Many of the scenes in this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire simply showed characters going about their routines, or adapting to new ones. For the first time this season, we got to see Eli Thompson, fresh out of prison, and Chalky White. Both were confronted by changes within their own families. Eli has difficulty coping with the fact that his son is forced to grow up fast, while Chalky tries to persuade his daughter to see a new suitor as a way out of the life that they’ve been stuck with. Nucky deals with jealousy regarding his new mistress while Margaret deals with more troubles at St. Theresa’s Hospital. Gyp Rosetti also begins interfering with Atlantic City’s business.
Eli’s turmoil from previous seasons had already put him in pretty low places emotionally. At this point, it’s sadder than ever, but still not surprising. Eli is given a ride home from prison by none other than Mickey Doyle, who everyone cares so little about that Eli just has to ask how he is still alive. (Probably a question everyone has been wondering for at least a full season.) He’s back to square one, not even hearing from his brother at all about how to restart his life. Mickey does offer him work that used to be far beneath him, taunting him about it. Eli’s family, in particular his son, have had to make sacrifices to survive without him and will only continue to struggle in spite of his return home.
Chalky’s business for this episode is surprising, given that it focuses solely on his daughter and her new boyfriend. Nevertheless, things do get violent. This is only because Chalky has high hopes for the rest of his family to someday rise above the type of work he’s been forced into. Maybelle White doesn’t think she may ever be ready to get married and even so, she’s looking for someone “interesting” like her father. After the sudden and violent end to this plotline, it will be interesting to see if it’s brought up again, maybe with Chalky’s family somehow getting further dragged into his business. Or perhaps it was more of a standalone moment in the episode.
In addition to business dealings as usual, Nucky is already finding turmoil in his relationship with Billie Kent. He inspects someone else’s razor at her apartment and stares intently at other men she flirts with. It’s strange, considering the nature of what they’re doing. Then again, it’s also strange to hear Nucky ask someone else to be honest. In between these moments, Nucky starts dealing with a new representative of the attorney general in New York, a man named Gaston Means who’s played by the always brilliant Stephen Root. The intro to Gaston portrayed him as more sinister than he ended up being, as I was trying to imagine something horrifying a fishbowl could be used for. Maybe Breaking Bad has forever ruined cryptic cold opens like that.
Margaret and Owen Sleater only have a quick scene together, but it’s hard to imagine that their affair would be over for good. It seems like she’ll be busy trying to intervene in the poor practices of the hospital, while he will be filling in for the work Richard Harrow used to do. Richard sits out for this episode, although his prior handiwork is mentioned. Gillian and Van Alden are also conspicuously absent although they both will undoubtedly continue to be key players. If Van Alden is inevitably going to run into Al Capone again, then I wouldn’t be surprised in Gillian ends up making ties with Gyp Rosetti due to their mutual hatred of Nucky.
Rosetti continues to be a favorite in this episode. He’s just beginning to meddle in Jersey’s affairs but every scene with him is filled with tension and unpredictability. He is just as intimidating and crazy in moments when he has a waitress explain what spaghetti and meatballs are or when he asks what scale means on a map as he is in moments when he points a gun or pours gasoline to the ground. It might have been surprising (maybe even a little forced) how quickly Rosetti became a rival with only a brief introduction beforehand, but his arc is bound to have an epic conclusion.