Boardwalk Empire 4×03 ‘Acres of Diamonds’: Stuck in the swamp

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Full disclosure: I watched this episode immediately after watching Breaking Bad and I had to take my time and go back and re-watch it. Upon second viewing? This episode was still almost completely in service to the plot and gave few, if any character moments that meant much to the series as a whole.

We begin with Nucky, who is in Tampa on some prospective business. We immediately get the sense that he doesn’t want to be there, which is quite the coincidence, because I- the viewer didn’t want to be either. I have absolutely no interest in watching Nucky pursue another land deal, especially when the location of said land deal provides the writers the opportunity to use the old cliche of “swamp land in Florida” to raise the stakes. This is a shame because this is Buscemi’s finest episode of the young season. Here, his Nucky is tired, mournful, but eager to return to a time when he was running things comfortably. His wits are about him as he sees through all the B.S. flying around in the Not-Quite-Sunshine State and easily assesses what the real scenario is, and more importantly who to make friends with. This is classic Nucky, and really why you build a show around a character like him in the first place. No one wants to spend time with a mopey shut-in for their protagonist.

Patricia Arquette as a sultry, southern belle is a welcome surprise. She seemed like exactly the kind of person anyone would want to have a chat with in the middle of the night over some stiff drinks. What I particularly enjoyed was her delivery of the brutally accurate line, ‘How convenient that the best course of action requires the least amount of effort on your part.’ I loved that this seemed to snap Nucky into action and I’m actually looking forward to what happens from here on out.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

I’ll echo that sentiment when it comes to “Rick” Harrow, but for entirely different reasons. All of the mystery about what he was up to and what might be next for Harrow from the first episode of the season essentially evaporated by the end of last episode. I don’t really have a gripe about knowing the contractor was coming to settle things, but I find it hard to believe Harrow didn’t see it coming. Sure he’s in a conflicted place, but as soon as Emma made it clear that she had paid her taxes on the house, he should have been ready for something. His helplessness felt forced, and as I alluded to at the beginning of the post, merely a vehicle to have Emma be the one to make the kill. I think it would’ve been much more powerful to see Richard have to dig up his gun and then dispatch the goons in front of a horrified, possibly endangered Emma. Then the decision for him to leave might be out of his hands, and we see that he truly has nowhere to go (except Atlantic City, where a beautiful woman and child who love him are! Jeez, Richard.) So, he’s heading out and Emma fakes him out with the hug, but instead of saying something sisterly like, ‘you’ll always have a home here when you’re ready’ or ‘I love You’, she serves him up a shame sandwich. Cold, Emma; but way to stay on theme. I have to say that I’ll miss her, but I don’t really see a believable way to keep her involved going forward.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

I’m beginning to realize that this episode was really about women, and their influence on men. The tragedy when it comes to Gillian however, is that for as much influence she has over Roy Phillips she just cant escape her past enough to make a way for herself. I thought it was a neat touch to have the couple happen to be from Evansville, and the pang of guilt Gillian felt when it came up was another step toward her redemption. It was piling on to have Evansville’s friend show up at the ice cream shop and start interrogating her though. I’m not advocating preying on young drifters as a means to process your complicated feelings about your dead son/lover, but can’t she catch a break? Not surprised to see her sneak a hit in the bathroom, but really Roy? If the ice cream starts melting and she’s still in the bathroom, I’m going to knock- but then again, I don’t date heroin addicts so maybe that’s not the right etiquette.

Speaking of etiquette, Dr. Narcisse knows his power dynamics, and it was interesting to see him give Arnold the position of power even though he finds the mere act of shaking the man’s hand disgusting. I love this character because I can’t fully like him, but I can’t fully hate him. He always leaves me so conflicted and I enjoy it immensely when characters do that on television, especially villains. So smooth, when he brings the star singer to Chalky’s. So sleazy that she’s just a honeypot to distract Chalky while he gets Dunn to move heroin under Chalky’s nose. Not gonna lie, I definitely yelled, “don’t fall for it!” at the TV as soon as Chalky got the googly eyes,  but once again the fictional character performing preordained actions ignored my warnings. I hate it when that happens.

Finally we have Eli’s son. Why we have him, I’m not sure, but unless HBO felt that the show was skewing too old and wanted some younger characters- I’d say he’s “the weakest link in Thompson’s organization” that Knox was speaking of in the previews for next week. It was sweet to see that his motivations and desire for autonomy were because of a girl, but come on Willy! You shouldn’t be ashamed of your…willy. That whole incident was something that would happen in high school, maybe even middle school- but in college? How could any of those guys who’d made out with a girl before think it was strange or unusual to be in that condition after a lengthy kissing session. Also, Willy basically got booze, defended a girl’s honor, had her make the first move, make out with her all night, then easily put a bully on his behind and he ran because he had a visible erection? It doesn’t add up to me, and just made the whole thing seem dumb.

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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