Boardwalk Empire, “The Golden Age of Girls and Boys”, Season 5, Episode 1
September 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), HBO
“Be honest and true boys/whatever you do boys/let this be your motto through life” a voice-over that sounds uncannily like Gretchon Mol reading a children’s poem opens up the season premiere, as we see coins “sprinkling the sea with gold” sinking into the blue hazy waters of Atlantic City, 1884. How easily they wasted their precious currency in these days. How rich and carefree they all were. A young, poor Nucky, lying in wait with other boys in the water, as rich men throw change off the pier. They are desperate to catch what the men are so easy to cast off. One of these men happens to be a much younger Commodore, who we learn plays a vital role in Nucky’s childhood.
We’re now in 1931 (Mid-April to be exact – I’ll explain below), much as happened in 6 years. Rothstein is dead, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre has passed, and the stock market crash of 1929 has set the country into depression. Prohibition is on its way out. The people in America are desperate. Everybody is desperate, and everybody has to be a hustler to stay alive. The theme this season is not subtle, nor is the gorgeous cinematography, which directly correlates with each character’s storyline and mindset.
The episode is peppered with flashbacks of a young Nucky. In one, speaking to his dying sister he states of the rich men in town, “all they have is money. There are ways to find that I reckon.” She replies, “how?” “Get there first.” After being brutally hit by his father for not grabbing any of the coins in the water, young Nucky begins his hustle to the top. Not much has changed in Nucky’s dealings, aside from his locale. Now living in Havana with the enigmatic Sally Wheet, he spends his days trying to forge rum-running deals with the men of Bacardi, blackmailing politicians, and killing it in a Conga line. He runs into Meyer Lansky, coincidentally at the same cafe as Nucky, “on his honeymoon”. Nucky later finds out that Meyer’s “wife”, is actually a prostitute. When an attempt on Nucky’s life is made in the third act of the episode, it’s insinuated by Lansky’s presence, that the assassination attempt was perhaps at his request. The man who saves Nucky, drives the assassin’s own weapon into his head, in a deliciously brutal scene, and proceeds to cut off his ear, as a trophy.
Poor old Chalky has hit rock bottom, he was wanted for murder when we left him in season 4, and he’s now imprisoned, and part of a chain gang. For what exactly Chalky has been arrested for, we’re none too sure yet, Chalky offers up a simple explanation “I got caught”. He looks worn and beat, the life drained from his eyes. Chopping and dragging lumber in a forest with a group of prisoners in stripes, Chalky shows disdain towards everyone, with that signature frown specially aimed at the prison guards, and the slightly psychotic seeming scarred man who won’t stop singing. When the prisoners riot and overthrow the guards, Chalky turns one’s shotgun on him, blowing half his face off. As he tries to escape, he ends up going from one prison to the next as the crazy prisoner pulls a gun on him, taking him hostage, because Chalky can operate a telephone.
Margaret, still at the same firm, obviously not doing any more work on the side for Rothstein, as he was assassinated in 1928, is sitting in at a morning meeting, with her boss, Mr. Bennett. As Mr. Bennett manically expresses his love for a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and an inspirational speech derived from the cartoon on how the market will pick up, he says to his loyal employees – “everything will work out fine” and proceeds to blows his brains out. Every person’s choice causes a ripple effect, and this will undoubtedly cause Margaret’s dealings for Rothstein to be brought to light. When she’s called into the big boss’s office, he asks her to retried Bennett’s files. Her uneasiness at having the work she did for Rothstein exposed, shows clearly on her face, as does the shocked disdain when he suggests she “find a husband” because of the dire financial times, and for his comment “You can always make money on the street”. Another reminder that everyone has to hustle.
Lucky Luciano makes some big moves in this episode. Why I said above that this season opens mid-April: Joe Masseria was killed on April 15, 1931. He was assassinated in his favorite restaurant. Legend has it, he dined and played cards with Luciano before his assassination, and when Luciano heads to the bathroom, the assassins show up, putting holes in Masseria. Whatever the real truth may be, this is the history the writers have stuck with. After Lucky comes out of the bathroom, he asks Bugsy Siegel and the other goon, what took them so long, as Masseria lays bleeding out on the floor, surrounded by scattered playing cards.
The cinematography in this episode is glorious. Each character’s story arc carries its own unique look. Nucky’s is brightly colored and warm, with only one attempt on his life so far, and living in tropical Cuba, things aren’t that bad for our fearless anti-hero. Chalky’s, is filled with bleak greys, all cold colours. The only moment it brightens is when Chalky blows the guard’s face off. The blood is so red, contrasting the bleak landscape, it appears to be glowing. Young Nucky’s scenes are shot in a sepia tone, bringing on that old, nostalgic, cinematic feeling. Luciano and Margaret’s scenes are neutral, not as bleak as Chalky’s but certainly not as warm as Nucky’s.
The tagline for the final season is “No One Goes Quietly”. Rising to the top, falling to the bottom, Boardwalk won’t fade out quietly, and neither will any of its characters.
The cinematography in this episode is glorious. Each character's story arc has its own unique look.