This week’s episode of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, “The Good Listener,” finds us no closer to wrapping things up than last week. In fact, I don’t know how the hell they’re going to get to the finish line in any fulfilling way with only 6 episodes left. They’ve again peppered the hell out this episode with flashbacks, not to mention some returning and newly introduced characters. I’ll get to some gripes later, but the meat of the episode deals with living with the choices you’ve made. Every character we connect with is struggling with this same problem.
Well, we finally find out what happened to Eli. When we catch up with him, he’s awoken from a drunken stupor as the feds raid a warehouse full of hooch he’s responsible for. He’s tied to Capone, but working under Van Alden (the bizarrely religious psychopath). These two are now on the hook for the $20K the feds took during the raid. Eli has become a lonely alcoholic, unable to reunite with his wife and kids, but haunted by them all the time. Van Alden hates his wife and kids, but keeps plugging away at life for…Jesus, who knows why? Either way, they decide to get Capone his money back by robbing Peter to pay Paul. So another of Capone’s crews gets hit, and they end up just dumping the $20K into a huge pile of money in Capone’s office. They took 2 lives for a meaningless amount of money for Capone.
Nucky is in New York to figure out who tried to put the hit on him. He’s also working on getting his legit liquor distribution network going. Snubbed by the businessmen he tries to woo, he meets Joseph Kennedy Sr. (yes, the father of JFK and Bobby) and possibly forges a future alliance with him. He also meets with the new big boss in town Maranzanno to find out who put the hit on him. Luciano is there, and denies he and Lansky are working together, but Nucky finds a snitch who tells him where Lanksy and Luciano are, and that they are conspiring to take over by rubbing out Maranzanno and Nucky. Nucky’s Cuban bodyguard sends them a message, the snitch with a knife in his back stuck through a post card that reads: “Greetings from Havana.”
Chalky White doesn’t show up in this episode at all, which is weird to me since he had such an interesting role last week. It’s disappointing, and I’m worried “Boardwalk Empire” is setting me up for some big disappointment. There are a lot of threads hanging loose in this show, so my mind was blown when storylines I had thought of as dead, have reemerged along with new threads tossed in for good measure.
For example, Gillian Darmody reappears in the narrative of the show. Her storyline had been completed when she was jailed for murder, so there was no need for her to appear in this season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gretchen Moll, her character was a lot of fun for a time, but this makes no sense. We find her in what appears to be a spa, but really is an insane asylum. There’s a lesbian warden that she appears to be trading sexual favors with for items she wants. In this case, a pen and stationary. To whom could she be writing?
Another person dragged up from the past is Eli’s son, William. He’s interviewing for a job as an assistant US attorney in New York. He’s come a long way from the kid who poisoned another student’s drink. Now, I don’t think we needed anymore of his story either, but perhaps Terry Winter and his writers will prove me wrong. I sure hope so.
Now for the three additions to the cast, who knows how they can add more characters with so many past storylines to wrap up as well. First we meet Joseph Kennedy Sr. who, it seems will be doing some business with Nucky in the future. There’s also Elliott Ness giving a speech about going after Capone. Do we really have time for this? Lastly, there’s a guy named Deangelo who works for Capone. It also seems he works for city hall as well. Is he working from the inside to take down Capone? Again, do we really have time for this?
Now the main thrust of Nucky’s ambitions are to find a way to turn his dirty business into a legitimate one. He desires to shed his gangster past before someone knocks him off. Johnny Torrio is the only person he knows that got out of the life and retired. He took a bullet in the neck before he did so, but he got out, doesn’t have to look over his shoulder all the time, and gets to relax and enjoy life. The only problem is, the decisions made in his past have made it prohibitive for him to come out clean again. He struggles against this reality. His brother also deals with the choices he’s made, but he’s miserable and there doesn’t seem to be any way out for him.
Thoughts on the boardwalk:
– Capone…at this point, who cares. Other than Eli’s story, why are we back here? The Elliott Ness thing pisses me off. So does Deangelo’s introduction. There isn’t time for all of this. Focus on the main characters and leave the Capones, the Gillian Darmodys, and the Kennedys out of it.
– The flashbacks continue. A lot of time has been pissed away on a back-story most people have guessed at already. Young Nucky’s father was an alcoholic asshole, his sister Susan died in the house, and his father drank away all the money for a proper burial, instead burying her in the yard. He made Nucky fill in the grave himself. His father believes he was screwed on a land deal with the Commodore and hates him for it. Too much time wasted.
– The only characters I would like to see more of, are Chalky White and maybe, just maybe, Dr. Narcisse.
– Not a lot happens again this episode, so with six hours left I don’t see a great ending in store for those of us that have watched from the beginning.
– “Why must it always be pandemonium?” – Van Alden
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.