Monday, November 25, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode Twelve "Farewell Daddy Blues"

This season comes to a conclusion with, well, not a bang, per se. Narcisse and Chalky meet. One should fall. Neither do, yet both do. Nucky leaves Eli to deal with Knoxiver on his own, and boy, does he. Having ensured that Tommy grows up a Sagorsky, Harrow gets off the train at the Elysian Fields.

Franz Nadorp's Goethe's Ankunft im Elysium
Old Man Duggan: I really don't know where to start on this one. It's odd having so few bodies dropping and so little ultimate resolution from a season finale of Boardwalk Empire. We open on a storm in the distance, and then a field at night. The storm has its obvious symbolic resonance, but the importance of the spot in the field over which the camera hovers is not clear until about fifteen minutes later when Jimmy Darmody's actual body is finally unearthed. With one exhumation, Gillian's life is effectively over. I think I speak for all of us when I say, thank fucking Christ.

Wordy Ginters: A Boardwalk Empire season with the Boardwalkiest kind of finale imaginable. I too was at full stature during the opening scenes. Thunder rumbles. Restless wheat (nice foreshadowing). Bell Buoys tolling. Unfortunately, the can of whoop ass that was clearly hinted at was only punctured, not completely opened.

OMD: Yeah, after last season's EXPLOSIVE finale, this one wasn't even remotely as big, though they did manage to keep Narcisse in the fold.

Now, of course, this does mean that there could well be an investigation into Jimmy's death now, but I doubt Nucky cuts the deal with Harrow unless he was sure that Jimmy's murder couldn't be pinned on him. Let's hope this officially puts Jimmy's death and its fallout in the rearview.

WG: Good riddance, Michael Pitt. For fuck's sake, let's make it permanent this time. I'll be surprised if the ghost of Darmody is able to get a mention in edgewise next season.

OMD: No shit. Michael Pitt was actually one of the hurdles I needed to jump over to fully embrace the show. He definitely lacked the gravitas of his fellow actors, Paz de la Huerta excluded, in the cast. I'm ready to move on.

Most of the conflict this season came from the corners of Chalky White and Dr. Valentin Narcisse, so it makes sense to go there next, I guess. Chalky sneaks back into town under the blanket of night, sets Nucky on the task of taking care of Narcisse, and meets with Narcisse at the Onyx Club--Havre de Grace posse in tow--where Maybelle ends up catching a bullet meant for Narcisse. On the Narcisse side of the things, at the meet he produces Maybelle in exchange for information on Daughter Maitland's whereabouts only to have Maybelle display the worst timing ever and step in the path of the bullet from Harrow's rifle, ensuring that each one loses a daughter on account of their feud. Hoover flips Narcisse, turning him into an informant on all matters Marcus Garvey; Chalky is left sitting on Oscar Boneau's porch, Maybelle dead, family--for all intents and purposes--lost, much worse off than when the season started. It would appear as though each man is worse off than when the season started. I guess there's a lesson somewhere in there about hubris and fidelity, especially since both men were often in the wrong this season--even within the skewed morality of this show. Both men got too wrapped up in their pride and vanity, and both came out at the end of this season stripped of much of their metaphorical virility. I suppose we'll find out Chalky is actually content to just have his bankroll in one pocket and his pistol in the other next season. We'll likely find out just how Narcisse likes answering to a master, too.

WG: Unconventional to have both Chalky and Narcisse survive, both wounded, both reduced, both nearly broken. It's almost as if the writers set out to present the perfect hell for each character: Narcisse in service to the man, dropping dimes on a personal hero; and Chalky bereft of his daughter, his business, and stuck on the porch back in Havre de Grace with Scrapper and the country cousins.

OMD: Definitely. I really have no idea what trajectory these two characters will be on next season. They've definitely both been effectively stripped of their independence.

I'd posit that the two strongest scenes of the episode revolved around Eli, understandably so given the character's internal conflict these past few episodes. In the first, Eli comes out to the Albatross to pick up Nucky for the meeting that will never happen, and the tension between the brothers hits a fever pitch with Nucky holding all the cards, or at least holding the gun to Eli's head. When Nucky seethed, "It's what you deserve," I thought for sure Eli was a goner. Bravo, Winter, Korder, and Van Patten. The resolution of that scene was fucking spectacular. "Nothing will fill that hole you got inside. Don't you know that yet?" For a second straight week, Eli shows that he understands Nucky better than Nucky does himself. In the second, Eli gets to--as Nucky put it--drown in his mess. I love that the saw-playing--much like the machete for the coconuts earlier in the season--something so innocent, was sullied so effectively with an act of violence. That, mon frere, was a knock-down, drag-out fight if ever there were one, the second epic one this season. Eli's rage worked in his favor this time, that's for sure. Once again, Shea Whigham is outstanding, as he has been all season. In a banner year of award-worthy performances on Boardwalk Empire, it really seems like Whigham's performance stands above them all.

WG: He was/is outstanding. As was Jeffy Wright. And Mike K. And Huston. Van Alden, of course. The dude who played Knoxiver [Brian Geraghty] imbued him with a glee club ruthlessness that was perfect. The show is fucking quality. I'd love to see what Milch would do with those guys and this story. The scene at the Albatross was great. Eli staring Nucky in the eyes, willing/daring/begging him to pull the trigger was intense. I wish the episode could have wrung more of that taut fucking drama out of other scenes. Definitely a good battle between an unhinged Knoxiver and a emotionally-amped Eli. The saw bit was great. As were the other accoutrements of family life that got summoned into deadly action. Vases. Decorations. Windows. A neck tie. Shades of Season Two, Gimcrack & Bunkum. You'll recall in that episode, Nucky made Eli kiss his shoes and beg for forgiveness. Shortly thereafter, Eli ended up beating a dude to death in his garage with a wrench. No one can push your buttons like family.

OMD: Holy hell, that vase. The shudder of Knoxiver's feet as Eli slammed the vase into his head one last time was huge. While we are on the subject of Eli, how about that shot of him waiting under the El for Capone's car only to have Van Alden driving? The bewilderment. The borderline incredulity. The hesitancy that gives way to resignation. I bet they'll have some catching up to do. That definitely adds a nice wrinkle to goings-on in Chicago, now that Torrio has handed the reins over to Al.

WG: Maybe a silver-lining to the tepid hand-job this finale proved to be is the promise of sexy action next season. Van Alden and Eli catching up on things is definitely one of them. Hoover interacting with Narcisse is another.

OMD: More so than in season's past, this finale definitely leaves a lot of strings left untied, ready to be taken into next season. The lack of resolution this season certainly could bode well for next season, as the stakes should be higher next year what with all this pent-up anger carrying over for so many characters.

Are those for us? We're going to need them.
The saddest part of the episode, obviously, was Harrow's demise. Clearly part of him felt like he was saying goodbye to Julia and Tommy at the train station, though that wasn't necessarily what he wanted. If only Harrow was still the ice-cold killing machine that he was before he finally recovered his humanity this season. Sure, within the constructs of this show there wasn't anywhere for his character to go at this point--with Tommy securely in a stable home and too many corpses in his past from which to possibly escape--but clearly we were all rooting for the image that he saw as he walked up the path to the house--his family, his life all put back into place. At least at the time of his death, he had pieced a life back together for himself. It's too bad soldiers such as himself don't get to simply walk away from the war.

WG: A cruel twist to make the new family man and morally re-born former assassin Harrow accidentally plug an innocent woman and fail his last job. Absolutely beautiful death scene though, from the moment he was riding the train, to the imagined homecoming, to the dirt nap by the sea. Harrow was easily one of my favorite characters. Let's tip a glass to the half-mask.

OMD: That was the bitch of it all, wasn't it? The chasm opened up in my heart is the size of the Grand Canyon. I'll miss you, old friend. You got the death scene chock-full of poesy that your tortured soul deserved. Oddly enough, it was hard for me to separate the scene with all its poignancy from the Steven Wright short film One Soldier, in which Wright's character heads to the afterlife in a train after being put to death.

It certainly appears as though Nucky isn't getting to head to Tampa after all, what with Sally Wheet drinking by herself while (I believe) we're to understand that Eli's family is heading out to the Albatross for the time being. Funnily enough, it certainly appears as though Nucky is, in fact, taking Eli's family from him, though at least mostly out of obligation.

I feel like I only scratched the surface. Any thoughts?

WG: Three thoughts. One, Truth is what those in power wish it to be. Two, why is Mickey still upright? Three, how great would Margaret and Rothstein be on House Hunters?

OMD: Three corresponding thoughts. Word. So Nucky can rap him with Eddie's cane again. Outstanding.

One Soldier by mrCham

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode Eleven "Havre de Grace"

The penultimate episode of the season finds Chalky nursing his wounds in the Pennsylvania countryside while Nucky tries to ferret out who the skunk in his camp is following a midnight call from Gaston Bullock Means. Roy's play with Gillian comes to light.

Old Man Duggan: First off, sorry for the delay, folks. I was out of commission on the Texas Gulf Coast without HBO or a computer to put this together with, so I come to you all cap in hand begging your forgiveness.

Wordy Ginters: Me? I was healing the poor. Giving sight to the rich. Or perhaps blithely endorsing a mini-vacation from the immediate reaction after-episode deadline pressure cooker.

OMD: Moving on past the excuses for our tardiness, this episode seemed to be operating primarily as a set-up piece for what is to come in next week's season finale. The backstory calm before the epic storm. Focusing first on Havre de Grace, where we spent much of the episode, it may not have been the source of a lot of tension or conflict, but I liked a lot of what was going on alongside the banks of the Susquehanna. Oscar Boneau (Louis Gossett, Jr.) was the first time the show has given us a link back to the black side of pre-Civil War America. It happened only in passing, but Boneau's talk of young black girls being sold on Queen Street and skepticism as to what the Civil War was actually fought over provided a nice bridge and historical depth to the proceedings.

WG: Gossett Jr.'s Boneau brings ancient gravitas to Albert's backstory, as well as a little heft to the race issues that Boardwalk Empire addresses in a pretty sophisticated way. I'm basically a slice of white bread in blue jeans and black Converse, so what the fuck do I know? It's pretty obvious that Terence Winter loves him some Chalky. Anti-heroes are about as passe as zombie fucking wives of vampire county reality TV these days, so to me it says something when an adulterous, murdering, Uncle Tom-ish, hot-head like Chalky is so Goddamn lovable.

OMD: "Never trust no buckras, no matter what." Chalky invoking the old Southeastern black word for white man or boss, likely derived from the Efik word for master, mbakara. Oscar's quick response, "Never trust no browns, neither," probably had a bit more relevance to Chalky's traveling companion than Chalky was gleaning from the advice, lending credence to Oscar's preceding statement, "Well, I told you a lot. Don't know what you heard." They also fit in "ofay" at the dinner table scene, just for good measure, dusting off another arcane term of disparagement against white people. Just like Nucky last season when he was entangled with Billie Kent and was unable to hear Rothstein's advice, we find Chalky in the same position, unable to see what people with wisdom on the matter at hand can see.

WG: The heart wants what the heart wants. The scenes in Maryland were beautiful. I watched the episode twice, and the second time around I realized that whenever Daughter and Chalky shared the frame, they were always separated by a window frame, a car door, a stile on the porch railing, or whatever. The composition on this show is unreal.

OMD: Yeah, it's really crazy how deliberately shot each episode of the show is. I guess that's what HBO money affords you. Time.

I also liked getting a bit more of Chalky's origins. The knockdown with some corner boys that he described in the car in the open took me back to The Wire for a split second. More than anything, though, I think this episode served as a moment for Chalky to peer through the looking glass and glimpse his future. For a man cut from his cloth, there is no going quietly into the night. Of course, Oscar probably goes down differently if Chalky never shows up in Havre de Grace, but as Tupac said, when you "live by the gun, [you] die by the gun."

WG: All in the game, yo. All in the game. I had the same Wire vapor trails sensation during that scene. Had to be a sly nod from the writers. If anything, I wish they would have introduced some of that backstory sooner or spent more time with it. Gossett Jr. was fantastic.

OMD: On the Gillian front, I believe I called it, but let's start at the beginning. The scene with Leander and Mr. Ferry on the stairs was nicely set-up, Gillian torn between her desire to hold onto the past or step into the future, the realization that what she needs to do for Tommy is to simply let go and that she needs to sell the Commodore's house, thus becoming unanchored, whirling out of control. Nicely done, Allen Coulter. Her gift of Jimmy's war medals actually seemed to give her a little shred of dignity before the fall. And what a fall it was. It played out like a long con straight out of The Grifters, surely the intention as the sudden influx of cash by way of the sale of the house gave cause to wonder if Roy wasn't, in fact, simply running a con on her. In a sense, I suppose he was. A Pinkerton. Who'd have guessed? Oh, that's right. Me. You can't run from Roger's corpse, Gillian. Ron Livingston will see to it.

WG: Nice call. Old Man Duggan, Plot Hunter.

OMD: I have to say I really liked the framing and composition in the scene in the diner with Eli and Tolliver. Tolliver: the lawman, bathed in light, clarity of face equating to clarity of vision. Eli: the fallen lawman, face obscured in the shadows, the darkness symbolic of the position he finds himself in, no clear way out. Eli's assessment of Nucky showed that he knows Nucky better than Nucky knows himself. Nucky's constant talk of wanting out is just Nucky trying to run from the obvious fact that he is addressing an internal need in his quest for supremacy.

WG: I'm glad you mentioned that scene. I dug the smoke from the table behind Eli billowing over his shoulder on the close-ups. Poor bastard was stooped over his coffee, bent, broken, and smoking. Knoxiver looked like he was being lit for a 1950's toothpaste commercial. Speaking of smoking, have you had the pleasure of viewing Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast? The Beast looks like a cross between Sluggerrr and the Lion from The Wizard of Oz, but he literally emanates smoke in many of his scenes. I don't know how they worked that effect back in the 40's, nail a smoke pot to the back of the costume? Smoke. So versatile. So sexy. So deadly. So visually communicative. So fucking smokey.

OMD: I've seen none of Jean Cocteau's work. My minor in film studies fails me yet again. Damn you, University of Minnesota. Damn you straight to Hell.

Of course, Eli couldn't cover his tracks well enough at the dinner table after Tolliver's visit to Eli's house was inadvertently revealed while they supped. Nucky knows something wicked his way comes. There's no fucking way he's at that meeting with Masseria and Narcisse, right? He could certainly use the meeting to clear the way a bit, conveniently getting held up elsewhere. He's a cool, calculating sonuvabitch, and he clearly knows something is amiss with Eli. Of course, he could just have Harrow take out Narcisse and anyone else who stands in his way.

WG: I think you've probably bagged another plot twist for your trophy room. I'm guessing Willie and Nuck had time to suss out the queer "insurance salesman" anecdote, and Nucky has done the algebra required to solve Means's hilarious phone call. Harrow will have Narcisse in his crosshairs. If only because I don't think Winter can give history the finger. Got to be a denizen of the fictional world.

OMD: That was a fantastic phone call, wasn't it? I laughed so many times during that scene.

So just a few days to wait for this season's conclusion. Any predictions? I got Harrow snuffing out Narcisse, though I hope Leandor Sydnor takes over his Harlem Chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, running it on the up and up. I sure as hell hope Scrapper and Levi come back to the A.C. with Chalky as soon as they send Weems a-dirt-nappin'.

WG: I think one of the "good guys" gets whacked. Harrow or Chalky. Like Abraham offering his son Isaac. Winter has to let some blood to keep things fresh. Leandor administering a regular program of lectures and one-act plays for the Universal Negro Improvement Association is the Boardwalk Empire spin-off yin to Breaking Bad's Better Call Saul yang.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode Ten "White Horse Pike"

This week's episode saw Chalky make a run at Dr. Narcisse, Nucky find out that Masseria was using his trucks to smuggle heroin, and Chalky barely escaping the episode with his life after Bader turned on Nucky.

Wordy Ginters: Does anything portend turmoil more definitively than clouds in your coffee? With the opening shot of a half-bearded Eli, his creamy cup of coffee, and a not so subtle nod to Carly Simon, you knew shit was going to get stirred up in White Horse Pike.
You had me several years ago when I was still na├»ve / Well you said that we made such a pretty pair and that you would never leave / But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me / I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee / Clouds in my coffee… -Carly Simon
Fuck Warren Beatty. And his brother Ned. Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” will forever more serve as the coda for the Daughter Maitland and Dr. Narcisse in my mind.

Old Man Duggan: Indeed. That's at least two episodes this season that started on a close-up of a cup of coffee. I suppose this shot was intended to strike a chord about two disparate things mixing together. Different races working together. Men and women working together. Heroin and booze coming together more fully in the vice-peddling in organized crime. A lot of new political wrinkles getting worked in this week.

WG: The episode was primarily concerned with asymmetrical deal-making. Capone jamming a succession plan down Torrio’s throat. Knox with his hand up Eli’s ass (at the breakfast table! Is nothing sacred? Breakfast for fuck’s sake. The meal that projects the coziest Norman Rockwell vibe of all family feeding times). Rothstein using Margaret to get over on his Anaconda Realty investment. Nucky using the open grave gambit to claim a piece of the heroin pie via Lansky. But by far the most compelling storyline (other than the Harrow/Chalky hand-shake, which was nearly as iconic as seeing Armstrong walk on the moon) was the love triangle between Chalky, Nucky, and Narcisse. Did you think Chalky was going to get out of the episode alive?

OMD: For a second, I was worried, but then I realized there were two more episodes left, which leaves far too much time before the season's end to kill off a character as central to the show as Chalky. I'm not entirely sure how Nucky manages to extract Narcisse from the heroin dealings without infuriating Joe Masseria, however. I loved the alleyway handshake. I can't say I was expecting for Harrow's job to be dishwasher/wound-dresser. The scene I liked even more, though, was tea-time with Margaret and Rothstein. There was something sort of sweet about the whole thing. I, for one, was happy to see Margaret get a little bit of something for herself, and I loved that she saw her boss for the crook he is. Different shades of crooks, but it definitely seemed like there was a message about Wall Street hidden deftly between the lines there.

WG: How bad-ass was Chalky with a US flag for a sling?

OMD: Almost as bad-ass as him strangling that fucko deputy with it. Those shitbirds got what was coming to 'em. I loved that Chalky was concerned with whether or not using the red, white, and blue was gauche. Always concerned with social convention that Chalky.

WG: TV rarely gets more satisfying than the question Nucky levels at Narcisse: “There is something I’ve been meaning to ask you. Who the fuck do you think you are?” It was nice that Winter gave the audience a trail of bread crumbs--Willie with the nicely-timed info, telling Nucky that he saw Narcisse consorting with Bader--to reassure us that Nucky didn’t actually sell out Chalky like he appeared to in his deal with Masseria, Lansky, and Narcisse. Winter has allowed Nucky to be a stone-cold bastard before, namely by offing Jimmy Darmody at the end of Season Two. It would have been ballsy to allow Nucky to offload his relationship with Chalky for 1/3 of the heroin trade. Viewer anarchy. Other than Harrow, I’m not sure there is a more popular character.

OMD: Definitely. Unlike Darmody though, Chalky has always been loyal to Nucky, even if their relationship has been strained a few times. Darmody got too big for his britches and tried to make a move on Nucky. You come at the king, you best not miss. Given Jimmy's transgressions, he had to go. Chalky has had Nucky's back whenever he's needed it. I just hope Chalky doesn't think Nucky turned on him, something he could certainly ascertain from the deputies trying to off him. I'm just glad Chalky was paying attention to where they were going. Were he one of those passengers who simply sit in the car without paying how they're getting where they're going any mind, Chalky'd be taking a dirt nap right now.

WG: I admire Al Capone’s unconventional taste in prostitutes, Torrio set him up, right? I loved how Capone was trying to convince himself that Torrio’s timely exit was good luck rather than skeezy double-cross planning. Right? Right?

OMD: Yeah, I honestly don't know if that was Johnny Torrio's doing or if it was the Irish striking back. I guess given the presence of the Al's line about Torrio being lucky to have not been there, we must assume that the line has more significance than for Torrio to have not had anything to do with the HawthoRNe, sorry force of habit, Hawthorne getting lit up. I'm going to refrain from looking at Torrio's Wikipedia page so as to not spoil anything for myself. As for the prostitutes, different strokes, especially when it comes to Al Capone.

WG: The hotel that got shot to shit was the Hawthorne Inn. Capone’s home base is in Cicero. Cicero remains to this day the home of Hawthorne Park, the asshole of the Chicago horse racing circuit. As a degenerate horse racing fan, the only thing that would tickle me more than some horse racing angle on Boardwalk Empire is if Nucky asks Narcisse who the fuck he thinks he is one more time.

OMD: I know you still light your nightly prayer candle for Luck. I hope Nucky asks Narcisse who the fuck he is while he's capping him. Nucky doesn't get his hands dirty often, but he may make an exception for Narcisse. Speaking of Thompson's capping their aggravators, I wouldn't be surprised to see Eli putting a bullet in the back of Tolliver's head.

WG: Speaking of non-sequiturs, if the scenes from next week are to be believed, Lou Gossett Jr. makes an appearance as Chalkie’s old man. I hope it serves as a launching pad for you to wax poetic about Enemy Mine.

OMD: Now I'm not sure if you're yanking my chain or whether you knew that I had, in fact, written about Enemy Mine before. Sadly, I'm not sure how I can gracefully segue from this episode into a lengthy comparison between Enemy Mine and Brokeback Mountain.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Four, Episode Nine "Marriage and Hunting"

Van Alden trudges through a sea of emasculating shit only to come out on the other side smelling of roses--virile roses. In the process, bodies hit the floor. Narcisse reprimands Daughter Maitland with his tears and fists. Chalky calls Narcisse out at the Onyx Club. Rothstein comes a-beggin'. Harrow and Julia take a trip to the courthouse together.

Old Man Duggan: Lots to love about this episode. I'd have loved it more had it been simultaneously titled "How Nelson Got His Groove Back," though it's hard to complain about from whence the title came. The episode starts in Chicago, so let's go there first. Van Alden-Mueller is getting it six ways from Sunday. The wife is nagging. Chester's bawling left and right. O'Banion and Capone are both abusing him, verbally and physically. That worthless fat fuck whose face he melted in the most excellent iron-to-face scene ever comes back to get his revenge. The symbolism in that opening scene where he's working on the pipes and can't get it to budge because the nut is stripped was beautiful. A trio of rotting corpses in a through-way, O'Banion filled with lead, and a pilfering of the petty cash on his way out the door later, and Nelson Van Alden is fucking back. With. A. Vengeance.

WG: Van Alden unhinged. By Cream of Wheat. I thoroughly enjoyed the aftermath back home when he turned the Sears & Roebuck lean-to into the set of an ersatz rap video by "making it rain" (who has a thousand dollars in his hand?), and then all but asking Sigrid to say his name (Who built this house? Who pays the bills?). Personally, I prefer a more nuanced power-sharing arrangement for household management, but evidently Van Alden thirsts for control. And frankly, he deserves it.

OMD: I don't know which part had me smiling more: the menace on his face when he was telling O'Banion about drowning Sesbo, or the look of surprise on O'Banion's? I do wish Van Alden--and I think he'd insist that we drop the Mueller noise--had pulled the trigger himself, but alas, it wasn't in the cards. Still, the fact that he got his masculine swagger back at a flower shop is a tasty morsel.

WG: Mueller noise is so last episode. How does Michael Shannon express approximately 117 different emotions in every scene? Rage. Anxiety. Fearlessness. Desire. Heartburn. Guile. Guilelessness. Weirdo. It's amazing to watch. How bad is it for Van Alden that he wasn't the man to wipe out O'Banion? Did Capone lose faith in Van Alden, or did he get too coked up to wait around any longer? He may think Van Alden is still on the Irish side. I'll be hurting if Van Alden and Chalky both get dirt-napped off the show. I expect one or the other but am hoping it's not both of them.

OMD: We'll see how that plays out. I will note that O'Banion died in November of 1924. It seems like Winter & Co. are playing a little loose with history again, as there were still leaves on the trees in Chicago and kids on the beach in Atlantic City. I guess it's not a huge development in the greater scheme of the show. I was just surprised to see O'Banion fall this soon, figuring that was something that would happen as the season reached its fever pitch in the final two episodes.

The irony of Nucky telling Chalky
...when I'm conducting business, I mind it. It, and only it. Not some piece of ass with a sugary voice. Not my pride. My business. 
was not lost on me. Nucky must have really left Billie Kent in the past, huh? To be fair, he does appear to be reformed, in the more literal sense of the word.

WG: Is Nucky trying to forward hard-earned wisdom from his escapades with sweet, silly Billie Kent? Or his he still in a fog about who he is? Either way, it was interesting to see Winter bringing the dimension of power and race back into the Nucky/Chalky relationship, it's been too much "Ebony and Ivory" and not enough "Fuck tha Police".

OMD: Having said that, Chalky needs to get his shit together. If he makes a run at Narcisse in haste, he'll not be long for the world. I'm a bit curious to find out where the Maybelle development goes, as Chalky's dalliance must surely blow up in his face on the homefront. Narcisse heading to see Joe Masseria will surely add a new wrinkle to the story arc, as Masseria will likely back Narcisse in his attempt to exact revenge on Nucky Thompson.

WG: Chalky has been painted in the corner all season. If the kitchen cold-front Mrs. Chalky was laying down before the pre-nup-planning get-together is any indication, it's pretty obvious that someone has dropped a dime on Chalky's wandering ways. He appears to be in several cross-hairs, with no support in sight.

OMD: While we're on the subject of Masseria and New York, it's interesting to see Rothstein so down on his luck. Such is the plight of the high-stakes gambler, I suppose. If Van Alden had been effectively neutered, Rothstein is in the present-tense. Because right now it looks like the Anaconda is wrapped firmly around him, both literally, in terms of the Land Trust that bilked him, and figuratively, with Masseria having squeezed Rothstein out of the heroin game. I hope he uses that sweet Mickey Doyle money--by the way, how fucking great was that scene?--to fuck Margaret's boss up right and proper. Maybe he needs to head to Chicago to find his testes in a flower shop like Van Alden.

WG: It is weird to see Rothstein so pale, neutered, and acting like a flat-footed mark. Up until the this season, he was the one guy who you could count on to dope out all the angles. For gamblers, the line between winning and losing is pretty damn thin. Supposedly, pros need to hit around 35% of their horse-racing bets and maybe 53% of sports bets to turn a consistent profit. Sounds like a low-bar, but if you've ever gambled much and been honest with yourself, it's nigh fucking impossible. Funny that he thought a life-insurance policy on Mickey Doyle would provide leverage. You're right, it was a fantastic scene. Would Nucky so gleefully give up Mickey if the brassy Ms. Wheet hadn't taken at least a little bit of a shine to his folksy charm? Maybe it was just the hat. Women with huge breasts love hats.

OMD: I don't really know where to squeeze this in, so this is as good a place as any, but for the first time, I feel like maybe I might have an idea as to what Ron Livingston's Roy Phillips is up to. He was on the phone with someone that sounded like his wife, against whom he claims to have filed divorce papers. Yet that person to whom he said, "Me too," presumably in response to something on the other end of the line akin to "I love you/I miss you," would have been totally fine with the switch to being called "sir" when Gillian entered the room. I think he's got ties to faux Jimmy, who last went missing in her care in the precise scenario that she laid out for how her son left her. His whole angle seems to be that he wants to be her confidant, and that seems to be the biggest unsettled matter in her past. If we've learned anything, it's that chickens always come home to roost on Boardwalk Empire.

WG: That phone call threw me. Was it the supposedly soon to be ex-wife? Was it some mysterious confederate? Something unsavory is going on. You are likely right suspecting a faux-Jimmy connection. What's the saying? If a character packs a hammer in his bag before the climb, you can be damn sure the hammer will come out before he gets to the top of the mountain? Unless it was a total head fake, faux-Jimmy's acquaintance who recognized Gillian at the cafe a few episodes back had to be a placeholder for something. It will be interesting to see who turns on the other one first, Gillian on Roy or vice-versa. I got a big kick out of Gillian's boardwalk confession. Bathed in the light, cleansed and reformed. Or so I naively thought. Delicious to see her in the courtroom minutes later, realizing that her Boardwalk schtick was nothing more than a dress-rehearsal for her testimony.

OMD: So for the first time since Harrow was in the woods ready to end things, we get a moment that brought me to tears. Julia sits down beside Harrow on the bench seat in the bay window and proposes to him. The bewilderment in his eyes, the tremble in his chin, the stunned silence, her imploring him to cut the awkward silence before his ultimate acceptance. Fucking beautiful. Maybe theirs will never be the typical marriage, as they're both so broken, but I do hope that the broken pieces that are Julia, Tommy, and Harrow can come together a form that makeshift family that can somehow make them all whole, or as whole as any of those three can become.

WG: Awesome scene. Awkward. Authentic. With Old Man Sagorsky saying fuck-all to what's left of his liver and rough-housing with Tommy in the yard? Thank god for serial dramas. You rarely find that kind of depth and character development in most movies. It's damn near like reading a book. And I'm old enough to mean that as a compliment.

OMD: And of course, the development that might yield the most righteous bloodshed--or at least the most bloodshed in support of Nucky Thompson, the de facto hero of the show--is Richard Harrow coming to the Albatross in search of work. Sadly, this probably signals the end of steady TV work for the inimitable Shea Whigham, as I worry now that he won't be able to get out from under the thumb of Agent Tolliver without spelling doom for himself.

WG: Of course. Harrow showing up right on time. He'll help tilt the chess-board towards Atlantic City when shit goes down.

OMD: I guess we'll find out next week how screwed Eli really is. Until then, let's just bask in the glory that is the happy union of Richard Harrow and Julia Sagorsky.

WG: I'll toast to that.

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