HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is one of the most sprawling and involved shows on TV, with a cast the size of an extra large beer barrel (or at least equal to The Wire). So this season, the show’s fourth, we’ll be breaking down the eight most bloody and boozy moments from every episode, including last night’s “William Wilson.”
What a delightful way to begin an episode. Al is understandably livid — he’s snorting cocaine, his brother’s dead, he’s snorting cocaine, and did I mention he’s snorting cocaine? He’s so incensed that he’s not above shooting an on-duty police officer in the middle of a crowded street, while the cop just wanted to read about the equally happy-go-lucky Leopold and Loeb case. We’ll get back to Al later, but this scene is worth highlighting.
Unlike this one. Enough with the Willie, please. The character’s horrible, the actor’s even worse (he looks like a comatose soggy poodle, and has the personality of one, too), and he’s bringing Edgar Allen Poe down with him. While not daydreaming about smoking joints with his topless girlfriend, Willie takes in enough of his professor’s on-the-nose description of Poe’s “William Wilson,” about doppelgängers AND MURDER, to feel guilty and angry for being a horrible person. He leaves Temple and doesn’t fall into a bottomless well, unfortunately.
Meanwhile, in one of the few subplots that’s actually taking place in the Boardwalk Empire, Gillian is detoxing to clear the heroin, alcohol for the VEINS, out of her system, with her friendly Ron Livingston at her side. (When will Livingston’s real-life parents admit that he was adopted and he’s related to Kyle Chandler?) All we know about this Roy fellow is that he’s too good to be true. What’s he hiding up his newly divorced sleeves? PREDICTION: he doesn’t actually work for Piggly Wiggly; he’s a Kroger man through and through. Either that, or he’s a shady motherf*cker who Richard will have to “take care of.” Could he be an actual decent person? Nah.
“Kill that Irish f*ck.” Al Capone’s been waiting his entire life, or at least this whole episode, to hear that. At first, Johnny Torrio is reluctant to order the hit on Dean O’Banion, until he gets screwed over in a brewery deal that ends with him and O’Banion getting arrested by a bunch of billy club-wielding cops. As one does.
Now THERE’S a smile you can trust. Not that it matters to Margaret — she’s going to have to learn to live with it, after that sly dog Rothstein discovers where she works. She’s on Wall Street, earning extra scratch on the side for her help in “manipulating” investors. (This is the first time in Boardwalk Empire history that “manipulation” from a woman doesn’t involve her getting topless. Progress!) This works fine and well — she has friends! — until Mr. Abe Redstone comes along, and her cover is blown. Not to Nucky, though. Rothstein will keep quiet as long as she helps him.
The scene where Hoover explains HIS findings of a network of bootleggers was one of my favorite from the episode, mostly because it featured James Cromwell standing up, making an amazing/terrible joke, sitting down, then not saying another word the rest of the episode. Fantastic. And hey, look, there’s Esther Randolph! And George Remus, too! And personal favorite Gaston Means, who’s feeding Nucky false information about Agent Knox, I mean, Jim Tolliver the way Remus wishes he were being fed pancakes. Boardwalk Empire is where character actors come when they need to pay the bills for an addition to their house. Anyway, Knox is furious about Hoover taking all the credit for his work, because apparently he’s never read Wikipedia. Dummy. It’s unlikely he’ll become a rogue FBI agent, but maybe he’ll start doing his work a little more quickly, without a certain Hoover’s knowledge. So, yeah, rogue.
Look, I’d want to drink the pain away if Willie were my kid, too. Let Nucky have him. (Also, this scene was filmed a few blocks away from where I live. In honor, I’m going to stumble around the neighborhood today, totally sh*tfaced. “IT’S FOR ELI THOMPSON,” he said to the cops, before being hauled away.)
R.I.P. Deacon Cuffy. You were an unfortunate casualty in Dr. Narcisse’s war against Chalky, which got a little more twisted with the revelation that Daughter Maitland came to Narcisse when he saved her from her prostitute of a mother…by strangling her to death. She’s hopelessly devoted to the doctor, unlike Chalky, who’s tragically enamored with Daughter. (Got that?) The harder Chalky falls for her, and he’s falling harder than a corpse out the window (I don’t blame him), the more Dr. Narcisse can accomplish without anyone suspecting him. And those who do, like the good Deacon, well, he’s got Dunn around to take care of those sort of problems. All in all, “William Wilson” was another very good episode in a season full of them. Are there too many plots happening at once? Certainly. But for every Willie Thompson, there’s a Gaston Means and a Dr. Narcisse and Arnold Rothstein in whiter face, a trade-off I’ll take every time.