Boardwalk Empire Episode 3.08 “The Pony”
Written by: Terence Winter & Howard Korder
Directed by: Tim Van Patten
Airs Sunday 9.00pm EST on HBO
Nucky has his mojo back. Nelson Van Alden has his mojo back. After a quiet beginning to the series, what else do we need to up the pace? When Gyp Rosetti appears on Gillian Darmody’s couch, that’s when we really know we’re in for something explosive.
I may be over-thinking, but this episode aired the evening before Guy Fawkes night in the UK. To those unfamiliar with the story, Guy Fawkes was a Catholic dude who attempted to blow up the House of Parliament in a conspiracy known as the Gunpowder Plot. Could it be the writers were giving us a big massive hint about what was going to happen?
If they were, it didn’t work. I had no idea where the story was heading until a few moments before the climax, but it was just as well it went that way because the rest of the episode flagged up to that point. Boardwalk Empire is beginning to sag under the weight of its own storylines, which are now so numerous that they can’t all be covered in one show. This means that some characters: Van Alden, Capone, Chalky White, in particular, only emerge from time to time and, more annoyingly, become detached from the rest of the story, sometimes to the point that anyone new to the show must be wondering exactly what significance they have.
Take Van Alden (now called George Mueller just to confuse us more), for example. He’s gone from being an integral part of the Nucky thread to living a separate existence in Illinois and while Michael Shannon is always entertaining as an actor (this show’s scene where he runs rampant with a steam iron and skids to a halt in full close up, maddened, his eyes pointing in entirely separate directions, is one to be cherished), the ex-FBI agent’s story is now flapping loose. His gradual progression from straight-arrow to hooch-producer and heavy, does suggest that he’s going to end up involved in some way with Capone, who is now on the point of taking over from Johnny Torrio (when a man starts listening to opera and talking about holidays in Italy, you know his gun-toting days are nearly over). Possibly the plan is to involve Van Alden/Mueller in some kind of epic confrontation between Nucky and Capone, but if so, we are inching in that direction at the pace glaciers usually travel, which suggests all the main characters will be well into retirement when that happens.
Also annoying are the plot holes. Gillian Darmody has arranged a convenient corpse so that she can legally lay claim to her dead son Jimmy’s possessions. This causes Nucky to arrive in high dudgeon and lay about her with pale threats. Again, entertaining to see Gretchen Mol and Steve Buscemi attempt to underplay each other, but why would Nucky – responsible for Jimmy’s death – care about Gillian’s ruse? If anything, this gets him off the hook, since now any suspicions about what might have happened to Jimmy are laid to rest. Similarly inexplicable is the deal being struck between Nucky and Andrew Mellon to bring Attorney General and chief Slime-Bucket Harry Daughterty to heel. While we’re given to understand by the casting of James Cromwell (who wears his eyes pinned to each side of his bony nose) in the role of Mellon that the industrialist hates everyone, it’s not explained why Daugherty should present such an irritation that Mellon would rise to Nucky’s bait. Or why Mellon would trust Nucky, who is about to blackmail Daugherty over Prohibition violations, with illegal booze production in his mothballed distillery.
But ours is not to reason why. Now Rosetti has exacted Part 1 of his revenge, but failed to kill Nucky, we can safely say that ours is to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
– Cath Murphy