“What Jesus Said” opens with Chalky and his loose cannon partner breaking into the house of the latter’s former employer. In what is easily the low point of the episode, Chalky’s plot consists of balancing precariously between his edgy accomplice, Milton, and the a mother and daughter whom they have taken hostage. Although on paper, the idea might sound engaging, it plays out in a mostly uninspired manner due to the fact that Chalky isn’t given a whole lot to do. These scenes, which take up roughly 1/3 of the main plots explored this week, consist widely of three other characters who we are given little emotional investment in.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is an interesting exercise in whether or not artistic intent truly matters. The film is the story of a boy, his sister and his parents as they grow and meander through life over the course of twelve years. To watch it is to experience life unfolding before your eyes, while feeling the keen sensation that virtually nothing is happening.
When a filmmaker perfectly aligns the technical and the artistic, we’re reminded of the transformative power of cinema. Lost amid the genre clichés and computer-generated extravaganzas lies an expansive battlefield called ‘the human condition’, where moments of great power co-mingle with insignificant monotony to shape our lives.
Much of season four of Boardwalk Empire has felt disjointed. The series has a surplus of talent, with far more characters than it seems to know what to do with, and rather than cut down the cast, they’ve jumped back and forth between these characters (taking the same approach as they did in season three), often shelving characters and arcs for weeks at a time. What this inevitably leads to are peaks and valleys throughout the season, as the episodes featuring viewers’ favorite characters engage significantly more than those centered on less interesting characters (William, anyone?). This week, Boardwalk Empire focuses on Mueller/Van Alden and, given this reviewer’s enjoyment of that character and performer all season, it’s little surprise that “Marriage and Hunting” is one of the clear standouts of this season.
The brewing conflict between Chalky and Dr. Narcisse comes to a head in “The Old Ship of Zion”, forcing Daughter to make her choice in the episode’s most powerful, climactic moment. Chalky and Michael K. Williams have both been under-served this season, given very little of interest to do or play while Dr. Narcisse lurks in the background, scheming.
So far this season, being a new viewer of Boardwalk Empire has not been a hindrance. While there are undoubtedly depths to character motivations and emotional shadings that have gone unremarked upon over the past five weeks, on the whole the storylines have been fairly clear. This changes with “The North Star”, with a solid chunk of the episode dedicated to characters those of us who jumped in at season four barely know. This is the risk of jumping in mid-series, one this critic believes is worth taking, but which becomes difficult to deal with none the less.
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!).