TV REVIEW: HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire' Steps Into the Spotlight of Brilliance

Great last season, the series' well-laid story and complex characters truly pay off in Season 2, writes THR chief TV critic Tim Goodman.

It’s not very often that a series so assuredly finds its greatness in one season, but Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s lush period piece about Atlantic City and prohibition, seemed to rush right up to it and very nearly make the leap into the stratosphere that at this point is the home turf of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

If there was any drawback to the first season of Boardwalk Empire, it was that some viewers felt it moved too slow – a complaint faced in previous years by both The Wire and Mad Men. All of these shows have a density about them and a patience to roll out the story (and the myriad arc and character growth that goes along with it) which often results in sustained brilliance.

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It’s clear from the early going in Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire that all the seeds so patiently planted and nurtured last season will be blossoming with real beauty in this one. Characters, from the central figures of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (the wonderful Steve Buscemi), who pulls all the strings in Atlantic City to his mistress Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), whose ambition clashes with her morals, to Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), Nucky’s protégé turned budding enemy -- prove to be richly drawn and complex. What’s more impressive, is that the farther you go down to the smallest of returning characters, each seems a fully formed person in some way, a testament to the fantastic writing on this series.

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Boardwalk Empire could quite easily vault into the rarified air of television. It’s essential viewing. All of the promise of last season looks to be realized with impressively deft storytelling, beautiful cinematography and impeccable acting.



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