Boardwalk Empire, Season 4, Episode 3: “Acres of Diamonds”
Written by Terence Winter
Directed by Allen Coulter
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.
The slow build of season four continues this week, with Wright again a standout. Nucky’s excursion to Tampa is a clear step down from last week’s riveting scenes with Dr. Narcisse, that is until Patricia Arquette joins the fray as Sally, the smart and intriguing bartender who wins Nucky over on getting involved in Florida. Her few moments crackle with energy lacking from the rest of the Tampa storyline (and side note- she should always wear that particular shade of blue green. Props to the costume department!). The change of scenery is nice, and the entire diversion may have been worth it just for that fabulous wallpaper or mural in Nucky’s hotel room, and this will undoubtedly lead to more interesting developments down the line, but looking at “Acres of Diamonds” individually, most of our time with Nucky is underwhelming, to say the least.
More engaging is the inevitable end to Richard Harrow’s time at home. The scenes in Wisconsin have been on the contemplative side, but Jack Huston’s performance and his easy rapport with Katherine Waterston have kept emotion pouring through the stillness. These quiet moments are of course interrupted by Harrow’s past, in one of the standout scenes of the episode. Director Allen Coulter manages to hold the tension more effectively than should be possible, given the unlikelihood of Harrow being written out, and while longer-term viewers will be familiar with Harrow’s scars, for new viewers like myself, this was the perfect moment for that reveal. Waterston will be sorely missed, but it is time for Harrow to move on or commit to staying, and as we see in striking fashion this week, the best thing for Emma’s physical, if not emotional, well-being is for him to leave.
Gillian is back in grand fashion this week and it’s nice to see her out on the town. Her façade is a lovely one- if only that were her true self. As with the other storylines, we’ll have to wait to see what comes of Gillian and her Piggly Wiggly, but a brief respite from her assumedly imminent return to desperate circumstances, no matter how deserved, is welcome. Gretchen Mol is fantastic in the role and intersecting this thread, however briefly, with the goings on at the Onyx Club works well.
While Jeffrey Wright remains utterly engrossing as Narcisse, his interactions with Chalky and Purnsley are less promising. Narcisse is being set up as a master manipulator and his takeover of the club already feels like a foregone conclusion. Either we need to spend more time with Chalky, building him up as a wilier, more worthy opponent, or we’ll have to wait for Narcisse to make a mistake, far from the most satisfying approach. There’s little sense so far that Chalky has particular skill in running the club, that he has strengths Narcisse lacks. We’ll see what the writers have up their sleeves- given how fully formed the character and Wright’s performance felt from Narcisse’s very first scenes, they presumably know where they’re going with him. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to get there.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Did you enjoy the trip to gator country? Will you miss Emma? Which guest star is working best for you so far? Post your thoughts below!