Monday, September 30, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode Four "All In"

This week we find Nucky striking deals, Kessler cutting loose, and seemingly everyone making moves.

Old Man Duggan: I don't know about you, but it really felt to me that there was a sense of foreboding hanging over this whole episode. The first 40 minutes or so felt relatively light, but there was no goddamn way Winter & Co. was going to let that make its way to the end of the episode. Where to begin?

Wordy Ginters: Definitely not with that sad excuse of limp day old daisies Van Alden Mueller pawned off on Capone's "bloater" convalescing in the hospital. Never deal from the back end of your inventory with business partners.

OMD: Thematically, this episode seemed to be all about transitions. Nucky trying to extract himself from Atlantic City with the Tampa Gambit. Nelson-George Van Alden-Mueller semi-unwillingly switching from Camp O'Banion to Camp Capone. N-G VA-M completing the transition to full-fledged (though still gun-shy) thug. Eddie Kessler leaving the tasks of the chauffeur and personal valet behind. Meyer Lansky passing Arnold Rothstein by, at least in Nucky's esteem. Dunn Purnsley doing dirty work for Dr. Valentin Narcisse, not Chalky. It seems like all the pieces on the chess board weren't just moving, but half were switching colors.

WG: Not only switching colors, but characters trying on new roles. Eddie obviously too green for the valet-to-bag-man promotion and a soft touch to boot (I do hope we get some side stories involving his sons and the Nazi party before Hoover scissors him to confession). Dr. Narcisse playing Shari Lewis to Purnsley's Lambchop. I liked the Jedi mind trick that resulted in Purnsley carpeting the stairs with that pimp. Narcisse proceeded to sample the goods, right? Although the episode was a little heavy on the predictable side, I'm digging the sinister vibe that Narcisse has going. Shades of De Niro in Angel Heart.

OMD: I really loved the way the Nucky/Rothstein/Lansky plot line played out tonight. Rothstein--who had up to this point almost always seemed cold and composed showed weakness, at his precious poker table no less--gets an offer that at first he is hesitant to accept. He wants to test Nucky's mettle on the felt--believing that he can't truly know a man without having sat across the table from him--but actually exposes his own weakness, removing himself from Nucky's consideration and getting his ass handed to him while he was at it. "Everything you want from me tonight is on the table." Indeed. Meyer Lansky, the same man who lived to be 80 years old and never served time despite being neck-deep in organized crime for the better part of 60 years, sees his opportunity while watching his mentor lose his cool and snags what had been Rothstein's deal.

WG: Always good to see a character throw a new wrinkle. Rothstein on tilt. I thought he looked more pale than usual. I hope this doesn't mean less A.R. going forward, but I would imagine it does. Were they playing Texas Hold 'em? I know Tim Van Patten didn't direct the episode, but perhaps it was a nod to nephew Vincent Van Patten, aka, the Vin Scully of the World Poker Tour. I could have used a little more tension in that poker table showdown. Initially, since A.R. has generally showed impeccable instincts and discretion, I thought for sure he was baiting Nucky for a big score. Then, I thought maybe it was a backhanded way to get Nucky the $500K buy in for the Tampa project. In the end, he's the sad-sack gambling addict, chasing the thrill of the play because the money doesn't inflame his loins.

OMD: Nelson, Nelson, George, what are they going to do with you? O'Banion clearly doesn't value Van Alden-Mueller and is somehow more unstable than Al Capone. How he ends up choosing between these two guys is beyond me. Perhaps more importantly, though, did he miss out on the lapskaus? I hope Sigrid saved him some. As for Michael Shannon himself, the discomfort he is able to show is really quite astounding. I really don't know that there is an actor I am more captivated by than Shannon.

WG: His face is the perfect canvas for multiple shades of despair. I think he does heartburn best. His mild discomfort is strong. I completely agree. Shannon is a compelling SOB on the screen. "I do have a sense of humor". That line is a bitch to pull off unless you are a stud like Shannon. I regret that I haven't seen much of his movie work, something I'll be correcting. His bug-eyed homicidal Jesus/justice freak schtick was a major part of what pulled me into to Boardwalk Empire back in Season One. It's been interesting to watch him drift from a man with a fucking capital "P" purpose to being cast in the breeze, buffeted back and forth between selling clothes irons, a flower delivery guy, and reluctant muscle for O'Banion and Capone.

OMD: Is it just me, or did Jerry Flentje's neighbor in 1C (actress Maggie Fine) have a Maura Tierney thing going for her? I'd take a bite out of her apple. Will they at least come back and leave a note?

WG: I think that sadistic fuck Capone gets harder at defenestrating slow paying customers than womanizing. And what is with all the Capone brothers? Of course, all of my Capone knowledge came from The Untouchables, and what I took from that movie is that Kevin Costner is a dick. How about brother Herc Capone in a bad toupee? Apparently, Herc is the one with the social skills. I did get a kick out of Al's orgasmic coke-fueled machine gun murder. Serious joie de vivre. Eat that Wyatt Earp.

OMD: While I'm on the look-alike tangent, Clayton (Willie's roommate, actor Owen Campbell) has to be related to Vincent Kartheiser, right?

WG: Jesus. Nice call. Clayton's has the potential to be as snakey as Pete Campbell.

OMD: So Willie sure slipped Hank a killer cocktail, huh? He shat himself something fierce, a la George Brett. Of course, then he puked his guts out, more literally than those words are muttered. Willie, what is Old Man Conwell going to think?

WG: I typically try not to get too fucking bent with predicting things or letting implausible plot twists gnaw at me. Maybe it was because of the ricin schtick from Breaking Bad, but you knew Willie was going to fuck up the recipe when he went Drugstore Cowboy in the badly-lit chemistry lab. I think the ramifications of dealing with a dead rich boy is going to set up some interesting action, and soon.

OMD: Well, Dunn certainly took it to that "duppy" on the stoop, didn't he? I thought it was interesting that Narcisse saw that form of vampirism as potentially harmful to the "Libyan" race as it ultimately turned out to be, or at least as it would have appeared from his point-of-view. It'll be interesting to see how this Narcisse incursion into Chalky White's turf plays out, especially in regards to Dunn.

WG: Purnsley is most likely fucked. It's pretty apparent that Narcisse holds Dunn in even less regard than the duppy. Although he'll get some good mileage out of Purnsley before he disposes of him. Did you pick up on the Marcus Garvey reference? Another cool historical angle that makes Boardwalk Empire so damn good. I don't know as much about Garvey as I should, but damn, there used to be some radical mofo's running around back in the 20's Between Garvey, Gene Debs, Bob La Follette, and straight up crooks like Harding, these guys make the political movers and shakers to today look like milquetoast.

OMD: Totally missed the Marcus Garvey reference, though, like you, I don't know enough about him in the first place. The instant Eddie took a drink with Bottles, you knew it was as good as over for him. If there's one thing characters in this show can't have, it's a good time. The instant someone smiles, you know they're fucked. Maybe Eddie doesn't fall completely, but he's definitely up Shit Creek now. For a while, I was worried that the gun up his sleeve was going to discharge, but that was mostly because I'd forgotten about the Bureau's strategy meeting until I saw Agent Knox in the train station. Eddie, you dear, dear bastard, I hope you make it out of this.

WG: He's got a chance if he sobers up. His loyalty may trump his inexperience, and prevent him from saying something stupid. But obviously Hoover isn't fucking around, and Knox has already demonstrated he's crazy. Eddie may get torn apart like a soft Bavarian pretzel.

OMD: Thoughts?

WG: Whither Margaret?

OMD: Apparently she went the way of the Nets and the upper middle class in Manhattan: Brooklyn. I'll be damned if we've seen her, though.

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