TV Review: Boardwalk Empire 3.9, “The Milkmaid’s Lot”

[rating: 2.5] Nucky’s grip on Atlantic City, business and even reality is slipping. Since the explosion last week’s episode that…

Chris Morgan


[rating: 2.5]

Nucky’s grip on Atlantic City, business and even reality is slipping. Since the explosion last week’s episode that killed off Billie Kent, Nucky has been having episodes in and out of consciousness that have been comparable to moments of Alzheimers, mistaking people for others and generally acting in ways that either intimidate, confuse or discomfort those around him. There are numerous examples throughout ‘The Milkmaid’s Lot’ of Enoch Thompson inadvertently making a fool of himself, including not realising who Eli was, confusing Chalky for one of his servants, mistaking Maragret for Mabel (I believe his first wife), and butchering Emily’s cake while screaming “HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY” in her face.

When he instructed Eli and Owen to summon Rothstein and all their allies, there were very understandable concerns from his brother and right-hand, but they fell on deaf ears. Fortunately Nucky manages to keep his composure during his address to the men he’d have enlist as his captains in an all out war against Joe Massaria and Gyp Rosetti, but it avails him no good. Rothstein speaks for the entire group when he wishes Nucky luck, but that’s all Nucky’s supposed allies are prepared to offer. From Rothstein in particular, this comes as a bizare reaction. As cautionary as he is, it’s hard to imagine him not recognizing the threat Gyp Rosetti presents – only last week did he attempt to have him assassinated. Gyp is not going to stop until both Nucky and Arnold are dead. For Arnold to fail to recognize that seems deeply out of character for New York’s most cautious gangster.

In many ways, this leaves Nucky in a position of hopelessness, something that’s been building since the season began. Throughout, we’ve watched him become a feeble, petty boy striving to earn the affections of Billie rather than managing his business, often fleeing to New York in moments of emotional crisis rather than tackling events head on. Yet he’s also exuded qualities we’d never have seen from him a season previous – murdering Roland Schmidt, the season opener, getting into a fist fight with Billie’s friend, all these are actions of Nucky the Gangster rather than Nucky the Businessman. At this moment in time, Nucky’s last best hope is Esther Randolf’s case against Remus and a hope to bring down his conspirators. The only ally he has left, other than Randolf, is Chalky White. Expect to see more of Mr. White in the weeks to come.

With Margaret and Owen now making plans to leave, it seems just about everybody is deserting Nucky, not just in his business but also in his personal life. I have almost no faith in the notion of these two actually leaving Nucky, let alone Atlantic City. Owen has climbed far up the ladder with a secure foothold in the business, and while he’s currently dependant on Nucky as his employer, he’s earned enough experience to successfully strike out either on his own or as an enforcer for someone else. Margaret, though, has always put her children first, and I’ll be amazed if she breaks that trend now by abandoning her husband, the provider.

I’d love to believe the season will end with Nucky near destitute, Owen and Margaret fled, Rosetti standing as a near unrivaled power and Rothstein quietly hedging his bets, but I just can’t believe the writers would have the balls to pull that off. The predictable outcome for this season would be to have Nucky saved at the last minute by Randolf’s case with Remus and a bunch of other rivals indicted, with Rosetti assassinated (possibly by a Richard Harrow coming out of retirement), Nucky’s relationship with Rothstein back on solid ground, Owen killed off, van Alden working for Capone, and Margaret once again doing her best Carmella Soprano on tranquillizers impression. I really hope I’m taken by surprise, but it looks increasingly doubtful.

One last gripe. I don’t know if the writers are giving Richard Harrow a chance at a normal life, or if they’re building him up to one to rip it away and set him off on a chain of events that will lead him back to the way of the gun. Either way, please, please, please bring this diamond of a character back into the fray and out of domestic boredom. The man is a lion, not a house cat.