This episode was the best of the season so far, by far.
Nucky and Rothstein may have started the episode with fiery words, something rarely elicited from either of them, but their disagreement was little more than a quibble among a solid partnership, only obvious once the “newspaper boy” managed to murder four of Gyp Rosetti’s men while the man himself was near choked to orgasm. For a moment I actually thought Bobby Cannavale’s arc was over and that Gyp truly was about to meet his maker. The cinematography in this scene was superb, slightly reminiscent of Oldboy’s famous corridor scene as Gyp strode through a pile of corpses, totally naked and covered in blood with a look on his face that could curdle milk.
Margaret continues her quest towards philanthropy as she embraces her role as a teacher to women avoiding coined phrases like “come talk about your vagina”. If things continue as they have been, she’ll be bedding Dr Mason in no time, particularly after having now run in to Nucky and Billie at the very clothes store she once worked, dressing Nucky’s previous mistress.
Guest appearances by James Cromwell, Stephen Root and Dominic Chianese are always welcome additions, and Cromwell’s debut was of particular note. As secretary of the Treasury, it’s not yet clear what his role will be in the wider scale of things, and Stephen Root’s character continues to be a soft-spoken figure of mystery. Nonetheless, you don’t enlist character-actors of this calibre lightly, so the writers clearly have plans.
Eddie Cantor had his biggest feature to date after little more than two seasons of being Nucky’s go-to party entertainer and all round Thespian eccentric, but this week Eddie got to take part in what was unquestionably one of the funniest scenes in the series to date. That Nucky would sent Chalky White and Mr Perlsley, the head of the black community’s criminal enterprise, to coerce Eddie into taking the lead part in the clearly doomed play “The Naughty Virgin” all to benefit Billie, clearly shows something of an overkill on Nucky’s behalf. As hilarious as seeing Eddie mistakenly call Mr White “Milky” and his entirely unimpressed reaction to Eddie’s little show, it’s yet another example of how deeply Nucky is over-investing in his latest plaything. Eddie’s little snip to Billie about Lucy Danzigger and how quickly Nucky gains and loses interest in the women in his life was a delicious zinger but completely true.
The slowest story of the night but perhaps the most intriguing long-term belongs to van Alden. Once again, things continue to descend into chaos as his wife mistakes the internal revenue man for someone with knowledge of his true identity, bashing his head in and leaving van Alden no choice but to finish the job on a man simply discontent with one of the irons he purchased. Now that van Alden is clearly in O’Bannion’s pocket, his inevitable journey into the criminal underworld is almost a lock at this point. The only real remaining question is whether he will be fighting against Capone or for him. Personally, I’m hoping for the latter.
The closing scene of Eddie and Billie’s rendition of You’d Be Surprised was a perfect reflection on the wider world’s perception of Nucky and his true character. When Owen gives him the news of the failed attempt on Rosetti, the devil in his eyes is all too evident. Nucky and Rothstein’s failed deception is about to lead to an all out war.
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