The woman who feared the bodies under the boardwalk said it all: there are “all manner of dark doings” happening on Boardwalk Empire. “King of Norway” found all of its characters in deep turmoil, except perhaps Margaret. Flashbacks to Nucky’s young adulthood — a move forward in that timeline — are also starting to show a more complete picture of who and what Nucky is, or at least, who he thought he should become. That confusion has caused him a lifetime of heartache, but what he is defined by now just the same as he was then is resilience. Hit the jump if you know that you can tune a piano, but can you tuna fish?
There was a little bit of self-discovery happening in “King of Norway,” revolving around that question Mabel’s father posited to Nucky: do you know who (or what) you are? Nucky has been many things, and he has shifted over the years to survive the cultural and political changes. Once again, though, he finds himself alone and without allies (similar to when Jimmy and Eli turned on him). Sally is dead, he’s frozen out Margaret, Eli is once again attempting to break ties, and Torrio — another old gangster Nucky thought he could speak with honestly about the future — was in on a plan to kill him.
Still, Nucky perseveres. That same changeling spirit possesses most of the characters left alive on the show, and there’s a strong sense that, in the world they inhabit, it’s the only quality necessary to survive. George Mueller/Nelson Van Alden’s past has caught up to him, as the feds are attempting to use him to get Capone’s ledgers. They also have dragged Eli into it, because he killed Agent Tolliver (“we found his teeth all over your home.”) But, those two also have a connection from the past, and a much more recent struggle, once Eli is finally reminded of his drunken copulation with Van Alden’s wife Sigrid. She has changed, too, from a passionate and willing woman to a cold, mean one, and one who calls a dinner party just so she can wield the truth about those in attendance like a whip.
Meanwhile, Chalky has returned to the scene of his undoing, looking not for shelter, but for a key to where Narcisse is so that he can exact this revenge for what transpired all those years earlier. His reason for going to prison was also revealed: he was jailed for a string of robberies, which he said he deserved. Assuming his family wants nothing to do with them (according to Nucky they moved to St. Louis, and are living under his wife’s maiden name), he sets out to try and at least kill Narcisse while he has the opportunity. While there, he sees his old paramour … and a child. His? Narcisse’s?
Gillian’s story most closely echoed Nucky’s in “King of Norway,” as she makes a case for herself that she is healed. The doctor, a man who is knife-happy and seems to not believe anyone ever is or can be “cured,” tells Gillian that insanity — like malaria or other diseases — can lie dormant, and reappear at any time. He dismisses the idea of temporary insanity, and essentially questions how, exactly, she can know what she is.
Both Gillian and Nucky made deliberate choices after coming out of a life of hardship that they hoped would rid them of their hard-scrabble upbringing, and make for them a better life. For Gillian, it was suffocating Jimmy with her affections (to the point of incest), which also making she he was always bettering himself, and aiming for greater things. Nucky found role models in Mr. Lindsay and the Commodore: Lindsay’s decency (though ability to execute, literally), and the Commodore’s wealth and influence. His desire to follow them has, clearly, set up the rest of his life. And in these last few episodes, what exactly will be the consequence of that? Or have we already seen it, and these are just the final details?
Like many episodes this season, “King of Norway” largely felt like an extended reverie, floating from story to story, punctuated with by Tommy gunfire, or absurdities. The one thing that ties it together, though, is that the education of Nucky is an ongoing thing, and when it comes to knowing oneself, there is no straight answer.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— So Nucky served as a Deputy, obviously (later) seeing the value in having his second-in-command (his brother) be the Sheriff.
— “He’s going to mine people!” – Mabel, explaining to her father why Nucky isn’t going to the Klondike.
— As shruggingly as I follow the non-Nucky gangster storylines, I do appreciate time spent with that nutbar Capone. The fact that there was a scene dedicated to his constipation is ridiculous … and yet, so much was revealed about his character in just those short scenes.
— Van Alden seemed totally nonplussed that the fed interrogating him was supposedly one of Capone’s men. Did he always know? Also, I wouldn’t need someone to cover me with roaches to cooperate — just show me one and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.
— “You wrong for once” – Chalky.
— Margaret has her next scheme all planned out, it seems.
— I feel like the settings and set pieces were extra gorgeous in this episode. Also, that was a great shot with the wallpaper and mirrors when the kid comes to fetch Nucky because Chalky is there (not to mention those great curtains behind where Chalky was sitting).
— Eli’s wife June can’t even look at him without getting pregnant. This is #9 for them?
— “Have your childish pleasure” – The white witch, a.k.a. Sigrid.
— That mental hospital … I know Gillian is crazy, but her craziness is essentially contained to all things Jimmy.
— “You both work badges. Here is your chance to earn them” – Federal agent.
— “Chester, that would sound better much further away” – Nelson.