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"Went to church regular, what they taught me is that you can fool people but good lord always know when you lying."
The first two episodes of the final season of Boardwalk Empire were focused on the past and how "those who cannot remember it are condemned to repeat it;" and yet, as this week illustrates, George Santayana's other famous quote is equally apt for Season 5 (and the series as a whole) so far: "Only the dead have seen the end of war." It might not be "What Jesus Said," but, according to Chalky...
”Jesus was wrong.”
Chalky hasn't seen the last of war and, returning to the theme of the past and being doomed to repeat it, he's once again forced to kill 'Buck' - the nickname he gave Dunn - when things go south for the "In Cold Blood" situation the fugitives find themselves in. Was anyone expecting that sequence to turn out any different? Try as he might, there was no way that Chalky was going to be able to stay in character and act, as the girl put it, "like him." In addition to exploring the never-ending war, this week also looked at the masks we wear in order to survive, fit in or simply save face. Like the fake flowers. In the scenes with Chalky, the ladies' cover-ups come as fast as they fall apart, but eventually the lies catch up with everyone. And when they do, it's hammer time. Sorry.
”What I love about this city, everything's so close.”
Speaking of the masks we wear, Episode 4 saw the return of Jeffrey Wright's Dr. Valentin Narcisse, who seems to have been able to keep his position of power in Harlem over the last seven years despite being a snitch for the FBI. The last time we saw the 'Doctor,' he was sitting in shackles spilling Marcus Garvey's secrets to J. Edgar Hoover; now he's across from Lucky and Benny negotiating to keep his territory and interests. Now that Masseria is dead, Maranzano wants his piece, something that Narcisse isn't willing to give. Who knows what's going on behind the scenes of his two-faced operation? I do know that the exchange between the gangsters was exceptionally written. And that the Doctor is down a lot of whores. Despite his goofy demeanor, Benny sure is cold-blooded.
The flashbacks have been my least favorite part of what has otherwise been a solid season, and said sequences in "What Jesus Said" were no different. I suppose that the introduction of Mabel made this week's trip into the past slightly more interesting than the previous two episodes' looks back, but I'm still not sure why Boardwalk is wasting so much of the little time it has left in 1884. We get it, Nucky's past is important. Rosebud and all that. There was also the bit with the "couple in love," once again showing us that things are not always how they appear on the surface. Especially when viewed with naive eyes. At least the policeman "took care of" the man in love. I wonder where Nucky found his sense of justice?
”Has the moment arrived for serious discussion?”
Before getting into Nucky's storyline this week and how it ties into the whole 'masks' theme, it's worth taking a second to note the return of everyone's favorite cockroach Mickey Doyle. Years of his loyal service (and not dying) have helped him climb quite high in the ranks. He's still not above pouring booze back into the bottle, though, when Nucky rejects the good stuff in order to keep up appearances with Joe Kennedy. See how I swung that back around? Yep, Nuck is pretending not to be an alcoholic in order to seem more appealing as a business partner. Oh, and trying to combat those nasty stereotypes about Irish Catholics. When Kennedy finally gets him to cut the shit, we learn the real reason why our protagonist has been building this empire. Someone should read him Ozymandias.
”I don't keep milk in the house anymore, it turns my stomach.”
Finally, we get to the affairs of Ms. Rowan. Or should I say Thompson? Or Schroeder? Hell, by the sounds of it, we might as well call her Abe Redstone. Are we to believe that that she's not the one who's been keeping the file open? I figured Margaret was making some extra cash by feeding herself the information that would have gone Rothstein's way had he not been killed three years ago. Whether she did it or not, Ms. Rowan is the one who's stuck paying for it, and that leads her back to Atlantic City. I was pretty excited to see her sitting in the same room as Nucky. By the looks of it, so was he. Oh! Parting thought: what was up with all the nines? The number made it into three or four scenes. Odd.
"New Years Eve, 1923, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Nucky Thompson. Tell me again there's no money."
The fifth and final season of Boardwalk Empire continues with Episode 4, "Cuanto," 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 Stephen Graham.
Here's a look at next week's "Cuanto"...