Boardwalk Empire, Episode 2, “The Ivory Tower”

9/27/2010 Posted by Admin

"Boardwalk Empire," Episode 2, “The Ivory Tower”

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

"Boardwalk Empire’s" second episode had quite an act to follow. The first episode, in all its tense escalation and graphically grandiose conclusion, had a lot going for it aside from Martin Scorsese at the helm. Unfortunately, “Ivory Tower” has the task of being a “second episode," and must therefore rely heavily on recap, resolution and set up. It’s a transitional installment but that shouldn’t scare anyone off. Remarkably, “Ivory Tower” carries the weight of its “Pilot” and allows its ensemble to reminisce as they press forward, picking up their stumbling enterprises while looking towards the oncoming era with confidence and anxiety.

As seen last week, Jimmy’s first booze heist didn’t go exactly to plan. Capone and Darmondy, looking to make some headway in the gangstering business, bit off a little more than they can chew thanks to some mischievous deer--and Nucky is none to happy about it. As a result, Enoch Thompson, or Nucky, must work through this unforeseen mess with his partners, new and old.

The ripple of this botched robbery is extraordinary--Nucky makes a new enemy in Arnold Rothstein, his violently ruthless business partner and empty-handed purchaser of the now missing alcohol; Hans Schroeder ends up in a fishing net with blame for the heist placed suspiciously upon his shoulders; Jimmy learns he can’t be “half a gangster” either and his squandering of the heist money find him in trouble with old partners as new ones refuse him help; and finally, prohibition officer Nelson Van Alden goes Elliott Ness on the whole operation, questioning Nucky, his partners and the recently widowed Margret Schroeder.

Needless to say, changes must be made and swift action taken.

Director Timothy Van Patten gets stuck with the worst job all season--not only is he directly following Scorsese’s magnificent opening act but he must also direct the episode that verbally sets up the season. A veteran HBO director, with credits to "The Wire," "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" under his belt, Van Patten puts his experience to good use by keeping this recap on the move. The consequences have immense weight and with these operations teetering on the edge of a knife, each conversation evokes the tense aura of the first episode as they set forth their next moves.

Van Patten knows what the audience is interested in and makes sure to keep the dialogue and meetings tense, regardless if we’re learning anything new. Likewise, his cast acts with sincerity and fear; they know that everything is on the verge of crumbling but put on airs to remain in control. In these performances, the show exudes a distinct magnetism in its confidence. The filmmakers know people won’t mind sitting through this story one more time, because with the episode’s frenzied bravado and allusions to Henry James, a horrifying betrayal and murder shouldn’t be too far around the corner.

Grade: B+

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  1. legs21 said...

    Done on Facebook and Twitter