"I wouldn't put something alive in a box."
Last night's Boardwalk Empire marked the half-way point for the fourth season and Kelly Macdonald finally made her first appearance. And possibly her last? That can't be it for Margaret, can it? The series would certainly miss her, however, both she and Nucky have seemingly moved on and her adventures at 'the office' (not to mention the occasional Friday night movie) don't exactly fit with the rest of the action on the Boardwalk. Well, that's not entirely true considering the sixth installment spent a lot of time focusing on family and the former Mrs. Thompson (I wonder what she goes by now?) has been doing everything she can to keep hers on the straight and narrow since finding her lover in a box. (Oops.) I don't wish her any ill-will but I'd gladly put the Shroeders (?) in jeopardy if it meant having Macdonald around for some more episodes next season. She did let slip that she's staying with her brother meaning Nucky can find her and the kids whenever he wants. Family is obviously a common theme in many gangster dramas, especially when it comes to 'la Cosa Nostra,' and almost every storyline in "The North Star" involved one coming together or being torn apart. In some cases both at once.
"My dearest son, this afternoon I got the happy message that I am a grandfather. I cannot express the joy."
The opening shot of "The North Star" was a lovely visual (and aural) reminder of Eddie Kessler, the man whose suicide closed "Erlkönig," with Nucky's coffee cup shaking because of a departing train. All of the dialogue in the episode was wonderfully written, every line layered with multiple meanings and a sense of poetry. Nucky's man was more than just a servant, he was the only one who knew how to take care of Steve Buscemi's character and that's exactly what a family does. They take care of each other. (In this world that phrase also obviously has multiple meanings.) Nucky was fairly emotional over Eddie's death but no one took the loss quite as hard as Eli. Once the other Thompson realized that the man left behind a pair of sons, the news hit too close to home and would eventually make him vulnerable with exactly the wrong person. And I can't be the only one who's been seeing the signs that point to Eli's death. I mean, just this week Bill McCoy thought he died and his wife said he was flopping around like a fish. Maybe I'm reading too much into things. Or the show is playing me. While mourning the death in the family (his words), Eli spent most of his time with Agent Knox, the man arguably responsible for putting Eddie on the ledge, as the two 'worked together' to get the items from the safety deposit box. The first of several, unless the J.M.T. handkerchief changes things. Does Knox feel anything? Mickey was able to rattle his cage a little and he's definitely ambitious. Fatal flaw?
Another family-centric thread in "The North Star" involved the reunion of Richard and the Sagorskys. Having both is obviously the ideal situation but if we are losing Margaret, Julia is a suitable replacement. Wrenn Schmidt's character has already left a huge impression on me even though she's only appeared in seven episodes of Boardwalk thus far. It might have something to do with the fact that Richard is such a great character himself and having her around usually means the that things are looking up for the half-faced war hero turned hitman. Oh yeah, Paul's pretty good too but sadly, he didn't get the best news this week. Cirrhosis (don't go there) from drinking too much booze. It's a smart choice for Boardwalk to explore yet another side effect of alcohol(ism) and Richard's reaction to the news was priceless. Tommy is clearly just as happy to have him back in their lives as I am and it's nice to see good things go the boy's way. The kid has had a tough ride and the detail about him learning how to navigate in order to always be able to find his way home was especially sad. Good thing the writers countered that with one of the best quips of the installment, Julia's self-assured answer to whether or not Richard could be going home with them. I wonder how long this bit of bliss will last? Can he stop putting people in the ground? When Tommy was looking at the sky, was he thinking of his father?
"Well, we don't want to wake anyone up."
Speaking of fathers, Chalky started this week’s installment watching his son learn a few new (and musically inappropriate?) songs as well as having a particularly steamy conversation with Daughter Maitland. If the talk of boredom wasn’t clear enough, she singer soon took the stage for a preview of the elongated musical number to come. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but one of the best developments this season has been the addition of the Onyx because of all the musical performances that come with it. The song she sings later is wonderful and it also seems to captivate Michael K. Williams. The shot of his face was unlike anything I’ve ever seen from the actor. And this look of depressed longing came immediately after he had himself a mostly quiet dinner at home with the family. Not the good kind of quiet, the head down, avoid the rest of the table kind of quiet. At least until the kids are out of the room and Chalky verbalizes his complaints. Well, not the extent of his complaints. I’m sure he has no interest in sharing what happened at the end of “The North Star” with his wife, especially with his daughter’s wedding in the near future. (His real daughter, not Daughter.) Don’t want to spoil the young marriage by sharing how you’ve stepped outside your own. I wonder if this encounter will also cause problems with dictionary owner Dr. Narcisse?
"Do I need to be worried?"
After spending a cup of coffee with his ex-wife in a train station, Nucky spent the rest of "The North Star" setting up his new venture in Tampa. And kind of mourning Eddie. But mostly just moving on with his life and building his empire. The first roadblock occurs almost immediately upon arrival as Bill finally gets around to sharing the news about their former (volatile) partner. Well, he almost got to sharing before some local hillbillies did the talking (and threatening) for him. Sally's shotgun does a good job of breaking up the quarrel and Bill has a backup investor to fill the now vacant spot. Can the AC crime boss trust this new mystery man? To the gator fights to find out! At the local event, Nuck is joined by Meyer and Lucky to meet the new guy and it turns out that Vincenzo Petrucelli and the Italian mobster from NYC happen to know each other. And since Lucky didn't inform Joe Masseria about the Tampa deal, or more importantly, cut his boss in on it, that suddenly puts him in a very bad position. Meyer isn't going to let his partner's problems get in the way of him finally stepping out of Rothstein's shadow and their family unit also falls victim to this week's events. Say it ain't so?! Seriously, I like those two together. I also like the way Nucky does business, letting Meyer finally call him by his first name as well as setting Sally up as the one in charge of operations in his stead. That's a good move, right? We can trust her? Anyone else think of the scene from True Romance?
"'I am who I am, who else could I be.' I am who I am. I put a bullet through her face. Came home..."
Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 7, "William Wilson," 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.