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Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Premiere Recap: “New York Sour”


Richard and his killing spree


The episode begins in Warsaw, Indiana, where two shady figures leave a bar on a stormy night. When their car fails to start, one of the men go to open the hood. When he doesn’t return, the other man goes to check on him and discovers that his throat is slit. He then looks up and is executed- by Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), who takes an envelope from the dead man’s body.


We next see RIchard pointing a gun at a very nervous man. The man confesses that he takes orders from Milwaukee (whatever that means) and Richard tells him he’s going to die. The man then asks if he can sign the card for an apparent birthday gift on his desk. The man also gives Richard a name and address of the man he is looking for. Richard then promptly executes the man.


Harrow then walks up to a snowy front yard of a house. He hides his gun in some firewood and knocks on the door. Then, a woman is seen pointing a rifle at Richard, but she lowers the gun when she sees it’s him. It turns out it’s his estranged twin sister Emma, who Richard once spoke of briefly.


Nucky regroups


When we last saw Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), he survived a close call at the hands of Gyp Rosetti and his band of merry men, saw his wife Margaret essentially leave him, and he practically lost his grip on Atlantic City altogether.


It’s now eight months later, and Nucky seems to be keeping a low profile. He’s exchanged his grandiose house and luxury suites for a shabby bachelor pad of an apartment. His brother Eli, Chalky, and a recovered Eddie (now walking with a cane) are still by his side, and he now mostly resorts to family dinners at Eli’s house and contemplating expanding his empire to Florida as opposed to burning the proverbial candle at both ends.


However, don’t mistake low key for inactivity. Nucky is still the head honcho and is always in the act of making things happen.Photo: HBO

Such is the case when he summons gangsters row to a meeting of the minds to basically make things right with them. Joe Masseria, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky are all there- as if Arnold Rothstein, who is there largely to let Nucky know he avoided Federal Court after Nucky tried to send him up the river in last year’s season finale.


Nucky tells the men that that he’s not looking to expand or invade their turf. To compensate for the carnage brought on to 15 of Masseria’s men, Nucky presents Masseria with a briefcase full of money. As for Rothstein, Nucky promises to cover his credit at the casinos.


One thing that was taken away from the meeting is the lingering animosity from Lucky in regards to Rothstein stealing his heroin in last year’s finale. Something tells me this is far from over between the two.

Eli’s son wants in


After helping Nucky hide from Rosetti’s men last season, Eli’s oldest son Will expresses his desire to join the family business. Eli shuns this idea, demanding he say in the car as Eli visits Mickey’s warehouse. Later on after dinner, Will confides in Nucky and informs him of his aspirations. In response Nucky encourages Will to get his degree, but lets him know he can talk to him anytime about anything. This is another issue that won’t go away so quickly. Something tells me Will’s never going to get that degree.


Agent Knox


When Eli arrives at Mickey’s warehouse, we learn that agent Sawicki is now teamed with a new partner- Warren Knox- an “aw shucks, apparently innocent, green around the edges” agent. When Knox is asked to step outside while Sawicki and Eli “talk business” (ie: Sawicky accepts a bribe from Eli), he is informed by a warehouse worker that he has his own private stash of whiskey, Knox goes with Sawicky to check it out. When Knox insinuates that he’s obviously inexperienced in handling these types of matters, Sawicky decides to check out the premises- and is promptly shot by the warehouse worker, who is then shot dead by Knox, who confesses to be a federal agent. Yep, Knox is a sneaky one who could be one of the highlights of this season if he really is as sadistic as he acted in that particular scene. 



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The “hot mess” known as Gillian


Because she lost Tommy to the Sagorsky family, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) is now appealing to a court judge so she can regain custody of her grandson.


However, it’s apparent that Gillian has even bigger issues than trying to get Tommy back. After taking a lethal dose of heroin from the now departed Gyp Rosetti in last year’s season finale, she appears to have succumbed to a full-blown addiction- retreating on several occasions to her stash while prospective buyers explore her house. One incident shows Gillian propositioning one of the visitors, while another newcomer to Atlantic City asks her to show him around town.



Chalky’s right hand man gets in a bind


Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) is an intriguing character. After all, he respects Chalky because he got pummeled by Chalky’s boys in a jail cell- because he was taunting Chalky.


Now, Chalky is about to open his nightclub (the Onyx Club) and is negotiating with booking agent Dicky Pastor. Dicky’s wife Cora is along for the ride- and after staring down Dunn, makes it very clear that she wants him to give her more of the same.


Only thinking from the waist down, Dunn takes Dicky’s wife up on the offer. As the two begin to “get further acquainted,” Dicky comes out of nowhere and catched them in the act…..literally.Photo: HBO/Macall B. Polay)


After casually throwing around a certain word (we will not say this word or even abbreviate it, but it’s the one that Philadelphia Eagle Riley Cooper was caught on camera using several weeks back), Dickey proceeds to put a gun to Dunn’s head- and demands he “finish what he started.”


Knowing he has to do this or he’s a goner, Dunn resumes activity with Dicky’s wife. As play resumes, Dicky stands back, and starts putting his hand down his pants. Before you can blink, Dunn smashes a bottle of liquor against the wall and bludgeons Dickey to death with a piece of the bottle (Cora manages to escape out the window).


Naturally, Dunn calls Chalky to come over, and Chalky rightfully tears Dunn a new one. Chalky knows a potentially great opportunity was ruined as a result of Dunn’s careless actions. Nucky and Eli come over as well. After Dunn buries Dickey’s body, Nucky selfishly rips into Dunn at the opening of the Onyx Club because he hasn’t found a naked Cora wondering around the city. Chalky reminds Nucky that Dunn was integral in helping Nucky get out the jam he was in last season, and if anybody is to give Dunn a hard time, it’s him. Nucky makes it clear that moving forward, he doesn’t want to deal with anybody else’s grief.

Other notables:


-Maybe he’s still grieving over the loss of Billie, but Nucky was rather casual after sleeping with a woman (an understudy of Eddie Canter), who was blatantly honest about her aspirations to be a star (and that’s primarily why she slept with Nucky).  


-Al Capone (Stephen Graham) is back and is as ornery as ever- approaching a journalist in a threatening manner simply because he spelled his name wrong. Personally, I thought Al underplayed this one, but luckily for the journalist, he did.


Final thoughts:


While not exactly the most compelling episode of the series, this season premiere had a little bit of everything that makes Boardwalk Empire the series it is- sex, violence, betrayals, and plenty of ambushes. I’m not sure why exactly Richard is going on this killing spree, but chances are we will see the back story unfold over the next few episodes.


I’m not sure how the mellowed-out Nucky is going to work over the course of 11 more episodes. There’s usually something that unfolds that makes him go into “gangster mode.” Perhaps the addition of Jeffrey Wright as a crime boss in next week’s episode will change that.


Overall a decent episode that outlined several subplots over the next few weeks.

 Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Nucky Photo: HBO

Chalky and gang: HBO/Macall B. Polay