Previously on Boardwalk Empire: the pre-credits catch-up tells us we’ll be getting back to Chalky’s story, that Harrow and Sleater are still the baddest asses, Jimmy still has a difficult relationship with the Commodore and Nucky is still in legal trouble.
First! Jimmy is inspecting his gigantic warehouse full of crates marked ‘RYE’. It’s like the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark but with booze. Micky Cohen says ‘from a tiny acorn grows the mighty elk’, Jimmy calls him dumb and then drops a lit cigarette in a warehouse full of highly flammable materials. Foreshadow-sense: tingling!
And then, because there’s no Paz de la Huerta this week and dammit someone needs to get naked around here, Gillian is doing a Greek myth-inspired striptease for the Commodore, why not. She is the goddess Diana, and the man who watched her bathing was turned into a stag and torn apart by his own hounds. This is just far too much dramatic irony for the Commodore to take, and he suffers a stroke.
Chalky’s storyline is easily the most involved and fastest-moving in the whole show, so let’s review. His daughter wants to invite a gentleman caller for dinner and Chalky is fine with that provided they have a dish called Hopping John, a hearty meal made largely of rice and beans. This is dismissed out of hand by his wife, who insists on duck and all the trimmings.
Later, at a community meeting chaired by Chalky, the families of the men killed by the klan while under his employ no longer accept his promises of ‘it’s being taken care of’. When he raises it to Nucky, he gets the same meaningless response and is told to ‘be a good boy.’ Oh man. Oh man the face Chalky makes. I am crapping myself a little just thinking about it. More later, but dang the casting in this show is sublime. The scene at dinner where a drunk Chalky tries to assert himself on his mannerly family is blistering. Wow.
Speaking of which, the guy playing Richard Harrow needs some kind of prize. Any kind. All the prizes, even for like set design or something. He’s just mesmerising. This week he ends up posing for a sketch by Angela and they end up talking about love because Angela is not entirely happy with her relationship with Jimmy and she also seems to have a bit of a thing for trying to help broken people.
Anyway Harrow tells the saddest goddamn story that ever got said. He has a twin sister who was his only friend growing up on a farm in Wisconsin. When he came back from the war she helped him recover from his injuries, but he discovered he didn’t love her any more and ran away to Chicago to do crimes. Anyway he takes his mask off after that and it’s the movingest scene, for real.
Boardwalk Empire does some things very well, and one of those things is playing the tension between several dangerous people and their desires like a harp made out of psychoses and fine suits. What it does less well is be concise about who is buying alcohol from who and from where. So here is the scoresheet for easy reference:
- Nucky is moving his booze through Philadelphia with Rothstein’s blessing. This requires Nucky to pay Rothstein, some guy called Waxy and Luciano, who does not have a big role in this season.
- After the Commodore had a boner attack, Jimmy and Gillian had a weird mother/son kiss moment and then decided to sell booze to a dangerous butcher guy in Philadelphia called Horvitz, who hates Waxy and is a dangerous psychopath.
- Nucky has hired Sleater to blow up Jimmy’s distillery (because Irish people explode things), which he does. Horvitz has already paid much money up front for the alcohol that is making tasty firey smells. Shenanigans!
In Nucky news, he has found a way to dodge his election-rigging charge. If he makes the case federal he can call in a favour from the Attorney-General. During a prostitutes-and-cake party for the mayor where Eddie is singing in a lovely German baritone because he is the absolute best but anyway it turns out Nucky moved prostitutes across state lines to influence voting, because that is a thing. But lo! That also makes it a federal case! Prostitutes for everyone! It’s a weird and uncomfortable scene.
Finally, Gillian gets some alone time with the Commodore. He’s unable to communicate, and Gillian tells him the story of how he got her pregnant as a child, and how it still wakes her in the night. After reliving the entire thing with him, she asks if he remembers it, and then slaps him, hard, in the face. The scene ends with so many slaps, you guys. Catharsis for everyone!
What will happen next on the Boardwalk? Give us your two cents in the comments!