A Boardwalk Empire Community
HBO (ended 2014)
For a business man like Nucky Thompson, trust is a very valuable thing, particularly when it comes to conducting said business. Who to place it with? Who to not? This fourth season of Boardwalk Empire accumulated to “White Horse Pike” for our anti-hero, in which he realised that while he have may been doing good in the business of making money, in terms of who he’s given his trust, he has failed spectacularly. The list only seems to be as long as a single person, Sally Wheet, the woman overseeing his alcohol shipment off from Tampa. She informs Nucky that all of his business partners, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Vincenzo Petrucelli are piggybacking heroine in on his shipments without his knowledge, for Joe Masseria. Ironically, Nucky gets Eli to go and intercept the travelling cargo personally to confirm Sally’s claims, and when the heroine is discovered they use Meyer to organise a meeting with Masseria at The Onyx Club. But surprising Nucky, Masseria shows up with a partner, Narcisse, and Nucky finally becomes aware of a scheme that’s been going on behind his back for some time, and it hurt. It was refreshing to watch Nucky, a character who’s been full of indecision this season, even with his initial acquisition in the Tampa deal, really lose his temper in this episode. The brashness to ask Narcisse ‘Who the fuck do you think you are?’ in their first meeting when he came looking for Chalkie, the contempt he held for Lansky as Eli pointed a gun at his head, and his surprise and confusion which quickly turned to bitterness upon realising at The Onyx Club that Narcisse had bested him in a spectacular fashion were all exhilarating scenes to watch unfold. Nucky had no choice but to agree to buy into the heroine scheme, whether he wanted to or not. Not only that, but he also had to give Narcisse Chalkie in exchange.

And perhaps this is where Nucky was at his biggest fault, trusting Chalkie. Nucky explicitly told him that he shouldn’t start a war with Narcisse time and time again, yet Chalkie’s inability to control himself lead to him and several of his men barraging the Universal Negro Improvement Association with bullets in a failed attempt to kill him, which obviously Narcisse would not stand by and let happen again. By putting his trust in Chalkie Nucky’s now in a war it doesn’t look like he can win. It turned out Narcisse not only had Nucky over a barrel on the business front, but the political front too. He cleverly used Mayor Edward Bader, who’s desperate to ensure the black vote for the upcoming election, in his attempts to acquire Chalkie. Narcisse painted him as a destructive man that needed to be stopped at the pairs press conference, confirming that Bader would get the police to take down Chalkie for him. Having gotten Bader into power himself, Nucky called in a favour to get Chalkie out of Atlantic City, but as soon as Nucky put the phone down, we knew it meant bad news for Chalkie, even if Nucky didn’t. Chalkie managed to shoot himself out of a pickle for a second time in this episode, thanks to the help of Daughter, but it may not have done him, or Nucky any good, with what they’re doing to have to deal with in the future.

The worst part about all this for Nucky though is that his biggest failure, and certainly his biggest betrayal, is yet to come: that of his own brother, Eli. Eli being the federal bureau of investigation’s informant on Nucky was confirmed this week, as we watched James Tolliver (aka Agent Knox) play good cop and bad cop trying to get Eli to talk. One second he was telling Eli stories of why he wanted to be a man of the law, the next he was entering Eli’s home under the guise of an insurance seller and threatening Willie’s freedom all the while. Tolliver is a fascinating character who I’ve enjoyed very much this season, but Eli most definitely stole the show from him. Watching the pain he felt as Nucky again and again utilised Knox in his plans to investigate the heroine, all the while knowing he was collecting informant on Nucky, was heartbreaking. The only reprieve is that Tolliver’s superior, J. Edgar Hoover, it still not overly supportive of Tolliver despite his excellent work. I think in the long run it’ll be Tolliver’s resentment for Hoover that will cause a major mistake on the part of the bureau, and allow Nucky to escape justice just a little while longer as the series continues, but at least for now Nucky still has the illusion of his family buy his side. Willie finally proved himself to be useful to Nucky, and that he can even be an interesting character with the right plot, when he came to inform Nucky of Mayor Bader’s business with Narcisse. Eli was perplexed at Willie’s presence there, but Nucky informed him he was doing his job, and Willie asked Eli: isn’t this what we do? It was an enlightening moment for Eli, and an even more fitting way to end the episode. Eli had betrayed Nucky to ensure his son’s freedom and future, yet here was his son, an active participant in Nucky’s business. Eli could have come to the sad realisation that everything he had done had been for nothing, or that he was glad that he had done what he had done, since Nucky has so severely intertwined their family with the criminal underworld, and that this act against Nucky may be the only way to end it. Either way, Eli came across resigned as Nucky loaded a pistol and the trio prepared themselves for whatever may come next.

In Chicago, Al Capone attempted to prepare a much brighter future for Johnny Torrio’s operation, although Torrio himself seemed none too happy about it. Capone introduced him to Van Alden, who’s unable to get rid of his alias as George, informing him that Ralphy would be moving up and that Van Alden would take over his collections, so that Capone could be more hands on with the distribution. Torrio seemed to take this the wrong way, thinking that Capone was trying to put him out to pasture, leaving things uneasy between them. Later on, after Torrio had left the building, Capone receives a phone call telling him goodbye, upon which Van Alden spots shooters from a building across the road. He saves Capone from a sky of bullets that hit the building, and once the dust settles all Capone has to say is that Torrio was lucky not to have still been there at the time of the shooting. A not too subtle way of indicating who the perpetrator behind the shooting was? Or perhaps it was the same person behind the shoot up of O’Banion’s flower shop, since a disgruntled customer as Capone alluded too seems very unlikely.

In New York, Margaret once again comes into contact with Arnold Rothstein, who’s still posing as an investor with Anaconda real estate. He interrupts her while she’s investigating a new place to live, her current one in Brooklyn being unsuitable for her and her children, and he tells her that if she ever needed an apartment he could accommodate her for one in exchange for inside knowledge of her bosses investments dealings with Anaconda. While I was initially excited for the potential this storyline had, it’s development in this episode didn’t do Margaret, an already much hated character, any favours and it was rather predictable. As soon as Rothstein offered her the deal, we knew she would take it, it would just be a matter of what persuaded her to do so. Scenes like the one in which her boss gloats of the success he’s making of off chumps on who think they can make money by doing nothing, and the one in which she lies in a cramped bed with her daughter in her current apartment listening to her neighbours above fight, were painful to watch you knew their desirable effect, and therefore it instantly felt forced. Rothstein posed a very important question to her as they drank tea and agreed upon the terms of the deal, why would she take this offer from him and not Nucky? Her response? That’s she’s earnt it. For a woman who was so disgusted by herself and by what her relationship with Nucky became that she left Atlantic City for New York to start her life a new, this is not a respectable decision. She’s become a hypocrite, if she weren’t already one, but what makes it more annoying is that she’s eternally self-righteous about it all. If only she could admit what she’s doing is wrong, instead of trying to convince herself otherwise, I think I would sympathise with her better. All that being said though, her and Rothstein make for an entertaining pairing, and I can’t wait to see their relationship develop (into a romantic one or otherwise).

With Nucky’s back against the wall every which way, and Narcisse proving himself to be Boardwalk Empire’s most cunning villain to date, I can’t wait for the next two episodes.
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Great recap. I'm hoping Eli finds some way not to stab his brother in the back again. I liked how Chalkie stuck up for harrow as well when the other workers were heckling him a bit.
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There are only 13 comments here? I think the previous seasons of BWE have lost some fans but those who stuck with it won the jackpot in my opinion.. It is one of the best shows on tv right now..
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Well without someone from tv.com reviewing I don't think the review gets as much traffic as, understandably, a staff writer's would. But the comments on Boardwalk reviews and other things have been dwindling for sometime, and as I've said before, Sunday's are just such a competitive night of television - and Boardwalk just doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of viewers, vocal fans, or critical buzz unlike The Walking Dead or The Good Wife.
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well I have to say I don't watch it on tv (I'm from Europe) and just watch it online..
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I'm in the USA but I watch it online and this season I waited until it was over before bingeing on all the episodes. I think I am to late to comment but did so nonetheless;-)
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Haha, me either actually, not in the US anyway. I do watch a lot on Sundays though (or as it turns out here in Australia, Monday). It's always Boardwalk Empire and then The Walking Dead and then Homeland. I'm always very tired Tuesday mornings because of it.
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Hah, was thinking about relocating to Aussie. So that's how my tuesdays will look like...
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I agree with the comments below. Eli was smart enough to know that even with blood, he probably will not survive a second betrayal. Yet he also badly needed to protect his son. So what he did was to stall Agent Knox as far as he could by providing old and not hurtful information. Now that he knows his son has decided to go into gang business anyway, he probably will NOT help Agent Knox anymore. In fact I was wondering why he did not just killed Agent Knox.Again he was probably protecting his son.

This show along with The Walking Dead and Games of Throne are probably the only shows where I really fear for my favorite character. While Chalky was in danger, I really was worried because I know the writers might just killed off 1 of my favorite character (same with Glenn from TWD). Luckily both survived. I do not feel this with other shows because I know they will NOT killed off the main or supporting characters.

Now I would really hope Chalky do survive this season.

In the show, it is quite clear Capone send his man to kill OB. In real life, it was Torrio's man who killed him. The show seems to hint that Torrio was responsible for trying to kill Capone. In real life, he actually pass his throne to Capone and retired to Italy.
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You're right. HBO certainly loves throwing central characters to the wolves.
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Good point about Eli, this seems the logical way for his character to go.
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If Eli didnt learn his lesson last time, his head would have to be pretty hard.
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I miss breaking bad, but boardwalk empire makes me feel somewhat better. Great show. Last ep was one of the best. The next two eps are going to be killer!
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One last thing - Boardwalk has always found a way to tie stories togther, and if they stick to that I am fascinated to see if and how what is happening in Chicago will tie up to Atlantic CIty. Capone is under siege, and I don't think we know what exactly Nucky did for Al to repay the favour for helping take out Gyp Rosetti. Sadly, I do think this latest attack will prompt Torrio's retirement and exit from the show. He' never been a fan of violence, and we have seen for a while that he is tired of all the nonsense that comes with "the operation."
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Good posts. Do you think Torrio set up the assasination attempt on Capone? The scenes leading up to it suggested it, but I think it may be a bluff.

I was thinking the same about Chalky, I think he will feel Nucky set him up, it would certainly seem that way to him and Nucky has no way to contact him to explain, it seems.

Knox/Tolliver has been a great chracter but I feel his days are numbered. For me Eli is biding his time and the agent is getting no real support at the bureau. When the opportunity arises he will be taken out for sure, probably prompting Hoover to come at the Thompson's harder next season
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I'd never considered that Torrio could have planned it. And you're right, even if he wants to quit he won't want to be pushed out. On the balance of it, I'd say no - but I hadn't given this though till now. Also, if it wasn't Torrio, then who?

Good point on Tolliver. He is intellectually clever but doesn't seem to be very good with people. He is alienating himself at the bureau, and the Thompsons won't be forgiving with him. Fascinated to see where this all goes, it's been a great season
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Must say that I have an entirely different interpretation of Eli with the feds. I'm not sure he made up his mind about what he was going to do. The fella who they were talking about at the top of the episode, Torrio's man, was sending Knox on a witch hunt- and we discover he's been dead for 2 years. Whilst Eli may not have close information on Torrio, it was only a year ago he went to home to ask for help against Rosetti's men and he bumped into Al Capone. He knows that Capone is Torrio's no. 2, in my opinion. At the least, I think he was indecisive, but learning that Will is in Nucky's operation now will probably sway him Nucky's way. Knox is ruthless and, even if Willie's murder charge is dropped, he would have no problem in charging Willie on bootlegging - I think Eli realises that.

And what about Chalky's escape. Chalky doesn't know that the deputy sheriffs weren't sent by Nucky. If he feels betrayed or set up, what will he do. Moreover, what can he do at this moment in time?

And Bader is out - no chance he will win the election now that he has betrayed Nucky. It's just a question of whether he dies or not.

I'm loving the tensions that this season has built up. And I am all in for another Harrow induced blood bath!
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Yeah, no, I don't think Eli made a decision either, just that he sort of resigned himself to the whole situation he was in. I think he was still quite conflicted with it during this episode, but by the end, even still not knowing what to do, he accepted his fate in the whole thing.

Good point about Chalky, who knows what he's thinking? A smart man would run as fast as he could, but that's not his style, and besides, it would be boring if he did.
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- Eli's storyline has been so impressively plotted this season, starting with his son's college troubles and ending with Mayor Bader's re-election paranoia. Plus, it's perfectly within Eli's character to look out for his own interests over that of Nucky's business. I'm very excited to see how it turns out given Willie's new role in the Mayor's office is likely to put him in harm's way regardless of any deal Eli makes with the FBI.

- The rise of Al Capone is starting and it's going to be awesome. Here's hoping they cover the five-year gang war that followed O'Banion's death in some detail. By the way, the "disgruntled customer" that Capone mentioned was definitely a euphemism. In real life O'Banion was killed by the Genna Brothers, who were part of Torrio's South Side organization.

- I totally agree that the Margaret / Rothstein storyline was at once predictable, but exciting. Margaret has shown she's a pretty smart woman and she'll fit in perfectly with Rothstein's more thoughtful approach to business. At the very least, I look forward to seeing Rothstein shake the gambling habit enough to plan his next "shot to nothing."

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Thanks for the info on O'Banion's death. I wonder if this is something they'll end up discussing further in the show, or whether Capone's euphensim will be the last we hear of it?
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I hate Narcisse with a passion. I said in my comments on an earlier episode that he is just a thug in a nice suit. Every time he appears on screen I'm like a dog with its hackles up. I may have even heard myself growl at one point. And I could barely watch the scene with him and Maybelle White. He pretty much implied to her to go and shoot some smack to get over her troubles. I know he 's not real but i loathe him anyway.
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I guess you can't help who you feel about his character, but as you can probably gather from my review, I very much enjoy him myself (not that I think he's a good person, but that he's an entertaining character to watch). I find him far more interesting and sophisticated in comparison to last season villain, Gyp Rosetti (who really was just a plain old thuggish brut). It's always could to see the protagonist of a show meet his match with another character, and I think Narcisse and turned into this for Nucky.
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Narcisse certainly is despicable, but I hate Knox/Tolliver even more. I've always thought he was a creep since the moment we met him, but his interrogation of Eddie Kessler, one of show's more innocent characters, was what really made me despise him. Hopefully there are body bags waiting for them both.
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I guess I just love a bad guy then, because I quite enjoy Tolliver, too. He definitely has some scary moments in which he seems to lose any semblance of morals, like with Eddie, and with the man that stopped him from checking the Tampa cargo in this episode, but majority of the time I'm sympathetic to him and his plight.
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It is amazing how the writers and producers of this show have created these amazing characters. Back then it really was impossible to tell the white hats from the black hats.
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I must say I was a little disappointed when they first showed him getting invovled in heroine. For such a sophisticated Dr of philanthropy, his weakness - money - seemed a little bizarre. I love the character all in all though, and he is brilliantly acted as far as I'm concerned. Whatever emotion you feel however, is a purely subjective thing.
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I like your comment but I wonder what you would have a villain aspire to beyond money, world domination perhaps? I think Narcisse is just like many a charlatan that fill the vaccuum after the demise of real revolutionaries. He is to Marcus Garvey what Stalin was to Lenin etc. Although Jeffrey Wright has made him this fascinating character who feels indignant at the reception of his bad play, who seems selectively genuine about elevating people while selling drugs. His genuine feeling of betrayal from a woman who's mother he strangled to death. He is like some dark tormented opiate inspired Shakespearean tragi-character.
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Very well put there. I guess I don't know what else he would strive for, but money did seem a bit simple for a man of his intellect and stature? Maybe he could have just tried to wipe out the white community? Far fetched I suppose. But before I digress, you make a valid point and within the context of the other things you point out about his character, it does make more sense now
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Yes, there probably could have been, or could be, a little more attention on the writers part to develop Narcisse's motivations into something other than just power. The whole business with heroine as well as his Universal Negro Improvement Society seem to very contradictory idea, but all in all, I think they done well in crafting a manipulative and self-serving villain.
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He is just a hypocrite. What he really loves is power and himself. Not so much money but the power that money buys for him. He is also using race as a powerful weapon.
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Jeffrey Wright portrays the character brilliantly. I just think he is an evil, conniving hypocrite. I don't why. It's just how i feel.
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