After I made a big case for the virtues of Boardwalk Empire‘s languid pace and subtle payoffs, this week nearly had me snoozing. Plenty was set up, though — “Bone For Tuna” was all about Nucky’s alienation, the stage for which was set with the opening dream sequence that melded together his feelings for Billie and his feelings about Jimmy. Gillian artfully tells a tale out of school to Gyp Rosetti regarding Nucky’s alienation (what kind of revenge might she have planned for him?), that “his own brother wanted him killed.” Rosetti replies with a comment about what a person has left once they no longer have their flesh and blood. “Nothing,” Gillian replies knowingly. “You have nothing.” For more on Nucky’s fall from grace, hit the jump.
Nucky’s sudden jealous attachment to Billie makes more sense now in this context. Without Jimmy, Eli, the Commodore, Margaret or anyone else (besides his trusted valet), Nucky is on his own. As he says to Billie to end the episode, “I thought I had a nightmare I was alone,” to which she replies, “well you’re not any more.” But where had she been for two days? Gone, or ignoring Nucky’s calls on purpose? The dark foreshadowing of Billie’s disappearance and her empty apartment make one wonder if she’ll last the season, and if not, what then will happen to Nucky.
Things between Nucky and Margaret may at this point be irreparable. He needs her to comfort him, but she no long can nor wants to, in order to distance herself from his nefarious deeds. As much as it seems like Nucky is the one keeping away from Margaret, taking mistresses and not treating her well, it’s really Margaret who has more or less cast him out, probably counting on the fact that he wouldn’t divorce her because of the kids and his image (and, of course, she knows too much at this point not to be kept close). Margaret has also ended her piety and turned her scheming ways to get what she wants for good causes. She traps the head doctor at the hospital to getting a blessing from the Bishop about a women’s center just as such arranges for Nucky to be knighted, for appearances. The behavior is nothing new for Margaret — after all, she did scheme to get close to Nucky and have her husband done away with (even if she didn’t spearhead it, she was certainly complicit and was never under any illusions — she’s always been too smart for that). She gets what she wants!
Elsewhere, on the business end of things, Nucky wines and dines the whining Rosetti and nearly convinces him to get out of town … until the “bone for tuna” moment, which Rosetti (naturally, he who “can find an insult in a bouquet of roses”) takes badly. Rosetti is like a petulant child throwing his toys out of the stroller … if by “toys” ones means “men” and by “throwing” one means “setting on fire.” His kind of villain is pure insanity, which is difficult when trying to predict what could come next. Chaos and guns, I’m guessing.
Speaking of that, though Rothstein didn’t make an appearance this week (unfortunate, as he’s a personal favorite), Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky were back on the scene with their heroin trade, retaliating to their mule being robbed (by …?). How this will connect back to Nucky and the liquor trade is unclear, but Luciano did provide a tie-in to Gillian (remember them together?), who wants to keep her joint classy by not having leaks, and regaling her patrons with art, theater and poetry (of course, they just want the naked chicks and sex).
It seems that Lucky and that crowd don’t know yet about Jimmy’s death (or by whose hand it was), and whether it really matters at this point I don’t know. Nucky is back in power after all, and not much of a threat to their racket. Richard Harrow, the only one who might still openly bare Nucky ill will (besides Gillian) explained that he and his family were free from harm. Killing Manny was about Angela, not Jimmy: “Jimmy was a soldier. He fought, and he lost.” But Nucky’s conscience is not at rest over the deed. He dreams of Jimmy and then reminisces in a key scene after Jimmy is back from the war, and Nucky makes him the deputy to a deputy — not exactly the homecoming Jimmy was expecting, and the beginning of the rift of malcontent between them. Perhaps Nucky is wishing he had taken things a different way. Still, what’s done now is done.
It was a quiet and contemplative week for Boardwalk, highlighting Nucky’s tenuous emotional position (with no one standing by him) as well as establishing Rosetti as the massive thorn in trade between New York and Atlantic City. Some of the dialogue is snappy and the atmosphere always lush, but for a show to roll this slowly requires some intense love for the characters we are studying. The moments with Van Alden (addressed below) and Harrow are the most affecting of the show, but there’s just not enough time spent with them. Instead we’re stuck watching a man many viewers have grown to intensely dislike wallow in self-awareness. He’s certainly not the only one who misses Jimmy.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Though Van Alden’s work and social life are the pits, his home life is pretty ideal. Remind me though, does his wife know his real name and self, or did he completely Don Draper her? Does she know him only as George Mueller? Great moment when he got drawn up in the raid, though. And such pathos when he got punked by his co-workers, who are annoying but perhaps not malicious.
— It was nice seeing O’Doyle taught a lesson about runnin’ his yam!
— “Nothing wrong with letting your hair down a little” – Van Alden, the least likely person to ever say such a thing and mean it.
— “Bone For Tuna” sounds filthy.
— “Don’t try to weasel a hand-job for a tip!” – O’Doyle