Boardwalk Empire Watch: Season 3, Episode 8 - The Pony

"Jimmy deserved better than this."

Not too much happened in terms of plot last week but "Sunday Best," the Easter themed episode of Boardwalk Empire, was easily the best of the season. Like the six before it, the installment was still quiet, however, every thread offered a compelling self-contained narrative made even more interesting when contrasted with the other stories. Okay, so Gillian's wasn't exactly a shock or all that exciting but it was important for the HBO drama to finally put the past where it belongs and start moving forward. And besides, Gyp's busy Sunday picked up any slack, first showing him suffer through the holiday with his all female family before having to save his skin and set the stage for the big 'surprise' in "The Pony." Can this week keep up? Well, before heading to the Boardwalk, or even the bit of action that unfolds in NYC, let's catch up with with the dealings in Chicago since it seems like forever since the show was in the (Wet and) Windy City.

"Well, Mr. Mueller. If you screw as poorly as you pitch, your really should be selling dildos because your wife could aAHHHHHHH!!!"

If I'm not mistaken, the last time we were in Chicago was during Episode 5, "You'd Be Surprised," when former Agent Van Alden and his lovely Scandinavian wife snuffed out a lawman who didn't like the iron he was sold. A simple misunderstanding has put the Muellers in O'Banion's pocket and it's time to pay him back; first, by having a still set-up in their apartment and second, by working for him as muscle. The misses looks a little distraught by the set-up but, as we learn later, it's probably because they don't know as much about it as she does. Of course, moonlighting as a bootlegger suddenly gets more important after Georgie burns his, uh, memory into the minds of his coworkers. He said he couldn't sleep! What a great scene and Michael Shannon is scary as ever (that smile) but still with a soft side for Sigrid. I'm sure they'll still have to move, since he did iron a coworker's face, but not out of Cicero as she proves, as I said, super adept with distilling alcohol and has connections on the side to boot.

"Sounds like you got it all under control."

As far as the other Chicago storyline, we hadn't seen Capone since the fourth episode, "Blue Bell Boy," when he beat the life out of an O'Banion crony for making fun of our smelly friend Jake and now that Torrio is back from Naples it's finally time to settle the score. But it doesn't seem like Torrio really came back, as he's far more interesting in talking about Vesuvius and Pompeii, not to mention touting the importance of actually living ones life, than he is about business. Torrio has an odd tone about him, so it took a few scenes to see that he was actually sincere in his discussions with Capone and it looks like it's time for the old Italian to hand over the reigns. At the meet, O'Banion also picks up on the not so subtle transfer of power and his one loose tongue is suddenly a bit tied. Something tells me that the feud between these two factions isn't going to end as nicely as this conversation, especially since they almost came to blows seconds before all the Pompeii talk. Also a nice touch to have Van Alden be the only one to get the reference.

"One for her and one for me."

The last thread that's (for the most part) disconnected from Nucky's dealings this week, involves his wife. Margaret and her husband have been estranged for sometime but "Sunday Best" did an excellent job of momentarily bringing them closer together in order to really illustrate the increasing void between the man and wife. And Owen is filling it quite well. Not that way, perverts. Although, yes, that too and that serves as the connective tissue for Margaret's two threads; finding a pony with Owen and then procuring some medical supplies for Mrs. Sheerer. And herself. Her scenes open with another comedic exchange between the Sister and Dr. Mason (although, it's been a while) before once again reintroducing the troubled wife who's bleeding initially brought Margaret and Mason together to teach women's health. It turns out that was no accident and, with her husband back on the baby train, she needs some contraceptives. And, like I said, so does Margaret since she's busy shacking up with Owen while out picking ponies. How much did they both like being called folks? "Sooner or later, everyone steps through your door."

They aren't the first mistaken couple this season, with Richard and Julia being taken for Tommy's parents last week. This week is not so kind to our half-faced friend as it starts with him attending his best friend's cremation. Well, he's not that stupid and this might be the beginning of his eventual break from Gillian. But not Tommy. I don't see either one of them willing to walk away from the boy. Conflict! Anyway, news of Jimmy's death quickly brings Nucky to the house and, after shooing away Leander, the pair have a great scene together where Gillian's cards all eventually spill out on the table. And in Nuck's face. It's pretty ballsy to toast to the memory of the dead son you killed and it's the first time in a while I've respected Gillian even if she appears to bow down to him by the end of the sequence. Her contempt spreads to Nuck's known associates as Lucky, crashing at the place while in AC on business, is informed that he's no longer a partner or welcome in the whorehouse. She soon makes another Italian from NYC welcome, however, as Gyp arrives a few scenes later to (mock Richard, you asshole and) hear a surprise proposal.

"Than our intercourse is concluded."

Nucky is a busy boy in "The Pony" with almost all his issues laid out during the opening scene in his office. He and Eli are getting closer and able to joke about Rothstein, Billie and any other business he may have in NYC, not to mention talk candidly when it comes to getting a pony for post-polio Emily or what the fuck is going on with Jimmy suddenly showing up dead. It was also great to see Eddie. And even better to hear Nucky rip on him. The real reason he heads to New York is to see Esther Randolph and Gaston Means in order to continue his quest to take down Remus and Daugherty. Their new plan means bringing James Cromwell back to repeat his awesome guest spot as Andrew Mellon (from "You'd Be Surprised") and their relationship takes an interesting not to mention illegal turn, enough to make Esther question being in for a penny anyway. It seems that the wealthy man overseeing important parts of prohibition enforcement owns a distillery and, after Mr. Rixon, sorry, Nuck interlopes some color into his day, they strike up an agreement that will make Remus, and therefore Daugherty, the forces of any government investigations.

"I just want you to be my gangster."

It's also interesting to see Nucky interact with people so much more powerful than he is, since he's not one to call others sir very often. And apparently, doesn't take too kindly to being called sir himself. Oh, Billie. It all makes so much sense now and even though the writers never managed to make me care about her character, they did convince me that Nucky does, which in the end is enough. Before the end, however, she does get a sweet scene auditioning for a moving picture playing not the lead but the pony. Billie brings the kissing co-star, and another girl, back home to celebrate over some adult beverages but the party takes a violent turn when old Gus arrives. Yeah, I'm not going to miss her. Nucky beats the shit out of Sheik Bin Fartin and gets compared to her no fun father but all is okay after he forces her into bed. Damn it feels good to be a gangster. The newly blonde Billie also eventually accepts the handout from her sugar daddy as well as accompanies him to a business dinner at Babettes. Who would have thought that annoying bum Baxter would save Nucky (as well as Rothstein and Lucky) from the blast.

"Where are we with the pony?"

Billie not so much but like I said, I know Nucky liked her enough to get real vengeful over it all and that's exciting enough for me. Although, I'm sure the attempted murder of himself and his bootlegging business partners from NYC would surely have been enough to marshall all of their combined forces against Gyp and Masseria but this adds an extra emotional element. Sure, being emotional about the loss of the character would have been nice too but hey, they can't all be Jimmys. One thing that I also noticed myself uttering a lot was 'it's been a while,' meaning a lot of tonight's threads were being picked up after two, three or even four episodes away which should signal the end of any midseason filler and that it's time to barrel towards the conclusion.

Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 9, "The Milkmaid's Lot," next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Terence Winter, it stars Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Vincent Piazza and Michael Stuhlbarg.