Review: ‘Boardwalk Empire’ – ‘Havre de Grace’

A review of tonight’s “Boardwalk Empire” coming up just as soon as I win the Beach Patrol Cup…

“A day come, everybody gonna run out of road.” -Oscar

“Havre de Grace” isn’t the first episode this season to end with Nucky talking about wanting out, but it’s an episode where he’s far from the only character with that sentiment. The problem is that on this show, as in life, a great escape works much better in theory than in practice.

Chalky’s on the run with Daughter Maitland, winding up at the once-grand, now-decaying home of his old mentor Oscar(*), where he has to debate between going back to Atlantic City for revenge on Narcisse and Nucky (whom he understandably believes betrayed him) or disappearing from his old life forever in favor of a new one with Daughter. He ultimately settles on the latter, only to have Daughter vanish in the night, followed by Narcisse’s goons showing up and killing Oscar before being killed in turn by Oscar’s nephew Winston.(**)

(*) Like many DVD screeners I get, this one didn’t have the final picture mix, and pretty much every scene in and around Oscar’s house was so dark it was often hard to make out faces. But the second Oscar came onto the porch, I smiled at the instantly-recognizable silhouette of Louis Gossett Jr. If you’re going to cast an age-appropriate actor as Chalky’s gangster father figure, its hard to do better than the former Oscar winner. 

(**) If Chalky survives the events of the finale, I suspect we’ve just met Dunn’s replacement as his new sidekick.

Gillian makes her peace with both selling the Commodore’s home for a pittance and letting Julia and Richard maintain custody of Tommy, all because she has designs on starting over fresh with Roy, leaving behind all relics of her horrible life to this point. But we’ve all suspected that Roy is too good to be true, and that turns out to be the case, as he’s revealed to be a Pinkerton sent to bust Gillian for the murder of poor Roger. Not only is escape from her emotional prison impossible, but now she seems headed to a literal one.

And with some help from Gaston Bullock Means (in legal trouble yet again) and Eli’s wife June, Nucky seems to have tumbled to the idea that his brother is the skunk in his cellar. (Note how he brings up the girl from eighth grade just to ensure that it wasn’t the teasing that so angered Eli at dinner.) He’s been looking longingly towards Florida – or some other locale unconnected from his criminal empire – for a lot of this season, and perhaps he’s smart enough to outmaneuver Agent Tolliver, Narcisse, Masseria and his other enemies all at once. But I doubt things go that cleanly, and not just because the show is as likely to pack Nucky off to a comfortable semi-retirement as it is to kill him.

After the blazing guns and deal making of “White Horse Pike,” “Havre de Grace” was a more muted hour – though Gillian’s histrionics upon discovering Roy’s true identity were as piercing as any of the bullets being fired a week ago (and beautifully shot by Allen Coulter) – as the calm before a presumed storm in the finale. No Chicago or New York this week, and only the briefest of glimpses of Washington and Tampa. The show’s narrative sprawl is often very effective, but it’s also nice to get an hour like this essentially focusing on three stories, especially when the one providing the episode’s title provides such insight into the background of Chalky (who’s arguably turned into the lead of this season, or at least its MVP).

I’m looking forward to the finale with equal levels of anticipation and dread. Based on history, the show is going to stick the landing, but I fear one or more characters I love will not be making it to season 5.

What did everybody else think?