HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is one of the most sprawling and involved shows on TV, with a cast the size of a beer barrel (or at least equal to The Wire). So all this season, the show’s fourth, we’ll be breaking down the 10 most bloody and boozy (and booby) from every season, beginning with last night’s premiere, “Erlkönig.”
For today’s recap, I’m focusing only on four bloody moments because…jesus.
Willie Thompson is such an unlikable, uninteresting character that his mere presence distracts from one of Steve Buscemi’s finest performances on Boardwalk Empire. The law will make you pay, unless you can pay the law, which is how Uncle Nucky gets his nephew off the hook for Henry’s death (the hook stabs Willie’s friend Clayton in the back instead). Back at Temple, out of police custody for all the wrong reason$$$, Nucky tells Willie that he has to believe the lie, that “the only thing you can count on is blood. The blood that’s in your veins and the blood that’s in mine.” Nothing else matters in the world. Nucky knows that, whether he likes it or not, the booze-swiping Willie is involved with in the family business now, and he won’t let an employee ruin him, the way Willie ruins every scene he’s in. (Also, Willie gets the girl shortly after his Milhouse of a best friend is arrested, because the ladies love it when you a poison someone and make them sh*t until they die.)
His brother’s dead, so I think this is the least we’ve heard of Alfred “Coked Up” Capone. Boardwalk being based on real-life events and people can occasionally lessen the drama, like when George points his gun at Al, who’s crawling on the ground in the middle of an April 1st riot; obviously, he doesn’t die (who would fill his vaults?). But sometimes, even when you know, say, Frank Capone isn’t long for the world, the way, say, Frank Capone is brutally gunned down is no less emotionally effective than if he were a fictional character. That’s thanks to Tim Van Patten’s riveting directing, the writing staff’s ability to place his death inside the story of a made-up monster (George, trying his best to talk things out, failing), and Morgan Spector’s reserved performance. Meanwhile, Al’s left blood-eyed sobbing over his brother’s corpse and probably won’t want to enact revenge on the Chicago cops who are responsible for the carnage. “Every fucking thing that crawls is gonna pay,” he hisses, so watch out, babies.
OK, technically, Gillian isn’t dead, but she feels like a ghost, albeit a ghost with black and blue track marks, drifting from scene to scene, living in the least abandoned abandoned haunted house of all-time. Gillian’s scarred, tired body remains in New Jersey, but her mind and soul are somewhere else, somewhere where she’s reunited with Jimmy, can spend time with Tommy without being dragged away inside a school holding an Abba-Zaba bar, and doesn’t have to resort to offering illicit blowjobs to strange men, to get by for another day. I’m still waiting to learn how her and Ron’s arc will tie into the show at large, although involving Dunn helps, because right now, she’s drifting, not unlike a newspaper fluttering in the breeze in the most devastating turn of events on a TV show since…when was Breaking Bad on last?
Even good guy Eddie Kessler wasn’t such a good guy. Nucky’s dutiful right hand-man has served as the show’s moralistic comic relief for so long, quietly limping through Jersey while his boss conducts business, that I never bothered to ask the question of why a man so proud, so in love with Germany had fled to America. Turns out, it’s because he stole money, and the lingerie girl, from his employer, and escaped jail time by escaping the fatherland. His name has been soiled back home, so much so that his sons have changed theirs, to not be associated with their no-good father. To avoid being deported back, Kessler, after losing his lunch, spills his guts to Agent Knox: Ralph Capone. Nucky Thompson. That’s all it takes. The only thing Kessler has left in the world is Nucky, and he knows that Knox will keep coming back to him, having broken him already. He’ll dig for more information on “Mr. Thompson,” who still sees his former attendant as his current servant…So he jumps, adding yet another name to Boardwalk‘s already-long list of casualties.
Who’s next? WILLIE PLEASE.