Last week I complained that Boardwalk Empire, while a stunningly beautiful set piece at most moments, was seriously lacking some action and drive, and left me starting to get bored. Some good stuff happened this week, though, and the consequences of these events should make the rest of the season really interesting. Here are some highlights:
* I’ve been so back and forth on the character of Agent Van Alden. I hate him for his moral hypocrisy, but in this episode I actually sympathized with him. He’s a broken man. His ideals and morals have been tarnished, his wife is through with him, Nucky is blackmailing him (how great was that scene between Van Alden and Nucky; there’s nothing better than two bitter enemies trying to remain cordial enough with each other to hold a brief conversation) and his mistress took off and left him with their baby. When Van Alden is sitting in the chair holding his daughter, a look comes across his face that instantly humanized this previously unlikable character. This new life relies entirely upon him now and he wants to set a good example for her to follow. For his daughter’s sake, he swallows his pride, confesses his moral failings to the new district attorney, and gives her all the information he has on Nucky Thompson, blowing up his deal with Nucky in the process. Because of this, Nucky is going to be in a whole lot more legal trouble, and Van Alden may face some reprisals, but for the first time this season, we see Van Alden actually doing the right thing rather than talking about doing the right thing.
* Jimmy’s finally come around to Eli and his co-conspirator’s solution to the Nucky problem: solving it with a bullet. It was a hard decision to make, and the consequences will be even harder to deal with because Jimmy’s cryptic goodbye to Nucky alerted him enough to allow him to squirm out of the way and have the bullet hit his hand instead of his chest. We saw from the fight with Eli a few episodes ago that there’s a point of no return for Nucky. Once someone crosses that line, he will savage them with no regard for their prior relationship. It seems to me that once Nucky recovers from this, there will be a lot of blood taken in revenge. It’s funny too how Nucky probably would have been killed with a second shot, if the federal agent assigned to tailing him by the new district attorney wasn’t around. The law wound up protecting him even as it continues to try and bring him to justice.
* While Nucky’s off being shot, Margaret decides to sleep with Mr. Slater, and from the look on her face in the last scene of the episode, the thrill was worth it. What will the fallout of this be, though? Will Margaret start feeling guilty? Will people question why Slater wasn’t around protecting Nucky and doing his job?
Overall, this was a pretty good episode, with a lot of action (especially that murder in the bathroom, and the severed fingers; ugh) and a lot of very consequential decisions that could lead to some really serious consequences. I hope that this means we’ve reached the top of the rollercoaster, and the rest of the season will be one fast downhill ride.