It’s summer in AC and the beach and Boardwalk are hoppin’. There’s a particularly fancy show with some guy dressed as Neptune (accompanied by pretty girls dressed as lobsters—just go with it) which is being watched by Julia and Tommy while they build sandcastles, waiting for TF to return with their ice cream cones. Aww. Meanwhile, bottles of whiskey start washing up on shore, much to the extreme delight of the beachgoers. A few of them start spreading the word, and I’m surprised they didn’t keep their mouths shut and grab all the bottles they could. Neptune’s crowd—and then Neptune himself—rush to accept this apparent gift from the gods.
Babette’s is still a blackened mess. Workers are clearing the debris, including the sign, as curious onlookers…onlook. Meanwhile, at the Ritz, Nucky’s getting a physical from his doctor, who says he’s got a concussion and the double vision and ringing ears will go away soon. He advises bedrest, but Nucky’s got things to do. He tells Eddie to call Eli over and gets up to dress, but then feels lightheaded, so the doctor tells him to lie down and reminds him how lucky he was. Nucky briefly thinks of Billie.
Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Gyp Rosetti proved to have a short temper, Margaret acquired some new extracurricular activities, Gillian found a replacement Jimmy, and Van Alden became indebted to the Irish mob in Chicago.
Well, we’ve come down to it—the final episode of season one of Boardwalk Empire, and I have to say, I was quite pleased with it. I think it set up the start of season two quite nicely, and it wasn’t too maddening with the cliffhangers. Plus, I think just about every character who’s showed up over the course of the season was onscreen at some point (well, except Sebso, poor man), so it was like a charming reunion. With shotguns and corruption. But enough of this, on with the recap!
Van Alden kicks things off this week by–what else?—preaching. He’s reciting the words of St. Augustine to a bunch of agents gathered at the Post/Fed Field office. What he’s saying basically boils down to this—cities like AC (and Carthage in Augustine’s case) are modern-day Sodoms and Gomorrahs full of temptation that they must all resist. It seems these men are there to apply for Van Alden’s job. He warns them they’ll be bribed, coerced, and tempted every day. This prompts one guy to crack: “bring on the dancing girls,” which earns him a vicious slap across the face from Van Alden. It’s so brutal all the other guys recoil in shock. Supervisor Elliott, who’s sitting right there, does jack all, of course. Van Alden’s got the blazing crazy eyes on today, and tells the jokey recruit that his partner, Sebso, died in the line of duty of a heart attack (!!) and he won’t have his name sullied by infantile humor. He died of a heart attack in the middle of a lake? Did they not do autopsies on fairly young people who just dropped dead back then? Because if they had, I’m pretty sure those lungs would’ve been full of water, which would have put paid that heart attack excuse. Whatever, I guess we’re supposed to just accept this. But I really expect better than that from an HBO show.
We open with a strangely red-lit shot of a man who’s clearly hanging upside-down and struggling against some sort of restraints. Why, are we seeing the great Hardeen at last? Yes we (or, rather, Margaret, Nucky, Annabelle, and her idiot) are, during a semi-private show at Babette’s. Seems Hardeen’s not as good as his brother—it’s taking him quite a while to get out of those restraints, and the crowd’s getting restless. When he does finally manage to free himself, the applause is pretty weak. During the show, Annabelle notes that her idiot’s looking a bit nervous. He says it’s the show that’s making him tense, but we’ll soon learn it’s a bit more than that.
The camera pans past the waves washing up on shore while exceptionally sappy old timey music plays. We catch up to a young couple—a man and a woman, walking along the beach, all cute and cuddly. The woman playfully runs away to splash in the water, and the camera spins around the man to reveal it’s Two Face, but he’s now got one whole face—no sign of his war wounds at all. He watches the woman fondly, but then she turns and starts screaming in horror.
In non-dream world, TF is startled awake by screaming, all right, but it’s poor little Emily, Margaret’s tiny daughter, doing it, because he’s asleep on her mother’s couch with no mask on and his awful wounds out in the open for all to see. Ok, there are a few things wrong with this. Most important, why the hell is he staying here? Nucky owns an entire floor of a hotel, he couldn’t find somewhere to put a cot for this guy? Or maybe get him a room in one of the other hundred or so hotels in Atlantic City? Or maybe have him stay with Jimmy? And if he must stay at Margaret’s, why is he sleeping on the couch? She’s got three bedrooms, she can’t have the kids bunk together for a little while to avoid this exact issue?
Nucky and the boys are gathered at Eli’s bedside, examining police records and mugshots for the D’Alessio brothers. One of the cronies sighs that it’s easy to forget faces and facts in the confusion of a holdup, but Eli’s sure the guys in the picture are the ones who robbed the casino. George O’Neill, the guy whose route Eli picked up last week (and who was also the one who got robbed on the boardwalk not so long ago) picks up one of the pictures and identifies the subject as the kid who spit on him, thus precipitating said robbery. Halloran, Eli’s right-hand-man, helpfully informs Nucky that the gang they’re looking at is the D’Alessios, “Dagos out of Philly.” They’ve been busy, robbing restaurants and shooting customers and waiters. All George cares about is that the kid called him fat. Nucky gives him an identical glare to the one I’m giving him for saying something so stupid. Eli points out that these guys are pretty violent, so George got off fairly easy.
Eli, dressed in a suit instead of his customary uniform, sits expectantly at a desk—Nucky’s desk, no less—staring at the door. We can dimly hear the sound of people talking on the other side of it. Eli pushes a few things around on the desk to kill time, and finally the door opens and one of his officers comes in with the news that the voice he was just talking to was not some VIP dropping in for a face-to-face, but a drunk guy from the GM convention who got off on the wrong floor. Eli’s disappointed to learn nobody’s come to transact business, even though he’s in charge of things while Nucky’s away. He slumps back in the chair and orders the officer—evidently his replacement Eddie—to get him a cup of coffee. While the officer scurries to do so, Eli grouses that he could do Nucky’s job—the gladhanding and bad-joke-telling—pretty well himself.
As the officer sets the coffee down, someone finally knocks on the door, and in comes one of Nucky’s collections guys (he looks vaguely familiar, but I don’t recall a name). The guy’s surprised for a second to see Eli there, but then remembers that Nucky’s in Chicago. Eli asks, a little harshly, what the guy wants, and the guy explains that his daughter’s being fitted for her leg braces on Friday (polio victim, I’m guessing) and he was hoping to take the day off to be there. Eli tells him it’s ok and the guy leaves.
We start off with a close up of someone reading the Chicago Daily Tribune, so we know where we are. The paper is folded up by the reader, and now we see we’re in a diner with a really cool stained glass frieze around the upper edge of the windows. A police officer sitting at the counter turns as another customer enters, sits down, and orders his usual—corned beef hash and eggs. The cop eyes the man (whom I didn’t actually recognize, but we learn soon enough this is the guy who slashed up Pearl), then gets up and makes his way to a nearby phone booth.
At Torrio’s, Al’s on the phone, presumably speaking with the cop from the diner. Al thanks him, calls him a credit to the force, and hangs up before making his way into a nearby room, where Jimmy’s laid out on a sofa, nursing his aching leg. Al cheers him up with the news that Pearl’s attacker’s currently enjoying a nice breakfast in a diner, and apparently does so quite often. Jimmy takes this news fairly emotionlessly.