 election is over, Nucky finds himself the target of a federal investigation for vote tampering – and an insurrection by those he counted among his closest allies. Steve Buscemi stars in the hit drama series that charts the continued rise of organized crime at the dawn of the Prohibition.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 720 min.
Price: $79.98
Release Date: 8/28/12

• Audio Commentaries for Six Episodes
• “Enhanced Viewing Mode” Picture-In-Picture for All 12 Episodes
• “Character Dossiers”
• “Back to the Boardwalk” Featurette
• “Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode 11” Documentary
• “Living in 1921” Featurette
• “New Characters” Featurette
• “Updates to the Boardwalk” Featurette
• “The Money Decade” Featurette
• Season Two Promo Spot
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 30, 2012)

Back in 2011, Boardwalk Empire emerged as a major new dramatic series, one with notable talent like Martin Scorsese involved. Though I wasn’t dazzled by the show’s first season, I liked it enough to check out 2011’s Season Two. This Blu-ray includes all 12 shows from that year, and the synopses below come from the package’s menus.

21: “Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is rocked by an insurrection among his inner circle; Chalky’s (Michael Kenneth Williams) life and livelihood are threatened by a vicious KKK attack.”

Partly because it acts as a reintroduction to the characters and situations, “21” starts a little slowly. After it gets into gear, however, it becomes an involving launch to the season. I especially like the duplicitous manner in which Nucky plays both sides of the race coin, and after a year in which the Commodore sat in bed and wheezed, it’s fun to get more life from the always great Dabney Coleman.

Ourselves Alone: “Nucky eyes betrayal in his inner circle; Jimmy (Michael Pitt) weighs an alliance in New York.”

In addition to the continued – much appreciated – resurgence of the Commodore, it’s also great to see more of Chalky. He played a fairly small role in Season One, so I’m happy that he gets a bigger role in S2 so far. The complexities of the plot against Nucky also add depth and intrigue in this strong program.

A Dangerous Maid: “Nucky calls in a favor as tensions with the Commodore (Dabney Coleman) escalate; Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) proves his worth; Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) chafes at her loneliness.”

I must admit S1 could be a bit draggy at times, but S2 seems more consistent – to date, at least. That said, “Maid” slows things down a bit, as it seems a bit more character-based, with less emphasis on dramatic events. This isn’t a bad choice, though it does mean “Maid” feels less exciting. Still, it moves along some plot points reasonably well.

What Does the Bee Do?: “Nucky considers a risky legal gambit, and forges an unlikely liquor alliance; Gillian (Gretchen Mol) tends to the Commodore.”

Just when I got used to a vital Dabney Coleman, the series had to go and impair him again! That’s a shame, but at least it helps deepen the plot. Nucky’s story adds intrigue as well, and other elements allow the episode to push the narrative arc at a good pace.

Gimcrack and Bunkum: “A desperate Eli (Shea Whigham) questions his allegiances; Jimmy learns a lesson; Richard (Jack Huston) goes hunting.”

Earlier I wondered if Eli’s apparent duplicity was a ruse to make him an "inside man”; this episode makes the situation clear, and does so in a convincing manner. Plenty of other drama materializes as well, though some of it comes across as a bit predictable, such as the twists faced by Richard. Despite some of those moments, events progress well.

The Age of Reason: “Nucky orchestrates a risky liquor delivery, and faces complications in his federal case; Jimmy finds a new mentor; Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) makes a confession.”

Back in Season One, I thought Jimmy was the least interesting of the main characters, and that attitude doesn’t change in S2. I realize that he plays a vital role, but I don’t have to enjoy it. I do like the progress of Nucky’s case, though, and find some interesting complications along the way.

Peg of Old: “Jimmy faces a decision with long-term consequences; Margaret has a family reunion; Nelson (Michael Shannon) defers to a new prosecutor; Owen settles a score.”

While I thought Margaret’s story was fairly interesting in Season One, I must say she’s not doing much for me in S2. I just find it dull to see her mopey reunion with her family and related issues, so she’s turning into arguably the least compelling story of S2, though her tale does pay off by the end of the year. At least the drama heats up in other ways, particularly in regard to the Nucky/Jimmy rivalry. Those elements help redeem an occasionally draggy show, and the Van Alden/Lucy subplot takes some interesting twists.

Two Boats and a Lifeguard: “On advice from Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Nucky changes course; Jimmy flexes his muscles at Mickey Doyle’s (Paul Sparks) expense.”

After some of the last episode’s Nucky-related drama, “Boats” feels less than exciting. Even with the sluggish Margaret pieces, “Peg” had some good developments, while “Boats” tends to be somewhat dull. We do find some decent behind the scenes machinations, but the overall impact is a bit lackluster. It does end in an intriguing manner, though, as we’re led to believe that Nucky’s leaving the Atlantic City scene; this seems improbable in the long-term, but it’s a twist.

Battle of the Century: “While Nucky barters in Ireland, Jimmy eyes an alcohol supply close to home.”

Despite some more melodrama, “Battle” does help develop some potential excitement. My expectation that Nucky’s self-exile would be short-lived seems ready to come true, and we see matters with the local workers ready to blow. These elements bring good drama to the show.

Georgia Peaches: “Nucky undercuts Jimmy’s bootlegging initiative; tensions escalate among striking workers and employers on the Boardwalk.”

Chalk up “Peaches” as a “plot-thickening” episode. The battle between Nucky and Jimmy becomes more intense, and other elements along those lines also develop – including the death of a semi-major character. With these in tow, the show prospers and heads us toward the season’s conclusion.

Under God’s Power She Flourishes: “Nucky prepares Margaret for a worst-case scenario; Jimmy revisits his college days.”

The death I mentioned in the last summary dominates this episode, as its repercussions resonate here. A lot of the program displays flashbacks to Jimmy’s college days, which makes it drag; I still don’t care for Jimmy as a character, so visions of his younger days don’t do much for me. The episode moves along the narrative but seems a bit slow after “Peaches”. A few big moments toward the end show promise, though I could live without the show’s literally Oedipean components.

To the Lost: “Jimmy looks to make amends with Nucky, while Margaret weighs a life-changing decision.”

Season Two ends in an appropriately dramatic manner, with many major events. We see the death of a main character – one who I won’t miss – and other big shifts. These wind up the year in a satisfying way.

When left to consider Season Two as a whole, I find it to be a good collection of episodes. S1 worked as a satisfying year but not one that ever really ignited; while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it ever achieved actual greatness.

That continues to be true for S2, though I think this year fares better than its predecessor. Without all the “getting to know you” preliminaries, it allows us to enter into the characters/situations more quickly and makes them more involving. Add to that some massive changes by the end of S2 and I look forward to seeing where the series goes in Season Three.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Boardwalk Empire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Expect visuals similar to what we saw in Season One.

Overall definition remained good. At times, wide shots could be a little soft, but those instances didn’t dominate. The majority of the series presented positive delineation and accuracy. At no point did I see concerns with edge haloes or shimmering, and source flaws failed to appear in this clean presentation.

In terms of palette, the series opted for a sepia feel typical from period pieces like this. This meant restrained hues, but the Blu-ray depicted them well; within the stylistic limitations, the colors were strong. Blacks came across as deep and dense, while shadows showed appropriate clarity. The shows always looked pretty positive.

I also felt pleased by the generally positive DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Empire. Given the series’ emphasis on dialogue, the tracks didn’t get a ton of room to shine, but the shows demonstrated a good sense of place and atmosphere at all times. When the material warranted more use of the soundscape – like a machine gun attack or a barn explosion – the five channels became active partners in the proceedings. Though those moments didn’t occur frequently, they added to the shows.

The quality of the sound was also solid. Music was peppy and bright, while speech sounded distinctive and concise. Effects seemed realistic and provided a good punch in the louder moments. Everything here suited the programs.

The package comes with plenty of extras. Six episodes boast audio commentaries. Here’s what we find:

“21” - creator/writer/executive producer Terence Winter, director/writer/executive producer Tim Van Patten, and actor Michael K. Williams;

“Gimcrack and Bunkum” - co-executive producer/writer Howard Korder and actor Jack Huston;

“Peg of Old” - Korder, co-producer/writer Steve Kornacki, director Allen Coulter and actor Charlie Cox;

“Two Boats and a Lifeguard” - Winter, Van Patten and actor Steve Buscemi;

“Under God’s Power She Flourishes” - Korder, Coulter and actor Gretchen Mol;

“To the Lost” - Winter and Van Patten.

Across the various tracks, we hear about cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, period details and historical elements, themes and story elements, and related issues. These commentaries start off well, as the first two are the best. Those chats seem vital and informative, and I really like Huston’s notes about his part and performance.

After that, however, the commentaries become less consistent. Oh, they still include decent information, but they’re slower and come with lowered levels of useful material. We still get enough to ensure that the tracks merit attention, but don’t expect the high quality of the first two to continue the whole way.

Found on all five platters, we get Character Dossiers. These give us details on a mix of important characters and function as a kind of “family tree”. They deliver biographical notes as well as connections and photos. They’re fun to see, especially since they evolve over time; each episode gives us an update on the characters. That can be helpful, as they can keep us up to date while the season progresses.

Disc One provides a featurette called Back to the Boardwalk. Hosted by Terence Winter, this 14-minute, 37-second piece gives us a quick overview of the series’ first season. It’s a nice refresher, as it gets us back up to date before we launch into the second set of shows.

On Disc Four, we get Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode 11. In this 59-minute, 53-second piece, we hear from Winter, Korder, Coulter, Mol, Kornacki, Buscemi, Van Patten, Cox, writer/executive story editor Itamar Moses, writer Bathsheba Doran, production designer Bill Groom, set decorator Carol Silverman, and actors Michael Shannon, Aleksa Palladino, Shea Whigham, Paul Sparks, and Kelly Macdonald. They look at “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” in detail, as this works like a kind of “picture-in-picture” commentary for the most part. We get a nice mix of details about the series and this particular episode.

A bunch of components fill out Disc Five. Living in 1921 provides an interactive domain with that covers five subjects: “History”, “People”, “Culture”, “Trends” and “The Arts”. Under these we can “view videos, archival images and in-depth facts”. All told, we can examine 49 topics such as “The Music of 1921”, “Memorial Day and the Poppy”, “Dining Out in 1921” and “Heroin During Prohibition”. Across these, we hear from Macdonald, Buscemi, Williams, Groom, Silverman, Palladino, Korder, Winter, Van Patten, costume designer John Dunn, makeup department head Michele Paris, hair department head Francesca Paris, Clothes on Film editor Chris Laverty, historians/authors Nelson Johnson and Burton Peretti, associate costume designer Lisa Padovani, authors Lisa Moore and Jonathan Eig, band leader/arranger Vince Giordano, Tulane University American Studies Director Joel Dinerstein, music supervisor Randall Poster, researcher Edward McGinty, and actors Michael Stuhlbarg, Anatol Yusef, Vincent Piazza, William Forsythe.

25 of the subjects give us text notes, and 24 of the topics provide video snippets. These run between one minute, 21 seconds and three minutes, 30 seconds for a total of 56 minutes, 27 seconds. The lack of a “Play All” option for the video clips makes them a bit of a drag, but we still learn a ton about the era depicted in the series. “1921” creates a broad, involving compendium of details.

Under the three-minute, 35-second New Characters, we hear from Cox, Forsythe, and Winter. They deliver some basic notes about the Owen Sleater and Manny Horvitz characters. We get minor insights but not much in this generally promotional piece.

Updates to the Boardwalk lasts three minutes, 14 seconds as it offers info from Groom and Winter. They chat about new sets featured in this year of Empire. Groom does the heavy lifting; “Updates” is too short to be substantial, but it gives us some nice tidbits.

In addition to a Season Two Promo Spot, we finish with The Money Decade. It occupies 24 minutes, 33 seconds with info from Eig, Johnson, Moore, Peretti, Van Patten, Buscemi, Stuhlbarg, Dinerstein, Giordano, Mol, Laverty, Dunn, Macdonald, burlesque dancer Medianoche, and actor Paz de la Huerta. We look at a mix of facts about the 1920s as well as aspects of how the series represents that period. We’ve heard similar info in other places – mainly “Living in 1921” – but this is still a tight, informative overview.

The package also incldes a DVD Copy of Season Two. It places all 12 episodes on two double-sided discs. It lacks the extras of the Blu-ray.

After a pretty good first season, Boardwalk Empire returns with a second year that’s… pretty good. I doubt I’ll ever truly love the series, but it remains involving and well-made enough to maintain my attention. The Blu-ray provides consistently positive picture and audio along with a reasonably useful set of supplements. Fans of the series will be happy with this package.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2857 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main