Well, the poll takers have spoken, and Boardwalk Empire it is! I’ve been pretty excited about this show since it was announced—I’m obviously a sucker for historical dramas, and I feel a certain connection to this show for a couple of reasons. First off, I’m a Jersey girl myself, and it’s nice to see a depiction of my home state that does not include fake tans and claw-like fingernails (not that a show about Prohibition-era gangsters puts the Garden State in such a great light). Second—I have a family connection to this time and place. My great-grandfather had some cousins who made their living on the wrong side of the law during the Prohibition period. He went to visit them in AC once, at a restaurant they worked out of, and one of them asked him to open the kitchen door to admit some guests. One of those guests? Al Capone. According to family legend. At that point, my great-grandpa hit the road and stopped having anything to do with those cousins, at least one of whom later disappeared. Yay, family history!
Enough about me—on with the show!
The credits are kinda cool—our leading man hits the AC beach, dressed to the nines, and instead of keeping an eye to the boardwalk, he gazes out over the ocean from whence the booze (and therefore the money his empire was founded on) came. Bottles wash up on shore as he watches.
Late at night, on a boat out on the foggy waters, a captain glances at his watch and then peers into the darkness, apparently waiting for something. Eventually, a speedboat pulls up alongside his boat, and the captain urges the men in the boat to hurry up, since he’s a sitting duck out there. The captain and his crew uncover a bunch of crates very obviously marked “Whisky,” so way to be subtle, boys. The crew of the larger boat loads the crates onto the speedboat, which then immediately sets off.
Ahh, Atlantic City, where the lights on the boardwalk are bright and the guns held by henchmen by the sea clearly mean business. As the speedboat is unloaded at the dock where these armed men are waiting, one of them informs the others that they’ll be going straight through to NY, no stops, so now we have a handle on where they’re going, at least.
The boozy convoy makes its way down a dark wooded road where deer lurk in the shadows. Just as they pass a sign welcoming them to Hammonton (Blueberry Capital of NJ!), the two guys in the lead car notice a car wreck and a bloodied and unconscious driver blocking the road ahead. The convoy stops, and the guys in the lead car get out, somehow not sensing that this could be a setup. One guy notes that the driver’s still breathing, and the other guy, who’s apparently in charge, tells him to get the poor sucker off the road. As they go to push the car aside, two masked men come out of the woods with shotguns, warning the convoy gangsters to drop their weapons and raise their hands. The convoy guys pull the “do you have any idea who we are?” gambit, but the masked men aren’t playing. One of them smacks a convoy gangster in the face with the butt of his rifle, which we get a nice freeze frame of before…
…shooting to three days earlier, where an older woman is passionately reading a poem about the evils of alcohol to a roomful of obviously similarly-minded women, and Nucky Thompson, our main man. He claps politely as the woman finishes up, and as we move around the room, we see a banner informing us that this is the Women’s Temperance League, and another one that reads “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine,” which for some reason I found really funny. The woman introduces Atlantic City’s treasurer, the Honorable Enoch Thompson. Enoch? God, did this guy’s parents hate him or something? Who names their son that? I don’t blame him at all for adopting “Nucky” as a nickname. It’s pretty much all you can do with that name, isn’t it?
Nucky takes the podium and lays it on thick, thanking the woman for her stirring poem and asking for a copy of it. She withdraws and he launches into his spiel, telling a very involved story about a young boy having to fend for his entire family during a terrible winter because his father was too wasted to take care of them. The story actually involves hunting for wharf rats for food, which is a charming detail. The audience eats it up, although I can smell the BS right through my TV. Particularly touched is one youngish woman, whose face contracts as he describes the boy’s worn shoes and thin, threadbare jacket. A few other audience members even wipe away tears. Less touched is a young man, perhaps in his early to mid twenties, who lurks in the hallway outside the lecture hall where this is being held. He looks like a poor man’s Leo DiCaprio, and he’s dressed like he shops in the wardrobe department for The Newsies. He’s got a look on his face like he’s heard this story before, and didn’t believe it then, either.
Of course, the young boy in the story was Nucky himself, and when he reveals this, the women burst into enthusiastic applause once again. Everybody loves a rags-to-riches story. Nucky goes on to praise Prohibition, which goes into effect the next day, and also expresses a hope that that year, women will also finally be given the vote. Man, 1920 was a big year, wasn’t it?
As he speaks, Poor Man’s Leo walks slowly up the aisle and joins Nucky at the front, whispering something in his ear. Nucky regretfully informs the ladies that he’s been called away on county business and will be unable to attend the potluck. This elicits a hilarious “awww” from the ladies. Hee!
On their way out of the hall to the car, PML tells Nucky that, in the trenches, he and the other soldiers sometimes ate dog meat, but rats? Nucky takes a pull from a flask and passes on the classic gem: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
On the brightly lit boardwalk, the party’s in full swing. Carnival barkers are calling attention to their attractions, a band is playing, and people are taking every opportunity they can to enjoy one last drink. Nucky weaves his way through the crowd, greeting people along the way. He and PML head into Babette’s Supper Club, where he hands off his coat to a woman at the door, asking her if his brother’s there. She tells him the gang’s upstairs, and Nucky crosses the packed dance floor, reaches the stairs, and joins a private dinner upstairs.
Some time later, after the food’s been eaten and the jokes have gotten blue, Nucky rises and claims the attention of his fellow guests, who include the mayor, the other members of the city council, and his brother, Elias Thompson, AC’s sheriff. Seriously, Thompson parents? You named one kid Enoch and the other one Elias? What did Nucky do to make you hate him so much?
Nucky exposits that in less than two hours, liquor will be declared illegal, and he raises a glass to the “beautiful, ignorant bastards” in Congress who made it so. He reassures everyone that he’s finalizing arrangements to keep Atlantic City well lubricated, despite the law. Nucky’s already thinking ahead, and sees that the Volstead Act will go a long way towards making certain people rich. For one thing, the price of a drink will skyrocket. Not all the dinner guests believe it, and one man worries about the Feds getting involved. Nucky dismisses the Feds as “dogcatchers with badges.”
Nucky moves on to business matters, telling everyone that, as ward bosses, they’ll be responsible for taking orders and collecting from their neighborhood restaurants and businesses, with Eli Thompson and his men overseeing orders and deliveries. Nucky finally gives PML a name, Jimmy Darmody, who’s recently back from WWI and probably quite a mess as a result. They didn’t call it the Lost Generation for nothing. Jimmy’s going to be the “man Friday” for Pat Ryan, who’s going to be taking over as Chief Clerk of the Fourth Ward. Jimmy doesn’t look delighted to be acting as a secretary for Ryan.
Out on the dance floor, the party’s paused so everyone can count down the last ten seconds to midnight. Once the clock strikes 12, the trombonist in the band plays taps for a little while, until someone shouts “Prohibition!” and the party breaks out again. Black balloons rain from the ceiling, champagne corks pop, and Nucky dances with his girlfriend while Jimmy watches everything, depressed. Nucky asks what’s up his ass and Jimmy just says his stomach’s bothering him and leaves, clearly not in the party mood.
The next morning, Jimmy’s at the breakfast table, reading the paper, while his toddler plays with his oatmeal and his wife stands at the stove, cooking breakfast for the grownups. Jimmy’s reading a story about Jack Dempsey explaining that he wasn’t a draft dodger, he had to take care of his mother during the war, and that’s why he didn’t serve. Jimmy’s wife, Angela, naively says they couldn’t write it if it wasn’t true. Jimmy says it’s all nonsense, Dempsey just didn’t want to give up all his great opportunities to go fight for his country.
That, apparently, is a sore subject, because Ange puts a hand on her hip and gives Jimmy a good hard glare. Jimmy defends his decisions, telling her that Princeton wasn’t exactly the heavyweight championship. She goes back to cooking breakfast and asks Jimmy if he’s given any thought to going back to finish his degree. Jimmy says he’d be too old by the time he graduated, and she offers to go to work so he can finish. He mockingly asks what she’d do, paint pictures? Damn, Jimmy, that was a little harsh. Angela says he’ll do fine working for Ryan, which definitely doesn’t get an enthusiastic reaction from Jimmy, who calls Ryan a sap. Angela serves up the eggs and asks Jimmy what he plans to do, then? Jimmy says he’s going to talk to Nucky, and opines that spending a few years killing Germans doesn’t really prepare you for much else.
That line leads to an immediate cut to pistols being fired at targets, and then we move to men in tan trousers and navy turtlenecks jogging past a courtyard where other similarly dressed men are engaging in calisthenics and combat training. For a second, I thought this was a flashback to Jimmy in his college days, preparing to head off to basic training or something, but then a man begins talking in voiceover about how, as prohibition agents, these men will be the first line of defense in the war against liquor. We move to yet another lecture hall, where the first generation of agents is being sworn in by the voiceover man. The swearing in is observed by a very serious looking, heavy browed agent. Since I don’t feel like constantly typing in “heavy browed guy” until they give him a name, I’m just going to tell you, this is Agent Nelson Van Alden.
As the sound of the swearing in fades away, we jump over to a messy but well-appointed hotel room, where the camera lingers on a black and white photograph of a dark-haired woman for a little while before panning over the room, showing Nucky spooning in bed with his girlfriend. The door opens and a portly, nervous looking guy comes in and, after a few tries, manages to rouse Nucky, telling him it’s 2:30 in the afternoon, and there’s a pregnant woman waiting for him. Nucky kind of freaks out at that, until the nervous guy (who has a heavy accent, by the way) tells him that she was at the Temperance League meeting the night before.
Once Nervous Guy opens the drapes, Nucky finally gets up, and Nervous Guy apologizes to both Nucky and the girlfriend before just getting the hell out of there.
Elsewhere, a man with a pretty stereotypical Italian accent is welcomed to The Brighton Hotel by the concierge, and is reassured that his room, like all the others, has an ocean view. The man is quickly introduced to some other guests: Charlie Luciano and Arnold Rothstein, while Van Alden watches from a nearby shoeshine station.
We go back to Nucky’s place, where the young woman who was so especially touched by his talk at the meeting the night before is waiting in some kind of anteroom, paging nervously through a copy of Vogue. As Nucky’s assistant said, she’s heavily pregnant. She also has a worried, worn look on her face.
Nucky’s assistant (oh, hell, his name’s Eddie, we’re just going to use that) comes out and asks for Pregnant Lady to please come with him, As she rises and follows him into Nucky’s office, she passes a black man, who turns and tells Eddie to tell Nucky he doesn’t have all day. Eddie nods and ushers the woman into the office, where Nucky’s drinking coffee and probably still battling a hangover. Eddie introduces the woman as Mrs. Shroeder and Nucky greets her politely, offering her tea, or something to eat. She babbles nervously and Nucky sweetly tries to put her at ease. Looks like this guy’s got a soft spot.
Nucky sends Eddie away and comments on Mrs. S.’s Irish accent. She says her husband tells her she sounds like an immigrant. Wow, what a sweet guy. Nucky kindly says that everyone in America’s a sort of immigrant. He asks Mrs. S. What he can do for her, and she babbles a bit more about how touched she was by his story the night before. She also admits that her husband has a weakness for dice games and alcohol. The baby she’s currently pregnant with is their third—they already have a boy and a girl. She asks Nucky if he has children of his own, and Nucky tells her he lost his wife to consumption. He gestures to a nearby picture of the dark-haired woman we saw earlier (it’s not the same picture—Nucky seems to have these scattered all over). Mrs. S. offers that the late Mrs. Thompson was lovely, and Nucky looks a little sad as he agrees. Aww. On an historical note, I heard that Nucky Johnson, the real-life man this character was based on, was a teetotaler before his wife’s death, but started drinking after. I wonder what she would have thought of all this…
At this point, Nucky’s rather slatternly girlfriend, Lucy Danzinger, comes in, dressed in her party clothes from the night before and looking like absolute hell, and tells Nucky she’s going to do her walk of shame now. Nucky, clearly a bit embarrassed but stuck, introduces Lucy to Mrs. Shroeder. Lucy can’t read the room at all and asks Nucky if she’ll see him later, and then tries to make out with him for a bit. Nucky sends her on her way as quickly as he can, and apologizes to Mrs. S. Mrs. S. isn’t there to pass judgment on his lifestyle, though.
Seeming to understand why the woman’s come to see him, Nucky asks Mrs. S. if her husband works. He does, but only during the tourist season, as a baker’s assistant. Since it’s now January (January 16, to be exact), there’s no money coming in at the moment. Margaret mentions that her kids have no shoes, and it’s winter…could Nucky perhaps see his way to giving her husband a job? Nucky pulls out a big ol’ wad of bills and hands them over to her. Mrs. S. protests that she’s not there looking for charity, but he insists, and since she very obviously needs the money, she thanks him. She then, a little hesitantly, offers to name her kid after him, but Nucky feels the same way about his name as I do, and tells her she couldn’t possibly be so cruel. As a final gesture of generosity, he takes her downstairs and has Jimmy drive her home. Before he heads out, Jimmy tells Nucky that his “friends” from New York and Chicago have arrived, and everything’s ready for a meeting later that night. He also starts to ask Nucky for a word, but Nucky cuts him off, telling him to drop Mrs. S. off first and meet him at the pier later.
Nucky strides out onto the boardwalk, which is less crowded than it was the night before, giving us ample opportunity to admire the period detail, including the many posters for cigarettes, the salt water taffy stands, and the freakshows, which include, horribly, a nursery for preemie babies where, for 25 cents, you can pay to see babies that weigh as little as three pounds. Eeek! I can’t help but wonder how many of those babies even survived, at that time. Not many, I’m guessing. Nucky pauses outside this place and watches as a nurse places a tiny baby on a scale in the window. Nucky watches as the baby is weighed, and then gently lifted back up by the nurse, a sad and tender look on his face. Hmmm.
After the baby show, Nucky goes to the edge of the boardwalk, lights a cigarette, and stands looking out at the ocean, in a shot that so strongly reminded me of the Sopranos episode where Tony gets food poisoning and has fever dreams of going to the shore and meeting talking fish that I have to assume it’s deliberate (especially considering all the Sopranos people involved with this show).
In a poorer part of town, Jimmy drives Nucky’s fancy Rolls Royce down a street lined with small bungalow-style houses, scattering kids playing Kick the Can. Mrs. S. tells him to just stop and leave her where they are, and he pulls over and helps her out as the kids cluster around the car. A man comes out of one of the houses and watches her climb down from the car and Margaret notices him and quickly but politely refuses Jimmy’s offer to see her inside. This man is clearly the dipshit husband, as we realize when she hurries up to the house and he asks her where she’s been. She starts to answer, but he just snaps at her to get in the house, and she goes inside, clearly not wanting to cause trouble. Jimmy watches this exchange as he pulls one of the kids off the car and gets back in. Once dipshit husband goes into the house, Jimmy honks the horn to scatter the kids and drives away.
Apparently, everything was a show back then in AC, including the day’s catch. A crowd gathers as a net filled with fish is dropped on the dock and various specimens of sea life are held up for everyone to see. Nucky is part of the crowd, and he’s soon joined by a man who clearly knows him well. Nucky IDs him as Phil McCoy and asks if he’s been “up north” recently. McCoy says he has, and did a bit of souvenir shopping while he was there. McCoy gets right down to business and says he’s bringing in a shipment the next night—500 crates of Canadian Club straight from the distillery at $100 a crate. Seems Phil, like Nucky, is a man out to seize the opportunity that prohibition has provided.
Nucky asks Phil how much the whole shipment will cost, and Phil quotes him a price of $40K. Nucky counters by offering $35,000, and they’ll do it once a week. Phil thinks about it for a second, then agrees to the deal. Nucky says his brother will be in touch about the particulars. Deal concluded, Nucky leaves with Jimmy, who’s just arrived after dropping off Mrs. S. Jimmy tries once again to start talking about his future, only to be rebuffed by Nucky. Again.
The night’s just beginning as Nucky’s car pulls up to a funeral home. Nucky takes a pull from his flask before going in, followed by Jimmy. As they enter the parlor, where a wake is going on, someone tells the widow that Nucky Thompson is there. The widow hurries over to start fawning and Nucky, trapped, says the deceased was a good man who will be much missed. The woman’s surprised Nucky even knew her husband, and Nucky covers by saying he just spoke to him the previous month. He extricates himself before she starts to puzzle over how that was possible, seeing as her husband had had a laryngectomy.
Nucky and Jimmy move into the basement prep room, where the corpse of a rather young, dark-haired woman is laid out. A man in a homburg is watching the makeup guy at work on her and introduces Jimmy and Nucky to “the missus”, who makes up for her lack of personality by being silent. He breaks into an incredibly annoying nervous giggle at his own joke, but Nucky and Jimmy aren’t amused. The giggler asks Jimmy what’s wrong, hasn’t he ever seen a stiff before? Oh, you annoying idiot, you have no idea. Jimmy manages to refrain from punching the guy in the face and merely understates that he’s seen a couple.
Nucky tells The Giggler, Mickey, that they don’t have much time. Mickey crosses to the opposite wall and opens a hidden sliding panel to reveal a warren of corridors and rooms where he’s making some pretty vile fake liquor. Nucky comments that he’s got quite the operation going, and Mickey explains that they’re producing close to 2,000 crates a week. Damn, that is quite an operation. Mickey gives us a nice description of creating crappy fake alcohol: it’s one part real, eight parts water, heated up, cooled, with alcohol added last to bring up the proof. The alcohol comes from fermented potatoes. Yummy. After the alcohol’s added, you put in some coloring and slap a label on. Jimmy asks if they can make scotch too, and Nicky says they can, they just have to add carbonyl, for the bead. Apparently, the higher the proof, the more bead alcohol is supposed to have. You learn something new every day. Mickey pours Jimmy some fake scotch and Jimmy downs it, like a moron, then spits it right back out. Mickey and the moonshine workers chuckle and Jimmy asks what the hell is in the stuff. Mickey laughs that it’s carbonyl, like he said. And what’s carbonyl? Formaldehyde. Lovely! Jimmy fails to see the humor in this and jumps Mickey, breaking a bottle over his head and starting quite the ruckus. Somewhere in there, a gun gets drawn and fires right up into the funeral happening upstairs. Well, at least any potential victims are in the right place.
Nucky wrestles the pistol away from Mickey and yells at Jimmy for a minute before sending him outside to wait. Jimmy gets one slap in on Mickey’s face as he goes. Fair enough.
Once Jimmy’s gone, Nucky calls Mickey a stupid bohunk, and Mickey tries to defend his little stunt as a gag. There follows a bit of back and forth about how Mickey’s got a new last name (Doyle), which Nucky realizes must mean Mickey’s in trouble with someone. Mickey tries to deny it, and then proves to be a total idiot by not understanding Nucky’s comment of “a rose by any other name.”
Nucky goes outside, where Jimmy’s waiting, to give him a tongue lashing as well. As he reaches into Jimmy’s jacket to help himself to some cigarettes, Nucky tells Jimmy that Mickey’s part of Nucky’s operation, no matter how Jimmy feels about him. Nucky asks him again what his problem is, and Jimmy unloads: his problem is that Nucky promoted Patty Ryan, even though Jimmy could run rings around Ryan. It comes out that what’s cost Jimmy the job was going off to war, instead of finishing his education. You know what? I’d kind of like to know more about this whole Princeton thing, because Princeton, in the early part of the 1900’s, was still pretty patrician (like all the ivies), and Jimmy definitely isn’t of that class. How did he end up there? Inquiring minds want to know.
Jimmy thinks he’s being punished, but Nucky tells him he wants Jimmy to slow down and get the lay of the land, since he’s only been home a month or so. Jimmy gets quietly serious and tells Nucky he’s seen and done quite a lot in his time overseas. Nucky elects to go his usual route and offers Jimmy $1000, which Jimmy refuses. Damn, Jimmy, that was, like, a decent year’s salary back then! Take it! Jimmy tells Nucky he just wants an opportunity, so Nucky tells him to find one. This is America, after all!
At the Schroeder house, Mrs. S. is feeding the kids when her husband comes into the room, grabs a bottle of liquor that’s sitting out, and pours himself a glass. Mrs. S starts to slice some bread with a wicked looking knife as her husband asks her how she came to be chauffeured around in a car that probably costs more than he’ll make in his whole life. Mrs. S. fibs that she was out walking and felt faint so Nucky offered her a ride home. We get a good look at her, and it looks like she’s sporting a shiner that wasn’t there before. Niiiice.
Husband puts down his drink and approaches her. Mrs. S. hesitantly puts down the knife, although I would have been inclined to hold onto that thing for dear life. He feels her forehead and tells her she feels a little warm. Then he grabs the back of her head and drags her closer, pulling the wad of bills Nucky gave her earlier out of his pocket. He demands to know how it found its way under the mattress, but she won’t tell him how she got it. He immediately assumes she prostituted herself, and although I’m sure there are some people out there who would pay to have sex with a pregnant woman, I’m not sure there are that many willing to pay that generously for the privilege, dude, so that’s a bit of a stretch, I think. Husband starts to scream and slaps her hard, sending her flying. The youngest child, the little girl, who looks to be about two, starts to wail and Margaret curls up in a corner, weeping. This is going to be a rough storyline to watch.
Unaware of the trouble he’s caused, Nucky arrives at a hotel, where he greets two of the men we saw arriving earlier: the portly man with the Italian accent, who is introduced as “Big Jim” Colosimo, and his associate, who is, at the moment, nameless. They move inside, where they unknowingly walk past Van Alden, who’s in a phone booth, telling an associate on the other end of the phone who’s coming in. It seems that nameless guy is Johnny Torrio. Van Alden reports the entrance of Rothstein and Luciano. There ensues a bit of confused back-and-forth regarding who’s wearing a homburg hat and what a concierge is that I can only assume is a nod to the fact that the audience, by now, is getting as confused as Van Alden’s rookie partner.
The gangland quintet move into a private dining room for dinner and a meeting, where we learn that Colosimo may be having some lost in translation issues, and Rothstein’s a teetotaler Hey, whatever works for you, I guess. If I could clear $2 million off a rigged World Series by never touching a drop, I’d kick chardonnay to the curb tonight.
Talk turns to New York vs. Chicago, and finally to business. Torrio takes the floor, since, apparently, he was the one that set up the meeting in the first place, and he’ll be expecting a matchmaking fee in return. Torrio goes on a little too long for Luciano, who cuts right to the chase and asks Nucky if he can fix them up with some bootleg booze on a regular basis. Luciano says they’ll take all they can get up to 2,000 crates a month, for starters. Hmm, the exact amount Mickey the Giggler could produce a month. Interesting…
Nucky takes his time answering, and finally just comments that youngsters have no appreciation for the art of conversation. Nucky, if you think that’s bad, wait until Twitter shows up. Then we’ll talk. Luciano excuses himself to use the facilities, and once he’s gone, Rothstein apologizes for his associate. Rothstein says he has a friend, a judge, whose daughter’s getting married soon, and he’d like to score some bootleg to pass along as a favor. Nucky says he has a load coming in the following day that should suit. It’ll cost $60K for the whole thing, and Rothstein’s responsible for pickup. Well done, Nucky, you just cleared $25K in the space of a few hours. Rothstein considers the deal, then agrees and says they’ll settle up in cash the next day. The men toast to their new partnership.
Outside, Jimmy and Torrio’s driver are making small talk about Chicago and their mutual history as doughboys. We learn that Jimmy caught some shrapnel overseas from a grenade and spent eight months in the hospital, in case that ever becomes important.
Jimmy asks his counterpart what he thinks Rothstein’s worth, and the other guy guesses 10 million, easy. Holy crap! In 1920? Jimmy’s as surprised as I am, but the other guy says even Luciano’s worth a good half a million. And he’s only about 23 years old. Jimmy wonders where it all comes from and learns that Rothstein and Luciano have their fingers in a lot of pies, including drug trafficking. Luciano did six months for pushing heroin a few years back, the other driver says. Jimmy’s surprised at the short sentence, but the other guy says Luciano bought a judge, like it’s totally natural to do that. And in this world, I guess it is.
Jimmy asks the other guy if they’re going to be getting into the liquor business too. The other guy says Colosimo doesn’t want to, because he’s worried about getting heat from the law, but it doesn’t seem like the other driver agrees with that.
At this point, the employers come out, so the boys introduce themselves to each other before splitting up. Jimmy Darmody, meet Al Capone. The actor who plays Capone also played Baby Face Nelson in Public Enemies, so it’s nice to see that he’s found a little niche for himself.
The next day, Jimmy gets in some family time with Angela and the kid, catching a showing of a Fatty Arbuckle movie and then taking a stroll on the boardwalk. The fun comes to a quick end when Van Alden and another agent come and collect Jimmy, who hands the boy to Angela and goes without a fuss.
In the Bureau’s offices, a more senior agent runs through Jimmy’s service record (which includes a Distinguished Service Cross, if you’re interested) and Van Alden, who’s hanging around, notes that Jimmy was a college man too. Jimmy asks if he’s in trouble and Van Alden guesses he has a guilty conscience. The senior agent asks what a guy like Jimmy’s doing working for Thompson, and Jimmy starts to say that Thompson’s a pillar of the community, but Van Alden cuts him off and says they know all about Thompson’s under the table dealings. They don’t care about the election rigging or graft, they want to know about the liquor being brought into the city. Van Alden leans over and asks Jimmy if he’d like to come work for the Bureau. Jimmy says he has a bad leg and the senior agent offers to leave that off the paperwork. The senior agent plays Jimmy pretty well, telling him there’s lots of opportunity for advancement, particularly for an upright family man. Van Alden leans up against the senior agent’s desk and adds that this is a godly pursuit. Okaaay. Jimmy’s starting to look a little nervous and asks for a cigarette. Van Alden lights it for him and asks if Jimmy goes to church. Jimmy says he does, although it’s hard to tell if he’s lying or not. “Well, then, you know, don’t you?” says Van Alden enigmatically. Even Jimmy’s like, “Know what?” and so am I.
Sadly, we never get to find out what the hell Van Alden’s talking about, because now we have to go watch Lucy riding Nucky in bed an saying weird things like “giddyup, cowboy.” Even Nucky asks her to stop saying that, so she switches to an even creepier tactic and says “come on, daddy.”
The fun ends suddenly when Eddie starts knocking on the door. First he says he heard screaming, and then he says that there’s someone on the phone for Nucky. Lucy dismounts and bitches about how Eddie’s always interrupting them, as Nucky reaches for the phone. Just as he picks up the receiver, Lucy yells “Screaming? We were f*cking, Eddie!” Thanks for clearing that up, Lucy. God, I really don’t like her character at all.
She locks herself in the bathroom and Nucky gets on the phone with the manager of one of the gambling spots (were they called casinos then? I don’t think so). Anyway, the manager tells him that Rothstein’s been playing for 16 hours straight, and he’s taken them for $90 grand. Yikes! The manager admits they just don’t have the money. Nucky sighs and says he’ll be right there. He yells for Eddie to tell Jimmy to bring the car around, but Jimmy’s called out sick. Nucky rolls his eyes at how this day has just totally gone down the drain and tries to get into the bathroom. Lucy’s not having it, and whines for him to go spend time with Eddie, who’s obviously more important than her. Yeah, you know what, Lucy? He is. Because he seems to have an actual purpose whereas you seem to exist mostly to be an embarrassment and a pain in the ass. Nucky and Eddie try breaking down the door, but that’s obviously much harder to do than most movies make it look.
Sometime later, Nucky arrives at the gambling hall, where he meets the manager, who tells Nucky that Rothstein’s a cheater, and if he were anyone else, he’d be dead in an alley somewhere. This must be one of the Trump places. Rothstein and Luciano are enjoying lunch in the dining room, thankfully giving the tables a little break. Nucky hands his coat and hat to a helpful waitress and strolls over to the table. He’s congenial enough, although Luciano seems like he’s trying to make trouble when he remarks that Rothstein’s good streak had nothing to do with luck. Rothstein smoothes the waters by saying he’s just a skilled player, but what’s this about cutting him off? Nucky politely tells him it’s nothing personal, but it’s a small house and they just can’t afford to pay out that big a win. Rothstein says their credit’s good with him, and Nucky gets serious, suggesting they all get to know each other a little better first. Luciano the hothead snaps that he doesn’t like what he’s hearing, and Nucky’s now really lost his patience with this kid, and tells him to stop listening to the grownups’ conversation. Luciano leaps to his feet, ready to make trouble, but Rothstein grabs him by the wrist and mildly tells him to sit. Lucky finally does, and once he does, Rothstein consults a little notebook and tells Nucky that he’s owed $93,000. He knocks off the $60K he owes for the booze shipment coming in that night, which brings the winnings down to $33,000, which should mean he can keep playing, Luciano points out. But Rothstein says he doesn’t gamble where he doesn’t feel welcome. Nucky, clearly glad to get this guy out of his gambling hall, says he’s sorry Rothstein feels that way, and he tells the manager to cash him out before heading for the door.
As he passes by the dice tables, Mrs. S’s dipshit husband calls out to him and says he understands Nucky’s familiar with Schroeder’s wife. Oh, man, this guy has no idea how poor his timing is. Schroeder jogs Nucky’s memory (and drops that his wife’s first name is Margaret) and sudden realization breaks over Nucky’s face and he asks where Schroeder got the wad of cash in his hand. Schroeder says it came from Nucky, and Nucky says it was supposed to be for the guy’s kids, so Schroeder stupidly throws a handful of cash at Nucky, telling him he’s winning anyway, so it’s no trouble. Nucky blows his stack, grabs the guy, pounds his forehead twice against the edge of the dice table, and tells the manager to toss the guy out. As satisfying as it was to see this guy get his ass kicked by someone more his own size, I cringe thinking how this is going to go for Margaret later.
Jimmy catches up with his new friend Capone at a boxing match featuring two midgets (or are they dwarves?). I wonder how much fun the writers and production people had doing research into all the bizarre entertainments in Atlantic City during this period. They must have come across some really strange stuff, this was an odd era. Capone thinks the fight’s hilarious, and Jimmy seems amused too. They watch for a little while, and then Jimmy asks Capone how much he knows about the shipment coming in that night. Capone turns to look at Jimmy, and we get another freeze frame…
…before cutting to a variety show, where a standup comedian is entertaining the audience (which includes Lucy and Nucky) with a series of “my girlfriend’s so dumb” jokes. As he continues joking, we cut between him and shots of Nucky, Capone, and that sap of a kid they somehow convinced to play the victim setting up the fake road accident we saw in the beginning. We also see Van Alden leading other agents in a prayer before they head out, and the guys at the dock loading up Rothstein’s haul. The agents creep through the woods, shotguns at the ready, as the convoy approaches the fake crash. The two lead guys in the convoy approach the crash, Capone smacks one of them in the face with the butt of the rifle, and we’re back where we started.
On the road, Jimmy and Capone, the masked robbers, of course, hold the convoy guys at bay with their shotguns as their accomplice gathers up the gangsters’ handguns. One of the convoy gangsters tells the robbers they’re all dead men, and Capone starts to fly off the handle. Looks like someone’s been taking a few too many cues from Luciano. Jimmy, however, remains cool and collected and holds Capone back.
Van Alden and his men continue to move through the woods, and one of them steps on a stick. Capone jumps when he hears a noise and gets twitchy. He hears another stick snap, and suddenly a buck comes running out of the woods and dashes across the road. Startled, Capone opens fire and Jimmy has no real choice but to join in the sudden bloodbath. The agents start to run, and they emerge from the woods…at the funeral home/moonshine distillery. Nicely done, Scorsese. Also, I bet Mickey regrets feeding Jimmy formaldehyde now.
One of the convoy guys gets away, and Jimmy and Capone go after him. Jimmy finds the man huddled in the woods and dispatches him with a single shot to the head that leaves the guy fairly unidentifiable. Jimmy removes his mask, surprisingly unshaken by what’s just happened. Or not surprisingly, I guess. Seems he was right—killing Germans does set you up for this line of work, and very little else.
Jimmy and Capone meet back up on the road, and Jimmy scolds Capone for losing his head, very much as Nucky once scolded Jimmy at the funeral home. Nice callback. Our boy’s clearly learning. He and Capone climb into the two trucks loaded with crates of whisky and drive off into the night.
Sigh. I knew it. As usually happens in these situations, instead of learning a lesson from having his ass handed to him by one of the most powerful guys in the city, Schroeder just got angrier, and he’s taking it out pretty brutally on Margaret, by the sound of it. The camera pushes in on their house from the outside, where we can hear her screaming and him breaking things and striking her. He finally stumbles out the door and down the street as, inside, the little girl wails and Margaret lays on the floor, bloodied and weeping, and then doubles up in pain with, apparently, early labor.
Nucky, meanwhile, is enjoying dinner with Lucy and some friends at Babette’s when someone brings him the phone, which must have the longest cord in the world. Eli’s on the other end, and as the bodies from the convoy are wheeled into the police station on gurneys, covered in bloody sheets, Eli tells his brother that they have a problem. I’ll say. Rothstein’s gonna be pissed.
At the police station, the press is trying to get information, but the officer tasked with holding them off will only say there are no leads yet. Inside, Eli tells Nucky that they found four bodies, and it was like a firing squad took them out. Nucky confirms there was no sign of the truck and asks if the Feds are on to them yet. They’re not—too busy at the funeral home. Eli puts two and two together and finds it mighty odd that, while the Feds are kept busy at the funeral home, the convoy hit’s going down a mere three miles away. Eli asks who knew about the shipment, and Nucky says he did, of course, and Rothstein and Torrio. Eli thinks for a second and wonders if Jimmy could have had a hand in this, since it seems unlikely any of the others did. Nucky looks uncomfortable at the thought but tells Eli to bring him in.
Eli goes to Jimmy’s apartment and gets Angela at the door. He apologizes for coming by so late and asks where Jimmy is. She says she doesn’t know, so Eli asks her to pass on the message that Nucky’s looking for him. Everyone’s looking for her husband today, aren’t they? Angela gets worried, but Eli sweetly tells her that Jimmy probably just ran into a friend and lost track of time. Then she goes all the way over to stupid and wonders if this might have something to do with the men who picked him up. Honey, I know his crack about your art was uncalled for, but are you trying to get your husband killed? Eli asks her to elaborate.
At Nucky’s the following morning, Eddie’s working the phones, telling the reporter on the other end there’s no damn comment, so stop calling already! He hangs up in a snit and sniffs “C**ksucking reporters.” Heh. I think I’m going to really like Eddie. Eli says he’ll give the reporters a statement later. Meanwhile, he and Nucky seem to have Jimmy’s little plan all figured out. He gave the Feds the funeral home to keep them busy, while he’s out pulling the convoy job. Nucky can’t imagine why Jimmy would do that, which makes me wonder just how distracted Nucky’s been. I know he’s had a lot to deal with lately, but did he really completely forget about the conversation he had with Jimmy at the funeral home just a night or two ago? You told him to go out and find an opportunity, Nuck. He did.
Pissed, Nucky grabs his jacket and goes out to get some air on the boardwalk. He’s intercepted by the poetess from the Temperance League, who was conveniently just coming by to see him and deliver a framed copy of her poem as well as the news that Margaret’s in the hospital, and lost the baby. Damn. May her husband burn in hell, I say. Nucky’s struck by the news and asks what happened. The poetess says she’s not at liberty to say, smiles sadly, and heads off. Nucky, reeling from everything that’s happened, tosses the damn poem in the trash and continues on his walk.
The walk takes him to the lovely home of a white-haired man named Carlo. As Nucky walks in, Carlo observes that he has quite the storm brewing. Carlo seems pretty in the know about everything that’s been going on, but he’s incredulous that Nucky got involved with Rothstein in the first place. Nucky explains that it was a favor to Chicago, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Carlo hands Nucky a copy of The International Jew by Henry Ford, and Nucky looks at it for a moment before saying he’s pretty sure his problems go beyond international finance. Nucky goes to the bar and pours himself a drink before saying that it’s been seven years to the day since his wife died. Good lord this guy’s having a lousy day. Carlo muses that she might be better off.
After a long pause, Nucky gets back to the business at hand, complaining that the Feds will be all over this, and it’s bad for business. Carlo tells him to just hand someone over, then, and let them make an arrest. Nucky informs Carlo that Jimmy’s behind this, which Carlo can’t believe. Once it sinks in, he chuckles, almost proudly.
Nucky hits the boardwalk again, and as he walks back towards his hotel, Jimmy calls to him from around a corner where he’s lurking. Man, the balls on this guy must be made of titanium! Nucky starts to give Jimmy a piece of his mind, and Jimmy reassures him that the job wasn’t supposed to go down like that. Nucky tells him to make sure he mentions that to Rothstein when he’s cutting Jimmy’s nuts off. Good luck to him, titanium’s hard stuff, from what I understand. Jimmy says he’ll straighten everything out, which Nucky doesn’t seem to think is likely. Jimmy starts talking about his time overseas, and it seems like what the war taught him was that he was a natural born killer. He didn’t go over the top of the trenches all the time to be heroic, he did it because he just didn’t care anymore. And now he’s back and sees guys like Luciano living the good life, and he wants a piece of the action. Seems reasonable.
Jimmy tells Nucky that the time for half measures is past, as he presses a thick envelope into his hand. Nucky asks what’s in the envelope, and Jimmy tells him it’s his share from the previous night’s haul. Who did he sell it to? Nucky seems confused and says he didn’t ask for this. Jimmy shrugs and says he didn’t have to. That’s how it works, Nucky.
On the road, Capone drives his truck along snowy roads, passing a sign that says: Welcome to Chicago.
Back on the boardwalk, Nucky pauses outside a stand that advertises palmistry. He stops to watch the proprietress read a customer’s palm, and she slowly looks up and stares at him.
In Chicago, Colosimo arrives back at his restaurant, looking happy to be home.
And in Margaret’s neighborhood, Schroeder emerges from his house and, as he walks down the street, is captured by two police officers and bundled into a police van and taken away.
Colosimo puts on a record in the restaurant (I’m going to guess it’s Caruso, since he requested that in Atlantic City). As the music plays, the policemen toss Schroeder into a small boat and drive it out to sea, and Capone arrives back in Chicago with his shipment. Once there, he’s met by two men, one of whom is his boss, Torrio. And thus began the rise of Al Capone.
Out on the boat, the two policemen commence beating the absolute shit out of Schroeder. Once he’s dead, they toss his body and things overboard. Amen. Talk about your poetic justice. I’m a big fan of anyone who hits significant others, children, or pets getting their just desserts, although I do hope this guy had some massive life insurance policy or something, otherwise I’m not sure how Margaret’s going to manage with two small children.
In Chicago, Colosimo listens happily to the music, until he’s shot in the head. Guess Chicago wants to get in on the liquor business after all.
And back in AC, Nucky gets a shave and is helped into a natty new suit, while the Daily Catch sideshow pulls in—Schroeder! Wow, they should have charged extra for that day’s show. A police reporter spreads the news that the body’s been identified as Hans Schroeder, who had been wanted in connection to the recent roadside shootings. Ha! Well done, Nucky.
In his apartment, Jimmy plays with his kid as Angela paints and watches them fondly. Nucky, meanwhile, stops by a florist’s shop and grabs a bouquet before going to visit poor Margaret in the hospital. And that’s where we close for this week. Great beginning—can’t wait to see more!