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'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: 'Devil You Know'


The end of Nelson Van Alden


Van Alden and Eli carry out D’Angelo’s plan to steal Al Capone’s ledger. Only problem is, the plan is hastily mapped out, which leads to suspicion on behalf of Al’s brother, who checks what was supposed to be a bag full of money, which turns out to be a bunch of papers. Al’s brother and crew decide to call D’Angelo, who can’t be at all happy that his plan was botched. D’Angelo plans to handle “dealing” with Van Alden and Eli without having to call in Al. However, Al comes in the door with some Hollywood executives as D’Angelo, Van Alden, and Eli are leaving. Al gets word of what is going down and goes nuts. He tells his brother to turn the radio up and gets out his gun. Things clearly go from bad to worse. Van Alden punches Al, tells him who he really is, and throws him on the desk. Van Alden is about to tear Al’s head off, but he is shot dead by D’Angelo, who knows they are all screwed for the most part if anybody rats anybody out. A bloody Al gets up and is about to kill Eli and asks him who is behind the plan. When Eli mentions Eliot Ness’ name, Al leaves D’Angelo to make due with Eli.  


Oddly enough, Al no longer trusts where he stores his ledgers, so he gives them to D’Angelo to store in a safer place. Little did he know he was turning in his own evidence. D’Angelo got what he wanted, so he doesn’t really care what Eli does. He throws some money at him and lets him go.Photo: vulture.com


Nucky’s dancing with the devil


Nucky is a lost soul who is clearly avoiding his demons. In last week’s episode, ‘King of Norway,’ he was almost killed by the fierce threesome of Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Johnny Torrio, and he heard that Sally was dead. With the Bacardi deal all but off the table, his friends dropping like flies, and his empire all but finished, he heads to a dive bar to drown his sorrows.


During his stay, he recites a sonnet about a Kangaroo, holds court with two women who look pretty hard up, rants about starting at the bottom with nothing, and beats the crap out of the bar owner who was sick of hearing him ramble. In the end, Nucky initiates a threesome with the two women in a back alley, but gets whacked in the head by one of them before anything can seriously get started.


When Nucky’s new runner finds him on the ground babbling about Gillian, he helps him inside and Nucky cleans up. When Nucky offers him money, he declines, saying something to the extent of “What’s the purpose in helping somebody when you’re only trying to help yourself?” Kind of sums up Nucky Thompson in a nutshell if you ask me.


Anyway, Nucky is summoned by his bodyguard to go downstairs. Nucky looks over the balcony and sees Mickey Doyle (the last person constituting what you would call Nucky’s “circle”) and a bunch of trigger-happy shooters ready for a showdown. Incoherent for most of the episode, this is a sobering moment for Nucky, who readily agrees that there will indeed be a showdown.





These are notable this week for two reasons. Nucky is still trying to make ends meet. Even though a pregnant Mabel is by his side encouraging him, there is no success in sight. When Nucky is walking the beat on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, he gets a tip from a store owner that a thief has been ripping off stores. Nucky eventually catches the thief under the boardwalk with Eli. The thief claims to be Nellie Bly (sound familiar?), but Nucky somewhat eases the thief’s fear, who identifies themselves. Her name is Gillian. Yes, THAT Gillian. For those of you who followed Boardwalk Empire from the beginning, you know what happens next. We’ll probably see this next week.



The end of Chalky


Chalky encounters Daughter in Narcisse’s brothel, but it’s not what you think. Daughter has been blackballed by Narcisse after breaking free of him years ago. As a result, she has been unable to get jobs anywhere in the country, even putting up her own money to record an album featuring the song “Dream a Little Dream of me.” Narcisse enters the room and it seems Chalky is so inclined to blow him away. Narcisse acknowledges this, but warns him his men are on the other side. Seemingly coming to terms with the fact that there’s no way out, Chalky, plays part of the album, then offers to exchange Daughter’s freedom and the freedom of her daughter’s (and Chalky’s daughter as well?) to work with Narcisse. Chalky says goodbye to Daughter and the young child. Daughter warns Chalky not to trust Narcisse, but it’s too far gone. Soon after, Chalky goes outside, closes his eyes, hears Daughter's voice in his head and is promptly shot dead by Narcisse’s men.






-The scene involving D’Angelo, Eli, and Van Alden was one of the most brilliant of the entire series, and that’s saying something for a show that’s had as many fine moments as Boardwalk Empire has had. What transpired in Al’s office could have ended many ways. D’Angelo could have also shot Eli, which he would have if Eli dropped the dime on him. If Al was just a minute late, Van Alden would probably have lived. It’s doubtful that D’Angelo would have shot him if they made it out of the room. However, D’Angelo’s plan to grab Al’s ledgers wasn’t exactly stellar, so who knows?


-Eli Thompson has more lives than a cat. Even though he dodged another bullet, he obviously can’t ever go back to Chicago again, and he’s not exactly going to be welcomed with open arms if he’s stupid enough to return home to his family. I have no idea what his eventual fate will bring. Which makes me wonder, would have he been better off if D’Angelo just shot him?


-Was there any other way Nelson Van Alden was going to go out? The guy has always been a  certified loose cannon. His rant on Al prior to being shot was his character coming full circle (remember a similar rant when he drowned his fellow agent in the lake?). Yes, it seemed like the writers didn’t know what to do with Michael Shannon’s character at times when he moved out of Atlantic City and it seemed like his material was spotty. But for my money, Shannon did a remarkable job with anything he was given. Shannon’s performance, along with Steve Buscemi’s, Gretchen Moll’s (Gillian), and Michael Kenneth Williams’ (Chalky) have been the most consistent of all the actors over the course of Boardwalk’s five-year run.


-What was the point in that woman whacking Nucky in the head? Did or didn’t she want sex? Did she rob him? Did she do it for fun? Really didn’t understand why that went down the way it did.


-In Boardwalk Empire’s third episode of the season, Nucky received a letter postmarked from a Nellie Bly. Well, as it turned out, Nellie Bly WAS Gillian. We know that it was Nucky who turned Gillian over to the Commodore, and now it all comes together. The drunken Nucky was rambling on the ground after his assault, asking Gillian why she would trust him. This obviously haunts Nucky. Can he redeem himself and spring Gillian from the “home.”


-I know they’re wrapping the series up, but don’t you think the timing is just a little too perfect how Chalky’s visit to Narcisse’s brothel coincides with Daughter’s visit? And what about Narcisse? I’m still wondering whatever happened when he went to work for J. Edgar Hoover.


-Like Van Alden, it was obvious that death was the only way Chalky was going out. His actions in season 4 kept him from ever getting out of the mess he was in and he would never be able to change anything. His family was gone, and he was always going to be on the run. In the end, he lost a daughter, fathered another, sent her on her way with some sound advice, and died at peace with himself.




While last week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire was probably the best of the season, this week’s episode was more eventful. Simply put, it’s probably one of the most eventful as well as pivotal episodes of the entire series. With Chalky and Van Alden gone, the stage is set for Nucky’s endgame. To be honest, I have no clue where this is going. Frankly, I thought Chalky would have ended up killing Narcisse, so what do I know? What I do know is that historically, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky live. You do the math.


Where does that leave Nucky?


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com


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Photo: vulture.com