Boardwalk Empire: All In – Who is the Weakest Link?

Yes, the Breaking Bad finale was what everybody was and is still talking about this week, however there were some other television programs that aired on Sunday night (Homeland, which I have not watched and the promising premiere of Masters of Sex are not the shows I’m going to be talking about). HBO’s crime drama returned for the 4th episode of the season and managed to recover nicely from the previous Sunday effort.

“All In” was an episode that put an emphasis on weakness, opening with a scene involving a heart attack, followed by some characters showing sides the series has not very often revealed before, most notably, perhaps, that of Arnold Rothstein. Before I get ahead of myself and discuss the behavior of the gambling addict, it should be pointed out that this happened to be one of the more concisely structured episodes of Boardwalk this year and had a theme that was presented with much more clarity as Agent Warren Knox is convinced he can bring a case to J. Edgar Hoover by finding the weak spot in Nucky Thompson’s operation and infiltrating.

Therefore there is a strong contrast in characters throughout this episode, as the show pitted the strong versus the weak onscreen at the same time for much of the allotted time. First there was Nucky, showing confidence and not backing down as Arnold Rothstein was exposed as a gambling addict who did not quite seem to know how be on the losing side. While many know Rothstein probably isn’t in trouble of getting “whacked” anytime soon (the real Rothstein was shot and killed in 1928 and I believe the show is a few years before that at this time), it was interesting to finally see the man frazzled, almost looking sickly and ashamed as he lost more and more money while at the same time damaging his reputation in Nucky’s eyes.

Dr. Narcisse was again in a position of strength. While one could argue he was contrasted with Dunn Purnsly, whom it now appears Narcisse has persuaded to turn away from Chalky, he is more or the strong figure opposed to Chalky, which is clearly on display as Chalky has his eyes on the new act Narcisse brought to him. Chalky also spent much of the episode tending to the needs of Nucky, supporting the idea that when it comes down to it, Chalky may indeed still be looked at as a servant.

Now let’s not forget Nelson Van Alden while we’re at it, who appears to be doing whatever it takes not to get on anybody’s bad side. We’ve seen Van Alden scared and running before and there’s always been this sense that he’s about to explode any minute. It’s possible the show holds onto this character to give an outsider’s view of Al Capone’s adventures (who could blame the show for trying to hold onto Michael Shannon for as long as possible), but it is difficult to see the character held back so much, even though it’s probably the direction that makes the most sense for the character.

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Quite possibly the most important character to moving this week’s plot forward is, believe it or not, Eddie. This is the first week we see him performing the duties in his new promotion and it is quite clear that he is headed down the scapegoat path, and that he may not be fit for the type of work he’s being asked to do. After being persuaded (notice that’s not the first time I’ve used that persuasion word) to have dinner with one of the Capone brothers, Eddie finds himself being arrested by Agent Knox at the train station, who obviously believes Eddie to be the weak link he is searching for.

Eddie Kessler. You are the WEAKEST LINK! (sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad game show play on words. Is that show still on somewhere?)

The episode certainly developed certain advantages and disadvantages that many characters were aiming to attain and the plot seemed to be moving forward at a much more deliberate pace this time around. Now that the Breaking Bad madness is over this show will be able to capture my attention a little better for the rest of the season.

A few more thoughts before I go (don’t have a lot this week):

* Eli’s son really messed up this week. His revenge plot turned out just the way I thought it would and since weakness was a big part of this week’s episode, it’s not a shocker that Eli’s son did something childish and stupid.

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* The little guy, Meyer Lansky looks like he’s headed for the big-time. He’s always been a character who exploits every little inch he can. He’s headed for big things. I mean, you can read about the guy if you want. I’ve enjoyed the sly development of the real-life characters.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Good luck with the after Breaking Bad depression to all the TV lovers out there.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Kevin Licht, a graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor emphasis in Film Studies. When I'm not working I watch and write

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3 Comments

  1. I loved the poker scene with Nucky and Rothstein. I loved seeing Lansky and Eddie get some screen time where we actually learn about them. And the scenes with Capone and Van Alden were great. The reviews I read before the season started saying season 4 has a much different tone were right. It has a differently feel to it and it’s getting better. I didn’t think that was possible. Best show on TV and my fav show of all time.

  2. One of the beefs some have against this show is Nucky is less interesting than his supporting cast, and while I love Nucky and disagree, I will admit he’s not as compelling as compelling as Tony Soprano, Walter White or Al Swearengen (who was actually technically the second lead ala Jimmy–to all the Jimmywhineres, now THERE is a performance whose undeniable charisma forces itself to the forefront) many critics have finally realized that this show is in some ways more like The Wire or Six Feet Under, I.e. An ensemble piece with a nominal lead, and I would easily put Nucky ahead of Jimmy McNulty or Nate Fisher (both characters I enjoyed tremendously.) That being said, one thing this show does as well as any show ever is universe building, and one thing this episode reinforced is that there are any number of characters here I would gladly follow to spin-offs of their own. The brilliant way this ep bounced the Capone brothers off Eddie and Nelson, Meyer balancing his opportunistic ambition with his genuine respect and affection for AR, the very shaded relationship between AR and Nucky, who I maintain really do enjoy one another’s company, but can’t quite let go of the suspicion and competitiveness engendered by their past, Dunn and Valentin feeling each other out as a complacent Chalky follows Daughter right into their trap…it was like a Hawksian/Tarantinoesque hangout theatre, letting us enjoy these characters enjoy each other’s company, while somehow at the same time advancing the plot lines. Even the Willie stuff, which I was ambivalent about last week, worked and drew me in. And then the long night gave way to dawn, with that hypocritical hayseed Knox waiting in the wings to burst our bubble, and I’m suddenly terrified of what’s going to happen.

  3. Nicholas
    0

    Sorry but I am just happy that Margaret has not made her appearance this season. She was the most frustrating character to have to contend with. I hope she is working cleaning toilets for a nickel a day. It’s what she deserves.

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