"Cut the crap..."

The first half of Boardwalk Empire's fourth season was solid, playing up Nucky's increasing isolation as well as developing several feuds in the concurrent threads, and yet it still flew by in somewhat forgettable fashion. Episodes 1 through 4 were most certainly overshadowed by the end of Breaking Bad with the final stretch of AMC's drug drama dominating the water cooler conversation (well, twitter) for most of the fall season. It's also not hard to see why since HBO's 'drug' drama is much more composed (in every sense of the word, from the measured pace to the elegantly lit frames), lacking the breakneck pacing and frequent WTF moments that helps series get talked about the following day. It's not exactly a 'gif' ready series but Boardwalk Empire does contain some of the most compelling cinematography and performances on television. Probably why its already earned its fifth season. And don't get me wrong, the bootlegging show still has its fair share of memorable or shocking moments, like the loss of Eddie Kessler at the end of "Erlkönig," just not the same kind of bang for your buck. There is a lot of banging though...

"Happiness."

Might as well start with a bang. Or at least with one of the several threads this week that contained a sex scene. I didn't think it was possible but the show is somehow getting me to feel for Gretchen Mol's Gillian Darmody. That's a big credit to the actress for her performance considering she's pretty much always been in competition to be the TV character that I hate the most. Even more than Game of Thrones' Joffrey. Ron Livingston's mysterious Roy Phillips is still by her side, helping the recently rock-bottom Gillian get off the junk. Heroin is also becoming a major player in the series and she's going to be one of the first citizens of AC to be able to say she kicked the habit. Good for her but I still don't trust this Roy fella. So far he's pretty much been the definition of too good to be true. Perhaps her dreams really did come true? Or maybe her dream from last night came true and she's dead? I don't actually believe that but there's no way he's being completely honest with Gillian. When will the other shoe fall? And since we're talking about Ms. Darmody's love-life, it's as good a time as any to mention that Lucky made a brief appearance in "William Wilson," getting called into a meeting with Masseria to 'explain' his dealings in Tampa.

"Actually, there is one thing I'd like you to do... Kill that Irish fuck."

Tonino sure has a lot to say for a guy who literally stabbed his boss in the back. I also don't like that the Boss is sending Charlie back to Florida and into potential conflict with his former partner. His relationship with Lansky was one that seemed to be about more than business. Like Richard and Jimmy. Or Al and Jimmy, for that matter. Capone's storyline this week also started with a bang but this one was the kind that includes a bullet and blood. He's killing cops because he thinks, and rightly so, that they were hired to kill his brother by his crosstown rival Dean O'Banion. And O'Banion is getting too clever for his own good (or big for his britches, whichever you prefer) not just creating enemies with his charm (think of George Mueller's feelings for his former-ish boss) but also actively trying to put one over on Johnny Torrio. Not a good idea, no matter how deep your connections go in the Chicago police. Looks like there's going to be a war and, well, no spoilers but anyone with the slightest sense of history has to know how this is going to turn out. And while the Irish and Italians are about to throw down in Chicago, an odd (and unlikely) encounter between an Irish lass and Jewish gangster occurred in New York City.

"And what does your husband do, Mrs..."

I'm not going to lie, it was a little bizarre to have Margaret Rowan (or whatever surname she's going by now or for the ruses she's doing with her boss) have an encounter with Mr. A. Redstone (also known as Arnold Rothstein). I'm not exactly complaining, since it was great to watch the two world class actors, Michael Stuhlbarg and Kelly Macdonald, have a scene together but it still felt oddly out of place. The phone call afterwards was especially memorable though, with him darkly lit in the booth and her having to reconsider the way in which she's making her money. It sure 'beats being a waitress,' however, it's not anywhere near as honorable. Not on the same level of criminality as Mr. Rothstein, or her former husband, but not in the squeaky clean category either. Oh, and sometimes, it feels good to be wrong. After Margaret finally made her first fourth season appearance last week ("The North Star"), I was quick to express my concerns that maybe they were writing Margaret out of the show and it looks like those were premature. Whew. Although perhaps Boardwalk could find more to do with her than a chance encounter. What did their 'understanding' set up?

"And what does your husband do, Mrs..."

I'm not going to lie, it was a little bizarre to have Margaret Rowan (or whatever surname she's going by now or for the ruses she's doing with her boss) have an encounter with Mr. A. Redstone (also known as Arnold Rothstein). I'm not exactly complaining, since it was great to watch the two world class actors, Michael Stuhlbarg and Kelly Macdonald, have a scene together but it still felt oddly out of place. The phone call afterwards was especially memorable though, with him darkly lit in the booth and her having to reconsider the way in which she's making her money. It sure 'beats being a waitress,' however, it's not anywhere near as honorable. Not on the same level of criminality as Mr. Rothstein, or her former husband, but not in the squeaky clean category either. Oh, and sometimes, it feels good to be wrong. After Margaret finally made her first fourth season appearance last week ("The North Star"), I was quick to express my concerns that maybe they were writing Margaret out of the show and it looks like those were premature. Whew. Although perhaps Boardwalk could find more to do with her than a chance encounter. What did their 'understanding' set up?
"The murder of Wilson's doppelgänger is also what? His own suicide."

And now the thread from which the title was culled. "William Wilson" is a short story by Edgar Allen Poe about a school boys and murder and that obviously resonates with the young Mr. Thompson. Willy's college experience doesn't just involve the English professor's lectures that constantly remind him of his own experience but also his girl's morbid fascination with Nietzsche and Leopold and Loeb. Of course, he wasn't ready to walk out on her until after they had sex and we got to see the character whose name I can't remember topless. All the female characters save Margaret, Esther, Julia and June are required to show some skin and this week got around to checking a bunch of the new cast members off the list. Oh, and Willy's younger sister hasn't had a sex scene yet but with her looking to attend college next, I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Willy, however, is done with school which obviously doesn't sit well with Eli and Shea Whigham own this episode. He played a great drunk. Intense and still funny at times. It's also been a while since we saw Eli fully unload on his brother because the two have been in recovery mode ever since he was released from jail. Nucky and Willy's budding relationship will only continue to cause problems between the Thompson brothers and I've been saying all season that the writers are setting up Eli's death. Sorry. And I hope I'm wrong again.

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."

While the family is causing enough problems for Nucky and Eli, they also have the law to worry about and the creeping danger of Bureau of Investigation Head J. Edgar Hoover. Oh, and Agent James Tolliver, they guy we know better as Agent Knox. Tolliver also had a little to do with the discovery of the nationwide network of organized crime. Just a little. Of course, he also slipped up when passing the crying Eli his monogrammed hanky last week and J.M.T. doesn't match up with Warren Knox. "William Wilson" also saw the return of Remus, who is helping the B.I. with their investigation, and Esther Randolph, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who went after Nucky in the past. I loved how J. Edgar was able to break Remus' habit of speaking in the third person and it still wasn't as exciting as having Juliette Nicholson's character back in the narrative. It's nice to have a true moral compass around, not to mention a formidable adversary for our outlaws. The episode also had a cameo from James Cromwell as the 'honorable' Andrew W. Mellon, someone who we haven't seen since he worked with Nuck in "Margate Sands' and I imagine might be an upcoming target for Hoover on his quest to quell corruption. I'm also interested to see what Tolliver will do after the Bureau Chief took credit for all his hard work? Could he break bad? He's already buddy buddy with the ultimate smooth criminal in Gaston Means.

"Don't peep. Don't peek."

Okay. Maybe not the ultimate smooth criminal. There are a bunch on Boardwalk and none perhaps as smooth as Dr. Valentin Narcisse, who seems to cast a spell on everyone he encounters. Except for Chalky. But Mr. White is so blinded by his love for Daughter Maitland (who once again had a great musical number) that he can't see how he's being played. And who can blame him? She is spellbinding. A true femme fetale. Actually, there was one other person who was able to see through the rhetoric and figure out who was flooding their streets with H but Dunn was quick to dispose of that threat. That's what you get for being a good man. With Chalky under Daughter's spell, Dr. Narcisse seems to be in a pretty powerful position but it's only a matter of time before the two come to a head with Declan, a prominent member of the community, being killed. Chalky is going to have to defend his position but, in his favor, if we've learned anything from the series so far it's that all secrets eventually come to light. Especially freaky ones that involve horrible chest scars, murdered mothers and eternal suffering. That's some weird manipulation the doctor's got going on there, like a cult leader. Trouble is coming for everyone.

"A guilty man will say anything to save his skin."

Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 8, "The Old Ship of Zion," 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.

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