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Boardwalk Empire, Ep. 4.10, “White Horse Pike”: Season-long arc finally gains traction

Boardwalk Empire, Ep. 4.10, “White Horse Pike”: Season-long arc finally gains traction

Boardwalk Empire S04E10 promo pic

Boardwalk Empire, Season 4, Episode 10, “White Horse Pike”
Written by Dave Flebotte
Directed by Jake Paltrow
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO

Kate is new to Boardwalk Empire this season and her reviews will approach the acclaimed series from the newbie’s perspective.

This week, on Boardwalk Empire: Margaret makes a deal, Sally makes a call, and Narcisse makes his move

This season of Boardwalk Empire has struggled somewhat, due to its rather distracted focus on too many characters. Finally, in episode 10, one of the long-simmering arcs, the conflict between Chalky and Narcisse, comes to a boil, erupting in action and forcing Nucky and several ancillary characters to show where their loyalties lie. It’s frustrating that this is only happening now, but even so, the dramatic confrontation between Nucky and Narcisse is incredibly satisfying and the results of Narcisse’s quiet negotiations are effective. Did we need to spend several episodes lingering on Will’s struggles at college to get him, or Eli, to where we see them this week? This viewer would argue no. But the shared family moment at the end, with Nucky, Eli, and Will all ready to go to war, undeniably works.

Though there is little doubt Chalky will at least make it to the season finale, if not the series finale, his scenes still manage to hold weight because of the presence of Daughter. He may be off-limits, due to narrative realities, but she isn’t, and the fight in the car plays off this well. Daughter equips herself well, driving and then parking the car from the back seat while Chalky takes care of the rest, and the underlying threat of a stray bullet, or tree branch, keeps the otherwise predictable scene interesting. The other clear standout scene this week is the conversation between Narcisse and Chalky’s daughter. Jeffrey Wright is phenomenal in this scene, as is Christina Jackson, the specter of Daughter’s mother hanging heavy in the air. Nothing the writers could have done in this scene would have been a surprise- Narcisse is seemingly capable of anything and this makes each moment of the scene drip with suspense and dread.

The lingering question mark for the final two episodes is Chalky and how he’ll react to this seeming setup by Nucky. Throwing Harrow into the mix makes the situation even more interesting; there’s a lot of potential here and seeing how it all plays out should be fun. Agent Knox’s frustration with his situation at the bureau may very well come into play (it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that he’s spending so much time with former government workers who’ve broken bad), though he could just as easily tie into the action in Chicago. Van Alden’s adventures with Al, though entertaining, are still disappointingly disconnected from the Atlantic City action, but with two episodes left this season, that could change. Margaret’s storyline remains the most isolated; it seems very odd to introduce a separate world for her in only two episodes this season, something the show hasn’t done with any of its other secondary or even tertiary figures, so that implies her decision this week will prove incredibly important before too long. This is perhaps the single most intriguing element at the moment, if only for the puzzle of how Rothstein’s scheming will tie in with the heroin, the bureau, or Chicago.

Only two episodes remain for this season of Boardwalk Empire. For this new viewer, a lot of the overall success of the season will come down to the payoff to the previous eight or nine episodes of slow burn. Fans of the series insist the slow start to each season is worth investing in, given the strength of each year’s climax and denouement. It’s time to see if this pattern holds true for season four.

What did you think of the episode? Does Narcisse has a plan for Maybelle? Will Van Alden ever get away from the ever-frustrating Al? Who else wants to see a spinoff for Sally, badass gator-wrasslin’ eavesdropping super spy? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick