Now THAT’S more like it. After a typically slow start to the season, “What Jesus Said” had nearly everything you’d want from an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Chalky scowling? Check. Joe “Look Out, Itchy, He’s Irish” Kennedy being a general delight? Check. The return of the mustache-twirling Dr. Narcisse? Check. Kitty? Check. Flashbacks that weren’t painful to watch? Check. These guys?
CHECK. A stray B-plot (or E-plot?) connecting to the larger story this season is trying to tell? Check.
About that last one: I had the same look on my face as Nucky when he saw Margaret, who too often feels like she’s on an entirely different show, at the end of the episode. Sometimes you wonder if we’re still checking in on some characters because there are stories left to tell, or if it’s because Gretchen Mol’s contract hasn’t run out yet, but to their credit, the writers found a clever way of getting the Thompsons in the same room again. After Arnold Rothstein died, money in his account was still being withdrawn, to the tune of $111,000. Now Arnold’s wife, Carolyn, wants that dough back, and she’s coming after another woman with a “notorious husband” and less-than-convincing innocence act to get it. And so Margaret comes back to Nucky, who’s initially disappointed that she’s not his first wife Mabel, before that million-dollar Buscemi Smile crept out.
If only Chalky had some of that money — he could use it. Together with Milton, they broke into the home belonging to a mother and her daughter, who kept stringing the two uninvited guests along with their lies. When is the father coming back? Where is the safe? Why is Milton so scared of telephones? All those questions were answered, eventually (except the telephone one): the man of the house is long gone, and while the safe is hidden upstairs, there’s nothing but Liberty bonds in it. Milton is all set to kill the teenage girl, until the paternal instincts of Chalky, who’s still reeling from the death of his daughter, kicked in and he struck his partner in the neck with a hammer. Like Nucky, Chalky’s a confused mess; unlike Nucky, he’s not a runaway fugitive with nowhere to go and no Veal Parmesan on his plate.
Meanwhile, there’s no sign of Van Alden or Eli this week — they’re too busy hanging out with old ladies and their yappy dogs in elevators — but we did get the season debut of Dr. Narcisse. He’s up in Harlem, running his brothel and wanting only to keep what’s his, well, his, but Luciano and Siegel have other plans, plans that ended with a room full of dead prostitutes and a war on the horizon.
“What Jesus Said” was an episode largely about connections, about the ones Nucky’s trying to form (Kennedy), the ones he’s trying to keep (Sally, making the world’s most expensive phone call from Cuba), and the ones that have re-entered his life (Margaret) or might some day soon (Chalky, I hope). It certainly connected with me, and because I don’t want to end this review with a “cute” line like that, here’s some dude in a fez jerking off in a booth.
Never let Mickey Doyle run a club. Never.