Let me start by saying how much I’ve been enjoying Boardwalk Empire this season. The characters are interesting. The scripts are smart and witty. The plot twists are unexpected. However, I do have one small suggestion that would considerably improve my own personal appreciation of the show. Nametags.
I can’t tell you how many times, while watching this show, I’ve had to stop and check my notes, to ascertain WHO a particular person was, and HOW he or she related to the main characters of this story. With a Nametag, all of that information would be right on your television screen! Allow me to illustrate with some simple examples:
This is Chalky White:
And this is his Nametag:
This is Al Capone:
And this is his Nametag:
Finally, this is Lucy Danziger:
And this is her Nametag:
Can’t you see how something like this would be VERY helpful to viewers of Boardwalk Empire like you and me?
But enough about that. Let’s get on with the recap, shall we?
Old Dirty Bastard
Hide your cats, kids! Daddy’s home!
Boy, Nucky’s Dad sure ended up being an evil demented wackadoo, didn’t he? But you know bothered me most about him? It wasn’t that he told his own son, “You may think you’re king, but you aren’t worth a damn!”
And it wasn’t that he scalded Nucky’s hand with a hot poker, for grabbing at a loaf of bread, when he was a boy. It wasn’t even that he landed Nucky in the hospital for 11 days, by forcing him to pick a fight with boys four years older than he. No . . . I hate Papa Thompson because he’s MEAN TO CATS!
“Only one of us has nine lives, Old Man. And it’s DEFINITELY not you!”
When we first see him in this episode, Papa Thompson poking the poor felines residing in his home with sticks, and calling them nasty names. At first, I thought the Old Coot was just talking to himself (as the interminably aged tend to do). But when I found out he was berating the Purrrfect Ones, he got a big fat X in my book! Can you really blame those cute little kitties for peeing all over his house?
I’m not going to lie, when the cats tripped Papa Thompson’s ass and he kerplunked on the floor, I cheered!
Remember that old commercial with the elderly lady and her walker?
“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
This scene was kind of like that. Except, the old lady in that commercial, to my knowledge, was never mean to cats. So, I actually felt bad for laughing at her.
Anyway, Nucky takes time out of his busy schedule of screwing, and screwing people over, to collect his fallen Daddy from the floor of his childhood home. With Nucky, is his loveable, but not too swift, younger brother, Eli.
The brothers agree that their father can no longer live alone in the house. Nucky immediately suggests putting his father in an old age home, but Eli won’t hear of it. “He can stay with me,” Eli offers gallantly.
Later, Nucky meets with an adorably sweet employee of his, who has a wife and tons of kids. Nucky learns that the employee is saving up to buy a home for his family, but is not able to afford it. In a rare moment of decency — one that doesn’t involve his own trying to get rich or get laid for change — Nucky generously offers to give his employee the home for free, provided the Family Man can repair it, and remove the cat piss smell from its walls.
The Family Man is overjoyed!
He quickly fixes up the house, using all of his family’s savings on repairs. When Nucky comes to visit the place, it looks as good as new! So, Nucky, after a few choice words from his dad, decides to burn it to the ground.
When the Poor Family Man arrives on site to find his Dream Home overtaken by flames, Nucky boredly hands him a large wad of bills. “Here. Find a nicer place to live,” he says, before getting in his car, and driving away.
Ouch! It looks like the apple might not fall too far from the cat-abusing tree . . .
A Few Screws Loose
Over in Chicago, Jimmy’s war injury has been acting up. So, he heads to a doctor that specializes in treating veterans. Aside from making some lame jokes about Jimmy having a few “screws loose” in his leg, the doctor provides our antihero with little help. However, he does suggest that Jimmy submit to some psychological testing for war veterans.
I was actually really surprised that Jimmy agreed to go to the testing center in the first place, because it seemed so out of character for him to willingly do something like that.
“This is what I do to people who ask me to talk about my feelings.”
However, had Jimmy not gone to the test center, he would not have met Richard Harrow, a fellow war veteran, and an expert sniper, with a penchant for shooting guys in the face. Speaking of faces, did I mention that Richard only has half of one? The other half must have blown off during the war. So, Richard has to wear a cool Phantom of the Opera-type mask, which makes him closely resemble a character in a Dick Tracy comic.
As if all this didn’t make Richard awesome enough, he also has this deep raspy voice, like a Budweiser Frog . . .
. . . and a complete lack of affect, which makes his line delivery sound like something out of the movie RainMan.
“Six minutes to Wapner. Kmart Sucks.”
Jimmy, who is fast becoming the manager of Team Kickass Gangster, knows a good future hoodlum when he sees one. So, he quickly strikes up a friendship with the Masked One. The two play hooky together from Psychological Testing, and head off to Jimmy’s favorite Hangout, Johnny Torrio’s Brothel. Having concluded that the Masked One has never “been with a woman,” Jimmy nips that problem in the bud, lickety split. Now THAT’S a good friend!
Later, thanks to a tip from Al Capone (who I WISH was in this episode more), Jimmy arrives at a bar on Chicago’s northside, and confronts Liam — the guy who cut up Pearl’s face a few episodes back, and, ultimately brought about her suicide.
With an eerie nonchalance that would make Michael Corleone proud, Jimmy lulls Liam into a false sense of security, by recounting an old war tale of a German soldier who got caught amidst a tangle of barbed wire, and yet still retained the will to live. “Sometimes living is far worse than dying,” Jimmy concludes. “I don’t ever want to see you here again.”
As Jimmy leaves, we hear Liam take a loud sigh of relief. Then, a pitcher of water across the room from him shatters. The patrons of the bar look around in confusion. Then they see it — a small bullet-sized hole in the window. A hole that matches the one on Liam’s face, right below his eye.
We cut to an apartment a few floors above the bar, where the Super Cool Richard Barrow is calmly packing his gun back inside a brief case. It was BY FAR the best scene in this episode! And the fact that it was accompanied by music from the Phantom of the Opera, and followed by a pivotal scene from the film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (“It was at this moment, that Dr. Jekyll was awakened to the baser sense of his nature.”), just made the whole thing ten times better!
Watching the Jekyll and Hyde film in question, is an increasingly agitated Lucy Dumb Slut, who is not taking her replacement by Margaret as Nucky’s favorite Sex Toy, particularly well.
Be afraid Margaret. Be VERY AFRAID!
Van Alden’s Big Break
Back at the station, Nelsan Van Alden . . .
. . . may not be any closer to convicting Nucky for any wrong doing. However, he sure does seem to be developing a compelling case against Jimmy Darmody! When one of Jimmy’s accomplices in that liquor raid featured in the pilot episode, is fingered on a bunch of unrelated charges, the Rat quickly drops a dime on Jimmy, in exchange for clemency.
(Ummmm . . . you can stop hitting yourself now, Mr. Van Alden. This is very good news for you . . .)
Girls who like Girls . . .
Speaking of Jimmy, remember when we all thought that his wife was banging that photographer, while he was away at war? Well, it turns out, she wasn’t. She was banging his wife. Apparently, Angela is an artist of some sort, and her lover is trying to get her work shown in some swank New York gallery.
During this scene, we also learn that Jimmy has been wisely putting Nucky’s name on the envelopes containing the money he sends his family monthly, so his rivals will not be able to locate him. It sure makes him look like a prick to his family, though . . .
Speaking of Pricks . . .
. . . Margaret acts like a bit of one to Nucky, when he tries to tell her about his effed up relationship with his Dad. “I’m no stranger to a man’s cruelty,” she says, dismissively. “Sometimes it’s best to leave the past where it is.”
It seems Margaret has been getting some bad advice lately. The first piece of it came last week from a pamphlet entitled “Family Limitation,” and involved a bottle of Lysol.
This week, one of her new whore friends instructs her not to allow Nucky to talk too much about his personal problems, because it will make him feel “weak.” Margaret ultimately apologizes to Nucky for her insensitive behavior. Nucky, to his credit, appears to take her faux pas in stride, eventually coming clean to Margaret about his father’s uncommon cruelty.
To show there are no hard feelings, Nucky allows Margaret’s kids to call him “Daddy” “Uncle,” and even lets one of them come watch him burn his Dad’s house down.
Awwwww . . . family bonding! How sweet!
Meet Michael Lewis Meyer Lansky
While Nucky is huffing, and puffing, and blowing his Dad’s house down, Arnold Rothstein is trying to do the same thing to Nucky’s illegal liquor business. When Chalky White is visited by a man who calls himself “Michael Lewis,” Nucky’s No-Nonsense Bootlegger becomes instantly suspicious.
“You may stay where the f*ck you standing,” he tells the young man, when the later politely requests admittance into Chalky’s “office.”
“Michael,” as it turns out, has a business proposition for Chalky. It involves Chalky delivering liquor directly to Michael for $10,000 and cutting out Nucky as the Middle Man. Though initially intrigued by the idea, Chalky smells a Rat.
“Tell Nucky it’s going to take more than 10 grand for me to f*ck him over,” scoffs Chalky.
“You can’t blame a guy for trying,” concedes “Michael,” as he exits stage left.
Later, we learn that “Michael” (who’s real name is Meyer Lansky) wasn’t working for Nucky at all. Rather, he works for Arnold Rothstein.
You see, Arnold, Meyer, and Lucky Luciano are trying to get a foothold in the New Jersey liquor business. But they need capital to do it. And so, they contact the Philadelphia crime family, which is led by a guy named Mickey Doyle, and that dude from The Sopranos and Doogie Howser, M.D.
(Apparently, it was this Philly gang, and not Rothstein’s gang, who robbed Nucky’s “tax collector” at the beginning of last week’s episode. See what I mean . . . about them all needing name tags!)
With the help of Lucky’s bravado . . .
“I’m a Captain in bed of Industry!”
. . . and Meyer’s fast-talking salesmanship, the gangs of New York and Philly quickly form an EVVVVVILLL Alliance against Nucky Thompson. Together, the two gangs plan to rob one of Nucky’s Atlantic City casinos, and use that cash to finance their own illegal liquor enterprise.
(Don’t get me wrong, it’s a clever idea . . . but I think I liked it better when it was called Ocean’s Eleven . . .)
Arnold Rothstein is cute and all . . . but he’s NO George Clooney.
So, there you have it. Though it was far from my favorite episode of the series (last week’s “Family Limitations“ probably still owns the crown on that title), “Home” did provide us with some illuminating insight into Nucky’s psyche. It also introduced us to a couple of intriguing new characters: the enigmatic Richard Harrow and real-life criminal mastermind, Meyer Lansky.
Did I mention, there were cats in the episode?