Boardwalk Empire 4×02 ‘Resignation’: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Source: HBO

For all my gripes about the show to date, this episode pretty much silenced them, if not make me forget about them completely. Those lingering threads from the past that left me unsatisfied have been woven into something new and more meaningful; something I am eager to completely envelope myself in like a warm blanket and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

You’ll have to excuse the clothing metaphors, but as I watched last night’s episode I couldn’t help but think back to last season and how heat permeated the themes in every plot line: obviously Gyp’s hot temper, the ornery alliance between Capone and Chalky’s men, the feverishly wounded Nucky, Gillian’s simulated filicide in the steamy Roman bath, Owen and Margaret’s forbidden romance in the greenhouse, Van Alden as an iron salesman, the literal explosion on the boardwalk- the list goes on and on. It’s a new season however, and as we can see from the snow on the ground and the cold-blooded events that have already transpired just two episodes in, it aims to be quite chilly.

In icy Wisconsin, Richard has an even icier [sorry] reunion with his twin sister [last week, I incorrectly heard his “Emma” as “Hey Ma” and assumed she was his mother]. I got the fact that there is a great deal of love between them, but Emma has had a pretty tough go of it, being orphaned, widowed, and super pregnant all during the same year. There is no discord, just a steely pragmatism required for survival, so when she tells Richard she needs to know if he’s going to stay, I didn’t begrudge her one bit. Before I get into Richard, I want to talk about that coffee setup Emma had. I am a shameless coffee addict, but I try to be conscious of my sugar intake. I like a bold powerful cup, but I don’t like to dump a bunch of sugar into it even though I like some sweetness. Am I to understand that there are solidified sugar sticks that double as coffee stirrers in existence? I have never seen this in any of my travels, and I have been to at least two coffee meccas in Seattle and Paris. I feel like the director purposely showed us this one-time invention that for some unfortunate reason fell out of favor, even though it is clearly the PINNACLE OF COFFEE-WITH-SUGAR ENGINEERING!

With Richard, I really want to credit Jack Huston for his performance as redundant as that seems at this point, for showing us just how tired Richard is with the wars he’s been fighting. Emma reveals that she was likely the tougher of the two growing up and the notion of a young, playful Richard makes one’s heartbreak. If it doesn’t, then perhaps the fact that Emma sees right through his attempts to hide what he’s become from her, that their family dog can no longer recognize him, and that he can’t bring himself to handle ending the poor dog’s pain because it reminds him of all the killing he’s done, will. Simply gut-wrenching stuff. The saddest part of all of this is that we know Richard can’t stay, and even worse that he is probably a long way away from never killing again, since who I can only assume is the man that hired him to perform those murders has arrived to ‘settle the matter of the home’.

 

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Elsewhere, the cowed Van Alden faces the cold reality that he won’t be able to simply keep his head down and eke out a quiet life in Cicero as George Mueller. Circumstances (and plot contrivance) have placed him squarely in the middle of a looming conflict between Al Capone and O’Banion, and as his comically devoted wife told him ‘it is time to make it a home.’ I love the idea of the one-time probie zealot finding happiness as the most awkward gangster ever. Juxtaposed with that is the emergence of Agent Knox, who is so cruelly efficient at his job that it makes Van Alden seem like a Keystone Cop in hindsight. I mean he flat out told Nucky exactly what his intentions were and the sheer audacity of laying his cards out on the table are precisely what will undoubtedly make him a formidable foe as the season unfolds. Of course, he’s working for J. Edgar Hoover and their little exchange makes me wonder if the writers will deal with Hoover’s rumored sexuality through this Knox story line.

Obviously this is of concern to Nucky, but I was once again underwhelmed by his narrative. It was nice to see him remind the mayor that nothing has changed- he still gets a piece of everything, but the whole thing with Eddie was just odd. Far more interesting was the arrival of Dr. Narcisse on the scene.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

We’re treated to a couple scenes of Chalky demonstrating the measure of success he has achieved through the opening of The Onyx Club. He manages to silence the sideways remarks of his future in-laws by virtue of that success and later strides through the club with an air reminiscent of Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. All of that quickly disappears when he has to stomach degradation at the hands of a customer whom we know to be miles below Chalky in terms of stature. Pouring salt in this fresh wound is the enigmatic Dr. Narcisse, played spectacularly by Jeffrey Wright. We know Chalky has always chafed at his role in Atlantic City and at Nucky’s view of him as merely a servant and not an equal. To have a stranger ascertain that immediately, while also producing Alma Pastor and her spiteful deception, had to hurt. Deep down Chalky knows Narcisse is right, and the way he was forced to cede a percentage had to sting even more. The way Narcisse has come on the scene is pretty much the exact opposite of the way Gyp did a year ago. Where Gyp was all bluster and blind rage, Narcisse is cool, calculating, and precise. Using Alma to further his own interests, then revealing his disdain for her disgusting act (echoing my sentiments from last week), before turning her cruelness against her and leaving her in a ditch was the ultimate temperature drop to put viewers on notice that, like the billboard Alma was found next to, this is Boardwalk Empire‘s future.

 

 

is a self-described TV junkie, extolling it’s virtues to all who will listen. If for some reason he is not watching TV, he can be found seeing live music, in line at a food truck, or riding his trusty bicycle around Los Angeles.

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