Solid episode on every front. So much happened here while at the same time setting up a lot of situations for weeks to come. Best of all, we got us some Chalky White back in our lives. Let’s start in Atlantic City…
Atlantic City: Nucky and Margaret, Chalky and Lucky
Nucky’s dad drunkenly falls and breaks his leg while cooking at home. When Nucky arrives on the scene, Eli is already there helping, and we immediately see that Nucky’s relationship with his father is strained at best, while Eli and his father seem to be extremely close. Yet another point of contention between Eli and Nucky; however, they both agree it’s time to get rid of the house, so Nucky offers it to a firefighter by the name of Fleming, who has a big family and a tiny apartment.
When he’s talking with Fleming about his family, you can absolutely see Nucky getting nostalgic for the things he never had: a happy family, children, etc. It’s no coincidence that Lucy bursts in at that moment, devastated that Nucky has dropped her like a bad habit. Not long ago, Lucy laid naked in bed with him, discussing her willingness to have his child. Considering we later see her crying alone at the movies (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - you do the math), I don’t think we’re finished with Lucy just yet.
Meanwhile, Margaret has been taking advice from one of her “concubine” neighbors next door, the likes of which include to not let her man get too close and start confiding. When Nucky takes Margaret to his childhood home – the house Fleming is fixing up – he starts opening up to her about his difficult childhood. She curtly dismisses him, saying, “Sometimes it’s best to leave the past where it is.” Pretty bitchy, actually, and, while it was intentional, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for Margaret and Nucky both as he stands there with a bewildered look of a jilted man on his face. Nucky Thompson: corrupt politician, cold-hearted gangster, and crooked businessman. Nucky Thompson: human being.
Later, Nucky is at Chalky’s proprietorship with Margaret, doing some business (we’ll get to Chalky in a second). When Margaret finds out the truth about her concubine friend – that she gets around – something clicks and she tries to open Nucky back up. This time, however, he shuts her down, and you can see the look of heartbreak on Margaret’s face as she realizes what she has done, as she realizes that she wants to be there for Nucky when he needs her. The next day at dinner, she boldly apologizes for her bitchy comment; I was happy to see Nucky seemingly forgive her, but it’s clear that Margaret is having a difficult time deciding what it is that Nucky wants from her, as well as what she wants from Nucky.
When Nucky heads out to Fleming’s fixed up house with Margaret’s son, Teddy, he finds Eli and his dad, whose parting words for Nucky are, “You may think you’re king, but you’re not worth a Goddamn.” His vitriolic relationship with his father severely juxtaposes and brings attention to Nucky’s relationship with Teddy, whom he has asked to call him “Uncle Nucky.” One can sense that Nucky is beginning to see himself as a father figure. Regardless, Nucky exercises some demons by torching the house as a song plays in the background, singing, “Don’t leave me daddy…”
Back to Chalky. In the best scene of the night, a short white man comes into Chalky’s place of business offering him a deal: $10,000 cash for 1,000 crates of whiskey; he wants to start doing business with Chalky and cut out the middle man, Nucky. This mysterious man introduces himself as Michael Lewis, and Chalky tells him, “You tell old Nucky Thompson it’s gonna take a lot more than 10 Grand to get me to fuck him over.” When Chalky aggressively approaches Nucky about what he thinks is a set-up, Chalky is pissed, and Nucky is rightfully confused. This is not good; neither man fucks around or has much patience for shenanigans. I have no idea how this could play out, but I guarantee it will be thrilling. Whether it’s bootlegging or at the ballots, Chalky is an important man for Nucky, and shit is going to hit the fan once Nucky catches on to things. Needless to say, it’s good to have Chalky White back in my life.
So who is this Michael Lewis character? His name is actually Meyer Lansky, and he’s a friend of Lucky Luciano’s. After Nucky’s chaotic display of weakness last week, it’s not surprising that Lucky thinks he can make a run at the bootlegging market by cutting out Nucky from the trade altogether. However, he needs muscle and a team like Chalky’s to do the dirty work. Enter the D’Alessio brothers, the Italians who mugged Nucky’s guy on the boardwalk. Luciano cuts them a deal: if they can prove themselves competent – this time by robbing Nucky’s casino of nearly $150,000 – then Rothstein in NYC would back them and bankroll their operation in Atlantic City. Does Rothstein even know about this idea/operation?
Chicago: Jimmy Makes A New Friend
In Chicago, Jimmy is ailing, mentally and physically. Mentally, he’s still shaken up about Liam – Sheridan’s goon – cutting up Pearl, and he’s tracked him down to a diner in North Chicago where he eats breakfast. Physically, his war-torn leg is hurting so badly that he goes to a veteran’s clinic, where he meets Richard Harrow while both are waiting for a psychiatric evaluation.
It’s necessary to say that Harrow might have some psychological issues – he’s had half his face blown off in WWI, and he wears glasses with an attached “mask” of sorts to cover up the damage. Basically, it’s the 1920’s version of Tom Cruise’s “mask” in Vanilla Sky. Regardless, as we learn more about Harrow, we – like Jimmy – begin to see that Richard is not exactly making out to well back from the war. After bringing him back to his “home” – the brothel – Jimmy gets him some bourbon and a hooker to boot. I didn’t see what was coming next until after it was over.
The most badass gangster in the show, Jimmy shows up to Liam’s diner and nonchalantly sits down across from him. He tells him he’s not going to kill him, and then he tells him a terrifying story about a man whose life he did not take during the war, and how it was all the worse because he let him live in such a hopeless state of being, regardless of the fact that the soldier did want to live. At the end of the story, when Jimmy looks Liam in the eyes and tells him he never wants to see him again, Liam is engulfed by pure horror. In textbook gangster fashion, Jimmy pats him on the shoulder on the way out, slowly puts on his overcoat and hat, and walks out as we hear glass break. Richard Harrow sniped Liam from across the street in a hotel room, and we see him rolling up his sniper rifle as ominous organ music embellishes the act. If Chalky weren’t such a refreshing change of pace, this scene would have been tops for the night.
So what happens next in Chicago? I don’t know. Greektown is under wraps, and Jimmy has now avenged the death of Pearl. I hope, however, that Richard Harrow will stay in the picture for a while – his character is an interesting addition to an already eclectic set of characters in Chicago.
• Agent Nelson put a hold on the creepiness for this episode while he does some actual fieldwork. Fortunately for him, he’s come into good fortune, as the decoy from the booze hijacking, Mr. Winslow, is arrested. Nelson finds out with certainty – and with the promise to testify in court – that Jimmy Darmody and Al are responsible for the five murders that took place.
• Last week, I thought we found out Jimmy’s “wife,” Angela, was banging out the photographer. However, a turn of events occurred tonight as we find out she’s actually sleeping with the photographer’s wife! Additionally, Jimmy never sent her the money we saw in the envelope last week.
• The Commodore – the one man to whom Nucky pays money – is sick and dying, so it appears. He’s also fed up with Nucky; he thinks Nucky has gotten “too big for his britches” because he did not bring the money by himself.
• I can never tell the passage of time within this show. Am I the only one? I mean, this week we find out that Lucy is essentially out of Nucky’s circle, and we saw a house get entirely fixed up. How much time passes by, I can never tell.
• When Nucky tells Margaret’s son to call him “Uncle Nucky,” I nearly lost it. Hilarious. I was watching the episode with my brother, and he immediately goes, “Well, that kid’s life just changed.”
In the end, Nucky appears rather weak, and he’s at odds with Eli, Lucky, and Chalky this episode. Jimmy, on the other hand, is taking no prisoners in Chicago. From the looks of it, things in Atlantic City are about to explode between Nucky and the three aforementioned individuals, Rothstein, and Senator Edge. I, for one, am thrilled about the direction Boardwalk Empire has taken thus far and looks to be headed down the road.