The final season of the criminally underrated HBO original series Boardwalk Empire is set to premiere on September 7th. In preparation for the show’s final hurrah, I’ve taken it upon myself to binge rewatch the entire series on blu-ray.
This is my second of four season reviews before I tackle episode reviews for the series’ swan song. You can find all of my Boardwalk Empire related posts by clicking this link.
Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire picks up the story in January 1921. The bulk of the season revolves around Jimmy, the Commodore and Eli’s plan to usurp Nucky’s position in Atlantic City. Elsewhere, Van Alden keeps a heavily pregnant Lucy captive in an apartment, Chalky has a run-in with the KKK and Margaret doubts her relationship with God.
This was my first time rewatching the season since it aired in 2011. I was surprised at how much I didn’t connect with the Commodore/Jimmy/Eli storyline. I don’t know if this was due to my foreknowledge of the endgame or if it wasn’t a compelling plot at its base level. Whatever the case may be, I found myself growing tired of it within a few episodes.
I think the issue I had with the coup plot was that the writing went to great lengths to show how unprepared Jimmy was to take over the city. This and the Commodore’s somewhat eccentric bravado in dealing with people doubting his strength were just a little bit too much for me. Seriously, the scene where he proves he’s stronger than the young men in his cadre was silly and out of place.
The coup plot at least ends in a way that puts a bow on two seasons’ worth of very strong character development for both Nucky and Jimmy. Nucky becomes the full-fledged gangster he was destined to become while Jimmy’s innermost demons are finally shown to us. The last three episodes of the season really make up for the way the coup drags in the first few episodes.
Van Alden’s arc in season 2 drags a bit but becomes overall satisfying when we’re shown where the character ends up. That may sound like a cop out and it sort of is. But Van Alden is a “bigger picture” character in the grand scheme of Boardwalk Empire. He’s a character who is undergoing an intense transformation throughout the series’ run. Season 2 is simply a stepping-stone toward further evolution for the character.
Chalky White is a character I had extremely high hopes for in season 1. I am a big fan of Michael K. Williams from his performance on The Wire, so I was very happy to see him cast in Boardwalk Empire. In fact, it was one of the things I was most excited about going into the show. Chalky is a little less prominent in season 2, it seems, but when he’s on screen, he’s on fire. Williams is always engaging and the groundwork is laid in this season for some strong character development to come in season 4.
The whole season wraps up with the conclusion of Margaret’s religious awakening storyline. Much like season 1’s finale, season 2 ends with the promise of greater conflict to come in season 3 as well as new directions for several of the show’s key players. While some aspects of the season are a bit disappointing, the end result is still a successful and engaging season of crime, violence and betrayal.