Episode Title: "The Milkmaid's Lot"
Writer: Rolin Jones
Director: Ed Bianchi
Previously on "Boardwalk Empire"
Everybody wants to be your friend when you're on top. But not so much on the way down. That was the lesson Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) learned in "The Milkmaid's Lot." And it made for one of the best Nucky-centric episodes to date, as we watched the king of Atlantic City unravel in the wake of last week's attempt on his life.
Despite his questionable mental state, Nucky was set on declaring war against Joe Massaria and Gyp Rosetti as soon as possible. But the fact that he couldn't remember his own step-daughter's birthday or the time of day didn't bode well for the meeting. With a little help from Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) Nucky pulled it together and stated his case to a room full of notorious east coast gangsters (Johnny Torrio couldn't make it). Despite the promise of "new opportunities" to make money, no one wanted to get involved in Nucky's scuffle with Massaria and Rosetti. Especially after Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) convinced them not to.
And this is where Nucky Thompson, the character, begins to come alive. When things are running smoothly, Nucky's mildly dislikable at worst. But when he gets mad, or worse, when he's betrayed, Nucky becomes much more dynamic. And by "dynamic," I mean "deadly."
Betrayal will likely come on two fronts. Aside from his business associates turning their backs on him in his hour of need, Margaret is plotting to run off with his right-hand man, Owen (Charlie Cox). And now sure seems like a good time to do it. Margaret's definitely seen and heard enough. When Nucky asked her to stay near him while he gave Owen and Eli their marching orders, Margaret heard of his plans to "wear that f**king daygo's guts like a necktie." Don't think she'll want to stick around for that.
It seems Margaret's finally come to terms with her situation and the few choices she has to get out of it. Interestingly enough, it was Nucky who made her situation plain.
"No matter what you think of me there's no walking away, it doesn't work like that," he told her regarding the meeting with his associates. And it probably won't work like that for Margaret and Owen, should they try to walk away themselves.
While Nucky struggled to mount an offense against his enemies, things started looking up for Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), as his relationship with Julia continued to blossom. I'm glad to still have his character on the roster, but I'm not quite sure where Richard's situation at Gillian's brothel is headed. He's clearly bonded with young Tommy, but Gillian (Gretchen Mol) doesn't like it, though she tasks him with watching the boy. Unfortunately, with so many characters in Nucky's orbit, when Jimmy was offed, Gillian and Richard were sort of left floating aimlessly. Still, I've enjoyed watching Richard and Julia's romance unfold and Gillian go through her disturbing grieving process over Jimmy.
"The Milkmaid's Lot" definitely set some good stuff in motion. Nucky is perhaps the weakest we've ever seen him and Margaret is presented with a choice that's been a long time coming. She's betrayed Nucky before, gifting his precious land to the church, but running off with Owen isn't something he's likely to forgive as easily. And with his greatest fear, that of being alone, pretty much realized, you have to wonder whom Nucky will turn to in order to take down Rosetti and Massaria. It looks like George Remus left quite a paper trail for Esther Randolph to sift through which means Nucky may find himself with an unlikely ally or facing off against an old enemy, as the case may be.
Either way, it's encouraging to get an hour focused on Nucky that doesn't feel slow or flatlined. The tension between Nucky, Rothstein and his associates, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano has been building for some time. And Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) is stirring the pot with all his might. That right there is a recipe for disaster. As crafty as he is, it's hard to count Nucky out. But it'll be something to see how he plans to come out on top here and who goes down in the process.