Boardwalk Empire: Resignation – Dr. Narcisse Arrives


After a first episode made an effort for the typically sprawling Boardwalk Empire series a more focused program, the second episode of this 4th season suggests the current pace may continue. “Resignation” not only maintained the aptitude with which the first episode, “New York Sour,” tightly entrapped some of favorite characters into their own stories, but also introduced a few new, very important items, including more development of a theme that will be preeminent throughout this season (or at least that’s what this writer believes).

First off, the opening sequence of this episode brings Michael Shannon’s Nelson Van Alden back to the audience, a character who may very well be experiencing his own prohibition-filled version of Breaking Bad, as he is now very much involved in the world of gangsters and bootleggers. The general consensus seems to believe that Michael Shannon’s talents have been underutilized throughout the series, which may be true, but it’s always a pleasure to see this guy in the offbeat roles that he ever so often obtains, and honestly, it would be very difficult to fully utilize anyone in this show that has become so large in scope.

Boardwalk Empire

While it is certainly a pleasure to see Van Alden back in action, the big addition, and what is quite probably to be the source of the leading conflict in the program this year, is the introduction of Dr. Valentin Narcisse, a Harlem crime lord played by the excellent Jeffrey Wright. Dr. Narcisse arrives on the Boardwalk and introduces himself to Chalky, who is not very welcoming. The rivalry that is quickly developed between the two characters introduces the aspect of intra-racial activities between the African American community in the program.

This is going to be something very different to most programs we see, as many shows depict racial issues by exploring black versus white and vice versa. It appears Dr. Narcisse is going to allow the show to explore the difficulties that may arise from within his own race, an intra-racial depiction. Narcisse, in a particularly cruel moment, one of which a majority of the audience without a doubt saw coming, proclaimed “A think mixed is a thing weakened” as he was speaking to a woman who had interracial relations with Dunn in the previous week’s episode. While I am certainly not one who can speak expertly to this particular racial subject, I feel that this aspect will be a very intriguing theme, and maybe even the most prominent throughout the current season.


With the introduction of the new characters in “Resignation”, the show managed to not abandon the story lines from the most recent episode’s predecessor as the show did return to Richard Harrow, who discovers his sister’s home may be in danger of foreclosure. Richard has, in a way, become a moral compass for the show, and he has another nice moment in this episode that involves an animal. It seems Richard may be getting tired of all the killing he has been doing.

However, getting back to the new characters (yes I did say characters), the end of the episode last night brought none other than good ol’ J. Edgar Hoover into the picture, as it is discovered he has an undercover agent who has seemingly successfully infiltrated Nucky’s bootlegging operation. This revelation appeared to be a way to finally tie one of the many subplots of Boardwalk Empire together and it worked pretty well.

One may ask what Nucky himself was up to in this episode and it was pretty much par for the course, although with more involvement for Nucky’s German sidekick (it appears Eddie is going to get an expanded role this year). Nucky is busy preparing for a trip to Florida, which is surely going to be yet another city that will be added to the vast landscape of the show and also is pulled into the Chalky/Narcisse conflict.

The first two episodes of this season have really set up the apparent conflicts to come and there is plenty more to look forward to. Jeffrey Wright should be another great addition to this stacked cast.

Some more quick notes before I go.

* Still no Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) in this episode. I hope she returns soon, although with all that’s already going on she may be a distraction.

* Other non-appearances include Gillian Dormady, Ron Livingston’s Roy Philips, and Arnold Rothstein

* Yes, there are some gruesome moments in this episode just like every other episode, but no nudity.

* I do have to mention I love Stephen Graham as Al Capone. I always want more of Capone.

That’s all I’ve got for this week.

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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  1. Femfatal

    Found the doctor a bit boring actually until he called his mates to strangle the girl. I hope we see more badass moves from him.

  2. Form the two first episodes, it looks like the premise of this season is the whole dynamic of dark skinned and light skinned black people. It’s obvious that it’s no coincidence that Dr. Narcisse is light skinned and Chalky and Dunn are darker skinned. Plus there is the whole deal with Chalky’s son in law and his parents seeming to judge Chalky.

  3. More Like Jamie

    This season is a throwback to the first with the number of subplots – season 2 was very, very streamlined (the Jimmy/Nucky struggle basically drove the whole thing) and season 3 had a little bit of bloat, but was mostly driven by the (occasionally tedious) Gyp/Nucky situation. BUT that’s not a bad thing. I appreciate that this season is establishing a little bit of mystery with the number of balls in the air – I really don’t know how it will all come together, and I find that exciting. A big problem with the third season was how predictable it was – big, bad gangster comes along, causes problems, gets killed, order restored. As long as all the subplots are compelling (and they are for the most part – Chicago’s probably the weakest, but I love Van Alden, and the Capone brothers are good additions) I don’t see a problem.

  4. “[T]he opening sequence of this episode brings Michael Shannon’s Nelson Van Alden back to the audience, a character who may very well be experiencing his own prohibition-filled version of Breaking Bad, as he is now very much involved in the world of gangsters and bootleggers.”

    This statement, perhaps unwittingly, may have perceived the reason why Boardwalk Empire is not remembered in the way that shows made in this same span of time (like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones) were:it seems that BE is too imitative of these aforementioned shows in integral respects, which reduced the show’s written quality.

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