Boardwalk Empire, Season 5, Episode 6, “Devil You Know”
October 12, 2014, 9:00pm, HBO
Boardwalk has the ability to lead you slowly in a forward direction, so slowly you may not understand where it’s going or why it may be going there, and then it picks up speed so fast, it’s as if the writers have cut the brakes on the train, as it plummets downhill. We lost two main characters tonight, and it seems we may be poised to lose more before the series is up.
This season’s young Nucky flashbacks, not pointless, but were seemingly unnecessary until last night’s episode. Adult Nucky, has always had skeletons in his closet, but tonight we come to understand just how deep his regret runs, as we learn at the very end of the episode that the little thief he’s been chasing, turns out to be an orphaned and homeless young Gillian, dressed as a boy and living under the pier. Nucky is responsible for bringing Gillian right into the Commodore’s arms. This is something that haunts him, as we see him the lowest he’s ever been, drinking in a pub with two women, mourning the loss of Sally, and ends up knocked unconscious muttering “don’t trust me”.
Nucky carries the burden now, of feeling responsible for every death and every ruined life of the people that surround him. After all, it’s because of his own selfish ambitions, and in the end, what of that actually matters? As he drinks in the pub, with people who are now beneath him, people he climbed above to escape, he now beggingly pleads he’s one of them, he too came from nothing. It seems an attempt to separate himself from the Commodore, and all those killers around him. But he can’t, he became one of them the day he gave that hat back with the fifty dollar bill still in it. The cinematography in these scenes are brilliant, almost the only thing visible when the camera is upon him, is Nucky’s face. Amost as if his own darkness is smothering him.
The camera work is similar in Chalky’s scenes with Narcisse and Daughter. Chalky has been haunted by Daughter’s voice for seven years, a voice that has become so faint in his memory he can’t remember what it really sounds like. At first his thirst for vegeance overtakes him, he wants to use Daughter as bait for Narcisse, but this won’t work. She’s been trying to escape him for years. Running from town to town with her own daughter, trying to keep themselves afloat. She brings a recording of herself, then on hands and knees, begs him to let her go. Chalky bargains, he will join Narcisse’s crusade against Luciano, if Narcisse will let her go. When Narcisse accepts, Daughter begs Chalky to reconsider, she knows better than anyone he can’t be trusted. But Chalky knows we can’t truly be free until death, and he’s made his peace long ago. The only time the camera lightens the scenes are in the final moments before Chalky’s death. As they stand outside, a firing squad upon him, he hears Daughter’s voice singing “Dream a Little Dream” as it was meant to be, closes his eyes, and the camera cuts to black as the gunshot rings. We don’t get many poetic deaths on Boardwalk, but Chalky and Richard Harrow were given this.
Who wasn’t – Van Alden, though his death was entirely fitting to his character. The brilliant Odd Couple team of Eli and Van Alden, head out to steal the ledger by pretending they’re making a drop. it all goes awry when they act incredibly suspicious, and Ralphie discovers there’s no cash in the briefcase, just newspaper clippings. I would love to see these two in a buddy cop comedy. When undercover, perhaps bring real cash to a drop in case the enemy roots through it. They call in Mike to deal with the problem, and he almost gets them both out alive until Capone comes back. At this point the two of them need to confess. Van Alden has a lot to relieve himself of, he blames his wife for the “attempted robbery”, when Capone, syphilitic and rightfully paranoid calls his bluff, Michael Shannon brings the character back full circle, going full religious nut on Capone, leaving Mike, the real undercover fed, forced to keep his cover, shooting Van Alden in the head. Capone literally hands him the ledger after that, and Eli confessing Eliot Ness is after it. Mike is told to bury Eli in a cornfield, but he doesnt’t care about him anymore. He crumples up a bill and tells him to buy a bus ticket. There’s nowhere for Eli to go though. He will be in hiding, listening to those family radio plays, he has been ostracized by everyone now.
Chalky is dead, Nucky is gearing up for war against Luciano, having made peace with everyone except himself, and Gillian, who I'm sure will get her closing soon, because, again, no one goes quietly.