Boardwalk Empire” has been having a reasonably strong second season so far, and last night’s episode is further indication that while things might not be as exciting as we’d like them to be just yet, they will be soon. Overlooked characters got a chance to be heard and familiar characters got a chance to remind us why we find them interesting. Read our review to see how we felt. . .

The Players:

  • Director: Susanna White
  • Writer: Itamar Moses
  • Cast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Paz de la Huerta, Gretchen Mol, Shea Whigham

Episode Title: “A Dangerous Maid”

Nucky is feeling the pressure as his inability to provide liquor to casino owners adds to a growing list of problems for him. Al Capone pays a visit to let him know that Johnny Torrio will no longer be buying liquor from him, and the Commodore blocks his shipments. In the meantime, Lucy pleads with Van Alden to let her go out, feeling as though she is a prisoner in his home.

The Good:

  • Steve Buscemi: In the early episodes of this program, we weren’t sure what to make of Steve Buscemi’s acting. Sure, everyone knows he’s a talented performer who can often bring a kinetic energy to roles that might normally beforgettable, but for the part of Nucky, he’s had to tone it down and portray the character as a calm, perpetually irritated crook who rarely gets excited. It didn’t quite work for us at first, but as the show progressed, it started to become clear that this is exactly how the character should behave. He keeps his cool most of the time, but is also capable of true rage, as demonstrated by his outburst at dinner when he sees the Commodore dining nearby.
  • Margaret and the maids: A wonderfully staged scene occurs in this episode, when Margaret tries to join Nucky’s maids for a drink. Aware that they are in the presence of their employer’s lover, they remain uneasy, while Margaret simply tries to find some true connection with women who share her heritage. Although Nucky rescued her from the grips of crippling poverty, perhaps she is now seeing that his money can’t buy her happiness.
  • Lucy: At one point in this week’s episode, Lucy expresses a profound sorrow over the fact that no man in her life has ever been interested in her except as a sex object. Sadly, this show has actually been guilty of that crime. Up until now, she’s been little more than a brainless beauty who gets passed along from man to man, never once displaying much in the way of true character. It was a welcome change of pace to see her human side this week. Ironically, of all the characters, she may be the most sympathetic.

The So-So:

  • Al Capone: Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a great performance as the budding crime lord, but the show never seems to know what it wants to say about this character. The writers and directors are too aware of the fact that the audience knows who Capone is, so they try to lend a greater significance to his character in certain scenes. Unfortunately, so far, he hasn’t earned this significance. He’s still just a low-level hood who shows up every now and then. Despite the talents of Stuhlbarg, at this point, it is best to keep him that way.

The Bad:

  • No Chalky? Yeah, a show like “Boardwalk Empire” has far too many characters for all of them to make an appearance, but after Chalky’s chilling work last week, it’s a shame that he was missing in action for last night’s episode. Oh well, he is sure to return, and if things keep going in the direction they appear to be, it is fair to assume that he’ll start to take on an even more prominent role in the series.

Overall:

Ok, so we’re not quite on the edge of our seats yet in this season, which is something of a problem seeing as we are probably supposed to be. However, a fine cast and some strong plotting keeps us returning to the show, and as things begin to pick up, we feel that “Boardwalk Empire” will live up to its potential.

Rating: 7/10

“Boardwalk Empire” airs every Sunday night on HBO!

What did you think of last night’s episode? Tell us in the comments!