"I think you should stay here for a while. For your own good."
Nothing too major had happened in first four episodes of the fourth season with Boardwalk Empire busy laying a lot of groundwork in the opening third, both introducing new characters and setting up the multiple storylines for returning favourites. Well, except Kelly Macdonald's Margaret Thompson (or Schroeder or...). What the hell? Anyway. The HBO drama is known for its slow burn and there's certainly no need to hurry with Boardwalk having already secured its Season 5 but, as they say, last night things suddenly got interesting. (They were already but you know what I mean.) This early renewal also has me wondering if this year might pair with the next for a two-season arc, similar to the start of the series and how the rise and fall of Jimmy Darmody could be seen as a complete work. Things may started to go off on the Boardwalk (and in Chicago) but the trouble in Harlem is still just brewing. The calm before the storm, while others build and rage. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the title,"Erlkönig," is a reference to Goethe's poem of the same name. You know, the thing Knox recites to Ed near the end of the season's first great episode.
"Call it a demonstration of loyalty."
Picking right up where "All In" left off, Bureau of Investigation Agent Knox, and his doppelgänger partner, have our man Eddie Kessler in custody in a room full of chairs. Now, the cross-over audience between this and The League may not be huge, however, the dilapidated interrogation room reminded me of Rafi's house. It's the chairs. I loved the initial banter between Knox and Eddie (and the other guy), especially the bit about when to say 'you're welcome' and I didn't see the unknown past scene coming at all. Actually, I didn't see anyway that the agents were going to get Eddie to betray Nucky and I was completely captivated by the revelations about the German emigree's past. It all makes so much sense. Not to mention makes the episode's trajectory that much more tragic. The second I saw him put pen to paper, I knew what was coming and Tim Van Patten directed the hell out of his departure. It's a beautiful sequence capped with a wonderful shot. Do you think he knew Nucky cares about him? And will (we'll) miss him? And in the end, I don't think he even gave up all that much on his (now former) employer and instead just caused more trouble for the Capones.
"Who's going to do the kicking?"
The Capones also experienced quite a loss this week with Frank, the charismatic older brother, getting gunned down in true Bonnie & Clyde fashion. Or Sonny from The Godfather. That seems more fitting. Except, of course, that he was very much the level headed sibling with the younger brother having the uncontrollable temper. And drug habit. Cocaine! Before being filled full of lead, Frank swings by the Muellers' wood house and grabs George for another day's work. Yes, I'm finally done calling him any variation of Nelson van Alden. Frank promises to put some grass in his front yard, bringing the former O'Banion man over to see Al who has already forgotten the recent caper with the rival's bread trucks. He still enlists the giant man to head up the gang responsible for getting voters at Western Electric to vote Republican by any means necessary. Try as he might, Frank couldn't control Al and the latter's insatiable desire for power and territory put them in a no win situation that results in the former's death. The rise to power is an increasingly lonely road. Just ask Nucky. Although, something tells me that Al will enjoy the revenge portion a whole lot more. Chicago's going to be a dangerous place.
"First thing I wanna say is, uh, Henry Gaines was a pal of mine."
This was the first week this season that I didn’t notice how lonely Nucky is without Margaret (as he clearly has no interest in another showgirl) and that’s largely because he time was spent in the service of others. Service. Eddie. Nucky gets a call from his nephew Will (or Willy, if it’s Eli doing the name calling) to help with the mess he made at college. A prank gone wrong in “All In” left his class rival, well, dead and now Will’s in the clinker being held responsible for the ‘crime’ because he was the one who brought the liquor. They don’t even know about the milk of magnesia. And neither does Nucky after his first interrogation with Will but it doesn’t take him long to suss out a few more details, like Mickey Doyle’s connection to the booze. That’s probably bad news for Mickey. The elder Thompson trains his blood on how to handle the questioning and, after a little roadblock with the District Attorney, the poisoning finally comes to light. Not to mention that the dead boy is well connected meaning that his corpses can’t simply be swept under the rug. Did someone say scapegoat? It was pretty clear at that moment that Clayton (Nerdstrom) Davies was going to take the fall for the suspicious death. Those Thompson boys are cold.
"Rough day? Or shouldn't I ask?"
Ah. Gillian. Maybe my least favorite character on television. And I've liked Gretchen Mol before, so it's definitely a credit to her acting and the writing to inspire such hatred from me, especially since a small part of me can still muster up some pity. If you think about it, she's had close to the worst life of anyone on the show but that also will never forgive everything with Jimmy. I also feel a little like her character has outstayed her welcome. She starts her thread of Erlkönig with a hypnotic, almost spectral, scene of her getting high while trying to reach Roy for the tenth time. Despite how sad and desperate Gillian was during the exchange with the judge, I was quite happy to see that there was no way she would be getting custody of Tommy. And then I was horrified when it looked like she might just snatch him up from school. To call Julia a sight for sore eyes would be a massive understatement. I miss some female characters to root for on Boardwalk. Can we get some more Sigrid? Randolph? Margaret?!? After being denied her grandson, Gillian quickly heads home to take care of some of that H she scored from Dunn (who continues to flirt an interesting line of likability) and crashes. Roy finally shows his face and looks like he'll do his best to help Gillian recover. He knows sin.
"Ed. We'll see you again soon."
Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 6, "The North Star," next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Terence Winter, the series stars Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Vincent Piazza, Anatol Yusef and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Erlkönig” (1885 Translation)