Boardwalk Empire: Season 2

Boardwalk Empire: Season 2
In the world of serialized historical dramas, Mad Men reins supreme. But Boardwalk Empire's second season proves that the program is far more than a nostalgic look back at prohibition-era America. After season one built the world of '20s Atlantic City in the weeks following the passing of the Volstead Act, season two finally lets the show's characters loose to play in it. With the government out to nail Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) for rigging the city's mayoral election, the younger pups smell blood in the water. Backed by his father and Nucky's brother, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), Thompson's one time protégé cum surrogate, is looking to dethrone his former boss, roping in the next generation of North Eastern hoods, including Al Capone in Chicago and Lucky Luciano in New York. Michael Shannon continues to amaze/amuse as Agent Nelson Van Alden, who's gotten mixed up with Thompson's former flame. Peripheral characters come to the forefront and plot lines begin to weave in and out of one another, making for a more concise and engaging dozen episodes. There's also a clear generational line that's been drawn in season two. Whereas characters like Thompson and Arnold Rothstein are more likely to grease the halls of power to get their way, resorting to killing as more of a last resort, the younger ones such as Jimmy are quicker to brandish a gun in hopes of getting their piece of the profitable bootlegging pie. The Blu-Ray release, which includes the DVDs for some reason, features the usual array of character dossiers and featurettes, including an interesting and extensive collection of clips explaining all the historical analogies and backdrops used in the season, including Sinn Fein and the rise of the IRA, the Ku Klux Klan, the introduction of heroin and the era's still oppressive moral standards, particularly for women. Faster paced and more focused, Boardwalk Empire's second season builds on the promise of its first while setting up a third that seems destined to best them both. (Warner)