Quick Take: Boardwalk Empire: “Ourselves Alone”
"It feels good to twist the knife. Now, come meet the men who made this city." - The Commodore to Eli
Review: Boardwalk Empire: “Ourselves Alone”
(S0202) The second season of Boardwalk Empire has been quick on the uptake following the events of last season. Now that the opening act has come to a close and the story and characters are aptly situated, the show hasn’t wasted any time putting the plot against Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) into motion. After shooting and killing one of the Klan members sent to attack his liquor warehouse, Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) has been incarcerated. Playing into the politics of both racial communities, Nucky assures Chalky that he was arrested for his own safety, while placating the white bigots who seek justice for the death of one of their own.
Despite trying to play up his mass appeal amongst the city’s voters, Nucky has fallen out of favour with those who he trusted enough to put into the positions that they are now using to undermine his authority, and at the end of last week, joined Chalky in jail on charges of election fraud. Helmed by Louis “the Commodore” Kaestner (Dabney Coleman), the mini-coup is supported by most of Nucky’s “in the know” Ward bosses, his brother and Atlantic City sheriff, Elias Thompson (Shea Whigham), and Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt). Even though Nucky gets out on bail, the Commodore is certain that his enterprise is sufficiently crippled; with Chalky in jail indefinitely, and Nucky’s overseas business to be halted thanks to the Commodore’s relationship with the Coast Guard, it appears as though Nucky has run out of options to climb out of the hole that’s being dug for him.
Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) has apparently eased into the life of luxury afforded by her relationship with Nucky, and whether she’s motivated more by her affection for him or his lifestyle (my guess is the former), she dresses down to look a lot like she did in the show’s pilot, putting on a farce to recover Nucky’s ledger so that the government agents raiding his house don’t find it. Potentially saved by what could have been a key piece of evidence against him, Nucky also extends his connection to the Irish by helping to fund the I.R.A’s acquisition of firearms. This meeting also introduces a new face to the series: Owen Slater (Charlie Cox), an Irishman looking for a job in the States, and whose heritage has a clear impact on Margaret’s assessment of who she is and what she stands for.
The mini-coup against Nucky isn’t the only plan that Jimmy has in motion – his increasingly versatile role makes him one of my favourite characters in the series. His relationship with a still-budding Al Capone, compounded with his father’s influence, has landed him a meeting with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Charlie Luciano (Vincent Piazza), who has seemingly dropped the “Lucky” moniker for the time being, following the discovery of his involvement in the rigging of the World Series. After Rothstein turns down the opportunity to work with Jimmy, Luciano brings Darmody to meet Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), where they discuss opportunities to venture beyond their past tutelage – leaving behind Rothstein and Nucky – to start up in the heroin game. Jimmy draws some negative attention at Lansky’s poker game, and gets jumped by some of Boss Masseria’s men who try to mug him on his way home, but he swiftly disposes of the two assailants, despite having a gun in his face.
The biggest question that still lingers beyond the episode concerns the mysterious group of men introduced by the Commodore. Well, that, and why he insists on shoe-polishing his hair and moustache. He calls them “the men who made this city,” and they welcome him and Eli with a toast, heralded in Latin. Their brief, but ominous appearance may be foreshadowing some big changes to what we think we know about the criminal subcultures vying for control of Atlantic City – a status quo that is sure to be shaken up once Chalky gets out of jail. The respect that he commands in the black community is given a scaled demonstration in his shared jail cell – all it takes is Chalky’s saying the names of his cellmates to rally them against a particularly violent criminal whose own antagonizing leads him to throw the first punch; I can’t wait to see what he does with a chunk of the city’s population behind him.