Episode Title: "Resignation"
Writers: Dennis Lehane and Howard Korder
Director: Alik Sakharov
Previously on "Boardwalk Empire:"
The second hour of this new season of “Boardwalk Empire” opens on Nelson Val Alden/George Mueller (Michael Shannon) so you just know this is going to be a good episode. And it is, but unfortunately, like so many of the stronger episodes of “Boardwalk,” it has little to do with its central character, Nucky Thompson.
Nucky (Steve Buscemi) does serve a purpose and that is to provide a dry, surly sounding board for the show’s more dynamic characters. In the case of this episode, it’s Chalky (Michael Kenneth Williams) and Eddie (Anthony Laciura).
But let’s start in the Midwest, where Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) is settling in at home with his sister, Emma and Nelson Van Alden is delivering flowers and beatings, alternating on a case-by-case basis. The former prohibition agent turned delivery boy/bruiser finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place with Dean O’Banion (Arron Shiver) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham). O’Banion sends Van Alden to Cicero and Capone to help swing an election. O’Banion also wants Van Alden to report back if Capone makes any mention of staying in Chicago. Capone is suspicious of Van Alden, whom he hasn’t seen in some time. But his brother, Frank tells Al to ease off.
In an effort to ensure the democratic mayoral candidate doesn’t win, Capone and his men disrupt a rally and start wailing on the voters gathered. Van Alden appears lost at first, but after getting hit, he lets out an animal-like grunt and gets in on the action. Van Alden is a violent man, this we’ve known since way back when he drowned Agent Sebso. In his new life not only has he found an outlet for it, but a world where it’s a necessary part of doing business. But respect is also important to Van Alden and he’s getting more of it from Capone than O’Banion. With a turf war over Chicago brewing, it’ll be interesting to see if Van Alden switches sides.
While Van Alden embraces violence, Richard Harrow wants no part of it. He shows up at a man’s office he was paid to kill, but instead of doing the deed, he asks the man if he has a family. The man would rather Richard just get on with the business of ending his life than engage in idle chit chat, but Richard decides to let him live. Meanwhile, Emma is smart enough to put together what her brother’s been up to and doesn’t seem to care. Her only condition is that if he leaves again, he doesn’t come back. It’s a fair request coming from a woman who has lost her father and husband within a short span of time. Now even the family dog, Samson is on the way out and Emma asks Richard to put the suffering animal out of his misery by shooting it. However, Richard can’t bring himself to do it. After Emma puts the dog down, Richard tells her he doesn’t “want anymore of it.”
So where does this leave Richard? Unfortunately, like Gillian, he’s no longer tied to Atlantic City and Nucky. And as fascinating as he and Gillian are, it now feels like both characters are completely disconnected from the central story. And the way “Boardwalk” likes to rotate characters in and out each week, both Richard and Gillian’s storylines could come to a crawl this season.
The good news about this episode is that Nucky’s manservant, Eddie Kessler gets plenty of screen time. And if you were wondering why Nucky can’t make any of his relationships work it might have something to do with the fact that he and Eddie are like an old married couple. Like a long-suffering and under appreciated wife, Eddie feels like Nucky doesn’t respect him. And after eleven years of making his breakfast, driving him everywhere, preparing his wardrobe and even handling his “delicate undergarments,” Eddie wants some respect from Nucky. Can you blame him?
Nucky, the powerful Atlantic City kingpin isn’t that fun to watch, but Nucky, the sarcastic, unemotional yet easily irritated playground supervisor of sorts is very appealing. In this episode, we get see Nucky try to assuage Eddie’s hurt feelings and attempt to smooth things over between Chalky White and Owney Madden’s associate, Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) regarding the murder of Dickie Pastor. In both cases, money gets the job done, though Nucky does make an effort to pay Eddie a little more respect.
Aside from Eddie’s gripes, Van Alden’s mob mess and the introduction of a new thorn in Nucky’s side, Dr. Narcisse, there are a number of other notable developments in this episode. Warren Knox is really an undercover FBI agent working with J. Edgar Hoover (Hey, it's "Jamie" from "The Killing," Eric Ladin) to take down Nucky, Richard’s sister, Emma owns a ton on back taxes, Van Alden’s wife, Sigrid (Christiane Seidel) wants to make their house a home by loading it up with furniture he can’t afford and Dr. Narcisse decides to use Mayor Bader’s latest construction site to dump the body of Dickie Pastor’s wife.
These all appear to be important developments, but at the same time, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Watching Nucky deal with another sore adversary or another government conspiracy play out to take him down is old hat for “Boardwalk Empire.” But focusing on the important, yet often neglected relationship between Nucky and his right-hand man is time well spent.