Boardwalk Empire- Weird Sex and Mysterious Murders- Season 4, episode 1


Welcome to the premiere of season 4!

Image from

Image from here

Season 4 starts out with a one minute recap of what the show’s writers and producers think you need to know. If I’d known they planned on doing this, I could have saved so, so, so much time! If you want a more detailed breakdown, check out my previous post, “The Story So Far”.
The premiere covers several different plot points. It starts with the most intriguing and mysterious. . .


Harrow makes up for lost time

Last season, until the finale, Harrow didn’t get to vent much of his bloodlust. Season 4 starts about 5 hours from Columbus, OH at a dive bar in a snow storm. The guys are kind of ominous jerks.

When they leave, one checks on an automotive issue and ends up with his throat slit. His friend checks it out, and Harrow reveals himself and slits this man’s throat, too. Harrow takes papers from a title company.

Later, a man sits at his desk with his child’s birthday present and pleads for his life. He’s “just a middle man” acting on orders from Cincinnati. The camera pans out and reveals that Harrow is the one holding him hostage. The man asks to sign something, and we are led to believe he wants to sign his son’s birthday card. Instead, he gives Harrow a name, and seals his fate. A few other reviews speculate as to why Harrow shoots this man through the cheek before killing him. I believe, it’s an emotional response. Harrow has a soft-spot for children after his experiences with Tommy. By choosing to try to save his hide rather than show affection for his son, this man violated Harrow’s rules. Of course, it’d probably be better for the kid to have his father alive, in the end.

In Harrow’s final scene this episode, he creeps up to a farmhouse and hides his rifle in the woodpile. A shotgun wielding woman and a dog greet him. It turns out this is Emma, his sister. Harrow finally came home, and it only took three murders! Still unclear why he committed those murders. .

There's no place like home! Image from

There’s no place like home!
Image from

Elsewhere in the Midwest
Al Capone is shipping a literal truckload of prostitutes from Chicago to Cicero to where Torrio is hanging out these days. Al has called in his brother Frank to help him out with the important prostitute shipments.

Torrio is mad because a newspaper article exposes his entire operation in Chicago. Capone, on the other hand, is mad because the article misspelled his name.

Frank gives Al a hard time about this at dinner. Al and Frank actually get into a fist fight over it, which their mother has to break up! Most importantly, we learn that Al’s childhood nickname was “snorkie”.

Eventually, Al shows up at the newspaper and offers some copyediting. It doesn’t result in anyone getting shot or beaten to death.

Nucky’s house cleaning

So, the Onyx Club’s back room appears to be Nucky’s new base of operations. (More on the Onyx in a bit!) Eli is once more Nucky’s second in command, and Eddie Kesslor is still the adorable, fussy Kraut, making sure that Nucky is appropriately dressed for his big meeting with the other kids. In a bit of ham-fisted symbolism, Nucky’s abandoned his previous style of wearing a carnation in his buttonhole. It’s supposed to show his inner turmoil at present.




The other kids include NYC bosses Joe Masseria and AR Rothstein. Masseria has taken Luciano under his wing, and you get a little bit of a vibe that he misses his old boss Rothstein. They share a few longing looks, and for Rothstein it’s sort of like that awkward moment when you run into your ex at a party with your new boyfriend. You’re not angry anymore, but they just don’t look so good, and you’re a little bit worried about them, for old time’s sake.

Anyway, Nucky makes up with Masseria by giving him a bag full of cash. Despite sicking Ester Randolph on him, Nucky also manages to make up with Rothstein by setting him up in one of the casinos. However, not before Rothstein gets to snark about New Jersey having nothing to offer.


How Rothstein sees New Jersey.
Image from here

Nucky also manages to get his game on at the Onyx. Eddie Kantor, a frequent performer at the former Babette’s, shows up with an anonymous blonde actress (ABA) who gushes about the new movie Eddie made. Then, she gushes about Nucky and the Onyx (including its similarity to the Cotton Club in Harlem).

(A different ABA)

After a racist attempt to be sexy (calling the Onyx dancers “delightfully primitive”), she and Nucky are in bed post-coitus. The, ABA makes up for her racist comment and endears herself to me forever with this exchange:

ABA: “Everyone talked about you and Billie.”
Nucky: “Really? What did they say?”
ABA: “ Well, how else could she star on Broadway?”
It was hilarious! Sadly, the very moment I fell in love with ABA caused Nucky to get rid of her. Eddie the valet gets the unpleasant task of explaining to ABA that Nucky is done with her and she needs to leave. We, then, see Nucky’s new abode. It’s a bit sad and no longer on the boardwalk.



But, wait! We have teenage rebellion!

Durn kids today! Image from

Durn kids today!
Image from here

Eli’s oldest son William is starting to feel restless. He is no longer working at the lumber mill. Instead, he’s in college and hanging out with a bunch of guys whose names sound like those of ponies, according to Eli.

Bronies?   Image from

Image from here

William is smoking behind his mom’s back! And, he’s made it clear to his uncle Nucky that he wants to be a part of the family business. Nucky, to his credit, tells his nephew to stay in school, and he’ll be able to be a part of the business when he gets his degree.

Family Ties- or how the family courts deal with raising a child in the midst of a whorehouse/murder scene
Gillian and Julia are engaged in a custody battle over Tommy. Gillian proposes selling the Artemis Club and settling down. Julia thinks this is a load of horseshit, but she isn’t willing to disclose Harrow’s involvement in bringing Tommy to her door step. The judge is unimpressed by everyone.

It could always have gone worse for them! Image from

It could always have gone worse for them!
Image from here

Back at the Artemis Club, Gillian is describing the house to an older fellow. It sounds like a real estate pitch, but is purposely misleading. After she shoots up with heroin, Gillian returns to negotiate her price because (big surprise) she’s selling herself instead of the house.
Later, we see a similar scene, except this time the buyer is Ron Livningstone. Or Berger from “Sex and the City”.

Oh, Berger. The guy who coined "He's just not that into you."  Did you know that that single line was going to turn into an entire industry?   Image from

Oh, Berger. The guy who coined “He’s just not that into you.” Did you know that that single line was going to turn into an entire industry?
Image from here

Ron plays Roy Phillips, an executive who works for Piggly Wiggly, which wants to expand into the Northern states. This time around, Gillian actually is trying to sell the house. Ron’s not buying, but does seem interested in buying some of Gillian’s time. We’ll just have to see where this goes.

Down at the Onyx Club
The season premiere lives up to the promise of a fantastic new club run by Chalkie! The Onyx does live up to what I’d hoped. It is meant to resemble the Cotton Club of Harlem. (Read this for more on the Cotton Club.)

The costumes are a bit skimpier than we were used to at Babette’s, but the music and dancing are much better. However, like the Cotton Club, the Onyx Club is owned and operated by black people who cater to a white audience. So, the dream of integration on the boardwalk will probably have to wait for a few decades, but in the meanwhile, the entertainers are black!
Speaking of which. ..

Chalkie is examining a new act for the club, two tap dancers. Their white agent Dickie is immediately sketchy. Never trust a man named after a fake turtle neck.


The discomfort of a turtleneck without the practicality.   Image from

The discomfort of a turtleneck without the practicality.
Image from here

While Chalkie and Dickie talk business, Dickie’s wife makes is clear that she’s more interested in getting some business from Dunn Purnsley.


She slips him a pornographic drawing on a napkin, which makes it clear that she lacks the subtlety of even Al Capone.

Later, Dunn and Dickie’s wife are finally getting down to business. Just as it sounds like she’s about to orgasm, they are interrupted by Dickie, who somehow managed to sneak into the room sit calmly in the chair near the bed.

It’s true. Dickie is a racist version of Batman.

By the way, anyone in Southern Oregon can see me in "Bat Boy:The Musical" opening September 13th!

I said “Bat MAN”, not “Bat BOY”!
Image from here

Dickie’s wife pretends she’s been taken advantage of, while Dickie goes off on how he likes “the music”, but he still sees all black people as, well, a word I refuse to use that rhymes with “trigger”. Incidentally, Dickey threatens to pull the trigger if Purnsley doesn’t accede to his racism and start having sex with Dickie’s wife again.

That’s when it becomes clear that both Dickie and his wife get off on finding black men to have sex with her in front of Dickie. To say that this is the most disturbing sex scene in this series is saying quite a lot, and it’s true!
Purnsley is not one to be an unwilling participant in a cuckholding fetish (Thanks Dan Savage ). Mid-thrust, he grabs a bottle from the nightstand, and stabs Dickie to death with a bottle! It’s pretty bloody, and because Dickie is a racist pervert, your heart feels pretty happy! Purnsley finishes with his blood bath, and looks around to find Dickies wife has disappeared. (Maybe she’s Batman!)


Yes, "Bat MAN"!   Image from

Yes, “Bat MAN”!
Image fromhere

Chalkie, Nucky, and Eli come by to help hide Purnsley hide the body. They are all quite grumpy about it, and Chalkie rips him a new one about losing a valuable business connection.
Eli and Chalkie take Purnsley to the middle nowhere to dump the body. It’s cold, and Chalkie and Eli make Purnsley carry the body all by himself. They’re kind of dicks about it, but, at the same time, you kind of see their point. Purnsley killed the man, he’s got to dump the body.

Later, Nucky is feeling frustrated about the missing wife. After a brief reprimand to Purnsley, Chalkie does stand up for Purnsley and reminds Nucky that Purnsley did some serious violence for Nucky at the end of season 3.

I fought the law and became the new law

Damn, you, “Boardwalk Empire”!!! I did such a long “story so far” recap, and then a minor character no one cared about becomes important! Agent Stan has been the head prohibition agent since Van Alden left. As one of Van Alden’s former underlings, he now takes lots of bribe money from Nucky and Co. He has a new underling himself named Agent Warren Knox.

Agent Stan is a big dick to Knox. During a bribery exchange, Agent Stan sends both Knox and one of Doyle’s underlings out of the room to the kids’ table. Knox and the underling engage small talk where Knox learns that the underling has a still in his garage which he has set up with a booby trap, a gun that will go off when the door is opened.

This could never go wrong! Image from

This could never go wrong!
Image from here

Agent Stan and Knox wait in car to bust someone. Tired of waiting, they decide to go in. Knox begs off going first, because of night blindness. Agent Stan opens the door, and the rifle fires, hitting him squarely in the torso. The underling comes out with another rifle, and the Knox shoots him in the head. He calmly goes inside, pours himself a drink, then comes back outside. He makes a super creepy speech to the dying Agent Stan about how he’s too “shaken” to call the ambulance. These are the closing shots of the episode.

One the whole, it was a good start to the season. One of the major guest stars of this season appeared (Go Berger!), but we’ve missed out on some of our series main characters. Major loss of points for the absence of Margaret and Van Alden. They did go to the party held by HBO, so they should be on our screens soon!

Kelly Mcdonald with AR Rothstein and Patricia Arquette!   Image from

Kelly Mcdonald with AR Rothstein and Patricia Arquette!
Image from here

Also, we have Patricia Arquette and Jeffrey Wright to look forward to in the near future!  So, I’ve got hope!
Rating- B (Agent Knox seems like a more interesting nemesis than Gyp Rosetti was, but no word on Margaret and no Van Alden means the episode wasn’t as good as it could be.)
Gratutious violence- B (There have been bloodier episodes, but it’s nice to see Harrow back in the saddle after season 3, and Purnsley’s one murder was pretty satisfying.)
Gratuitious nudity- C (despite the skimpier costumes, we only got two pairs of boobs- the Dickie’s wife and ABA).
Weird Sex- A+ (While the nudity was a bit lacking, we did get a some really weird and unsettling sex. It might be one of the first instances of cuckholding fetishists on cable! The racism just makes it creepier.)