“Boardwalk Empire” Season 4, Episode 9- In which Nucky does very little

We had a good smattering of the important plots this week, however, our protagonist really didn’t do much of anything except wake Sally up in the middle of the night, which is less exciting than it sounds. The show didn’t suffer from it. One of the ongoing criticisms of this show is that Nucky really isn’t necessary to the survival of the show. The supporting characters are able to carry it just fine.


Fear and Loathing in Chicago

At the Van Alden/Mueller home, the honeymoon is definitely over. Nelson/George is working on a pipe that is broken. Sigrid is not pleased that her house appears to be falling apart. Also, the baby is not pleased and cries like a, well, like a baby.



Gif from here.

Sigrid’s complaints are purely practical, and she indicates that she wouldn’t have a problem if Nelson was more successful in his professional violence. She really doesn’t like the house.

Bannion and Nelson are at the flower shop. Bannion keeps hinting around about his henchman who got killed by Al Capone a few episodes back. Nelson tries to change the subject. Neither is particularly subtle.

Gif from Buzzfeed.

Nelson delivers a wreath of flowers to the Capones on behalf of Bannion. Al is full of rage. To calm him down, Nelson suggests that Al pay him $1,000 to shoot Bannion.

At home, Nelson and Sigrid argue more about the state of the house. She’d like doors. Nelson responds with sarcasm. She doesn’t understand it. Oh my God! She’s Sheldon Cooper!


Gif from here.

Just as Nelson is about to walk into work and kill Bannion, he gets jumped. Not by any of his gang-related cohorts, but by a bunch of iron salesmen.

(Remember, back when he used to sell irons, and then he lost his cool and burned the face of a co-worker?) Anyway, they’re out for revenge. Nelson doesn’t have time for this nonsense, so he shoots them. And leaves them to rot in the alley.

And, there’s more fighting at home! Nelson is beginning to lose his temper. Especially when the Capones show up. He tries to explain what delayed the murder, which the Capones don’t understand. (I’m not entirely clear on the delay myself.  It’s not like anyone on this show is limited to three murders a day!)  However, he does successfully negotiate a bit more time.

At the flower shop, Bannion tries to question Nelson once more about the death of the henchman. He’s more aggressive this time and pulls a gun on Nelson. He keeps saying he wants the truth. Nelson looks him in the eye, and gives him more truth than he ever wanted.

He spills his whole history as a prohibition agent, and that his real name isn’t Mueller. Bannion is clearly creeped out, but they’re interrupted by customers. Customers who shoot Bannion dead. Thank goodness! He was an irritating character.

Mueller doesn’t react except to step over the body and empty the till. Then, he steps over the bodies of the iron salesmen and leaves.

At home, Nelson wakes Sigrid up. He gets her to affirm his manhood at building houses and paying bills. He shows her the money, and she’s super turned on. He tells her his real name and tosses the money on the bed. He orders her to take off her nightgown. She does so (boobs!), and he disrobes. They begin to get it on.

Love is a battlefield

Gillian and Berger are sunning themselves on the boardwalk. Gillian relates her first kiss (a cute tourist boy named James), which, of course, leads into the story about her being raped by the Commodore when she was 12. Natural segue.

She essentially spills almost all of her secrets, only omitting the killing of the random tourist who looked like Jimmy. She repeats the story about Jimmy overdosing on heroin.

In court, Gillian tries to explain her life. Berger walks in to show his support. Harrow walks in and throws her off her game a bit. To her credit, Gillian’s speech about love sounds reasonably sincere.

Julia gets her turn to speak, though, and she rightfully points out that Tommy was horribly traumatized in Gillian’s home, and now is recovering with her family.

The judge, not the one Gillian tried to sexually bribe, is more interested in Julia’s income and marital status. He did state a strong preference for actual blood relatives.


Dear producers, Please let this be their next judge. Love, Brett. Image from here.


At her home, Julia and Harrow have a very unromantic tete-a-tete. Her father Paul and Harrow have been having sneaky talks, and she’s on to something. Harrow doesn’t betray Paul’s secret that he’s dying, but he does let Julia know something is up.

Julia asserts her independence by stating her promotion opportunities at the department store she works at. Then, she awkwardly proposes to Harrow. For the sake of the case.


Gif from here

For the case. Nothing to do with true love.  Harrow, not being an idiot, says “yes” once he realizes that she’s not joking!


Gif from here.

Cut to the courthouse. Julia is not wearing white, but a pretty gold dress. She’s nervous. Harrow sweetly reassures her, “It’s just a hunting license, isn’t it?”, and takes her hand.


Gif from here.

Darnit! I’m rooting for these kids! Harrow, now that he has a family to support, shows up at Nucky’s home. He’d like a job.

At Gillians, Berger is having a super shady phone call. My suspicion is that he’s secretly an FBI agent working for Knox. Gillian enters, and his tone completely changes.

Twelve Times Scott Walker Was Terrible

Gif from Buzzfeed.

She’s fighting the urge to use heroin. He tries to warn her about the possibility that the judge may rule against her. She, like she usually does, wants to live in a land of fluffy clouds and rainbows.

Pretty, pretty princess

Gillian’s worldview.
Image from Disney Wiki.

The Gambling Man

Rothstein has a beautiful home in New York. Unfortunately, he’s clearly in trouble, as he’s playing pool alone and confiding sentimentally in a previously unseen underling. Also, his wife went to bed early.

In the AC, Rothstein meets with Nucky. The life insurance company Rothstein owns has purchased a policy on the life of Mickey Doyle for a half a million dollars. He’s trying to get Nucky to pay him not to kill Doyle for the money.

Rothstein has over-estimated how much Nucky likes Doyle.All he’s willing to give is a nickel. Rothstein comes clean. He’s made bad investments with “an unscrupulous broker” (Margaret’s employer, perhaps?), and he needs cash to plot his revenge.

Nucky, the softy he is, agrees to buy the policy from Rothstein, but reminds him “I know a dozen people who would kill Mickey for free!”

Something more entertaining than Dr. Narcisse’s play


Nucky and Chalkie are discussing what to do about Dr. Narcisse. Chalkie is in favor of killing him, since he sent Purnsley to kill Chalkie.

Nucky doesn’t want a war and makes some condescending remarks about not putting “a piece of ass with a sugary voice” before business. Apparently, he’s forgotten about Billie and Margaret and putting Sally in charge of the Florida operation because she’s turned on by punching him.

Anyway, after some snippy words, it’s settled that Nucky will meet with Narcisse and get more information.

In Harlem, Narcisse is meeting with his white underling. Rothstein is bust, so he can’t partner in the heroin business. Narcisse suggests Masseria, which will be more difficult since the Italian Masseria is considerably more racist than the Jewish Rothstein. Still, he’ll get a meeting at the Cotton Club.

The most awesomest place to do business! Image from here.

Back in the AC, Maybelle White and her mother are discussing the invitation list for Maybelle’s wedding. Chalkie’s wife is passive-aggressively displeased with Chalkie. Chalkie helpfully suggests they take off Purnsley’s name from the guest list, so that they don’t have an odd number of guests.

Also, dead bodies are never fun at a wedding.


Gif from here.

Nucky and Eli discuss the problems with the black people in town. The Thompson brothers agree to stay out of things. Eli tries to get more information out of Nucky. Apparently, there’s nothing to tell, as Nucky’s life this episode is pretty dull.

While, at the White residence, the family is hosting a dinner party for Maybelle’s snooty future in-laws, Dr. Narcisse is meeting with Daughter Maitland. He’s giving her a pretty sound lecture. She’s parroting back the brainwashing he’s given her rather credibly, but he’s not fooled.

Also, he extracted a super-creepy promise from her when she was a little girl. She can sleep with whomever she wants, but he must always be first in her heart.

Then, he violently beats the crap out of her, making sure that the audience is rooting for Chalkie to kill him.


Gif from here.

The White family dinner party is going well, except that Lester messes up the song he’s playing on the piano. The phone rings, and Maybelle puts him off since they have guests. Chalkie interrupts and takes the phone call from Daughter Maitland’s accompanist.

Chalkie ditches the dinner party. Maybelle is suspicious, though her brother doesn’t seem to care much.

At Daughter’s apartment, Chalkie and the audience see the extent of her injuries. Narcisse sent a clear message. She is horribly disfigured. It’s pretty gross, and I would say it’s gratuitous, except that it is necessary to the plot and character development.  Her accompanist will take care of her for now, and he indicates that this isn’t the first time he’s had to do this. Chalkie stalks off.

At the Onyx, Narcisse is working his way around back stage. On stage, a comedian is performing a bit about why black people have dark skin and kinky hair.

The audience loves it, but it’s purposefully unsettling to a modern audience. The exaggerated voice and facial expressions are reminiscent of minstrel shows, and it helps build the tension for what’s to come next.

Narcisse makes his way to the club’s floor where Nucky is sitting at a table. He does so in a way that is meant to be noticeable and prominent. While the comedian continues his act of making fun of black people for a white audience, Narcisse and Nucky debate the appropriateness of Narcisse sitting with him.

Passive aggressive behavior

A very awkward moment.
Image from flicksided.com.

Narcisse says, “Where I am from, there are no such things as niggers, and I refuse to be treated as one.” Then, he threatens to depose Chalkie.

Nucky is in the midst of defending Chalkie, when Chalkie himself rushes into the club. The band senses something is wrong, and starts playing a lively number.

Nucky tries to calm Chalkie down while Narcisse makes subtle comments about the power imbalance between Nucky and Chalkie. He’s very good at it. Saying just enough to exacerbate the situation while avoiding saying anything that will bring blame to himself. Oh my God! He’s Regina George!


Gif from here.

Anyway, Chalkie gets worked up, and he flips over a table.


The dancers come out wearing leopard print bikinis and gold ankle and hair tassels. This scene was really well written and directed. The club acts paired well with the actual action in the scene, and fit well with the thematic contrast this season between Chalkie’s version of “success” and Dr. Narcisse’s version. Kudos to all involved!

Later, Chalkie is comforting Daughter. Daughter reveals the extent of the brainwashing that has gone on, including that Narcisse has her convinced that he can divine the future. Chalkie is very sweet with her, but definitely gets the look in his eyes that he’s wondering exactly how crazy this girl is.


Gif from here.

Someone knocks on the door. It’s Maybelle. She’s pissed that he walked out of the dinner party. She sees daughter, and Chalkie gives a very unconvincing excuse. Maybelle figures it out. She’s even more pissed. So, she storms off.

The only scene that’s actually about Nucky

The very last bit of the episode is the only Nucky focused scene. I can only guess they bothered to include it because of something in both Steve Buscemi’s and Patricia Arquette’s contracts.

Essentially, Nucky drunk dials Sally in Florida. She’s tired. They banter, then hang up. Sally sleeps with a loaded shot gun.

Cue music and ending credits!

Rating-B (Some elements were beautifully done, like the confrontation scene at the Onyx and the scenes around the Gillian/Julia plotline. However, it definitely feels like a build up episode to the finale. Things will get crazy soon, but we’re not quite there yet.)

Gratuitous Violence- A (After a slow first 2/3rds of the season, the violence is amping up. The Chicago plotline was primarily responsible for the violence this week, but Dr. Narcisse contributed his part, as well.)

Gratuitous Nudity- C (Thank God for Sigrid! While hers were the only visible breasts this episode, she gets bonus points as a main character. Also, the dancers’ costumes at the Onyx were pretty skimpy!)

Family Ennui- A+ (Between Mrs. White’s passive aggressive guilt trips and Maybelle’s direct “fuck you” to her father, the Whites really brought out the existential crises involved in settled family life.)

“Boardwalk Empire” airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO.