The Spin: Director Coulter takes advantage of this being the last season by adding some compelling directorial flourishes, and was that a nod to Twin Peaks and Lynch in the opening “through an ear” dissonant audio-visual cross-cuts, which were bookended nicely in the end with an all-too noticeable missing ear? It’s nice to see the regular series directors give it their all, but it has me worried that Winter felt the need for such a ho-hum filler episode when the there’s only six left to go after this. This week we got (mis)treated to some bizarre sequences in a women’s sanatorium where Gillian (Gretchen) has been spending her days that played with our prurient-minded expectations, continued grim flashbacks to Nucky’s childhood, Nucky turning to Torrio to see who tried to nab him last week in Cuba, Lansky still plotting with Luciano and Siegel to up their game (at the Nuckster’s expense?), the Muller formerly known as Van Alden still making a mess of things at home and at work (with no help from a drunk-as-a-skunk Eli), Capone getting all Capone-y (seriously his character has become a clichéd bore after some shining moments in seasons’ past), young Will Thompson vying for an Assistant DA spot, and some distracting Look, Ma, who it is! guest-appearances by Joe Kennedy Sr. (Matt Letscher) and Eliot Ness.
The Spin: The final season opens with the haunting Gretchen Mol reading a voice-over from the children’s periodical “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” where she’s seemingly telling the young lads we see diving into ocean after coins, “Be honest and true boys! Whatever you do boys, let this be your motto through life.” A moving flashback to Nucky’s hardscrabble childhood in 1884 Atlantic City (which was merely a pier and one Corner Hotel on a tiny boardwalk) is expertly interwoven into a flash forward to 1931, where will the help of the effervescent and ever-saucy Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette, all bosoms and moxy), the Nuckster has become Our Man in Havana, using a screwy senator as his pawn to talk a Rum King into hatching a deal to get Bacardi into the States as soon as Prohibition is inevitably repealed. But trouble always seems to find our anti-hero, and Havana might be too hot to handle for the aging kingpin, who for the first time in his life is placing his biggest bet on a legal operation. Continue reading →
The Spin: The title of the fourth season finale may have been “Farewell Daddy Blues” (and Daughter Maitland blesses us with down-and-out moody blues over the signature closing montage) but “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” could’ve easily been an alternate title. If the penultimate episode was a prime example of tight focus on just a few characters, the finale proved how effortlessly Winter and Korder are able to pack so much into a single hour, and how unpredictable their Empire can be. This hour was a doozy.
The Spin: Korder again proves to be the best series scribe with this crown jewel of an episode, a tightly focused hour of drama featuring the richest characters Boardwalk has to offer, executed with the skill of a master chef as a slow boiling fifty minutes culminated with a steam whistle in the final five. This is what television drama is all about in the new golden age – blisteringly cinematic, tight, and dramatic tension crafted from interesting characters we have come to know over the years living on the razor’s edge.
The Spin: As much as Nucky has tried to stay out of the Chaky-Narcisse War, he can’t help but get sucked in when he learns Narcisse is in cahoots with not only Masseria’s clandestine Tampa heroin run (of which he got tipped off by stalwart Sally) but also with his puppet Mayor (whom he learns about from the trusty Willie). Meanwhile he’s completely oblivious to Eli’s ongoing betrayal. Elsewhere up in New York, Rothstein makes an interesting deal with a desperate to be independent but still all kind of cutesy-crooked Margaret. Out in Chicago, a newly confident Muller is in like Flynn with Capone and gang who are celebrating high off the hog, hooch and hookers oblivious to the obvious retaliation brewing in the wake of Obanion’s obituary. Continue reading →
Written by: David Matthews, Jennifer Ames and Steve Turner
The Spin: With the help of Roy (Ron Livingston) acting as her lover and confidant, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) has cleaned herself in her attempt to win the Tommy custody battle, but a shady phone call hints at Roy not being so forthcoming. Meanwhile, Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) suspects her father’s terminal illness and gets married to Harrow (John Huston), who now comes crawling back to Nucky looking for steady work to support his family.
In other marital news, Muller (Michael Shannon) gets tired of being berated by his wife and bullied by Capone and regains some of his old Van Alden bad-assery. Continue reading →
Written by: Christine Chambers, Howard Korder and Terence Winter
The Spin: Sally (Patricia Arquette) surprises Nucky by arriving in AC along with the first shipment of booze from Tampa, but Nucky is still too busy trying patch things up between Eli (Shea Whigham) and his son Willie (Ben Rosenfield). What he doesn’t realize, though, is that Agent Fox (Brian Geraghty) has been clued into the mysterious nature of Willie’s schoolmate’s death and how his roommate got charged with the murder. Thus he visits the poor kid in the slammer and gets the real scoop. This allows Fox to brazenly approach Eli with an ultimatum.
But the really interesting action this evening was the Chalky vs. Narcisse plotline, which got even hotter and heavier. Continue reading →
The Spin: Is it just me or are there some stories just being drug out for too long this season?
Case 1 – Eli’s son Willie (the first doppelgänger/Poe connection of the night) continues to be riddled with guilt (we get it) and starts a bit of a family row at pop’s house.
Case 2 – Don’t get me wrong, I love Gretchen Mol’s Gillian, but her detox scenes in this episode seemed trite as did her blossoming love affair with Office Space guy (Ron Livingston) while under his watchful care.
However, there was still plenty of intrigue. Margaret (the regular-again-it-seems Kelly Macdonald), it turns out, is working for a shady stock broker and helping him swindle customers into shaky deals. Into the office, under his own disguise, walks…you guessed it, Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg). Continue reading →
The Spin: Symbolically characters in tonight’s episode were searching for their “north star” which often came in the form of women and families. Eli (Shea Whigham) wondered how Eddie could take his life like that, leaving children behind, while that crafty double agent Fed insinuated his way into the lesser Thompson’s confidence. Harrow (Jack Huston) made his way back to Atlantic City to find the elder Sargorsky diagnosed with cirossis and Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) making a sincere plea that she can’t raise little Tommy (now obsessed with star-gazing and mapping his way home) alone. Then there’s Chalky (Michael K. Williams) falling under the spell of Narcisse’s songstress, who gives a mesmerizing performance of “St. Louis Blues” at the Onyx Club.
Before venturing off down south, Nucky, seemingly directionless without Eddie, stopped in New York to deliver a belated birthday present and the personal news of Eddie’s demise to Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) in a sad attempt to weasel his way back into her life.
Meanwhile, down in Tampa, things are getting soupier than a hopped-up alligator wrestling match. Continue reading →
The Spin: Betrayal, dishonor, broken families and broken hearts were the themes of tonight’s richly composed Korder penned episode. As one of the empire’s dearest characters sang his swan song, Van Patten directed with a heavy Coen-esque pall in one of the most hauntingly photographed hours in the series history.
Eli’s dumb son plotline finely blossomed into something of substance, as Willie is brought in for questioning regarding his schoolmate’s gruesome poisoning and reaches out to Uncle Nucky in his time of need. The Nuckster, always calm under stress, crafts a deal with the DA that involves Willie selling his innocent roommate down the river. He ends up with a sweet crying gal in his arms, but he couldn’t be more torn up on the inside as he realizes the life he wanted is full of heartache, lies, death and an Uncle who will always be calling the shots.
Meanwhile, Gillian (Gretchen Mol – once again signing a letter to the Emmy voters – I mean, seriously, how has she not been nominated yet?) reaches rock bottom with her dope addiction as the Tommy custody case seems to be coming to a close and is not going her way. Mol imbues so much nuance and nerve into her performance, you actually find yourself feeling sorry for Gillian, as if the poor girl after all she has been through can’t help herself…could never help herself…and Piggly Wiggly Roy (Ron Livingston) asks her a dangerous question in his sincere play to take care of her and help her find redemption. But oh boy, Roy, I don’t know what you’re going to do if she ever tells you all the horrible things she’s done. Continue reading →