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Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Episode 2 Recap: "Resignation"

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Photo: Salon.com

 

The many faces of Nelson Van Alden

 

Throughout Boardwalk Empire’s run, agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) has been a government agent, bible thumping murderer and clothing iron salesman. He’s also committed adultery and fathered a bastard child with Nucky’s mistress Lucy Danziger. Van Alden (on the run from the FBI and now living under the name George Mueller) now works as hired muscle in Chicago for Dean O’Banion.

 

And that’s exactly how this episode begins: with Van Alden giving a severe beatdown to a poor sucker who hasn’t paid his debts on time.

 

When Van Alden returns to the nursery (used as a cover for O’Banion’s business), he’s instructed by O’Banion to check out Al Capone’s headquarters to keep an eye on him (O’Banion wants Capone out of Chicago). Van Alden later accompanies Capone and his men to a political rally, where Al warns all in attendance in an extremely violent manner that voting for a Democrat for mayor is a bad move. Despite some bloody blows suffered in the midst of the battle, Van Alden growls and grunts his way to some more beatdowns.

 

 

There’s about to be a thorn in Chalky’s side

 

Chalky is riding high. The Onyx Club is taking shape, and his gift to his daughter and fiance will be their wedding reception at the club.

 

However, trouble is looming on several fronts. Chalky soon encounters Dr. Valentin Narcisse, an elegant businessman out of New York who is none too happy that one of his employees (ie: Dickey Pastor) is missing in action. Of course, Chalky knows that Dunn killed Dickey in the previous episode, but claims to have no idea where he is. Narcisse puts the blame on Chalky, and demands they come to a resolution.

 

This naturally makes Chalky irate. Dunn comes to him and tells him he still hasn’t found Cora, the wife of the slain Dickey Pastor, but when Chalky later returns with Nucky to meet with Narcisse, Cora is with him- and she recounts the details of her encounter with Dunn as well as what Dunn did to Dickey.

 

When Cora leaves the room, Narcisse demands a negotiation. Chalky scoffs at the idea, but Narcisse “owns a piece” of the band and the talent is leaving the club. Narcisse refuses to deal with Chalky, and his backhanded, passive aggressive comments towards Chalky are blatantly obvious. Narcisse knows how to work Chalky, who is clearly less tolerant than Nucky. Sensing that the problem will not go away, Nucky agrees to give Narcisse a cut of 10%.

 

 

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Richard’s going soft?

 

While we don’t completely know what is going on yet with Richard’s backstory, his sister informs him that his father had passed away earlier in the year and that she is now widowed. Moreover, his sister noticed he hid a shotgun as he arrived at her house. She is aware of Richard’s lifestyle, and when Richard tells her he needs to go to Milwaukee to the “veterans' bureau," she tells him if he leaves her again to basically never come back home again.

 

Here is where Richard’s conscience comes to the surface. He goes to kill his intended victim at the “bureau,” he can’t do it. Moreover, when he goes back home, his sister asks him to shoot her sick dog and he can’t do that, either.

 

However, just when it looks like Richard is turning over a new leaf, he receives a phone call intended for his sister. Turns out Richard left his sister’s overdue bill at the office where he let the man from Milwaukee live. Only problem is, that man is now dead, and the man on the other end hired Richard to do the job Richard couldn’t carry out. Now, this guy knows where Richard and his sister live. Uh oh.

 

Remember Richard in last year’s season finale? Well, chances are you might see him again real soon.

 

 

Nucky and Eddie have a heart to heart and Nucky does a background check on Knox

 

Eddie hasn’t been the same since the violent attack at the end of season three. Physically he is a mess, which is shown by his shaky hands while pouring Nucky coffee. Eddie asks Nucky if he needed help getting ready for his Florida trip and isn’t very happy with Nucky’s tone when he responds. Overall, Eddie doesn’t feel appreciated by Nucky, and he gives him his resignation. Nucky tells him he can’t do that, and that there will always be a place for him in Nucky’s circle. After mulling it over, Eddie agrees to stay, but he now will help Nucky with money matters as opposed to essentially being his butler.

 

Meanwhile, Nucky informs agent Knox that he is never to interact with Nucky, and from now on will only speak with his brother, Eli. Knox (who we learn is working directly under the new director of the Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover) seems to be taken aback by this, but nonetheless agrees.

 

Sensing Knox’s “Goody Two-Shoes” attitude is too good to be true, Nucky contacts Gaston Means and asks him to look into his background. Not even Means can find a loophole, which makes Knox even more dangerous. In the process it makes Nucky’s crew a bunch of sitting ducks.

 

 

Narcisse shows his true colors

 

On the ride back to New York, Narcisse starts interrogating Cora about what really happened the night Dickey died. Cora tells Narcisse she wants Dunn to suffer the same fate as Dickey. Asking her how Dickey knew what hotel room to find her in, he baits her, hook, line and sinker. He also asks her what she thinks should be done to Dunn as a result of him killing her husband. When he suggest some possible rope and a tree, Cora is all about it. Then suddenly, the group has “car trouble,” and the next thing you know, one of Narcisse’s men violently strangles Cora to death with a rope and drags her out into Mayor Ed Bader’s property- where she is discovered by Bader and a bunch of reporters- missing an arm in the process. Yep, Narcisse is one bad dude. Nucky, Chalky and Dunn might seriously have their work cut out for them over the next ten episodes.

 

 

Final Thoughts:

 

-Michael Shannon is one of Hollywood’s most underrated character actors. While it’s always great to have him in any scene, I can’t help but feel the producers are giving him something to do just to give him something to do these days. Van Alden’s character was the most fun when he was giving Nucky a hard time. Ever since he’s been on the run from the FBI, it seems the character has been suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis. Shannon was so valuable to the cast during the first two seasons and his ironing board meltdown last year deserves honorable mention, but hopefully he gets more consistent screen time from this point.

 

-The storyline with the New York City gangsters is getting a little played out, so it’s interesting to incorporate new plot lines involving Richard, Al Capone’s ascension through the ranks as a feared crime boss, agent Knox, and the introduction of Narcisse’s character. Steve Buscemi’s role has become more of a supporting one during these first few episodes while these stories develop and Nucky gets out of his funk.

 

-While clearly possessing more polish than last year’s antagonist Gyp Rosetti, Jeffrey Wright’s “Doctor” Narcisse at first seems more along the lines of an intellectual bully. However, like, Rosetti, Narcisse more than proved that he too is just as capable of executing brutal, violent acts (though it seems he’s more prone to get his “yes men” to do it). He seemed to be no match for Nucky, but men of lesser intellect (ie: Chalky) will could have major problems with him this season.

 

Overall this episode was faster paced than last week’s. With the emergence of new characters and subplots taking shape, this will hopefully continue.

 

 

 

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

 

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Photo: Salon.com