Reviewed by Mike Dennis
Nucky goes to Chicago and suddenly, things begin to pull together. Who could’ve guessed?
First of all, Eli removes his SS uniform and dons a suit so he can sit at Nucky’s desk. He obsessively rearranges the items on the desk while waiting for favor-seekers to enter and grovel before him, just like they do when Nucky’s in town.
Problem is, there’s no one waiting in the office to see him. They all know Nucky’s out of town, and it pisses Eli off. Nucky’s bested him once again. Yes, the old sibling rivalry rears its ugly head, and you can bet it’s not going to go away quietly.
Margaret is getting quite used to the high life now, wearing fancy clothes and sipping tea at the Ritz-Carlton, but she’s still at Nucky’s beck and call day and night. This is probably not going to wear well with her and could easily clash with her budding feminism.
Nucky’s in Chicago for one reason only: to attend the Republican National Convention. After a little murmuring with other pols over a few bourbons, he will steer the New Jersey delegation to the presidential candidate who will finally get him those roads he’s been so hot for. It looks like Warren Harding is that man, long shot though he may be.
Veteran actor Christopher McDonald scores quite nicely as Harry Doherty, Harding’s right-hand man and chief dealmaker. There’s a nice ironic scene where he and Nucky make a backroom deal right in the middle of the brightly-lit convention floor.
Jimmy Darmody looks like he’s ready to come home, despite his newly-acquired $70 suits. Nucky needs muscle, which Eli’s deputies can’t fully provide. He offers Jimmy a percentage of his operations, and as Jimmy watches Al Capone and his buddies speaking Italian and having a good old time among themselves, you just know he’s going to be on the next train to Atlantic City. What will happen when he reunites with his Bohemian-lesbian wife? Who knows?
This was a very tightly-wrapped episode, with strong writing and solid direction. A lot of loose ends are coming together now, and the show is obviously preparing for what will undoubtedly be a big climax in its final installment.
Nucky’s backing the right guy for president, but the road money looks like it’s out of his reach. Jimmy wants to return to Atlantic City, but Lucky Luciano is waiting for him. Margaret learns more about Nucky’s business than she ever imagined she would, and what she’ll do with that knowledge remains up in the air. But it looks like he’ll have to reckon with her somewhere down the line.
I’ve decided I really like Steve Buscemi in this show. While he’s really just one player in an ensemble cast, he carries the central part of Nucky very well. He brings just the right amount of needed sleaze to the role, which is to say, plenty. He’s not your standard dashing Hollywood star, but have you seen a photo of the real-life Nucky Johnson? He was no Tom Cruise, I promise you.
Still, however, Buscemi is at the mercy of the writing. TV is mercilessly a writer’s medium, unlike film, which belongs to the director. If the writers pull Boardwalk Empire together, like they appear to be doing, Buscemi will shine. And the show will go on.