The original advertisements for “Boardwalk Empire” made it look like Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi would be on screen together very often, but with Jimmy in Chicago and Nucky in Atlantic City, that hasn’t been the case. However, last night’s episode suggested that there still might be room for these two talented actors to play off one another. Take a look at our review and you’ll see what we mean…
- Writer: Meg Jackson
- Director: Brian Kirk
- Cast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Pitt, Gretchen Mol, Michael Stuhlbarg, Shea Whigham, Paz de la Huerta, Christopher McDonald
Episode Title: “Hold Me in Paradise”
Nucky heads to Chicago for the Republican National Convention, leaving Eli in charge back in Atlantic City. Upon discovering a robbery in progress, Eli is shot and nearly killed. Margaret is to be the guardian of Nucky’s ledger book while Eli is recovering but she is very curious as to what its contents may reveal about Nucky. Van Alden has been intercepting Jimmy’s letters to Angela and considers a new use for the money contained in them when his wife, who is unable to conceive children, asks him to pay for a surgery which might help her. Before leaving Chicago, Nucky throws his support behind “longshot” Warren Harding and reluctantly asks Jimmy to return to Atlantic City.
- Corrupt Politicians: One of the many unique qualities of “Boardwalk Empire“ is the fact that it is a crime show whose main character is a politician instead of a generic mob boss. Of course that doesn’t mean he’s any less corrupt, especially with Prohibition in full swing. We have to remind ourselves that Nucky is a fictionalized version of a real man, but as an audience, we can’t help but wonder if some of the betrayals and clandestine deals made in this episode are based in fact. It feels compelling and genuine.
- Brian Kirk: For a TV show, hell, even for one on HBO, “Boardwalk Empire” has consistently shown that it’s directors are working on a level far beyond that of their peers (including that Scorsese fella who handled the pilot). Brian Kirk deserves credit for staging a violent encounter that is actually pretty shocking. Those are rare for savvy audiences these days, and faking us out towards the end when he shows us a scene of one character opening a letter before cutting to a different scene of someone removing the contents of a different letter. That idea probably came from the writer, Meg Jackson, but Kirk executes it so perfectly that he needs recognition.
- You go, Margaret Schroeder: Lucy isn’t too thrilled that Maragaret stole her man, but Margaret won’t take any verbal abuse lying down. She delivers a badass slap to the face that shuts Lucy up good. Well-played.
- Nucky and Jimmy: The reunion between these two characters was bound to be awkward. When they do bump into each other, it feels like a recently broken up couple trying to convince each other that they’re doing fine on their own. What is more awkward though, is the way the filmmakers try to milk extra tension and drama out of this situation. Nucky wants Jimmy back in Atlantic City but we’re supposed to wonder whether or not Jimmy will take him up on the offer. Honestly though, we know he will. It feels like they’re just dragging out the process.
- Van Alden’s problem: When Van Alden is in Psycho Cop mode, he is a force to be reckoned with. When he is in Good Christian Boy mode, his life looks more depressing than an episode of “Hoarders.” It’s nice to have some explanation for his insane hunger for justice, but a lot of his more private scenes (remember the self-flagellation?) are pretty uncomfortable. The way he handles his wife’s desire for a child shows some definite internal struggle, but it makes him come off as unsympathetic. That’s a pretty sensitive issue for a woman. You can do more than tell her to stop thinking about it.
- What’s it about? Although this episode comes together nicely during the second half, for a while, we’re not totally sure what the dramatic focus is supposed to be. We know that with Nucky, he’s going to run into Jimmy in Chicago and as a result we don’t fully grasp the significance of his political dealings there, because we’re too distracted thinking about how he and Jimmy will react to each other. Most of Margaret’s scenes feel arbitrary, as if they were thrown in to remind us that she exists. Eli is depicted as a bored and incompetent leader; he’s only in this episode so he can get shot. It takes us a while to figure out where the story is going and who the important characters are this week.
Last night’s episode was a little disappointing when you consider how well this show has been doing, but it had its moments. The detailed look we got into the world of Prohibition Era politics was interesting enough and the robbery was staged expertly.
“Boardwalk Empire” airs every Sunday night on HBO.
What did you like about last night’s episode? Dislike? Tell us in the comments!