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Blu-ray Review: Boardwalk Empire – The Complete Second Season

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A long time ago, HBO mostly aired movies that — if you were lucky — were only about a year-old. As time went on, the cable network began to produce its own, independent programming of feature-length films. Once TV shows became popular again in the late ’90s, HBO produced its own series as well — which turned into one of their biggest hits, something called The Sopranos, a series that has practically been all-but forgotten — and, thanks to the era of reality diva TV that ushered in soon after, may actually be about a group of prima donna opera performers as far as some people know anymore!

Of course, those who don’t remember gangster television history are sure to repeat it. So, with the contemporary charms of The Sopranos long gone from the average viewer’s memory, there’s no reason we can’t wind back the clock for a Prohibition Era romp through the world of smuggling, bribery, murder, and more. And HBO’s relatively big hit Boardwalk Empire certainly delivers all of that — whilst simultaneously allowing the great Steve Buscemi to finally inhabit a role that he can really sink his teeth into.

Here, Buscemi stars as a fictionalized version of real-life gangster Enoch “Nucky” Thompson: an oddly-named Atlantic City mobster, who — at the conclusion of Boardwalk Empire‘s critically-acclaimed first season — managed to effectively manipulate his way up to the rank of mayor, whilst still keeping his vast criminal empire steadily in check. At the same time, Nucky clumsily attempts to balance his recent marriage to Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), a mother of one (not his) who used to be his mistress — and who deals with her newfound hubby’s lawful infidelities in her own particularly delightful way.

Meanwhile, Nucky and his young protégé, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) — the biological son of Commodore Kaestner (Dabney Coleman), the very man who showed Nucky the ropes in the business, and who becomes his nemesis in this season — start to lose their previously-established grasp over Atlantic City and its surrounding syndicate-friendly areas once our star is arrested for election fraud (oh, snap!). Tensions start to mount, set-ups are made, and just about everyone under the hoodlum sun — from greenhorn Al Capone (Stephen Graham) to a powerful gangster “Chalky” White (Michael Kenneth Williams, playing a truly imaginary character in order to give the series a sense of political correctness, I guess) — and soon, Nucky’s friends, fellows and family begin to decide who’s side they want to be on.

Michael Shannon, Gretchen Mol, and Jack Huston are among the many co-stars in this alluring and gritty look at an amazing and glitzy period of criminal history, as produced by the combined efforts of Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Van Patten, Howard Korder, and Stephen Levinson. HBO brings Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season to Blu-ray via an impressively packaged and spectacular seven-disc box set that comes complete with DVD/Digital Copy inserts and a slew of special features including audio commentaries, character profiles, and numerous behind-the-scenes and making-of goodies that fans and newbies alike will enjoy.

The set also boasts one of the best A/V transfer HBO (and anyone else, for that matter) has probably ever released. The pristine 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer is an absolute beauty, withcolors, blacks, detail, and contrast all looking absolutely beautiful. Complimenting the collection is an equally-impressive English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack that truly brings out the best this series has to offer — as well as what its crack-shot sound folk were able to put into it.

Highly recommended.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • Greg Barbrick

    This is a great series, although I thought the first season was superior. Your comments on The Sopranos being “forgotten” are interesting.

    BE has more than a little in common with it, I’m not sure if this is a way in which David Chase’s magnum opus is being remembered, or if the producers just decided to do a “Prohibition Sopranos.”

    In any case, HBO has come through with another “must see” series, and I am looking forward to season 3.

    Good review.