Reviews: Boardwalk Empire's Second Is Worth the Slow Start

The show starts with a literal bang, and some critical bangs, too

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Boardwalk Empire fans are hoping that like other HBO classics, the extravagant Martin Scorsese production ages well with time. Through last season critics hotly-debated the shows merits, some called it a huge letdown, while others were extremely excited for another season. The season two premier which aired last night, opened with lots of literal bangs, but did it open with any critical bangs?

Boardwalk Empire has set itself up for a season of brilliance. While many called the show too slow and full of complicated characters, the season two premier showed the show is just starting to settle in, argues The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman. "It’s clear from the early going in Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire that all the seeds so patiently planted and nurtured last season will be blossoming with real beauty in this one." Now that we know the characters, the show can develop, continues the New York Daily News's David Hinckley. "Boardwalk Empire loses sight of neither the large nor the small pictures as it moves into season two. While we know the players now, so they don't surprise us as much, the show keeps them always in motion and often a step ahead of what we expect."

But, it's not there quite yet. It's just too complicated. With so many involved story lines and characters, the opener had to spend a lot of time bringing us up to speed. Already the show has lost a lot of its momentum argues The AV Club's Noel Murray. "The major dramatic stumbling block for '21' is that it’s a reintroduction episode, and with a cast as big as Boardwalk Empire's, that takes so much time that it stalls some of the narrative momentum."

And we can expect that slow build to continue for the next few episodes, warns The Hitflix's Daniel Fienberg.

But as much as I loved individual scenes and continued to respect from the performances from the leads to the tiniest supporting players, this run of "Boardwalk Empire" left me holding back a little. It's perfectly common for a series to return by aligning the chess pieces for the season to come, sometimes over the course of a couple or a few episodes, but "Boardwalk Empire" is in the process of such a complicated piece of alignment that it remains a work-in-progress even through six episodes.

But all the effort might pay off. The room has to get messier before its all cleaned up. Boardwalk Empire's "a sprawling, colorful, endlessly fascinating mess," explains Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich. As it develops things will get messier, but it will pay off, believes Feinberg. "I have every confidence that this is part of a carefully designed season arc and that once things start to pay off, they'll pay off all over the place." But things could end up quite muddled, Boardwalk Empire might be reaching too high, argues The Hitflix's Alan Sepinwall. "Judge Boardwalk on what it attempts, and it's extraordinary. Judge it on what it succeeds at, and it's still a very good show--and often great--but one that still seems to be figuring itself out a bit in year two."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.