“You’ll be judged by what you succeed at, boy, not by what you attempt.” (Commodore)

Boardwalk Empire returns after what felt like an eternal hiatus. Over the course of the years, the series got very polarizing reviews. A lot of people, especially critics, felt is was the best thing since sliced bread (or Deadwood); others, however, criticized the show’s slow pace and focus on certain characters exaggerated. Those people just wanted to see more Chalky White. And they got their wish.

The episode didn’t waste any time on delivering on those people’s criticism: right off the bat, there’s action in the form of a shoot-out between Chalky and the KKK. This event sets in motion the chain that hangs through the entire episode: the noose tightens around Nucky’s neck. What everyone wanted to see in the first season, the second season now promises. Nucky will have to decide – he will have to burn some bridges in order to save others. But which bridges will he burn, and what will be the repercussions?

This episode focused a lot on Nucky trying to maintain his comfort zone. It becomes especially – painfully – clear when he bribes Margaret’s firebug son. Does he realize he is the one who caused this by burning his father’s house down? The bribe was perfectly executed in typical Nucky fashion: he waved the rest of his cash in front of the boy’s eyes. There’s obviously more candy where that came from.

Van Alden’s sideplot finally gave us some inside on the way his relationship works. In the first season, they never felt quite tangible to me. She was sort of a blank slate, which added to his strange personality perfectly well (like Dexter and Rita, actually). But now we know she’s just as righteous as her husband. How will she react when she finds out he’s got a kid out of wedlock? This might just be the most engaging question going into the second season and I can’t wait to figure it out.

Thoughts and Things

  • Twenties-award of the week: the KKK wanting to lynch Chalky after they killed an entire workhouse full of black people, just because Chalky shot one of them. That was harsh.
  • That said, Gillian’s “When he was younger I would kiss his little winky” certainly gets the creep award of the week. I wonder if they’ll actually make an incest plot out of it?
  • Commodore and halberd. Old-school.
  • I loved the bed fakeout. It’s an old joke, but if good humor is all about being surprised, this one worked. It’s not quite as unexpected as splatter on Mad Men, but it’s close.
  • Poor Richard. He could slaughter an entire orphanage and I’d still pity him.

In all

Boardwalk Empire’s return was especially strong. If the second season keeps this pace and this healthy, balanced mix of characters, they might just win more than the Scorsese pity-emmy. There is just so much going on, so much set-up that it’s crazy. I love these characters to death and I can’t wait to spend another year with them.


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