As Atlantic City's boss, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson is adept at dealing with enemies. His problem is surviving his friends and family. In the just-out Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season (2012, HBO Select, not rated, $60; Blu-ray, $80), Steve Buscemi's character in this Prohibition Era drama struggles to maintain his grip on political power as betrayals by those closest to him threaten to bring him down.
Boardwalk Empire begins its third season of luxuriant decadence on HBO Sept. 16.
Its potent ensemble cast and sumptuous period detail helped propel the show to eight Emmy Awards for its first season, including one for Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot. The second season has 12 nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards (airing Sept. 23 on ABC). The series is up for outstanding drama, Buscemi competes for best actor in a drama and Timothy Van Patten is nominated for directing the season finale.
At the start of 1921, crime lord Nucky (who is based on Enoch L. Johnson, who controlled Atlantic City for nearly two decades) seems to have things sewn up. His various vice-pandering enterprises are awash in cash, which he spreads liberally among government officials, politicians and police to keep the machine running smoothly. But his fortunes shift rapidly when the Ku Klux Klan machine-gun black gangster Chalky White's (Michael Kenneth Williams) bootleg liquor warehouse, costing Nucky a major revenue source, and state agents charge him with election fraud for fixing the mayoral race.
To make matters worse, there's a conspiracy to oust him that includes his ambitious former protégé Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt); Nucky's brother and police chief, Elias "Eli" Thompson (Shea Whigham); and Nucky's old mentor and Jimmy's father, Commodore Louis Kaestner (Dabney Coleman).
Other friends prove to be fair-weather, and even his live-in mistress Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) is keeping secrets. Gangsters from New York and Chicago — Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), Al Capone (Stephen Graham) — see a ripe opportunity to squeeze out Nucky.
But Nucky is determined to bury his rivals. When Jimmy asks him at one point, "You don't think I can play this game?" Nucky tells him derisively, "You don't even know the rules." There are casualties on all sides in the bloody war to rule the lucrative liquor trade. Avarice-fueled alliances are fluid at best, and the wrong choices can be costly — even fatal.
The DVD set features a 15-minute recap of the first season by producer Terence Mann, a feature on trends of the Roaring Twenties, and audio commentaries by the cast and crew. The Blu-ray set includes all the DVD extras plus interactive features that explore life in 1921 and provide a guide to the characters.