Although a major character was missing in action this week, “Boardwalk Empire” delivered a solid hour of entertainment, thanks to a script which placed equal significance on each storyline. We got to find out what Jimmy’s been up to, saw Michael Kenneth Williams channeling the spirit of his most iconic role, and were exposed to another side to Margaret Schroeder.
Read the review for a closer look…
- Writers: Lawrence Konner and Margaret Nagle
- Director: Jeremy Podeswa
- Cast: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Kenneth Williams, Shea Whigham, Paz de la Huerta, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Gretchen Mol
Episode Title: “Anastasia”
After Nucky sends him on the run, Jimmy reunites with Al Capone in Chicago, while Rothstein’s men back in New York and New Jersey go looking for him. Eli apprehends a member of the Ku Klux Klan who he believes may have been involved in the killing of one of Chalky’s associates, and Nucky prepares to entertain several prominent politicians at his birthday party.
- Michael Kenneth Williams: As the up-and-coming gangster Chalky White, Michael K. Williams of “The Wire” fame lends the role a quietly menacing quality. The best writing this show has seen so far comes in the form of a monologue he delivers on the death of his father at the hands of the KKK. He’s supposed to be scaring a Klan member whom he intends to torture, and it is remarkably effective.
- Margaret Stands up to a Senator: This episode marked the first time in the series that Margaret Schroeder displayed any real assertiveness. Arriving at Nucky’s party to deliver a dress, she is greeted by Nucky and two politicians he is sharing drinks with. Their friendly exchange turns into a debate when Maragaret mentions the fact that “most civilized countries” afford women the right to vote. For a character who seems too diplomatic to argue with anyone, it was nice to see Margaret stand up for something she believes in.
- Political Machines: “Boardwalk Empire” always promised to be as much about politics as it was about gangsters (although in 1920s Atlantic City, it looks like there was very little difference between the two), and this episode provided us with an insightful look at how a man like Nucky Thompson stays in control for a long time. Steve Buscemi truly gets into the mind this guy, a politician who knows that you have to charm your voters if you want them to remain loyal. We see his preoccupation with keeping the African-American population of Atlantic City on his side, and his desire to be the ultimate host to anyone who comes to his city looking for a drink in a time of Prohibition.
- Jimmy and Al: It’s not exactly clear where Jimmy’s partnership with Al Capone is supposed to be going. As it is, they commit minor crimes throughout Chicago, or, more accurately, Al pulls the crimes while Jimmy stands around with a level head. Although Capone was known to be violent and impulsive, he didn’t build a criminal empire without a little bit of intelligence, and the depiction of him in this show doesn’t seem true to reality. Sure, it’s a younger Capone, still learning the ropes of the business, but in “Boardwalk Empire,” he seems like the kind of thug who would get killed by one of his own superiors, just to shut him up.
- No Michael Shannon? Law enforcement has been a major presence on this show up until now. There’s always been the urgent sense that Agent Van Alden knows what he is doing and will stop at nothing to catch a criminal. His absence from this week’s installment made us feel a little too safe, even with Luciano on the tail of Jimmy.
By giving just about every character something interesting to do this week, be it Margaret’s rebellion against the patriarchy of government or Chalky’s calm attitude of violence, the writers of this episode told an entertaining story that moved as a brisk pace. Some subplots don’t seem to be going anywhere just yet, but we get the sense that they will be soon.
“Boardwalk Empire” airs every Sunday night on HBO!
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