Boardwalk Empire: Strung Out

boardwalk-empire-season-4-episode-5-stephen-graham-600x399Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Eli’s son accidentally killed a classmate, Narcisse got Dunn in on the heroin racket, Knox arrested Eddie, and the Capones recruited Van Alden.

Nucky gets a phone call from a seriously freaked-out Willie, begging for help. The camera lingers on a pair of birds hopping around a cage and then moves on to other items around Eddie’s living quarters: his books, sheet music by Schubert, a picture of his two sons, as Nucky calls for him. But Eddie hasn’t been home, and New Eddie says he hasn’t seen him. Nucky calls for the car.

Knox and his partner have Eddie in some abandoned building, and he wants to know why he’s there, insisting he’s done nothing wrong. Knox asks his partner what they should do here and the partner goes and opens the door, indicating Eddie can leave. But when he gets up, Knox catches him, claims he almost fell, and suggests he stay a while, for his own good.

The mayoral election campaign is rolling through Van Alden’s neighbourhood while VA tries feeding his reluctant toddler son. The Capones arrive and VA heads out to join them, with Frank telling him it’s going to be a good day. It’s election day in Cicero.

Nucky goes to see Will in lockup. Wow, that didn’t take long. Then again, I’m guessing news of what happened at that party made the campus rounds pretty damn fast, so it probably wouldn’t be too difficult for the police to get the full story. Nucky asks his nephew how he is  and promises they’ll sort this out, and keep it between them. Fortunately, Nucky has connections he can call on. But first, he needs to get some details.

Gillian, all strung out, looks out her window, muttering ‘now, now,’ and then tries calling Roy at his hotel, not for the first time. When she goes to take another hit, she finds out she’s out.

The Capones and Van Alden arrive at their HQ, where Al’s snorting coke and waiting for them. Frank tells him to get it together, because they have business today. He smacks Al over the head and is not at all threatened when Al pulls a pistol. Al, also strung out, wonders what VA’s doing there and Frank reminds him that Al wanted him there. Al manages to pull that out of his half-baked brain and reminds VA it’s election day, which he already knows. Al goes on to observe that Van Alden, who’s done some bad things, has a rather wild streak. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Frank tells him to go collect 20 guys and go to Western Electric and help the voters make up their minds. He checks to see if VA’s packing (he is), and Al gives him a bump before he goes, to ‘perk himself up’. VA obediently takes it, and his pop-eyed reaction is fairly priceless.

Back in Philly, Willie tells Nucky he threw a party with liquor he got from Mickey, which does not sit well with Nucky, who asks why Will didn’t come directly to him. Will says he didn’t want Nucky to know, but he knows now, and he really should have been in the loop earlier, so he wouldn’t be caught quite so off guard when this problem arose. He drills the boy a bit, to get him ready for questioning, and Will pulls himself together admirably and lies all over the place.

Gillian’s meeting with a judge about her custody case. He runs her through the protocol of getting the kid back, telling her that a caseworker will be coming around to assess the living conditions. Gillian, looking really shaky, asks for a glass of water, and when she takes it she manages to shatter it right in her hand. The judge hurries over and fixes her hand with his handkerchief. She takes the opportunity to proposition him, asking if there’s anything she can do to help her situation. I really don’t think you’re making a good case to become the guardian of a small boy there, Gillian. The judge evidently agrees and tells her to leave immediately.

Nucky tries to go see the DA, but is passed on to Eugene, the assistant DA, which makes him about as happy as the discovery that the liquor came from Mickey did. He nonetheless tries to do what he came to do: convince the man not to press manslaughter charges against Will for what Nucky terms is ‘a quirk of fate.’ I don’t think too many people crap themselves to death through a quirk of fate, Nucky. Unless they come down with dysentery, which obviously wasn’t the case here. Eugene says this is a poisoning case, and ten witnesses say Will brought liquor to the party. Nucky tells him to cut the BS: he knows Eugene’s boss had a meeting with Waxy Gordon that morning and they all agreed to let this go. Eugene informs Nucky that Henry’s dad is a major contributor to the PA republican party, so someone needs to take the fall for this.

Eddie’s still sitting in that room, stiffly insisting to Knox that he’s fine. Knox says he admires that kind of backbone and thinks Eddie’s a good soldier for Nucky, but would Nucky be as loyal to him? He tells Eddie that, even though he’s been gone all day, nobody’s asked for him. Eddie’s face contracts slightly, but he regains that backbone, so Knox moves on to the torture part of the interrogation, punching Eddie so hard in the stomach he vomits. Knox leaves him a handkerchief and tells him to clean up.

Nucky’s back at the jail, once again quizzing Will, who does really well, until Nucky asks him who slipped Henry the mickey. Will admits it was just a prank gone awry, and that it was his idea. Well, his and Pencilneck’s, he reluctantly adds.

Frank makes sure VA knows his task before he gets out of the car at the factory—make sure the men vote for Klenha or no one at all. He tells VA to get going, and also tells him not to worry about Al, who just needs a boot up the ass. He hands over an advance on VA’s pay and VA climbs out. He greets a few men gathered outside the factory, then tells them there’s no need to let this get out of hand. They’re just going to gently persuade voters. With clubs. The men aren’t pleased at the idea of little bloodshed and refuse to fall in line, so VA picks one of them and advances on him. But before they can start beating on each other, the men come out of the factory. Inquiries about their voting habits are ignored or derided, and after little time VA proves that Al was right about him, by punching a guy who refuses to stop and talk to him. That, of course, sets off all the others and they start pounding on the workers, who flood back behind the factory gates.

Gillian’s pretty desperate for a hit by this time, so she wanders into the black neighbourhood and seeks out Dunn at a barber shop. He calls her Bo Peep and observes that she’s far from home. He asks who sent her his way and she says it was an acquaintance from her showgirl days. He asks to see the cash, refusing to show her the product up front, and she obediently pulls out a small sum and hands it over. It’s not enough, so she tries to pull the same trick with Dunn as she did with the judge, admitting she’s having a rough day. He seems a bit more receptive than the judge, but after his last experience with a propositioning white woman, he’s not about to go too far. He orders up some H, then warns her to take it easy, because he likes his junkies alive more than dead.

Nucky and Will are sitting around some boardroom now, Nucky telling the kid how he met his wife (they were both at college together and she was studying to be a teacher, so Nucky decided to study teaching too.). Will’s worried about Eli finding out about this, but Nucky promises that won’t happen. The door opens and in comes Isley, the actual DA, who’s happy to get all this mess cleared up before it turns into something. The ADA and a secretary come in, and Isley asks Will to tell them what happened. Will starts off by claiming that Henry was a pal of his. So, naturally he wouldn’t mean him any harm, right?

Gillian, looking worse than ever, shows up at her grandson’s school, but it’s clear the kid has no idea who this creepy lady is. Gillian ignores that and tells him how much he’s going to love Roy and they’re all going to be together and it’ll be great. Tommy makes no reply, so she bribes him with an Abba Zabba bar. He won’t even take it, and doesn’t respond when she tells him she’s going to be taking him home now. Fortunately, Julia, flanked by two male teachers, comes sweeping down the hallway and asks Gillian what she’s doing there. Gillian says she had a chat with the judge and he was very forthcoming about her regaining custody. She reaches for Tommy, who retreats to Julia’s side. Julia directs him the other way down the corridor, and the two teachers bundle Gillian out, while she pitifully says she still has to give the kid his Abba Zabba.

Nucky and Will return to the dorms and Nucky urges the kid to find a girl to serenade with the ukulele he has on the desk. He tells Will to shut the door and says that, whatever occurred, it’s over. It’s like listening to Don Draper tell Peggy how amazed she’ll be at how this never happened. He informs Will that he’s going to graduate, no matter what, and that all he can count on is blood—specifically the blood that he shares with Nucky. Nucky further urges the kid to use the rage he feels and to show Nucky the person Will intends to be. Would that be…an enraged person? I’m not entirely sure what Nucky’s telling him to do here. Will asks Nucky what the DA’s payoff was and Nucky tells him they’ll discuss that later.

The door opens and Pencilneck comes in. Nucky takes that as his cue to leave, shakes Will’s hand, gives him one last, serious look, and departs. Pencilneck asks Will where he was all day and Will tells him to chill out, because everything’s been taken care of. Pencilneck keeps freaking out, so Will, now a bit shaky, says he has to study and wants to be alone.

Al and Frank show up at the factory, where the workers are still gathered behind the gates. Al’s all fired up and pissed off and Frank’s much calmer, telling VA they have six carloads of guys on the way. The factory gates open again, and Frank tells them they don’t want any grief. The workers say they’re waiting on the police, but Frank says they’re not coming. When one of the men asks who Al and the others are, Al flies off the handle, only to be calmed by Frank, as always. Al yells at the men that he and his guys are running Cicero, and if anyone has a problem with that, they can step right up. They hesitate, and then the factory workers rush and there’s a hell of a brawl. Punches are thrown, men are wrestled to the ground, windows are shattered, men scream and get kicked. Al and the boys are in a seriously bad way. And then Van Alden remembers he has a gun and pulls it out. Dazed after being hit on the head a few too many times, he  sees Al down on the ground, crawling towards safety (he hopes) and stalks him, raising the gun and aiming…wow, history would have been really different if this fictional character had had the balls. But he doesn’t, and Frank staggers forward, noticing Van Alden with a pistol trained on his little brother, but before he can do anything about it other than look menacing, he get shot in the chest. Oh, great, the only Capone with a two working hemispheres in his head gets gunned down. This’ll be great for Chicago. Al screams as Frank goes down in a massive volley of gunfire courtesy of a whole lot of men in black suits and fedoras. Wow, that was literal overkill. Al screams his brother’s name again, which takes us right into…

…Gillian, lying in bed, staring at her injured hand, either wondering what the hell it is or how she ended up in this life. Or maybe she’s trying to figured out who put the real bandage on it. And then Roy comes in, presumably having gotten her 1800 messages, and asks how she’s feeling. She says she’s better and he knowingly asks if she had a rough day. He produces her heroin kit, which he found in the bathroom, and asks if the stuff helps her. ‘Not anymore,’ she admits, adding that it makes her feel terrified. She thinks she must repulse him, but he says he knows about weakness and sin and asks her to talk to him, if it’ll help. She turns to him, her face crumpling, and says she’s done the most awful things.

Knox and his assistant return to Eddie’s room, where Knox shows Eddie a file he’s got that reveals the following: Eddie was the manager of a department store back in Germany, and he stole from the place and fled to the US with his mistress. Eddie insists he’s a legal resident, but Knox says he doesn’t belong there, before saying something in German. He was army intelligence during the war and learned German because he thought it was beautiful. He and Eddie start reciting an old German folktale, Der Erlkönig, in which a father and son get lost in the woods (I believe) and the child hears strange things and then dies. Knox reveals that Eddie’s sons changed their last names, to escape the shame he brought on them. Knox plans to hand Eddie over to the Hanover police. Eddie asks what they want from him, claiming he knows nothing. Knox tells him he can tell them whatever he wants. It’s all up to him. All they want is one thing, one little thing, and they’ll be done for the day. Eddie thinks, and then confesses that Ralph Capone was the man he met at the train station and handed the money to. Considering all Eddie’s seen, that’s one of the tamest things he probably could have told them. When Knox asks why, Eddie bursts into tears and said Nucky made him do it. Satisfied, Knox stands and his partner opens the door and ushers Eddie out. Knox calls after him that they’ll meet again soon. Interesting that young Will was so smooth under questioning, even before his extra coaching, while Eddie, who’s been in this life a lot longer, cracked up completely. Guess now we know who the future of this family is. Though to be fair, Will had more backup.

Van Alden’s at the hospital, along with the rest of the Capone crew. Ralph comes and joins him and says he just got off the train and was met with this news first. That sucks. He wishes they could be back in Brooklyn, where they were happy and alive. He tells VA that Al wants a word, so VA reluctantly drags himself into the room where Frank’s laid out, Al beside him. VA tells him that the shooters were a special squad of Chicago detectives, called in because Cicero police were useless. Al turns and tearfully says that every last thing that crawls is going to pay for this. VA turns and leaves as Al kisses his dead brother and weeps.

Pencilneck’s working away in the library when he notices two detectives come in and get pointed in his direction. Will apparently threw him under the bus for Henry’s murder. And Will? He’s sitting in bed, in his dark room (now a single, I guess) plucking away at his ukulele. Someone knocks on the door and he opens it to find Doris, who’s looking a bit teary. He lets her in and she asks if he knows about Pencilneck’s arrest. She wonders why someone would poison Henry, and Will hesitantly comforts her. She throws herself on his shoulder, sobbing, and he looks a bit bored.

Eddie limps up the stairs to the Albatross Hotel, pausing on the porch before going in. He goes up to Nucky’s room and Nucky asks where he’s been. Eddie tries to play it off, claiming he spent the night drinking. He promises not to let this happen ever again and Nucky tells him that it had better not before offering him something to eat. Eddie says he’s not hungry. Nucky calls him closer and shows him that he’s got mismatched socks on. Apparently Nucky’s lost the ability to function like a regular adult and can’t even pick out socks on his own anymore. I don’t find that credible at all.

Later, Eddie pens a letter, organises the sock drawer, dresses carefully, and throws himself out his window. Oh, man! Come on! Between this and what happened on Downton Abbey last night, this has not been a good week in television so far. I really liked Eddie. Why do they have to keep killing off the likeable characters instead of the pointless ones like Van Alden and Gillian? Are we going to lose Richard next (note to show: that had BETTER NOT HAPPEN. Seriously, I would break up with this show if they killed him).

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