Boardwalk Empire is entering the back half of its season, and with that comes plenty of set up. “William Wilson” was almost exclusively about moving pieces into place, which didn’t make for the most engaging hour, but it wasn’t terrible either. Still, this year’s best episodes are ones that have narrowed the focus down to a few characters, and the show having to add in locational reminders this year (New York, D.C., Atlantic City, Tampa, etc) proves that audiences still struggle when the show fans out too far. What is this, Westeros? Maybe they should invest in a map to start each episode like Game of Thrones. Hit the jump for why you should never order a steak for someone who doesn’t want it.
“William Wilson” started to bring, slowly, a number of the show’s myriad characters together. Joe Torrio and Dean O’Bannion are caught in a raid together that Al is certain O’Bannion set up. When Torrio okays the hit, the gangland violence that likely follows will also have repercussions for Van Alden, who might soon be under new management. But as Knox worked so hard to prove, the interconnectedness of these criminals means that no one’s actions can happen without the rest being drawn in.
Knox is also using Gaston Means to manipulate Nucky and protect his (Knox’s) true identity. Nucky of course is tied to Eli, who is suspicious of Knox, as well as Chalky, and by extension the murderous Purnsley and scheming Narcisse. Their heroin trade links back in with the Italians, specifically Lucky (as well as Nucky’s land deal in Tampa), and of course we’ve seen its personal effects through Gillian. Off orbiting nearby is Margaret, who has a run-in with Rothstein. Small town, this New York.
The point being, however doubtful it may sometimes seem, Boardwalk Empire has managed to keep everyone connected — loosely — enough to suggest their worlds will contract at some point in the next few weeks. But the show has not given away enough yet to see how. It’s that loss of direction that Boardwalk has suffered from since Jimmy’s death. There will be a seasonal arc, probably eventually revolving around Narcisse, that will draw everyone in, but what’s driving it? Where are we headed? Is Nucky’s ascension or redemption still something we even still care about?
It was, ultimately, an hour that suggested you cannot outrun or hide from your past. Willie is haunted by his choices, Eli and Nucky face old tensions, Margaret is spooked by Rothstein, and Roy and Gillian discuss vice. Even George Remus showed up to throw however many of his former associates under the bus that he could. Strangely, the two men who embodied this theme the most — Van Alden and Richard Harrow — were conspicuously absent. Perhaps “William Wilson” was just bringing everyone down into their particular misery.
“William Wilson” was talky and heavily focused on plot points: it was functional. These kinds of episodes are always difficult to review. Did it do its job in achieving something? Absolutely. There were a number of building blocks that are clearly setting up confrontations to come. Was it entertaining? It didn’t have a lot of humor or charm or too much character interest, but it had its moments.
Episode Rating: U (ungraded, because it simply was).
Musings and Miscellanea:
— If you’re not familiar with the case of Leopold and Loeb, I highly recommend reading up on it. If you like crime novels, Compulsion (a fictionalized version of the events) is a must. Their reason for doing what they did, and their eventual undoing, is very strongly reminiscent to that of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.
— “Willies a good kid, but sometimes like his father he acts without thinking” – Nucky. It was unfortunate to see the Nucky/Eli rivalry renewed since Eli’s character has much such strides in the past two years.
— Al is about to go fully off the rails, isn’t he?
— Glad to see Margaret up to something (like participating in cons, apparently), although I’m a little surprised she didn’t play along with Rothstein’s cover story about how they knew each other. Perhaps this is part of her new life. And was that $100 just hush money, by the way, or will he want something else from her later?
— Margaret also is keeping the alligator on her desk that Nucky intended for Teddy. Does this portend an eventual reconciliation?
— Oh Hoover, ya jerk. Knox is going to lose it and go after him somehow. History would suggest this won’t end in his favor.
— Do I buy Roy as Gillian’s white knight? I don’t know that I do, nor do I particularly care. She’s done nothing to deserve it, but his obsession with her could, knowing this show, end up just being sinister.
— Speaking of which, the Narcisse/Maitland/Chalky/Purnsley story this week was too obvious. We all knew he’d kill the deacon, and that Maitlan was a spy who, as soon as she said it, was clearly lying about her story and that it was Narcisse who killed her mother and then manipulated her into working for (and worshipping) him. Narcisse is just another crazy seasonal criminal in the vein of Gyp Rosetti. I suppose it keeps things interesting though.
— Hoover: “What do you know about Tampa?” Remus: “It’s humid.”