That’s more like it. After three weeks of solid, but not quite great, episodes, Boardwalk delivers a thoroughly entertaining hour of television that makes good use of the indelible history seeping up through every orifice of the show’s relationships. Some things never change, indeed, and even though power shifts and people die, the cycle of the environment will always pull you back in.
We see Margaret and Nucky paired for the entire episode, and it’s a delight watching Kelly Macdonald and Steve Buscemi so effortlessly play off of each other to deliver a compelling interaction. The dynamic is immediately tense, especially given the presence of Joe Kennedy and his sweet talk, but as the night wears on, the two become looser, joking with each other and even kissing like old times. Nucky still wants to save Margaret and Margaret still hones in on Nucky’s isolation, but something familiar is perhaps what they both need right now. After all, they’re both in precarious situations regarding who they want to be and who they were, and they’re two people who can immediately pick up on reasons for behavior in each other.
There’s still trust–Margaret handling the Rothstein problem herself–and affection here amidst the obvious business reasons, and Margaret even asks Nucky if he’s going to kill Carolyn Rothstein. Of course, she doesn’t know that that’s completely out of line with what Nucky’s current, desired trajectory is, but at the same time, neither of them know that Sally’s been shot. The ending of the episode throws the situation into a whole new perspective, and you start to question whether Enoch Thompson will actually get out of this as a legitimate businessman.
Through the flashbacks, we see how Nucky got into this, as always. However, there’s an interesting plot point regarding the Commodore: he’s the one who fired Nucky, and the kid was therefore drawn to Mr. Lindsay and his family. Throughout the dinner, what young Nucky Thompson wants is right in front of him: a caring family; later, he tries to enlist Lindsay’s assistance in ‘taking care’ of his father, but Lindsay declines and advises him to not get into things he doesn’t belong in. There’s already resentment building up, though, resentment of those who have it better than him, resentment swimming amongst a semblance of aspiration.
As for the other parts of the episode, the Chicago Capone plot is obviously the standout. Anytime Capone and Mueller are on screen together is absolutely electric, and the way the latter turns the situation on Luciano and makes it all about respect is masterful. “You can rule by fear, or you can rule by love. Remember that if you’re ever in charge,” Capone remarks to Luciano, who’s the very symbol of the new rule, and here we see another example of history being an essential aspect of the way the present is run. The problem is that the truth of history, in this case, is bound to reveal itself at some point, and aside from the dramatic irony of the situation–we know that Capone won’t be in charge forever–there’s also an irony in the fact that Capone doesn’t remember Jimmy Darmody. For an environment in which the past seems to matter a great deal and seems to define you, the future is what keeps you alive.
– “I may have soiled myself.” Oh, van Alden/Mueller. I’ll miss you after the series ends.
-Al Capone is one of the most watchable characters in TV history.
-The entire first Capone sequence is beautifully filmed. I’m especially fond of the shot of Capone, illuminated by the light, smoke billowing around his shoulders. World class filmmaking right there, if I may say so myself.
-Right when Luciano gave Capone the gift, I predicted it would be used as a stabbing device. I was right. I do kind of wish elephants had been incorporated, though.
-So, the mole knows about van Alden.
-Four more. We have lots of plot left to cover.
Photo credit: HBO, Boardwalk Empire