We’ve reached a major turning point in Boardwalk Empire. There is no light-heartedness in this episode, and all of the characters mean business. The first major plot point is Jimmy’s return to Atlantic City from Chicago. Nucky’s order for his homecoming was surprisingly successful despite all of Jimmy’s profits in Chi-city (as we see embodied in his expensive suit and new suave demeanor). Nucky finally notices this newfound confidence too when Jimmy doesn’t simply take his orders right off the bat like he used to, but rather begins to negotiate with him. They conclude that Jimmy will stay in Atlantic City to help defend Nucky’s hard-won empire against the recent attacks from the D’Alessio brothers and other opposing gangsters. He will also return to Angela and their son, while Nuck agrees to take care of the federal agents attempting to hunt Jimmy down for the murder in the beginning of the season.
It’s now been made very clear that Rothstein and Lucky are working with the D’Alessio brothers and Mickey Doyle to bring down Nucky. They have robbed his ward boss, raided his casino, and have shot Eli. There’s no telling what they will do next. In this episode, we see them in New York City, devising an even thornier plan to win this gangster war. Rothstein proposes that they import quality liquor from Europe, charge high prices, and use Atlantic City’s port. In order to do this though, Nucky will have to be murdered so that there’s no competition.
Back in Atlantic City, Jimmy devises his own scheme to capture Lucky and get information out of him. Gillian helps her son in this plan when she gives Lucky up after one of their rendezvous together. I was actually pretty surprised that she turned him over, especially since she seemed to genuinely like him. I guess family will always come first.
Jimmy finally has Lucky in his control, but not for long. They don’t even make it outside Gillian’s apartment before Van Alden storms in, arresting them both (but clearly more thrilled that he has finally captured the elusive Jimmy). At last, he has progressive results to report back to his FBI boss with.
I’m pretty astonished and disappointed in Nucky for not doing enough to keep the feds off of Jimmy’s back. Equally astonishing is the fact that I’m actually rooting for the criminals, but more on that later. Anyways, Jimmy is thrown in a jail cell after he gives Van Alden and Sebso zero information regarding the murders or Nucky’s illegal empire, not to mention completely disrespecting the agents. Part of me doesn’t blame him- Van Alden is clearly obsessed with Margaret and Nucky’s relationship. It’s not long before Nucky himself shows up to the cell, privately assuring Jimmy that they’ll figure out a way to rescue him, though not through the legal system, since there’s no escaping the five counts of murder on his head. I can only wonder what he’s implying by this…
Nearing the end of the episode, we finally get to see some relaxation and normalcy. Margaret, looking more attractive and young with every week, attends a dinner with Nucky, where he is attempting to persuade Edward Bayer, a prominent and successful Atlantic City citizen, to run for Mayor. Nucky assures him that it will be a great benefit to his construction business, and suggests that he won’t even necessarily have to worry about running the city, since Nucky and his comrades do all that behind the scenes anyway. Leaving Bayer to maul this over, he and Margaret leave to take a leisurely stroll in the warmer weather on the busy boardwalk, arm in arm.
The peace is suddenly disrupted though, when out of nowhere, one of the D’Alessio brothers steps out of the crowd to take a shot at Nucky, attempting to kill him. Luckily, Eddie, Nucky’s loyal butler and assistant, knocks the gun out of his hand, but not before a stray bullet hits a woman in the crowd. She screams and falls onto Nucky and Margaret, bleeding on Margaret’s new expensive dress, as if to suggest to the audience that nothing can stay beautiful and peaceful for long in this place.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s crazy how the writers and directors of these crime television shows get the audience to root for the guys who would otherwise be considered “bad” in real-life society. We know full well that Jimmy is a murderer and Nucky is a corrupted politician, but we nevertheless find ourselves hoping for their success. This might be because the gangster world is presented as a lot more complicated than we usually perceive it to be- there are essentially good gangsters and bad gangsters, such as Rothstein and the D’Alessio brothers. Boardwalk Empire especially reminds me of the earlier television show The Sopranos (which Steve Buschemi also acted in) and also the movie The Departed. In both stories, there exist the same deep complexities where there is no such thing as an ordinary black-and-white or good-versus-evil story. In these stories, everyone is a sinner, just some more than others.