Monday, October 7, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode Five "Erlkonig"

Agent Knox takes Eddie Kessler to an abandoned chair-stacking center, while Gillian tries to get her fix, and Nucky is fixing Willie's boner.

Wordy Ginters: Boardwalk Empire borrows from Goethe for the episode title and for key dialogue that serves as the fulcrum upon which Knox breaks Eddie. What other series has the nards to trade in this kind of dusty English major territory?

Old Man Duggan: I wish that I could say that my degree in that field of study did me good here, but I did not study Goethe in college. I do love when literature rears its formidable but oft-ugly head in my programs.

WG: Goethe's "Erlkoning" is about a father who fails to believe and protect his son from a supernatural monster. Who are the fathers and who are the sons in this episode?

OMD: Well, it seems that Eddie was a father and a son. A father who strayed from his family, who then supplanted his family with a relationship that alternated between being the father and the son with Nucky. Obviously, he tended to Nucky as his valet and chauffeur--the nature of the care provided perhaps skewing a bit more towards the maternal than the paternal but still intrinsically parental--but when looking at the emotional elements of their relationship, Eddie yearns, or rather yearned, for the approval of Nucky--who was the provider of his security of a more pecuniary nature--and it isn't as though Nucky is simply his employer, as he was actually putting a roof over Mr. Kessler's head. Really, though, isn't Nucky everyone's father? At least everyone living on the Monopoly board. And while Nucky is off tending to another in his flock, the one who cared for him the most came into harm's way while he was absent, unable to protect him because another son (and the odds-on favorite to replace Kessler) got himself into trouble.

WG: Is Capone being a coke fiend historically accurate? Van Alden Mueller's face after the toot from Capone's spoon was almost too good. It was so funny it almost ruined everything. Too discordant for the character and the setting.

OMD: So apparently there is an Al Capone biography, Capone: The Man and the Era, by Laurence Bergreen, that asserts that Capone was a long-time cocaine abuser, an assertion that requires a level of speculation that causes some to bristle and one that has no eyewitness accounts to back up the corroborate it, though it is consistent with the perforated nasal septum and his erratic behavior. As for Nelson-George, the look on Michael Shannon's face was amazing. Most interesting actor out there. While funny, I do think it fit because we have seen the beast that lives deep within him. Even if it didn't tap the beast directly, there is an intensity to Van Alden that runs in the veins.

WG: Speaking of obscure references, did you catch Frank refer to Al as "Garibaldi?" If wikipedia is to be believed, and I can't think of a single reason why it shouldn't be, then Garibaldi was an Italian General and politician who kicked much ass, literally around the globe, back in the late 1800s. So yeah, the reference works. As long as we're at it, I'm pretty sure Gillian was name checking Captain Beefheart with her "Abba-Zaba" schtick, and not the taffy candy bar with the peanut butter center. What horrors did she have to commit to acquire that candy bar?

OMD: I caught the Garibaldi reference but had no idea who he was. Surely, they are talking of their fellow countryman. As for the Abba-Zaba, not only did it look like she'd been doing untoward things to that wrapper, but one has to think that Tommy will never be able to eat a candy bar for fear that he'll become a junky like his dear old Mima.

WG: Nice touch placing a rumpled flag in the background of Willie's dorm room as Nucky calmly explained that blood and family power trumps everything, and not to worry too much about a few innocent folks getting steamrolled along the way. It's ugly to see, but all too true. Apple pie and all that. Clayton Campbell, All-American rube. Welcome to the 99%.

OMD: So Clayton Campbell has to be related to Pete Campbell, right? Disgraced uncle? Father perhaps? Can we assume that Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire exist in the same world of historical fiction given Weiner and Winter's connection on The Sopranos? I'm going to go ahead and answer my rhetorical question in the affirmative. 99% indeed.

WG: Was there a male character in this episode that Gillian didn't offer herself too? Waiting for the man is such a bitch. I thought there was a chance she was going to hit up Tommy with a sexual offer in return for his milk monies. Considering her history, not out of the question. She has to be the most vile and least sympathetic character in the series. I'm curious to see how twisted Ron must be to display such understanding towards her at the end of the episode.

OMD: If she lives to see the day, I'm sure she'll throw herself at her grandson. She's so wretched. I hope that Livingston's character is a sadist, and she gets her just deserts.

WG: How bad-ass did Purnsley look getting his shoes shined? The man can convey some cool, evil menace. He's the black Lawrence Tierney. Is his kingly perch meant to convey his growing influence and power via the heroin trade, or does it show weakness that Gillian can so easily find him in the masculine holiness of the barbershop?

OMD: I would assume that King Sweetback, a man who doesn't even need a name to be recognized, is enjoying his newfound clout. I'm guessing he doesn't feel like he's vulnerable having been found by Gillian in what we presume are his new junk-slinging digs, but if Gillian can find him this easily, it can't be good in the long run. One has to assume that Dunn and Chalky's relationship is about to get strained.

WG: Lots of flashy cinematic camera work. The whole episode was shot in shadows or awash in a pale blue-grey patina. From Frank's epic death (shades of Miller's Crossing), to the newspaper rustling in the windows right before Eddie broke, like his last gasp, or the empty window after he jumped, Boardwalk Empire once again matches it's literary pretension with stunning visuals.

OMD: I'm glad I didn't do my due diligence on Frank Capone because, if I had, I'd have known he was about to get pumped full of lead. Regardless, your boy Van Patten brought it again. Hell, even the scene in the hallway in the school and all of the gauzy scenes while Gillian in a heroin-induced haze looked great. I liked the framing in the scenes with Knox interrogating Kessler. Knox occupies the left side of the screen in medium-close one-shots, while Kessler occupies the right in alternating medium-close one-shots, suggesting an oppositional relationship, one forcing against the other. When Kessler breaks and accepts his cane back from his BI captors, he sits on the left side of the frame, having flipped. I don't think it's insignificant that in the Eddie's final moments, he looks into the mirror, which is framed again on the right side of the screen, sees a reflection of himself back home on the other side of the fight, and knows that he has only one path he can take given his transgression. The shot of Kessler going out the window isn't one I'll soon forget. You'll be missed, Eddie.

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