Skip to main content

Boardwalk Empire Watch: The Emerald City

In the The Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City is where the yellow brick road ends, and it’s home to the Wizard himself. But the city was a sham – everything is not as it seems, and the Wizard is just some man behind a curtain, pulling all the strings. Thank you, Terrence Winter, for beating us over the head with symbolism. Or I’m just reading way too far into things.

After last week’s killer episode, I was anticipating great things from “The Emerald City.” In that respect, I was slightly disappointed, but it had its jaw-dropping moments and was overall one of the better episodes. The bar was just so high. The Fallout Rothstein continues his cheesy one-liners this episode as we step into his office with the D’Alessio brothers and Mickey, who failed to kill Nucky last week. Rothstein is pissed, naturally, even more so because he thinks they have tipped off Rothstein and his plans to Nucky. We know, however, it was actually Lucky who did so, but that’s beside the point – just interesting to note. Mickey is catching a little more flack than the brothers, and when Rothstein says, “Nothing says ‘I’m sorry” like money,” Mickey thinks he sees the writing on the wall, that the D’Alessio brothers are going to kill him so Rothstein can collect on the half-million dollar life insurance policy. I thought the same thing, so Mickey’s next move is understandable, considering that: he visits Nucky to come clean.

When Mickey tells him who his partners were in his distillery operation – the D’Alessio brothers – Nucky and Jimmy pounce on him, but they ultimately hear him out. Mickey spills the beans that it was the brothers who lynched Chalky’s driver, mugged Nucky’s collector, robbed the casino, shot Eli, and attempted to kill Nucky. He tells Nucky everything because he thinks the D’Alessios are going to kill him – and I am inclined to agree with him. The one thing he doesn’t tell Nucky, however, is how deep he himself is in with Rothstein. Nucky has no idea that Mickey has been gallivanting around with Rothstein in New York.

When Nucky brings Chalky into the conversation, he fails to mention to him that the D’Alessio brothers are the ones that lynched his driver. However, it doesn’t seem as if there is any bad blood between Nucky and Chalky after the air is cleared about the Michael Lewis/Meyer Lansky incident a while back. The plan is to set up the D’Alessio brothers, Lucky Luciano, and the entire New York outfit – as many as they can gather at once – and kill them all. Nucky wants to make Rothstein “the richest corpse in New York.”

Shortly thereafter, Mickey sets up a meeting between Chalky and Lansky and two of the D’Alessio brothers. Everything was going according to plan, but just as things are wrapping up, one of the brothers alludes to Chalky’s Packard, implicating him in the lynching of Nucky’s driver. Out come Chalky’s guns, as he puts two and two together.

When Nucky and Jimmy arrive, Lansky and the two brothers are bound and kneeling on the ground. Nucky is slightly perturbed at Chalky for abandoning the original plan, but things quickly escalate as D’Alessio number one begins mouthing off to Jimmy. It’s strange to call this scene the best scene of the episode because it is actually quite disturbing, but it is what it is.

As the D’Alessio continues his taunting, Jimmy wastes no time putting a bullet in his head. Even Nucky seems a little surprised at the cold-blooded Jimmy he just saw. Shocked, but quickly resigning himself to his fate, the other brother begins threatening Chalky, who coldly walks over, picks him up, shoves him against a pole, and slowly strangles him to death as we hear all the blood vessels popping in his neck. Nucky quietly watches, and seems equally disturbed and intrigued by the escalation of activities. He quietly walks to Meyer Lansky, leans behind him to untie him, and tells him he can leave – but to make sure he tells Rothstein what he saw there tonight.

Agent Nelson Van Alden

With Agent Sebso getting off scot free after telling his fabricated version of the Billy Winslow debacle, Nelson is the one responsible for results in Atlantic City. Right now he’s got nothing to show for it. When we see him in his room, he’s anguished and reeling, pained by the picture of the innocent Margaret Schroeder. Pained so much, it seems, that he is driven to go see her at her and Nucky’s flat.

While he enters under the pretense of business, this façade quickly fades. At first he was imploring her to do the right thing, attempting to effect some moral change by showing her the innocent picture of herself fresh off the boat, but it becomes creepy – as does anything with Nelson – very quickly; it ends with him angrily lecturing her about the depths of hell in which she will rot if she doesn’t come with him. He even sells Nucky out, indicating to her that he had something to do with her husband’s murder. Talk about making a man’s life more difficult, and yet Nucky has no idea.

Margaret Schroeder I focused largely on Nelson because his visit to Margaret seems to have an effect on her without his knowing it. At the beginning of “The Emerald City,” there is no tension between Margaret and Nucky despite all the recent chaos. After his visit, however, she seems to be evaluating her own fall from grace, so to speak, and begins to act more and more like the brash, questioning Irish immigrant we knew from the first few episodes.

Before Nelson visited, he seemingly convinced her that he was doing the right thing – that maybe he was the continuity needed to help build Atlantic City into a better place for all the people. However, she realizes later – after lobbying for Nucky’s puppet mayoral candidate, Bader – that he merely told her everything she wanted to hear so she would do his bidding. She realizes that her influence – perceived and real – and oratory skills make her extremely useful to Nucky now that the 19th Amendment has passed and women have the right to vote in the upcoming election.

She thinks he played her. I don’t know what she’s upset about, though – she played him like a fiddle last week. This week, however, she’s questioning the rules of the game; it’s not so much fun when you’re on the “losing” side of things. All that being said, I never got the sense that Nucky was gaming her. Instead, I think he includes her as the closest member of his team while trying to keep her at arm’s length from the truly seedy parts of his empire.

Other thoughts/takeaways:

• Angela’s storyline continues to drag. Until Jimmy’s outburst, it seemed like the two were genuinely happy to be back together again. Tommy’s comment, however, triggered Jimmy’s violent side, and the beating he places on Robert was awesomely brutal. While it’s good to see no hesitation from Nucky’s muscle guy, I fear his lack of control over the violence may come back to haunt both he and Nucky.

• Angela may or may not be planning on running away to Paris with Mary. Let’s all hope and pray that she does. I can’t stand her.

• I like Torrio and Capone immensely, and I like the inclusion of the Chicago situation in BWE, but what a drawn-out, somewhat boring way to show that Al Capone has “grown up” and is ready to be serious about being a gangster. Considering he’s Al Capone, I look forward to Chicago’s role and his character’s development, but that was unnecessary.

• Nelson really flipped his lid at the end there. What with his drinking and sexing with Lucy Danziger, that’s the closest he’ll get to sleeping with Margaret Schroeder. He’s a complex character that I haven’t quite figured out, but I do know that he’s one creepy guy with some deep-seeded issues.

• As if the writers didn’t make it obvious enough that Margaret was having second thoughts about everything, she has to open the window at the end, an obvious juxtaposition to Harrow’s closing the drapes for her protection in an earlier scene. As she looked at herself in the mirror, I couldn’t help but envision Agent Nelson holding up her picture and asking, “Do you know who this girl is, Mrs. Schroeder?”

• That’s twice in two weeks that Lucky has escaped death – once because Nelson saved his ass, and now because Chalky jumped the gun. I suppose his name comes from somewhere.

• Jimmy’s shenanigans toward Mickey – spitting in his drink, nearly throwing said drink at him, lunging at him – are well earned, and we see that Jimmy is relishing in his role as Nucky’s muscle.

• Am I the only one that loves Meyer Lansky? His collected disposition and general reserve are fantastically played and wonderful to watch – he knows just what to say when speaking, and he knows when to talk and when to shut the hell up.

• Chalky White. Need I say more?