Monday, September 9, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode One "New York Sour"

Just as we did for Season Three of Boardwalk Empire and for every episode of Downton Abbey, Wordy Ginters and I bounce words back and forth whilst trying to wade through what happened. This week finds the colorful cast of characters (with a couple significant exceptions) getting established in largely new environs. 

New York Sour
Two ounces bourbon, 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, 1 ounce simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, cover, and shake until outside of shaker is frosty. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Pour 1/2 ounce red wine (Shiraz or Malbec) over the back of a spoon held just above the drink's surface so wine floats on top.

Wordy Ginters: I thought it was a good omen that Timmie Van Patten--A.K.A. Salami from The White Shadow--directed the Season Four opener. If I recall, he’s been at the helm for many of the series high points. Unlike previous seasons, this run opens at a gallop. Not much hand-holding for those new to the show, or like me, a bit foggy about how it all ended last year. Terence Winter is fucking fearless about whacking primary characters. Darmody. The Commodore. Manny Horvitz. That hapless Prohibition Agent who loosed his mortal coil via Sigrid and Van Alden’s meat tenderizer/suffocation combo. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome the loss of Gyp. Dude burned like fire on the screen. He may have been sadistic, sexually deviant, a shameless ham, and obvious as all get out, but sparks were present nonetheless. The challenge for Boardwalk Empire is to keep cranking out compelling characters. I’m not sure I saw any new faves tonight.

Old Man Duggan: Yeah, I spent most of the episode alternating between being distracted trying to figure out who the fuck Harrow was offing and trying to figure out which of these new characters was going to factor in heavily to the goings-on this season. I mean maybe we'll get a big story line about the restaurant owner in Warsaw, IN, telling passersby about that spectacular contiguous brick wall, but Dickie The Cuckold sure as hell isn't factoring into much going forward. I'll be curious to see what Ron Livingston's character is really doing in Atlantic City, as I'd be surprised if he was really a Piggly Wiggly advance man, and he can't just be a love interest for junkie Gillian Darmody. As for TVP, he's directed a slew of eps, including "To the Lost" in 2012, for which he won an Emmy. He's been at the helm for each season finale and the last three season premieres. He also went to high school with Jerry Seinfeld and graduated in the same class as Brian Setzer and Brian Baldinger.

WG: I come back to this again and again, like Ned Yost and the bunting, but Jesus H. Christ, this show is beautiful to watch. The opening scene at the Tippecanoe? With the snow wafting down. It was like getting beamed inside a beautiful snow globe circa 1924. The radio station buzzing in the background. And did you notice the barkeep? If I’m not mistaken, that was the same dude from No Country For Old Men who Javier Bardem fucked with at the little gas station? Javier flipped the coin to determine whether or not he’d live or die? He’s playing the same kind of country rube here. I’m looking forward to other NCFOM alumni appearances. Speaking of which, where the hell is Margaret/Kelly MacDonald?

OMD: Good catch on the counter man. That is none other than Gene Jones reprising his role as rube. Perhaps it was Winter & Co.'s wink at the audience, seeing as though I expect any random person to get killed horrifically after Gyp's reign of terror. The scene was great, and you knew someone was going to get got. I'm still not sure why, largely because I can't remember if these guys were some unfinished business that Harrow was taking care of or if we'll find out who they were later. As for the possibly former Mrs. Thompson, your guess is as good as mine as to where she's gone off to, but I'm guessing she took a bunch of Owen's keepsakes with her.

WG: You make heads or tails of Harrow’s trail of death? Obvious that Rothstein, Masseria, and Nucky have reached a tentative d├ętente. Lansky and Luciano are split. Nucky can go to Broadway, Harlem, Macy’s, and eat at the Russian Tea Room. Rothstein can enjoy the beach at Atlantic City (as if). I couldn’t quite piece together what Harrow was up to. Settling scores? Working for somebody?

OMD: None whatsoever. He must be settling scores, but I'll be damned if I can figure out why or for whom. I get the sense he's a lone gunman at this point, but I suppose he could surprise. Perhaps it was a familial score he was evening if a few years after the fact. The Harrow family homestead could have been seized in a shady way. As for the armistice, I might be wrong, but I think the tension with Masseria will cool to a simmer for a bit. If I'm not mistaken, Masseria is relatively quiet from now (the beginning of 1924) until 1928, but I could be oversimplifying things in that assumption.

WG: Capone with a little comic relief. And this is where things went a bit sour for me. You knew the outrage at having his name spelled wrong (fot-whosis? I ain’t nobodies fototis) would inevitably lead to bulldogging a pale and trembling reporter in some cramped office. The wrestling and the horseplay with his brothers. Beating one of them with his size 4.5 wingtip. Those damn Italians are a gregarious and hot blooded bunch, ain’t they? I get it. Capone is straining under Torrio’s leash, and hungers for more power and recognition. If only this aspect of the story telling matched the heights of the cinematography.

OMD: "New York Sour," right? I worry a bit about the Brothers Capone. I like Capone, but I want the balance between his animalistic side and the family man. I worry that the brothers stuff won't play as well.

Kinkmaster General
WG: Boardwalk Empire does kink better than True Blood. They’ve apparently replaced the erotic asphyxiation fetish with the bi-racial/cuckold/voyeur trifecta. I was hoping Purnsley was going to play out that scene with the assured sexual sophistication of David Bowie or Charles Kuralt. But you can’t fuck with Purnsley. He ain’t all that far removed from jail. I don’t know what I liked better, that she riffed on John Travolta with the “Don’t touch my hair” line, or that she was able to snare Purnsley by scrawling a crude simulacra of coitus on a napkin. She might was well have written “I'm batshit crazy” on that thing.

OMD: All I'm hoping for is that Dunn gets to finish what he started and gets to "swirl that cock" per her command. Her sketching skills were not quite where Jackie Treehorn's were, but you've got to admit there's a charm to it all. I, for one, am glad Dunn poked holes in that racist cuckold. Hell, he wasn't even very good at sitting back an laying waste to his junk. Where's the feverish jerking there, Dickie? I will say that I loved Chalky giving Dunn the business while he was disposing of Dickie's corpse. "Sweetback, Sweetback, the hell you leave the door open for? Letting all the cold in." Eli getting in on it telling him not to slam the door.

WG: Speaking of cameos, good to see Herc from The Wire joining Capone’s team.

OMD: Let's just hope his lack of attentiveness doesn't fuck over Randy a second time.

WG: Did you catch the names of Eli’s son’s college buddies: Flitch. Dobby. Tip. Henry, A.K.A. Bucket. Non-smokers all. What the hell is going on over there at Temple?

OMD: Yeah, a veritable shitshow of college boys with douchey nicknames. Temple is clearly a collegiate hellscape if we're to judge it by its dearth of shitty monikers and fetid fight song. Also, am I crazy, or did they re-cast Willie? I do not remember Eli's eldest looking like that at all.

WG: More cameos, Ron Livingston from Office Space and Swingers. He could use a knowledgeable companion. Gillian has him dead or addicted to bath salts inside of 5 episodes.

OMD: Let's hope he doesn't go the same way that the Jimmy surrogate went last season. Stay away from the bathtub, Ron. Stay away.

WG: I happened to catch a few old episodes in the run up to the new season. I was struck by how much I like this show. The meticulous attention to detail. Character development over plot. Breathing life into infamous history. Narrative that moves a notch slow, not pimping the audience on false starts or cliff hangers. That being said, there is an ingredient missing. Something about tonight’s episode seemed lacking. The end of Season Three was electric. The confrontation with Gyp and getting sideways with the New York mob. Capone riding to the rescue. The delicate balance between Nucky, Chalky and Capone’s racist gunsels. I’m conditioned to be a little disappointed to have to begin that slow build up again.

OMD: This episode definitely spent a lot of time setting the stage, and Jeffrey Wright didn't even make an appearance. I thought for sure that Eddie Cantor's friend was going to be Nucky's distraction this season, but that ain't happening. Talk about misplaying a hand. There were a lot of bodies that hit the ground in this episode, but with the exception of Warren Knox's play at the Borst farm house none of it was of the surprising variety. I guess we'll see what Knox has planned next week, at least in part, judging by the scenes for next week. We did get a glimpse of some of Nucky's bigger plans, as it looks like he's going to try to make a play in Florida, if we're to take the post card and maps in the folder to mean something (a safe bet given their penchant for wasting no moments). I think some of the let-down might be coming from the fact that we have no damn idea what Harrow was doing clipping guys across the Midwest. The two guys at the Tippecanoe were surely dickbags, but what the hell did that desk jockey do? Regardless, Terence Winter has earned my trust. I'm sure the season will have plenty of payoff.

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