“Boardwalk Empire” kicks off second season with a bang

By Tom Comi

I’ve never been a big fan of period pieces, so I’m not quite sure what made me take a leap of faith last year on HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire. But with the second season starting Sunday night (9pm ET/PT) after receiving 18 Emmy nominations, I’m sure glad I did.

Some of my decision surely had to do with the fact that it was airing on HBO, a network that rarely misses the mark. It also didn’t hurt that the all-star cast was being headed up by Steve Buscemi (pictured), an actor I’ve always admired. Ultimately, though, it was the topic of Prohibition and the mob that caught my attention.

Boardwalk Empire is set in the 1920s right after alcohol was outlawed. The first season followed the life of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Buscemi, an Emmy nominee, and Screen Actors Guild award and Golden Globe winner for the role), the political leader of Atlantic City who controls the sale of all illegal alcohol (his character is based on Enoch “Nucky” Johnson). This makes him part government official, part businessman and part mobster.

Thompson rarely had to get his hands dirty last year, because he relied on people like his sheriff brother Elias (Shea Whigham), his hitman Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) and a leader of the black community who served as his bootleg point person (Chalky White, played brilliantly by Michael Kenneth Williams).

And therein lies the most intriguing aspect of this show. Because everybody wanted to get in on the illegally sold booze, it didn’t take long for criminals to flock to AC looking to get a piece of pie — including Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and a very young Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

According to HBO, the second season revolves around turmoil within Thompson’s inner circle. He’s not sure whether he can trust his own brother, let alone the Mafia from both Chicago or New York. This storyline coupled with fantastic subplots, superb acting (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Kelly Macdonald is amazing as Thompson’s mistress Margaret Schroeder), brilliant costumes and amazing sets truly make Boardwalk Empire one of the best dramas on all of television.

And the best part is I can legally drink an ice-cold beer when I tune in Sunday night. Bottoms up!


Photo credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO