Boardwalk Empire: Season Two created by Terence Winter (Home Box Office, Leverage Management, Closest to the Hole Productions)

Starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Kelly Macdonald.

Real People

Do you ever feel like characters in television series lack depth? On one side, they exist as a funnel for catch phrases and pithy one-liners. On the other side, characters represent philosophical systems. Their mannerisms and dialogue feel stunted, unusual, and unreal. Why is it so difficult to write real people?

Boardwalk Empire seems to do it well.

The Power Play of Atlantic City

Season Two begins with James “Jimmy” Darmody (Michael Pitt) conspiring with his father, the Commodore (Dabney Coleman), and Elias “Eli” Thompson (Shea Whigham) to remove Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) from power. The group of conspirators devises a plan to frame Nucky for election fraud.

This attempt forges an irreversible chasm between not only Nucky and his brother, Eli, but also Nucky and Jimmy, whom Nucky considers a son.

Season Two focuses on the struggle for power between these two magnetic personalities. As Nucky fights for his freedom in the courts, circumstances turn violent when the conspirators order a hit on Nucky. Barely escaping, this political scuffle turns into an all-out war.

Irreconcilable Tension

Meanwhile, Season Two finds Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) coping with irreconcilable tension in her life. Free from her abusive husband, she enjoys the luxuries of a life with Nucky. However, when her daughter, Emily (Josie and Lucy Gallina), contracts polio, Margaret begins to question her lifestyle and the shadowy nature of her lover, Nucky. In an attempt to absolve her soul, Margaret reconnects with her roots in the Catholic Church.

Real, Real People

While a struggle for power exists at the center of the narrative arc for Season 2, Boardwalk Empire’s careful writing and impeccable acting continue to fuel this impressive drama. The characters’ motivations besot their actions consistently, much like real life.

Whether it is Jimmy being unable to execute a hit for reasons that defy motive, Margaret hunting down family despite her parvenu, or newcomer Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) teetering between lovers, Boardwalk Empire’s characters act like real people. Our motivations, in reality, are never truly consistent. Even those who try their best to follow a specific philosophy fail to follow it full stop. Consider Christianity. How many Christians who follow a literal translation of the bible sell all of their possessions and give all they have to the poor?

It seems like writers often put characters in boxes. They follow specific life philosophies and they become one-dimensional on the screen (The Walking Dead: Season Two is a good, recent example). Boardwalk Empire, on the other hand, gives its characters room to breathe. They, like those in real life, contain complicated emotions and motivations. Despite all reason to the contrary, human beings often act in unpredictable ways. This level of unpredictability gives Season 2 thrilling life.

Check out Boardwalk Empire; it is worth it!

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

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