Boardwalk Empire - The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
The second season of Boardwalk Empire comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with a stunning 1080p High Definition video presentation in the show’s original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. It really is up there with all of the best looking TV productions on the format, the considerable budget used to create an effects-embellished world where pretty-much every shot is picture perfect. Sure, the occasional scene has a slightly softer edge, and there’s quite a lot of processing done to give the production that specific, consistent, period look, but, when it counts, this show steps up and provides some truly flawless images, and even in the less reference-directed moments, the visual design never feels less than intentional. Facial detail is stunning, from the lines on Steve Buscemi’s face to the fine object detail observed in the decadent world he lives in – check out the pristine Rolls that he drives, in all its glory, or the fur on the expensive fur coats he wears. The colour scheme is well-represented, again slightly biased towards more period tones – with a dash of sepia – to give the production that classic edge, but still showcasing some excellent tones, with a broad palette of lovingly reproduced colours. Black levels are excellent, remaining strong and deep no matter how dark the scenes get, and providing great shadows where there is simply no detail lost. With no intrusive digital defects – no edge enhancement, and no unruly DNR – this is a lavish video presentation for a lavish show, reference quality through and through.
As with the video and audio on the first season, the soundtrack design on the second season of Boardwalk Empire is also stunning, more than equalling the perfect video. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix presents the dialogue clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the frontal array wherever necessary. Effects are standout, with every little atmospheric noise, from the waves rolling in by the boardwalk itself, to the wind blowing and the crackle of underbrush under foot, presented well, drawing the use of all the channels – even the rears – where appropriate. Of course there are plenty of more aggressive, in-your-face noises which pepper the track, most notably the thunder of shotgun blasts and handguns being fired. The sound design has a very cinematic feel throughout, but perhaps never more so than in relation to the score, which is a superior collection of classic from-the-era pieces that pop and crackle authentically as they play out in the background. Bass is prevalent, both from the louder effects and also providing a weighty undercurrent for the score. Visually, Boardwalk Empire may excel in its presentation of the Roaring Twenties, but, if anything, the period scoring even manages to best it, and maintains the high standards set by this show in terms of presentation.
The First Season of Boardwalk Empire had arguably one of the best extras packages that I’d ever seen for a TV show. It went above and beyond. It boasted Enhanced Viewing PIP tracks for every single episodes, as well as Audio Commentary tracks for half the season, and some HD Featurettes to top it off. Given that we were so rewarded with the first season release, it would only come as a disappointment to find that they’ve stripped down the Enhanced Viewing tracks from 12 to just 1, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a hefty, worthy selection of extras, just perhaps not quite what fans would have expected given the unprecedented efforts made for the first release.
Enhanced Viewing Mode
Episode 11 boasts this release’s only PiP track, but it is a good one, providing almost an hour of background information provided by the cast, crew and relevant authorities, who all discuss the episode within the grander setting of the second season, attempting to cram just as much as they can into the one offering so that it can somewhat make up for the lack of other Enhanced tracks. It almost works, and is well worth watching, but does leave you missing coverage over many of the rest of the episodes – even a couple of these would have been a better effort rather than just one.
Interactive History Suite
Living in 1921 – This welcome addition allows you to take a marginally interactive look at the background to this year in the history of America, with information about the financial situation, the culture and art of the time, and the ongoing bootlegging / prohibition ramifications, with plenty of accompanying interview snippets from the relevant historians to impart such information.
The six Commentary tracks attempt to make up for the lack of Enhanced tracks somewhat, providing contributions from both the show’s creator, writer and co-producer Terrence ‘Sopranos’ Winter and the writer/director/executive producer Tim Van Patten – who participate in over half of them and basically host the commentary tracks between them, leading the rest into battle – as well as actors Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White), Jack Huston, Gretchen Mol and, of course, Steve ‘Nucky’ Buscemi himself. A selection of other writers and producers round out the offerings, and these are certainly welcome tracks, providing some interesting background trivia and references which will only enhance your Boardwalk Experience.
Again, following on from the first season, we get Character Dossiers for every single episode, which work as a trivia track that imparts yet more information into the characters that populate the show. Certainly without the Enhanced Viewing Tracks it’s a more welcome addition this time around.
Back to the Boardwalk is a quarter-hour HD offering which plays as something of a catch-up on the events of the first season. Largely unnecessary, but, for those who may have forgotten what happened, it’s possibly worth dipping into just prior to watching season 2.
The Money Decade is a 25-minute HD Featurette which looks more deeply at the real historical background for this period of the roaring 20s, noting the shifting power balances, the booms and busts, and the events that defined the relevant era.
New Characters is a brief 4-minute HD look at some of the new faces that have been introduced in season 2.
Updates to the Boardwalkis a further 3-minute HD companion-piece Featurette which looks at some of the new locations created for the second season.
“I am not seeking forgiveness.”
Boardwalk Empire remains undeniably one of the absolute best TV shows out there at the moment. Amidst the top-tier productions – everything from Sherlock to Game of Thrones – it’s HBO at its best. That the second season doesn’t quite hit the very high standards set by the first is not actually all that surprising – it was arguably too much to expect from the Scorsese-pioneered drama – and the end result is still fantastic viewing. Fans should be utterly enthralled from start to finish. Consistently impressive, both in production value and period authenticity; driven by reliably outstanding performances; and with a narrative that teasingly plays with multiple outcomes as it twists its way through to a wholly unexpected conclusion, season 2 is both a darker and deadlier animal. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for season 3.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get stunning, picture-perfect video, and equally impressive sound design, as well as a hefty set of extras that, whilst not quite as impressive as those that adorned the first season, are still very rewarding. And that just about sums up the sophomore year for the show too – a rewarding, impressive watch which makes for excellent viewing despite the fact that it cannot quite match up to the high standards set by the show’s debut. Fans should be content to dedicate themselves to this and any further years – it’s earned that from you – and newcomers should pick up the two-season box set and catch up on Nucky Thompson and his Boardwalk Empire. Highly recommended.
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