After several weeks of building tensions and compelling setup, Boardwalk Empire deflated this week with a woefully predictable and not particularly engaging episode. Not that “The North Star” didn’t have its moments — time spent with Richard Harrow is always worthwhile. But in the many one-on-one scenes of the hour, none had an outcome that wasn’t telegraphed from a mile away. This season also still lacks direction. Where are we headed? Most especially, where is Nucky headed? And shouldn’t him getting his lights punched out happen every episode? Hit the jump for why “I just hate a goddamn whiner.”
Richard returned to Atlantic City and to the Sagorsky family after his sojourn to “Westconsin.” With Paul’s health rapidly failing and Tommy’s future uncertain, it’s time for Richard to step up and be the head of the family. It’s a responsibility he has dreamt of his whole life, yet ran away from it (because of his shame of his “other” life) when he had the first opportunity to do it. It was nice to see Julia welcoming him back, however warily, though whether she can trust him that that other life is gone remains to be seen.
Romance Rating: 8 sawed-off shotguns
Meyer and Lucky have been seeing other people, as it were, but still remain close friends and business partners on deals they think they can swing outside of the purview of the more powerful Masseria and Rothstein. But when Lucky has to back out of Nucky’s land deal because their new Cuban partner is friends with Masseria and quickly threatens to out Lucky’s plans to him, Meyer makes a play to strike out on his own. The two break up, but, probably not for long. Probably longer than Nucky’s land deal will last, though.
Romance Rating: 4 bags of heroin
Then we had the relationship between Chalky and Daughter Maitland, which has been simmering for weeks, and finally exploded after a sulky Chalky finally admitted (more or less) he feelings for her. But isn’t she just baiting him for Narcisse? We knew that something was going to happen, and that wasn’t at all interesting. But if it turns out that she is working him, that will elevate it. Meanwhile though, the show should focus more on her solos. Truly spellbinding stuff.
Romance Rating: 5 trombones
Nucky had two encounters worth mentioning: a cold and extremely brief meeting with Margaret, and alligator fights and stormy sex with Sally. The meeting with Margaret, after all of this time, was wholly unsatisfying. Nucky couldn’t spit it out about Eddie, because deep down he probably realized Margaret didn’t really care what was going on with him. But Margaret’s caginess with him also meant that we don’t really know what she’s been up to or how she’s doing, which is such a waste. As irreparable as her relationship with Nucky seems to be, the show either needs to get them back together, or cut her out completely. No half measures!
Romance Rating: -1 lover in a box
Of course, Nucky bounced back pretty well with Sally who, praise her light, finally gave him the slugging he has deserved for years. Naturally, their drunken physical violence lead to sex, but Nucky shrewdly parlayed his connection with her to make her his proxy in Tampa for the land deal. That trick was something he learned from Eddie — promote and give more important responsibilities to those you trust. That didn’t work out particularly well for Eddie, but the principle is there.
Romance Rating: 7 fighting alligators
Finally, not romance related: Eli was haunted by Eddie’s death and the mystery he left behind. He astutely found the safety deposit key, and used Knox to finally get the money for him. He seems to know that Knox is not who he says he is, but will need time to prove it. So far, Knox has not been an adversary worthy of even being swatted by the Thompson organization. Yes, he lead to Eddie’s suicide, but he doesn’t seem to be able to get close to the truth without J. Edgar shooting down his fanciful notions of nation-wide organized crime. With only a few episodes left, it seems unclear how Knox will finish up this season, or whether he’s going to fill the void of the lawman’s side of things that Van Alden left open for a long time to come.
“The North Star” was about moving pieces into place, and while an episode like “Acres of Diamonds” did essentially the same thing, it was a lot more interesting. Boardwalk has always been, in its quieter episodes, a meditation on character, but “The North Star” unfortunately didn’t reveal anything particularly new or interesting while shuffling the players into their next slots.
Episode Rating: C
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I feel entirely unfulfilled by Nucky’s encounter with Margaret, and hope she’s back with more to offer in coming weeks.
— Mickey: “Death in the family.” Knox: “Was it sudden?” Mickey: “Just the last few feet.”
— Tommy Darmody = the cutest. Also better at astronomy than I am.
— So did Knox translate Eddie’s suicide note at all, or even in part? Or did it implicate him so he lied? Or is that really what Eddie wrote? In many ways, it would make sense. “My dearest son, this afternoon I got the happy word that I will be a grandfather. I cannot express the joy.”
— Chalky needs to be punched in the face as well, I think, to wake him up from that surly funk!
— Paul Sagorsky: “I’m dying.” Richard: “Right now?”
— Early Tampa was apparently very similar to the Wild West. Also, alligator fighting = the cock fighting of middle Florida?
— Nucky: “Did you squeeze this out of the alligator?” Sally: “I won’t say no.”
— “I am who I am. Who else could I be?”