Boardwalk Empire: Season 2 (2011)


Season 2
Boardwalk Empire

Critics Consensus

Boardwalk Empire delves deeper into both its intriguing supporting players and its rich tapestry of moral ambiguity.



Critic Ratings: 34


Audience Score

User Ratings: 348

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Air date: Sep 25, 2011

In the second-season premiere, Nucky eyes a real-estate bonanza when it comes to access to Atlantic City, but has his hands full trying to play peacemaker after Chalky has a run-in with the KKK. Meanwhile, Nelson shows his wife around town on a weekend visit; Jimmy mulls career advice from the Commodore; and Al Capone looks to expand the illegal-booze business in and around Chicago.

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Air date: Oct 2, 2011

Despite being publicly embarrassed by legal trouble, Nucky's biggest concern may be holding on to his private army in a battle for control of Atlantic City. Meanwhile, Jimmy pitches a business deal to Arnold Rothstein in New York, but may have more in common with Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano; Margaret draws on past experience to retrieve some valuable information; Chalky clashes with a fellow inmate; and an Irish nationalist comes to town looking for support.

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Air date: Oct 9, 2011

The Commodore throws his weight around with the Coast Guard to disrupt the delivery of alcohol, which creates an opportunity for Owen to demonstrate his value to Nucky and a struggling casino. Meanwhile, a letter dredges up painful memories for Margaret; Nucky calls in a favor with the U.S. attorney general; Meyer and Lucky learn the price of power; and Lucy searches for ways to cure her loneliness.

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Air date: Oct 16, 2011

Philadelphia gangsters may prove to be important middlemen for rival factions to get booze into-and out of-Atlantic City. Meanwhile, Nucky's lawyer hatches an idea to expand the scope of his election-fraud case; Owen's munitions experience comes in handy for Nucky; Chalky still feels like a prisoner even though he's out of jail; and Gillian takes advantage of the Commodore's vulnerability while recalling the night they met.

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Air date: Oct 23, 2011

After introducing a surprise speaker at a Memorial Day event, Nucky senses his opposition starting to crumble just as his election-fraud case is about to fall into federal jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Richard has a soul-searching experience in the woods before going back to work with Jimmy, who clashes with Atlantic City's ruling class; and Eli's bridge-burning lands him in a desperate situation.

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Air date: Oct 30, 2011

Bad news from Harry Daugherty in Washington, D.C., could make things tough for Nucky, who assembles quite a crowd to organize a liquor delivery in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Jimmy talks business with Leander Whitlock but turns to Manny Horvitz to get results; Margaret prepares her son for his first confession; and Van Alden struggles to maintain his composure as a fallen colleague's condition deteriorates.

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Air date: Nov 6, 2011

Margaret has a family reunion; Owen gets even with a rival; Van Alden recognizes the hierarchy of the law; Jimmy wonders how a decision will affect the future.

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Air date: Nov 13, 2011

Nucky turns to Arnold Rothstein for political advice in the aftermath of a personal loss, but Eli remains unsure of his brother's motives. Meanwhile, Angela makes a new acquaintance on the beach and learns more about her husband's business methods; Owen mulls an opportunity to go home; and Jimmy's power play makes life tough for Mickey Doyle.

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Air date: Nov 20, 2011

Nucky and Owen seek cooperation with the IRA in Belfast; Jimmy makes a deal with George Remus before the next Jack Dempsey bout; Margaret worries about Emily's deteriorating health; Dunn Purnsley organizes a strike at the Ritz; the feud between Waxey Gordon and Manny Horvitz heats up in Philadelphia; Halloran is questioned about Nucky's past by Randolph and Clifford Lathrop.

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Air date: Nov 27, 2011

Nucky shows he still has a few tricks up his sleeve by finding another source for booze, so Jimmy and his partners look for a new moneymaker in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, striking workers create a dilemma for the powers-that-be at the height of tourist season; Nucky finds new legal representation; Margaret deals with a guilty conscience; and Manny Horvitz feels slighted by a debt payment.

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Boardwalk Empire: Season 2 Photos

Tv Season Info

Nucky Thompson deals with a federal investigation for vote tampering--and an insurrection by those he counted among his closest allies--in Season 2 of this acclaimed HBO drama series set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City.

Critic Reviews for Boardwalk Empire Season 2

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (17)

Even though we had a decent body count this season, Empire really isn't a gangster show but a period drama that captures the country during a very distinct moment in its history.

Jun 14, 2018 | Full Review…

Where the show clearly shines is in its tremendous cast that's constantly elevating the material and making you care enough to stick around to see who betrays whom and where the drama will go.

Jun 14, 2018 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Top Critic

The final twist was absolutely brilliant-one of the best y'all come back nows I've ever seen.

Jul 23, 2014 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It's hard to shake the idea that Boardwalk Empire should be much, much better and more consistent than it is

Mar 28, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Boardwalk Empire loses sight of neither the large nor the small pictures as it moves into season two.

Sep 25, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Now, with season two, the drama has fully come to life, with moments of savagery, hypocrisy, and bittersweet loyalty that make it a must-see show.

Sep 25, 2011 | Full Review…

It has managed to escape some the hype that greeted its arrival and establish itself as a show with something to say.

Jun 14, 2018 | Full Review…

Not enough time is spent on Buscemi, with his grasshopper intensity, or Michael Shannon, who's frightening yet funny as a neurotic government agent combatting bootleggers. Boardwalk is still solid, but it's sacrificed some of its nervy power.

Jun 14, 2018 | Full Review…

Steve Buscemi (Nucky) and Michael Pitt (Jimmy) have never been better.

Jun 14, 2018 | Full Review…

The tragic ending to a stellar season was all too fitting, as the series has become a little darker each week.

Jul 23, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Season 2 is already shaping up to be every bit the powerhouse hour of television the first season was.

Jul 21, 2014 | Full Review…

Season two's finale feels like it opened things up and has removed a lot of the show's more irritating parts along the way.

Jul 18, 2014 | Rating: 9.4/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Boardwalk Empire: Season 2

  • Sep 18, 2015
    Season 2 continued the excellency from the previous season with more thought provoking drama and shocking twists.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Jul 17, 2014
    Season 2 is more focused on Atlantic City than what preceded it to great results. The story turns more into a conflicted betrayl gangstery story, giving Nucky a worthy oponent. Each time the pieces move, you can feel the tension rising, culminating into an unforgetable ending. Better yet, some of the secondary characters that were introduced before, have newfound depth and are included superbly well onto the story, showcasing the brilliant acting abilities of all the actors involved.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Oct 06, 2020
    my rate (8.43) for season 2
  • Jul 12, 2019
    outstanding series based on real history
  • Mar 02, 2019
    Hated the last episode's ending
  • Jun 17, 2018
    Boardwalk Empire continues to be the most compelling HBO Series in a long time. This season twists and turns to a thrilling conclusion, all while not losing the gorgeous 1920's aesthetics.
  • Jan 10, 2017
    I must admit, most of season 2 was quite a downgrade from an already just mediocre series (by season 1’s account). It took until about the final three episodes to shock me and maintain my interest further. The bad: there was a LOT less action and intrigue this season. Everything was about court appearances, getting out of jail, strong-arming each other nudge-by-nudge, political strife, and so on. Sure, there was the intermittent killing, but season 2 was packed with just too much drama. Then came the last three episodes. [Spoiler Alerts] First, the shocking death of Jimmy’s wife Angela. What a sad moment when we see the Butcher exclaim that “your husband did this to you” before shooting her dead. Then, the shocker of all shockers. I was beginning to feel that Jimmy was going to secretly become the star of the show, taking over Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson as the king of the Boardwalk. He was definitely positioned that way through the first two seasons. And yet, the seemingly usurper star of the show, a show that is to last another three seasons, mentored from childhood by Nucky Thompson, gets a bullet to the dome delivered by none other than Nucky himself. And the star of the first two seasons is no more. So, at least these shocking moments entice me to watch further. And from my review of season 1, remember, it was the lack of shocking deaths that compelled me to feel ‘meh’ about the show. These shocking moments have at least turned that switch, and maybe there’s somewhere for this show to go, to excel. Looking forward to what season 3 brings, even if one of the more exciting characters has been removed.
  • Dec 04, 2016
    Deep writing and excellent cinematography
  • Jan 18, 2015
    One of the pivotal moments in Boardwalk Empire's second season fittingly takes place in an armory during the eighth episode, "Two Boats and a Lifeguard." Harsh, bright white light slants sharply into the ground through tall windows as soldiers patrol the grounds outside; the armory is holding 3,000 machine guns leftover from the war, weapons that Nucky Thompson plans on giving to the Irish rebels across the Atlantic in exchange for Irish whisky. Three men meet here, the wise, elder leaders of the mobs in New York City, Chicago, and Atlantic City - Arnold Rothstein, Jonny Torrio, and Nucky Thompson. They have had their differences in the past - sometimes violent differences - but they operate on a set of principles and realize that what they do is strictly business, not personal. The young men that they have taken under their wings, however, the younger generation of gangsters in their respective towns, have begun to band together - Luciano, Capone, Darmody. And they are not quite as principled. They are ruthless, sloppy, and vicious. "The pups have grown fangs, gentlemen," Nucky tells Rothstein and Torrio, showing them the bloody bandage on his hand, there as a result of a bullet wound given to him in a failed assassination attempt, arranged by his brother Eli, James Darmody, and the men who report to them. The three men deliberate over what they should do about this assassination attempt and their potential overthrow. Torrio, quick to action, says that they should kill Darmody. Rothstein waits a moment, and then gives his methodical advice: "Do nothing." Rothstein is a gambling man, yes. But though some days he will make twenty bets, there are days, weeks, even months that go by without him making a single bet, because there is no opportunity that he can grasp. But when one comes along, he goes all in. His "do nothing" is less of a decisive piece of advice than a warning of patience - the opportunity will come, but Nucky has to be smart about it, bide his time, and wait for opportunity to come to him before he strikes. Rothstein, throughout the course of the season, has taken on more so than ever the role of wise adviser, and has allied himself with his former rivals for the best interests of all (this truce began in the first season's finale). Rothstein and his peers, particularly Nucky, think extensively about their actions before giving out orders. This is in stark contrast to Jimmy Darmody's view; Darmody says, in episode 7, "Peg of Old," that "It doesn't make a difference if you're right or wrong; you just have to make a decision." This is one of the main reasons why he fails. As I watched this second season of Boardwalk Empire over the course of two months, off and on, sometimes taking weeks in between episodes because I got so busy, I admired more and more the strength of the cast - none of the characters are particularly likable, and yet we sympathize with and are invested in their actions all the same. The performances in Boardwalk are all so refined, nuanced, and excellent that we are drawn in. This is key to the show's success. The standout performance of the season is Michael Pitt's evolution as Jimmy Darmody, as he rises to power, struggles at the top, reflects on his conflicted love for both his wife and for Nucky, and delves into his past and his soul as he loses all that he has. The show is highly attentive to detail, and you must pay close attention to every moment to keep track of all of the nuances of plot. Plot aside, I was able to admire the performances and the emotions that they elicit; the beautiful, contrasty lighting and gorgeous costuming and art direction, appropriate to the period and the mood of the show; and the larger strokes of plotting in the show. Highlights of Boardwalk's second season, for me, involved characters' personal ties to family - Margaret Schroeder's melancholic reaching out to her Irish family members, whom she hasn't spoken to in years; Nucky's struggles against his traitorous brother, Eli, and their uneasy reconciliation; Jimmy's failing relationship with his wife and their painful attempts at rekindling love before their tragic demise at the end of the season; Jimmy's fascinating and disturbing relationship with his manipulative, power-hungry, lonely mother. Season two has shown us revealing glimpses into characters' pasts, and has been about professionalism, respect, and the need for thoughtful, rational judgment calls against the rash and sloppy violence of youth. Nucky has come out on top, but not without physical and emotional injury. Due to the season's changes, both business and personal, everything must be reevaluated.
  • Jul 23, 2014
    Same as Season 1. Excellent in every conceivable way. I have no idea how Gretchen Mol didn't get nominated for an Emmy for this season. She could have easily won. Under God's Power She Flourishes is possibly the best episode of the show.

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