While it’s not the near-instantaneous renewal that Boardwalk Empire received after the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot premiered last year, it’s unlikely anyone is complaining. At three episodes into its second season, HBO’s pricey prohibition-era drama has snagged an early order for a third season.
Considering the show is the most prestigious drama on the HBO schedule, the news that Boardwalk Empire would march into season 3 was expected – especially after the series took home 8 Emmys, including best directing for a drama series for Scorsese. Still, with ratings somewhat down in comparison to last season, the early renewal speaks volumes about the network’s feelings toward the program.
HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo said of the series: "Following a triumphant first season, I was eager to see what Terry Winter, Martin Scorsese and the rest of their stellar team had in store, and they continue to surpass our highest expectations. The response from the media and our viewers has been extremely gratifying."
So far this season, Boardwalk has garnered a respectable (for HBO) audience, with the most recent episode "A Dangerous Maid" earning 2.9 million viewers. Those numbers grow exponentially to an impressive 10.7 million viewers, when additional airings and DVR or On Demand viewings are taken into consideration.
Although the beginning of Boardwalk’s second season lacked the pomp and circumstance of the program’s debut, storyline-wise, the program has enjoyed a great start. As opposed to the lengthy getting-to-know-you phase of last season – that some may have thought moved at too deliberate a pace – season 2 has, comparatively speaking, maintained a fairly brisk tempo by pitting Nucky Thompson against those he considered his closest allies.
Highlights thus far would have to be the impressive sway Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) reveals to hold over his constituents – despite being jailed, and the softening of morally embattled Agent Nelson Van Alden, who, through the subtle and layered performance of Michael Shannon, switches from a man seemingly beset by his convictions to one of a tender, yet duplicitous, provider for both the women in his life. Of course, the scarred visage of Jack Huston’s Richard Harrow continues to make him the most sympathetic killer on television.
The most pleasant surprise, however, would have to go to Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald), who, after being a bit reluctant to accept Nucky’s criminal side, has proven herself devoted to the man – underhanded dealings and all.
With nine episodes still remaining, it's still too early to make any firm declarations - but, it's easy to imagine that accolades will fall on Boardwalk Empire again, come award season.
In addition to renewing its impressive core-titles like Boardwalk Empire, True Blood and Game of Thrones, HBO has also given another season to the critically acclaimed, but under appreciated Treme, and picked up a slew of new programs like the Julia Louis-Dreyfus political comedy Veep, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s entertainment industry spoof Life’s Too Short, and, possibly most exciting, the Michael Mann, David Milch horse racing drama Luck.
Boardwalk Empire airs Sunday nights @10pm on HBO.