|Several of the major characters are lumped together, all eying each other with caution on the Atlantic City boardwalk on this poster for the second season of TerenceWinter's Boardwalk Empire|
The following episode summary will contain SPOILERS:
1. February 1921: Atlantic County's corrupt treasurer Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson's young protege Jimmy Darmody finds himself at a crossroad, as his father, the Commodore, the gambling and resort town's former leader, and Nucky's brother, the town's sheriff Eli Thompson are scheming to remove Nucky from power, which Jimmy could gain tremendously from. Prohibition agent Van Alden, who is targeting Nucky, enjoys a visit from his wife through 13 years, whom he impresses with a liquor raid on a restaurant. Nucky's stepson with his mistress Margaret Schroeder plays with matches at his school and is bribed to behave, before Nucky is arrested for election fraud. Nucky's liquor-making partner in the city, African-American Chalky White, has his headquarter violently attacked by the Ku Klux Klan.
2. White is for a short while imprisoned with Enoch before he is put in with fellow Negroes: One among them, who doesn't know White, makes the mistake of insulting him in a cool scene. Nucky is bailed out and learns of his brother's betrayal, as his wise, beautiful wife saves evidence and money from their suite, which is being ransacked. He donates some to the Irish nationalist cause. Jimmy is visiting New York, which goes awry: The metropolis' mob boss Philip Rothman doesn't believe his stories from Atlantic City, and he is assaulted by goons, whom he dexterously offs.
3. Margaret learns of her estranged relatives and diverts with her servants. Meanwhile problems go on for Nucky. New York wiseguys Lucky Luciano and his partner are forced by Rothstein to pay for a killing by Jimmy, when he was in the city. Back in Atlantic City, Jimmy is visited by his old pal Al Capone and is once again torn between his loyalties to Nucky and his ailing father. Nucky's former mistress Lucy is pregnant and miserable, and following an affair with Van Alden, she is locked inside by him.
4. The Commodore is indirectly disabled by Jimmy's mother Gillian, who later beats him up for his having raped her in the past. Jimmy's artist wife portrays Richard, the sad, one-eyed WWI veteran, Richard, who is their tormented friend. Jimmy strikes an important deal with Jewish butcher Manny, while Nucky makes a liquor distribution deal with Arnold Rothstein of New York. Margaret and Van Alden struggle with their respective marriages, and Chalky White is released back into the black community, who look up to him. But he is unable to give them the revenge that they seek and instead causes a scandal in his own home.
5. Jimmy gives an address to Memorial Day, introduced by Nucky, as knowledge of the Commodore's fatal disability spreads. Eli attempts to win back his brother's favor - but too late: They end up in a serious fight, which Margaret ends with a riffle. Eli goes on to murder a curious financier with a wrench in this bloody episode. Richard goes to the woods to commit suicide but meets people their, instead returns to help Jimmy get rid of a proud, old war profiteer in brutal, Indian style.
6. Margaret's son goes to his first confession, and Margaret herself confesses that she is attracted to Nucky's IRA-volunteer muscle Owen Sleater. Jimmy and Manny's criminal ties strengthen, and Lucy gives birth in pain and alone. Van Alden is upset after having seen his badly burned colleague, who seems to have understood Van Alden's own corruption, and in a lapse of character calls his wife, who arrives to find Lucy and her baby in her husband's apartment.
7. Margaret visits her brother, his daughters, and her little sister in New York, but it is a sad reunion. Sleater kills an old enemy and makes love to the returning lady of the house, Margaret. Van Alden cannot live up to his monetary promise to Lucy and receives an offer from Nucky, his sworn enemy, but instead sees the newly appointed federal investigator with his proofs. Meanwhile the atmosphere in Darmody's camp is boiling, as Luciano screws his mother, and he authorizes an attempt at Nucky's life but then regrets. It results only in a shot through Nucky's hand.
8. Pressed from all sides following the attempt on his life, Nucky has a new idea, which involves Ireland. He and Eli's father dies, and they quarrel bitterly at his deathbed. Nuck resigns as treasurer to keep his life, and Jimmy celebrates his seeming success - but with more than a drop of vinegar to it. His wife indulges in an affair with a female writer after having heard some truths about Darmody's work. Van Alden hires a Norwegian woman to care for Lucy's baby.
9. Margaret's daughter with her deceased husband takes ill with polio, as Nucky has left for Ireland in a bold move, smuggling Tommy guns in his "father's" coffin to the IRA. He meets resistance from Father MacGarrigle, who wants to "give peace a chance", - but his own kill him and make the deal: guns for whiskey. Jimmy wants to cover up his failed assassination and decides to off Manny, but it is easier said than done. Legendary boxing match 'Battle of the Century' (Jack Dempsey v. Georges Carpentier) takes place.
10. Margaret is in a turmoil due to her daughter's illness; filled with guilt due to her own infidelity, she donates a fortune to the Catholic church. Darmody's charge of Atlantic City comes to look toothless, as the town's blacks - on Nucky's request - start a riot that has violence breaking out in public. Sheriff Eli is jailed, and Manny returns to AC and takes revenge for Darmody's failed attempt on his life by shooting both his wife and her mistress.
11. Following the tragic double murder, Darmody's past at Princeton University is revealed, where his intense mother disrupted his studies and - horrifically - screwed him, - which made him enlist for the military. Margaret is beside herself, sees sin everywhere and refuses to face the possible outcome of Nucky's legal case, which sees him frying in the electric chair. Instead she threatens him with turning witness herself, - keeping her own untruthfulness a secret, - and is set straight. The case takes a new turn as Van Alden, after having signed his divorce, is accused of the murder of his colleague, which took place in season 1, shoots a new colleague and escapes! Darmody returns with a vengeance, throwing himself furiously at his mother but ending up instead killing his father. Gasp.
12. Darmody gives up running the perilous city on his own and comes back to Nucky, - against everyone's advice. He is put to work just before Nucky's case may end him for good, spoiling a key testimony with a 'suicide' in a phenomenal montage, as Margaret helps Nucky by marrying him, which means she cannot be forced to testify against him. Nucky even arranges a 1½ year sentence for his brother, who is drinking himself to an early grave, and the Assistant US Attorney Esther Randolph, who is assigned to the electoral fraud and murder case is left with nothing. Nucky finds Manny and promises Jimmy revenge on a rainy, thunderous night, - but it turns out to be a trap, and Nucky shoots him as an unforgiving, Old-Testament God. Wrapping up the season, Nucky celebrates newly allocated funds for a new road to the city, as Margaret, unbeknownst to him, donates all the land away to her church.
Creator Terence Winter's (Vinyl (2016), TV-series) Boardwalk Empire, based on Nelson Johnson's book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City, goes on black as tar in its second season, which is even better and grander storytelling than the first one.
The series gains from several great characters and formidable performances: Steve Buscemi (The Chosen One (2010)) is still terrific in the role of a lifetime as Nucky Thompson, a character whose political turncoat ways are showcased in all their splendor in the very first episode, as he gives radically different speeches to his city's blacks and clansmen.
Kelly Macdonald (Anna Karenina (2012)) portrayal of her character's ups and downs, and especially the frightening predicament of her daughter, is outstanding. Michael Pitt's (The Dreamers (2003)) Jimmy Darmody is an anchor for the season, and his dramatic development, torn between different flawed role-models, has many highlights, and Pitt's performance is incredibly well-played.
But the most fascinating and complex character in the second season is prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, whom Michael Shannon (My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009)) with intense sparkle. The series also has a long row of compelling smaller characters, and among those who deserve singling out are Michael Kenneth Williams (When We Rise (2017), TV-series) who is moving as Chalky White, Charlie Cox (Hello Carter (2013)) as Owen Sleater, Jack Huston (Hail, Caesar! (2016)) as disfigured war veteran Richard, Gretchen Mol (The Deli (1997)) as Jimmy's mother Gillian, Julianne Nicholson (Masters of Sex (2013-14)) as the Assistant DA and William Forsythe (Infected (2013)) as the statuesque butcher Manny.
Season two has several outstanding episodes and only one that feels a little stalling and lesser (episode 10: Georgia Peaches). It is brilliant craftsmanship and storytelling of the finest grain and rounds off with an ingenious cliffhanger.
3: A Dangerous Maid: written by Winter and Itamar Moses (Men of a Certain Age (2010-11)) with staff writer Bathsheba Doran (Bruiser (2000), TV-series), directed by Susanna White (Masters of Sex (2015), TV-series)
Nucky's Irish muscle Owen steps to the plate. Van Alden is hiding his pregnant mistress. Jimmy's loyalties are torn. With a magnificent dinner scene.
9. Battle of the Century: written by Winter and Steve Kornacki (Bates Motel (2015-17)) with Moses and Doran contributing, directed by Brad Anderson (Stonehearst Asylum (2014))
Margaret's daughter takes seriously ill with polio, as Nucky has left for a daring mission to Ireland. Legendary boxing match Battle of the Century takes place.
Terence Winter: Boardwalk Empire - season 1 (2010) - Luxurious 1920's ensemble gangster treats
Watch a preview for the Battle of the Century episode of Boardwalk Empire's season 2 here
Cost: Reportedly 5 mil. $ per episode, which comes to 60 mil. $
Box office: None - TV-series
= Unknown - but probably a solid hit
[Boardwalk Empire - season 2 was first broadcast 25 September - 11 December 2011 on HBO. It runs 12 episodes of approximately 55 minutes each, totaling around 660 minutes. The season takes place between February and August 1921. Shooting took place in New York. The ratings were generally a bit under the first season's, with the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot ranking high above every following episode with nearly 5 mil. viewers. Season 2 averaged between 2.5-3 mil. viewers on its first showing. It was nominated for 12 Emmys and won 4. IMDb's users have made Boardwalk Empire the #145 best TV-series ever on their Top 250 list, sitting between The Newsroom (2012-14) and the reiteration of Twin Peaks (2017). Together with its season 3, season 2 is the series' lowest-rated in its 5-season history on Rotten Tomatoes: It is still certified fresh at 88 % with an 8.26/10 critical average there.]
What do you think of Boardwalk Empire - season 2?