“I will not rest until I see you in your graves.”
Aaaaaannnnnd he’s back. An attempt on Nucky Thompson’s life in New York City was his re-initiation into the criminal underworld who’s precipice he’s been tip-toeing on for the past four episodes. Before that happens, the viewer is treated to more of Mr. Thompson’s beginnings. The frequent flashbacks now fast-forward several years later to 1897 to Nucky’s young adulthood as the deputy sheriff of Atlantic City. The episode starts off with a woman complaining to Nucky (now played by Marc Pickering) about lewd/criminal activity occurring under the boardwalk. The woman sees a hidden, unmoving body and believes it to be a murdered person. We then see that it’s actually a dead pig. Later, Nucky meets with Sheriff Lindsay and the Commodore to discuss what to do about New York representatives making certain incursions into the Commodore’s New Jersey territory. Eventually, he’s having dinner with his future wife Mabel and her father, Mr. Jeffries. While it seems to be going merely OK at first, Mr. Jeffries seems to be just as adept at reading people as young Enoch. Sending his daughter away so he could speak with Nucky privately, they share the kind of battle of words that’s conventional when a father first meets his daughter’s potential suitor. While neither man backs off, the message from Jeffries seems clear: “You’re not good enough for my daugther!“.
While Nucky now understands the shady dealings of the Commodore and the Sheriff, neither will accept his offer to assist with said dealings until they actually need it. The last we see of Nucky, he’s investigating the complaints from the woman at the beginning of the episode. Only this time, there is a dead body. A body that both Nucky and we the viewers recognize as the man who offered money to him several episodes prior.
Back to 1931. There’s trouble in Chicago with Al Capone growing more paranoid about the increased scrutiny of federal agents on his activities. He wants to move his operation to Cicero, but the lion’s share of attention in his storyline is given to his underlings Eli Thompson and George Mueller. The former of which is a disheveled alcoholic whose wife June (Nisi Sturgis) pays him a visit. We learn that she’s seven months pregnant from the last time they saw each other and he wants to move her and their children out to Chicago with him. He wants to be free of Capone and start his life over again with his family. He just might get his wish as far as the first part is concerned. Eli and June meet Mueller to have dinner at his home with his family. Eli and George discuss the latter’s interrogation in the last episode with their armor clearly starting to crack. At the dinner table, Mrs. Mueller begins making snide comments at her husband and then acts flirty and suggestive with Eli in front of his wife. It’s pretty uncomfortable and then he learn why: When Eli and George go into the kitchen to do the dishes, Eli sees a picture of the king of Norway (since Sigrid is a Norwegian citizen) and has a hard-hitting flashback of him having drunken sex with Sigrid. Right on cue, Sigrid puts her affair out there in front of everyone. Eli’s plans with June are now dashed and, just when things couldn’t get any worse, Mike D’Angelo enters the home in his true identity as a federal agent and arrests Eli and George, calling the latter by his true name of Nelson Van Alden. With their covers blown, D’Angelo wants them to inform on Capone by stealing his ledgers.
Chalky White makes a return as well. Hiding in the Atlantic City club now run by Mickey Doyle, he meets with Nucky to re-establish ties and to take down Dr. Narcisse. We learn that Chalky’s family moved to St. Louis after the season four finale and that he’s still a wanted fugitive. Nucky urges his old friend and business associate to remain at the club for his own protection. Sure enough, a police officer comes to the club looking for Chalky and Mickey appears poised to give him up. Turns out, he decides to have a little fun with cop and is chock-full of wisecracks before the cop leaves. By the end of the episode, Chalky travels to Harlem to Narcisse’s brothel with the intention of killing him. What he finds is his lover, Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham) and her own daughter (who may or may not be Chalky’s).
Gillian Darmody storyline in the mental asylum seems to have become a fight for survival. After talking with a fellow inmate who had her stomach cut open, she makes a case to the asylum chief, Dr. Cotton, about her competence and eligibility for release. Dr. Cotton is unconvinced and compares mental illness to a physical ailment like tuberculosis. He assures her that he’ll “fix” her in the meantime. Also, Margaret Thompson pays Carolyn Rothstein and then opens an account for Nucky (although under an alias) to buy stock in Joseph P. Kennedy’s Mayflower Grain Corporation.
Lastly, we get to Mr. Thompson himself. He meets with Torrio once again to convey the warning he received from Capone about Luciano’s coup. They both agree to meet with Maranzano downtown. When Torrio is a no-show, Nucky is set-up for a drive-by shooting and is saved in the nick-of-time by Arquimedes. We later see Torrio in allegiance with Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. Nucky calls Torrio and makes it clear to him that all three of them will soon be dead. Nucky also learns that Sally Wheet was killed and that Cuban government won’t hold anyone accountable for her death.
THOUGHTS: First off, Marc Pickering’s casting as young Enoch Thompson was perfect. He radiates qualities that we see in the older Nucky, from his pattern of speech to even using a prosthesis to mimic Buscemi’s unique dental structure. Though well-regarded by Boris McGiver’s Sheriff Lindsay, the Commodore still doesn’t seem to think much of him (talking about his appearance behind closed doors). I’ve stated in past reviews that the flashback storyline is similar to The Godfather Part II in that it runs parallel to the main story. But now it’s starting to also remind me of the Tales of the Black Freighter comic series depicted as meta-fiction within Alan Moore’s Watchmen. It gives a context that allows the viewer to seriously examine the present. With three episodes now remaining, I wonder if we’ll see the events of Nucky’s first marriage unfold.
Gillian Darmody’s segment is the least interesting. Like her, it’s not going anywhere and will remain stuck inside like anal sex involving the use of super-glue instead of KY Jelly. They’ve got three episodes left to prove me wrong, but I sincerely doubt that I will be.
Chalky’s return to Atlantic City and later Harlem was refreshing. He’s draped back in his old clothing and appropriately, has gone back to settle old scores. He doesn’t stay in Atlantic City as Nucky urged and is now confronted with a runaway lover and a possible daughter. Despite superficially returning, he’s a different man in a different time. It’s only fitting that he should be out of place. Eli and Nelson’s interactions are the highlights of the episode. After identities and infidelities are revealed, Eli laments that “I don’t know about you….but my life is a fuckin’ shipwreck!” to which Nelson sneers “Well, land ho!” before taking a swig of Eli’s liquor flask. It’s also interesting to note that Eli and Nelson both went on the run for killing federal agents, but now time has finally caught up with them. Eli probably would’ve been caught regardless, but Nelson’s cover wouldn’t have been blown if not for Lucky Luciano. The way Shea Whigham and Michael Shannon play off one another is fun to watch. Also, Nucky having Margaret buy stock in Joe Kennedy’s company reflects his pathological need for vengeance. For Nucky, it’s like being rejected by someone you deeply respect and even idolize and this is his revenge. And since Torrio betrayed him into Luciano’s hands (coupled with Sally’s death), he now has reason for revenge.
Also, another aspect of the Chicago storyline that’s missing is Eliot Ness. So far, actor Jim True-Frost has made only one appearance as Ness. Considering he and the Untouchables took down Capone in real life, I would like to see that translated to film. Stephen Graham’s Al Capone may even enjoy it while straining on the crapper. Grade: A.
Sy L. Shackleford is a jack-of-all-trades columnist for Action A Go Go. A UConn graduate with a degree in both psychology and communication sciences, he is a walking encyclopedic repository for all things Marvel Comics, movies, hip-hop, et. al.