Nucky attempts to figure out who tried to off him in Havana. We catch up with Nelson Van Alden, Eli and Willie Thompson, Gillian Darmody, and Al Capone. Eliot Ness is closing in on Capone. Nucky tries to make inroads towards a legitimate empire.
Old Man Duggan: So it would appear that given the eight episode final season, Terence Winter--who penned this episode--and his buds are not going to waste any time in moving this plot along.
We get to go to Chicago this week. The IRS raids George Nelson Van Alden Mueller's warehouse which is under Eli's watch. Eli's separation-related depression and ensuing seven-year drunk complete with crying jags is tragically beautiful. The only man on the show who loves his wife, and he can't see her. The scene between him and Mueller while they laid in wait was priceless. "Sometimes I find it easier to despise someone than to love them." The look on Whigham's face spoke a thousand words.
OMD: Nucky goes to see Johnny Torrio, who was pushed into retirement at the end of last season, to look into who tried to take him out in Havana. Easy to lose in the shuffle of Nucky's suss job is the fact that Meyer goes to Cuba all the time. This furthers the postulation that Meyer Lansky is in bed with Don Maxime Ronis. One can't help but wonder if perhaps Torrio's retirement advice should go heeded, given what we know about the success of Lansky, Luciano, and Siegel's gambit.
WG: How can you do business with people you can't trust?
OMD: At the end of Nucky's afternoon tea with Torrio, Nucky's gaze (and director Allen Coulter's lens) drifts to Christ on the cross before kicking back to his sister's deathbed. It would seem that perhaps this is a symbol--not to infer that Nucky is Christ here--past a simple mechanism of instigation for a flashback to 1884.
WG: Agreed. Foreshadows the line that the sister is "with Jesus now", but you could also tease all kinds of meaning out of the infrequent but too persistent to be happenstance religious iconography in this show. But I'm in no mood for teasing.
OMD: I liked how in the past young Nucky kept his emotions close to the chest while Eli was more openly emotional. Sure, Eli was younger, but he's always been the one to let loose emotion in extreme ways.
WG: What is Winter trying to tell us about Nucky via these flashbacks? Is Nucky's quest for cash, one that he is "this close" to securing, some Rosebud type journey meant to reclaim a lost childhood, a lost sister, or out of an extreme distaste of poverty?
OMD: I think it's primarily to show who he was and in the waning days of his power his introspection as his journey comes to a close.
Since nothing in Boardwalk Empire happens without intent, I'll be curious to see what comes of Willie's interview with the U.S. Attorney of New York.
WG: Cloudy whether or not he's working at the behest of Nucky, or simply trying to get a square type square job, untainted by blood and whatnot.
OMD: Our first glimpse of Al Capone, complete with new scar, has him holding court while congratulating himself on his fame. You got your wish with his acknowledgement of the comedies Public Enemy and Little Caesar as he's getting interviewed by Variety. Then Mike D'Angelo shows up after Capone calls for him--though the reasons for that escape him, likely owing to the syphilis driving him mad--and delivers the news of the bust. Of course, we later find out that D'Angelo is a fed.
WG: Those Capone scenes buzzed with a different vibe, didn't they? Intended comedy? A play on the ravages of the Syph? Completely over the top scene chomping by Stephen Graham as Capone, laughing a little too hard, a little too coked up, a little too everything. I liked it and was irritated by it at the same time.
OMD: That's sort of how I feel with a lot of the Capone scenes. They've always played a little broader than the rest of the show. There's a barbed appreciation of them.
That elevator scene was fantastic. The pheasant feathers in the cap were so goddamn funny. And of course, it fed Eli the idea to hit Guzik on his collection run.
WG: Great scene. I thought Van Alden Mueller might crush that poor dog. And I wasn't sold on the idea of those two society ladies getting out of the elevator alive. The vintage dialogue by the bellboy was a nice touch, too. Homage to movies of the era for sure.
OMD: I had to double-check to make sure he wasn't the bellhop-cum-clerk at the hotel in Masters of Sex.
WG: The Booby Hatch Diaries, coming soon to a book store near you.
OMD: Nucky's quest to transition into being a legitimate liquor man once Prohibition ends brings him into contact with Joe Kennedy. I'm looking forward to the course this will take.
WG: Absolutely. Just when the series begins its final run, it starts to run in some James Ellroy territory. I'd love to see it continue indefinitely into the early 80s.
OMD: "Why do clouds just float in the sky?" Mueller's home life gave me at least four chuckles. Beleaguered with the Battle-axe. I'd watch a spin-off of that.
WG: Don't fuck with Sigrid. I can't listen to her speak without seeing the chef from The Muppet Show.
OMD: Gyp's right hand Tonino was serving at the pleasure of Maranzano. Or rather playing all sides, helping Luciano take down Masseria. Of course, Nucky's man saw to it that Billie Kent was avenged.
WG: How about the dope track that closed out the episode? Nice earhole symmetry as well.
OMD: So Nucky's dad hated the Commodore because he thought he got a raw deal when he sold off their land, presumably on the ocean from whence he could fish. A nice wrinkle to their personal history. Choosing the man who screwed his father over his father, both of whom were bastards, but in their own special ways.
WG: So Eli, ostensibly a family guy? Nucky, a family guy as long as it doesn't interfere with adding to the piles of cash?
OMD: Pretty much.
Nucky's man, who to my knowledge still doesn't have a name but is played by Paul Calderon, sits while Nucky waxes philosophical existentially. He doesn't say much, but when he does, it's awesome. When proffered a drink and asked if he has anything to add to the conversation, he simply states, "I kill them, I don't kill them. Whatever you say." Unfortunately for Nucky, he's not much of a confidante. One has to worry about a man whose loyalty is bought, too.
WG: I got a kick out of how his mere presence freaked out Tonino. Much like Yasiel Puig striking terror in the hearts of mortal MLB players.
OMD: Puig! I wish he hadn't gone ice cold since the break. Really screwed me in fantasy baseball this year.
The Young Turks are clearly gunning to take everything over. It does look like Tonino's fate was sealed with whichever side he chose. Luciano's eyes spoke pretty clearly to me at least. Tonino, the schnorrer (Yiddish for beggar), was not to be trusted. Unluckily for Luciano, they didn't knock off Tonino before he could talk to Nucky. With Luciano's distrust of Tonino, perhaps Nucky having him killed (and left down an ear) will be a point from which the two can gain common ground?
Though you saw him for a second in the warehouse at the beginning, we get our first glimpse of Jim True-Frost as Eliot Ness. Who's going to play Sean Connery?
WG: Roger Moore?
OMD: I wonder if the ledger for the cathouse on Huron that Wilson handed off to D'Angelo after the reveal wasn't the same cathouse that Jimmy met Harrow in?
WG: Nice catch, I had completely forgot about that. Probably. Knowing how they craft the seams on this show.
Eli sobbing alone while listening to America's favorite family on the radio. Quite the shot, leaving us right where he started the episode. It seems like the episode playing out over the airwaves wasn't much different from one that would've played out at Eli's house eight years earlier.
WG: Kind of odd to get a subtle emotional pull for a character who clipped two nobodies via bullets to the brain a few minutes earlier. Great scene.
OMD: Just as season is bookending the beginning and end of Nucky's journey through the criminal enterprise, the episode is bookended by shots of ears--or at least where ears should be in the case of the second shot. Great work from Coulter. I'm guessing he and Van Patten are sharing directing duties this season, since they'd each just have four episodes to shoot. If so, fantastic. They're both so fucking good.
WG: It's going to be interesting to see if the compressed episode schedule amps up the drama. I couldn't agree more though. The show doesn't have the busty sexual pull of hairpin plot twists, heart-pounding cliffhangers, and the like a la Breaking Bad. However, you can't beat the cinematography and the storytelling.