“Boardwalk Empire” is just about ready to wrap up a successful first season and several of its characters are at a crossroads. Margaret needs to consider the principles she’s sacrificed, Nucky needs to admit to himself that he’s a true gangster, Van Alden needs to come to terms with his desires and even Al Capone needs to grow up a little. Last night’s episode wasn’t the most entertaining one we’ve had, but those various subplots definitely amplified the drama. Check out our review to see what we thought…
- Director: Simon Cellan Jones
- Writer: Lawrence Konner
- Cast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Paz de la Huerta, Michael Kenneth Williams, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston
Episode Title: “The Emerald City”
With the nation about to grant its women the right to vote, Nucky asks Margaret to convince her female friends to throw their support behind his favored mayoral candidate when election day arrives. After nearly being killed by the D’Alessio brothers, Nucky convinces Chalky to falsely accept Meyer Lansky’s deal (the one he rejected earlier in the season) so they can gather all of their enemies in one place and take them out for good; this doesn’t go exactly as planned. Jimmy believes that his suspicions about Robert and Angela are confirmed when he misunderstands a comment from his son. Capone decides to make some changes in his life. Van Alden’s frustration with the slow progress of his investigation drives him to seek solace in alcohol and sex.
- Chalky’s back: Fans of HBO’s “The Wire” can confirm that whenever Michael K. Williams shows up on screen, you’re bound to enjoy watching him act. His character on “Boardwalk Empire” hasn’t been given much depth yet, but what he lacks in substance he makes up for in pure ruthless charisma. When any of the other gangsters on this show are unhappy with someone, they use bullets to settle the problem. When Chalky is unhappy he has no problems with slowly choking a man to death with his bare hands.
- Al: Given his overall role in the grand scheme of American organized crime, it seems bizarre that this show is still including Al Capone in a minor role even after Jimmy has left Chicago. That’s like making a series about the years leading up to the Civil War and letting Lincoln play second string to the major characters. But our earlier reviews of “Boardwalk Empire” reflected a sense that the depiction of Capone in this show fails to correspond to what we actually know about him from history, and this episode acknowledged this by displaying a growing sense of responsibility in him. Sure, it’s not subtle — he has to attend a Bar Mitzvah to think about becoming a man — but it’s necessary.
- Richard: Jack Huston’s been giving us a pretty haunting performance as Richard, the disfigured war veteran. With his limited time on screen he makes us care deeply for him. Let’s hope he’s given more to do as the show progresses.
- Violence: Fans of gangster violence should have been pretty satisfied last night. Between Jimmy’s rage towards Robert and the cool, detached way he executes a victim on nothing more than a whim, the episode definitely lived up to the show’s Martin Scorsese producer credit.
- Angela and Jimmy: The damage done to Angela and Jimmy’s relationship in this episode when he assaults Robert should have been saved for a later date. They just barely got back together; give us some time to get comfortable in the relationship before throwing us a curveball like that.
- Meyer Lansky: Placing Meyer Lansky in danger is a little pointless, since we know that he survives these events and goes on to be a notorious gangster. Sure, we don’t know what will become of his associates, but even the actor portraying him seemed incapable of showing genuine fear when Nucky and the gang threatened him. After all, everyone knows he’ll make it.
- Closing shot: “Boardwalk Empire” episodes usually end in very dynamic and visually interesting ways but last night’s episode left us with a painfully obvious image of Margaret looking into a mirror that is nearly identical to the image of her as a young immigrant that Van Alden carries with him. It comes off as false, especially after Robert’s comment about not recognizing yourself when you look in the mirror.
- Doyle: This guy’s been an odd character. There’s nothing wrong with a little comic relief, but he goes beyond comic relief and into the world of pure caricature. He’s getting to be a little too annoying, especially when placed in the same room as a bunch of badass gangsters.
A decent enough episode of the show. “Boardwalk Empire” had a slow start but it shaped up into one of the best shows on TV, and even if this episode seemed like it was stretched too thin, it was still a lot stronger than any of the other options on television last night.
“Boardwalk Empire” airs every Sunday night on HBO!
What did you think of last night’s episode? Tell us in the comments!