This week’s episode of BOARDWALK EMPIRE finds a world in transition. All of the major players are included, and I’m hoping this episode is the refining moment where the true narrative takes off. This episode feels like it is setting up the next three episodes to be a whirlwind of destruction and storyline coalescence.
The episode starts off like a lot of episodes this season, with a flashback. We’re not taken as far back in the past as Nucky’s childhood though, instead it’s 1897 and an older Nucky is the Deputy Sheriff. The most amazing thing about the flashback is the guy they found to play Nucky. His name is Marc Pickering, and if you didn’t know any better you’d swear you were watching Steve Buscemi as a younger man. It’s uncanny. He has the facial expressions, the mannerisms, the eyes, and I don’t know how the hell they did it, but he has the teeth as well! Mr. Pickering’s performance is the highlight of the episode. This is a Nucky coming into his own. Through sheer sense of will and his ability to manipulate a situation, you can see how the Nucky got to be what he is. This is a determined man who’ll let nothing get in the way of what he wants.
Chicago is also a highlighted in this episode. So far the plot in the show has been as constipated as we find Capone, though after tonight’s episode I expect some relief to come our way. The focus here is on the dynamic between Eli and Van Alden. These two are definitely an odd couple, and I can’t see how they haven’t come to blows yet. They come from two different ends of the spectrum. Everything about them is opposite. Van Alden hates his family, is ultra religious, has an air of righteousness about him that would make a normal man sick, and let’s not forget what a weird sexual deviant he was and is. Remember him sniffing Margaret’s hair ribbon and whipping himself? Yeah, I almost forgot that too. On the other hand Eli loves his family, and isn’t one to put up with bullshit. I doubt he has any religion, but the driving force in his life is reuniting with his family. Everything else is just a means to an end. Truly Van Alden and Eli hate each other, but for circumstances sake, they need each other.
This is why this episode cements my love of these two as a team. During a dinner party they are interrupted by De’Angelo and the feds, who pop in to arrest Van Alden and Eli. He has two options for them: they can either break in to Capone’s place and steal all the ledgers and log books to help prove the IRS case against him, or they can get the gas chamber for the murders they both committed. This suicide mission might end up being the most exciting thing about the entire season. I’m itching to see how they do it. They’re both a couple of nervous messes, and that’s not even counting the animosity between the two now that it’s come to light that Eli fucked Van Alden’s wife. We’ve already seen what a sadistic bastard Capone is. He’s jacked up on cocaine and a sense of self-importance, and there’s no voice of reason to calm him down when he goes into a rage. Luciano calling Van Alden out as a fed, already has Capone questioning Van Alden. If they do end up in an awkward situation and have to answer questions about what they’re up to, there’ll be more than a reasonable doubt cast Van Alden’s way. Either way, plan on it being riveting.
Nucky’s world is closing in on him. We’ve seen him all season trying his damndest to get out of the gangster business, and now all of the doors he’d been hoping to walk through have been shut in his face. He’s been backed into a corner and it appears his agreement with Bacardi is null and void as well. Combine that with the threat of Luciano and Lansky taking him out, and he’s in real trouble. The problem is, all of his old friends are either dead, in trouble of their own, or have turned against him. He narrowly survived another attempt on his life tonight after being set up by Johnny Torrio. I know he threatened not to rest until he saw Torrio, Luciano, and Lansky dead, but do his threats have any bark behind them? I don’t think so. If he can get out of the business before the business snuffs him out, he’ll be one lucky man.
Thoughts from the boardwalk:
– Gillian showed back up in this episode. She found some strange medical procedures taking place in the asylum. What is her purpose and end game? Clearly she wrote the letter to Nucky, but how does she fit in? It doesn’t look like she’ll be getting out of the asylum without the good doctor taking a scalpel to her, but does she have some evidence of value she could leverage to extricate herself from her terrible situation? There’s always the grudge she has since Nucky sold her out to the Commodore when she was 13. Is there any way for her to get her revenge?
– Chalky came back as well. He seems to bear no ill will to Nucky, just Narcisse. Nucky protects him, puts him up, and gives him some spending money. I knew Chalky would take a shot at Narcisse even though Nucky told him not to, but what I didn’t expect was for him to find his old girlfriend Daughter Maitland and what I assume is Chalky’s child. What happens now? Do they start a new life together as a family, take out Narcisse, and live happily ever after? I doubt it. I’m guessing Chalky takes out Narcisse, and then everything goes to hell.
– Nucky and a lot of the other characters spent a lot of time talking about starting over. Johnny Torrio pushes Nucky to retire, start over, and do something else. Nucky in turn says the same to Chalky, and Eli tells his wife to move the family to Chicago so they can all start over. There won’t be any starting over for anyone, and Torrio, who seemed to retire and start over, is back in play again. The only person I see starting over is Nucky, and I think it will be in jail.
– We’ve seen some bizarre flashbacks Eli has while drunk, and tonight they make sense. During an awkward dinner party it comes out that Eli and Ingrid had a fling in the Van Alden’s kitchen. What sets his mind remembering is a portrait of the King of Norway on the wall.
– My favorite dialogue of the night was again from Van Alden. He’s become so quotable this season. I love it. “I for one refuse to be ruled by fear.” Then his wife shouts “Husband!” “Coming dear” he hurries after her.
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.