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The Boston Globe

Television

TELEVISION REVIEW

‘Boardwalk Empire’: In and out of greatness

It may just be my imagination, which has been spending far too much time in the land of “Breaking Bad” lately. But the first episodes of season four of “Boardwalk Empire” seem to move more slowly and deliberately than in past years. The scenes are longer, so that the actors can stretch out the beats. There are silences, as well as extended nightclub dance sequences. That “slow drama” approach is one of the trademarks of “Breaking Bad,” and I wonder if “Boardwalk Empire” creator Terence Winter has decided to try it out.

And it works, for the most part. HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” returns on Sunday at 9 p.m. and it has a more measured pace, which brings needed realism to its heavily costumed period atmosphere. By letting the scenes breathe, Winter and his directors prevent the series from becoming a too-perfect — and soulless — re-creation. When Richard Harrow — played with unnerving gentility by Jack Huston — threatens to murder a man, and the man desperately bargains for his life, a fly caught in a spider’s web, the moment elongates into a painful eternity.

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