TV Review: Boardwalk Empire 3.8, “The Pony”

Rating: People often criticise Boardwalk Empire for being slow, boring, and generally being guilty of nothing ever happening. This episode...

Chris Morgan

Contributor

Rating: ★★★★☆

People often criticise Boardwalk Empire for being slow, boring, and generally being guilty of nothing ever happening. This episode once again proved those hoods wrong. Starting with a funeral and ending with a bang, this was a tight, great hour of television.

Opening with a sham of a service for Not-Jimmy, Gillian’s feigned grief barely washes with the funeral director, let alone Richard who eulogizes best by simply saying “Jimmy deserved better” while looking at his mother. Too right, Mr Harrow. Though Gyp Rosetti’s appearance came late in the episode, the one notable exchange came between himself and his introduction to Richard. This poses all kinds of salivating possibilities for allegiances between these two, or possibly setting them up as opposing forces. Either way, more please.

In Chicago, slant-eyed Torrio returns from Italy with much armchair wisdom and soliloquys about volcanoes, spewing half-baked analogies in a vague attempt to reconcile Capone and O’Bannion’s differences. Aside from a decidedly unique, almost European looking setting, this scene’s other standout feature was undoubtedly van Alden, who this week experienced an eruption of his own. Yes, the long-awaited day we all knew was coming has finally arrived, and it was beautiful to behold. Michael Shannon brought just the right amount of menace to burning half someone’s face off with an iron, he’s now the man who’s been pushed one too many times. The look on the rest of his colleagues faces as he slowly approached them behind thin panes of glass spoke volumes, and he suddenly became aware of his power over people. Best of all, he liked it. It’s the first time I can recall seeing his character smile without a sense of obligation, and the venom behind it was visible for all to see. Now he’s so evidently embracing his gangster side with the encouragement of his wife, it’s a matter of time before his affiliation to Capone becomes a reality.

Nucky’s interaction with Andrew Mellon seemed to indicate that some men are beyond corruption, though this was evidently not the case when Mellon made a call to Nucky towards the episode’s end. It seems anyone can be bought in Atlantic City for the right price, and no one is beyond corruption. I have to admit this is a little disappointing given the charismatic, stiff-backed figure James Cromwell has cut as the Secretary of the Treasury, and it was refreshing to see Nucky so swiftly rebuffed by someone who could not be bought. Sadly this is no longer the case. Esther Randolf remains my one only hope for a true believer. This show needs a character who upholds the law as vigorously as Nucky breaks it.

Finally, exit stage left Billie Kent. While obviously intended for Nucky, Rothstein and Luciano, the explosion Gyp set up on the boardwalk was risky assassination attempt that hasn’t paid off, only ending the life of Nucky’s latest fascination and likely sending him into a fit of bloodthirsty vengeance. The slow slip of Nucky’s smile as his girlfriend gets enveloped in flame foretold the chaos to follow, but it was still the kind of moment that makes you drop your biscuit in your tea. A large chunk of the boardwalk is gone, and while it will doubtless be rebuilt, Billie’s loss will be sorely felt by viewers and Mr Thompson alike.

The season finale approaches. If van Alden isn’t fully converted to all out gangster by then, Owen and Maragret’s affair remains undiscovered, and more serious losses haven’t been counted on both sides between Nucky and Gyp, there are going to be cries of disappointment from the fans. Predictions are dangerous things, but if some were to be made, I’d wager on Mr Harrow finding new gainful employment, Chalky White continuing to made guest appearances without much of a progressive or meaningful storyline, Eli taking over the warehouse, Mickey Doyle dead, Capone ascending, and either Margaret or Owen or both as dead as Jimmy Darmody. I’m hoping Gyp Rosetti isn’t a season-long-filler arc thrown in for lack of imagination and that Bobby Cannavale sticks around for at least one more year.