Boardwalk Empire tinkered with its — an any expected — formula in “Havre de Grace.” Instead of it being an action-packed slug-fest, the fallout from which we would be left to sort out next week, it was instead a fairly quiet hour. Maybe it’s a reflective of Nucky’s new outlook. Instead of a war — his default solution — Eli talks him into another meeting of the crime bosses, just like they did to start the season. The stakes and causalities of last season’s finale should certainly be enough to give us, as well as the characters, pause. As Eli says to Nucky, is it worth it? Weighing that made Nucky realize none of it is, and he wants out. But can he achieve it? Hit the jump for more.
Nucky came to his realization late in the hour, but before that, we watched Chalky and Gillian both look for outs, and fail. Chalky visits his mentor Oscar Boneau as both a safe haven and a way to collect his thoughts. But Oscar, who could easily rival Maggie Smith‘s Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey when it comes to quips and one-liners, didn’t offer much in the way of help. Chalky, still so twisted up from his altercations with Narcisse, his situation with Nucky, and his tarnished standing in the community, promises Daughter she can have what she wants — he’ll run away with her, and away from it all.
Boardwalk Empire is never sentimental, though (see Richard Harrow’s wedding as an example). Viewers would have been right to have been filled with unease throughout Chalky’s walkabout. And then, of course, with Daughter in the wind (after being harangued by Oscar, and probably cognizant on some level of their doomed affair), the piper came to be paid. Narcisse’s men kill Oscar, the blood of which lies firmly on Chalky. There’s no getting out.
Gillian, who has done very little towards the show except expedite Richard’s happy ending and give us beautiful outfits to gaze upon, was also lured into a false sense of freedom. Despite her love of Tommy and commitment to getting him back, something was triggered in her this week. Maybe Tommy really was better off with Richard and Julia. He still knew the “truth” about his parents (a version of it, anyway), and lacks any connection with her emotionally. She also seemed to acknowledge it was unlikely anything would happen to get him back, and if she contested it, he could end up in a children’s home.
So, after a moment of emotion, Gillian was completely rejuvenated. She was given back the life that was taken from her at 13. Again, anyone who expected this to last must be new here. Further, we knew something was off with Roy, and his bizarre actions towards her, either meant he was crazy, or setting her up. The latter proved true, and Gillian was screwed one last time by the Commodore, via one of his old cronies. It was a powerful scene when she was taken away, stripped of everything. But it was also justice for what she did, not only to poor innocent Rodger, but also Jimmy.
What this proves, it seems, is that Nucky doesn’t have much chance of getting out. It’s a theme plenty of other shows have explored, including some of TV’s best dramas of the last 15 years. Don Draper, Walter White, most of the cast of The Wire … you build this crooked life for yourself, and then you want to leave it? It’s not going to happen on your terms. Debts will be paid. It’s unlikely that Nucky’s future, whatever it is, will be decided in next week’s finale, though. But even if this entire season has been setup, it’s been a damn good one. The goal — embodied all season by Van Alden, Richard Harrow, Margaret, and so many others — is clear: escape. If no one else could achieve it, can Nucky? And at what price?
Episode Rating: A-/B+, I can’t decide
Musings and Miscellanea:
— So, what the heck is going on with Eli. Is Nucky handing over the reins, or just letting Eli set himself up. I hate that Eli is in this position again though. He had such a fantastic arc as being jealous of Nucky and plotting against him, only to fall spectacularly, pay for his sins, then start on a long road to redemption. Why put him back there, lying and hiding things from Nucky again? Does he have a plan to throw the others under the bus but save Nucky? I don’t see why he couldn’t have brought Nucky in on it.
— Difficult moment when Eli yelled at June, who he usually treats with such love and affection.
— Seriously, Gillian’s outfits are beautiful.
— This was a tight episode only focusing on a few narrow characters, which I like, even though it left so much unanswered.
— Is there anyone more eloquent and better to listen to than Gaston Means? Sally is a close number two, her drawl and comebacks are golden.
— Too many Oscarisms to count, including “You’re too smart to be that dumb” and “I told you a lot, don’t know what you heard,” but the man was just generally on fire.
— “You can make yourself live with anything” – Gillian admitting to killing Rodger, which is such a crazy admission. Unless Roy was crazy, did she really think that would make him stay?? Ron Livingston did a good job with Roy’s bad acting when it came to the proposal all the way down to his “guilt” over the shooting. It all felt phony.
— You never expect the Pinkertons!