We always knew that “Boardwalk Empire” would offer up its fair share of drama. What we didn’t know was just how much inner conflict and emotional betrayal would go into this show. It’s obviously aiming for a Godfather scale of emotional impact, with brothers against brothers and old comrades turning away from each other; it doesn’t quite hit the mark, but at least it keeps us glued to the seat. Check out our review of this week’s episode to get a sense of that drama. . .

The Players:

  • Director: Allen Coulter
  • Writer: Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki, Bathsheba Doran
  • Cast: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Gretchen Mol, Michael Shannon, Paz de la Huerta

Episode Title: “Peg of Old”

Margaret makes a trip up to Brooklyn to visit her estranged brother, as well as several younger siblings she has never met before. Back in Atlantic City, Jimmy is conflicted when Eli suggests having Nucky killed. Lucy goes to Nucky for help when Agent Van Alden is unable to provide her with the money he promised.

The Good:

  • Eli’s decision: Having tried (unsuccessfully) to reconcile with Nucky, and still clearly shaken by a drunken murder he comitted earlier this season, Eli is tired of trying to gain power of Atlantic City through cumbersome political scheming. When he tells Jimmy that they’d all be better off if they hired someone to kill Nucky, it’s nothing more than a brief moment, but it encapsulates all the grief and frustration this character has been feeling over the course of this show.
  • Owen’s fight: With Martin Scorsese serving as Executive Producer, it’s no shock that “Boardwalk Empire” features more than a little bit of gritty gangster violence. Even though we’ve come to expect it, Owen’s attack on a man in the bathroom of a bar comes across as intense and disturbing.
  • Van Alden: Van Alden’s a remarkably strange character, and we’re not completely sure where his story arc is going, but honestly, that’s something of a good thing. He’s unpredictable, praising God and Christian morality while also drowning his former partner during a makeshift “baptism.” He condemns the hedonism of Atlantic City while still succumbing to his sexual desires with Lucy. Now he is torn between his loyalty to his job and his inability to provide for his newborn child. Michael Shannon plays this conflict with skill and grace, keeping us on our toes as we watch with interest to see what he’ll do. While other characters on this show have fallen into fairly constant routines of behavior, we’re never quite sure what to expect from Van Alden, and that quality keeps things interesting.

The So-So:

  • Margaret in Brooklyn: Margaret’s trip to see her siblings doesn’t reveal as much about her character as it could have; perhaps this episode simply represents the first step in a new path for her, but as of now, we didn’t gain much by seeing her stand up to a bitter brother who silently judges her immoral behavior. True, it reminds us that she, like Van Alden, lives in constant turmoil, unable to reconcile her previously unquestioned moral principles with the life Nucky is able to give to her, but unless it results in anything more than a brief glimpse into her character, it’s not all that interesting.

The Bad:

  • Michael Pitt: Don’t get us wrong. Michael Pitt is a stellar actor who will hopefully move on to more interesting roles as “Boardwalk Empire” provides him with greater exposure. However, his character has been stagnant this season. Internal conflict has been the name of the game for most major players these past few episodes, but after a while, we’d like to see that internal conflict grow into something external. So far, aside from a few moments of violence, it hasn’t, and Michael Pitt is obviously growing tired of looking for new ways to play the indecisive criminal mastermind.


This season of “Boardwalk Empire” has been trudging along a little too slowly–perhaps the enormous weight of the long character list has something to do with that–but it looks like things are maybe starting to happen. The episode features with a pretty dramatic (and well-shot) attack on one of the major characters, and we’re eager to see what occurs as a result. Let’s just hope it’s something a little more thrilling than what we’ve been given lately.

Rating: 6.5/10

“Boardwalk Empire” airs every Sunday night on HBO!

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