Boardwalk Empire: New York Sour (Season Four Premiere)

Thank god for Harrow.
Thank god for Harrow.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – New York Sour

Season Four: Episode One

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter, Howard Korder

The Spin:  The theme of the evening was deception: people pretending to be what they are not, or pretending to work the system better than the next person, when in fact they’re setting themselves up for their own comeuppance.

It’s the dead of winter, 1924, and Nucky is making peace with Masseria and Rothstein when Eddie Cantor introduces him to the next pretty gal, who turns out to be no Billie Kent, at Chalky’s hot new Onyx club.  Meanwhile, Gillian is embroiled in a custody battle with the Sagorskys over Tommy and pretending to sell her now empty manor when in fact she’s selling herself all doped up.  Back in Cicero, Al Capone is busy making a name for himself.

This curiously disjointed season premiere spent far too much time on a brutish subplot involving Chalky’s right-hand man getting into quite a mess with a sleazy talent agent and his slinky, kinky wife, though that wasn’t the worst of things tonight.  There was also a painfully dull cliché of a plotline involving Eli’s eldest college-age son mawkishly wanting to learn “the family business.”

I was ready to give up on the sour hour if it weren’t for the as-yet-to-be-explained cross country-killing spree of last year’s best character – Harrow – as he made his way in the last scene (SPOILER ALERT)…home…and to his estranged sister.

Noticeably absent from the hour were the two characters writers had the hardest time with last year:  Van Alden – victim of “how the hell do we fit him into the greater story?” character killing, and Margaret – long-suffering “woe as me” mater-familias.

New Characters to Watch:  Ron Livingston has joined the cast as an alleged Piggly Wiggly exec (yes, you read that right) who seems like he might want to woo Gillian…but obviously there is something more going on there.  Meanwhile, a novice FBI agent pulls the table on his superior in the episode’s most disjointed (but also most surprising) subplot and is sure to become some kind of player in the game in the weeks to come.

Wait Until Next Week:  Looks like Van Alden will be back, Jeffrey Wright’s new character will make his first appearance, and what the heck is Ron Livingston’s character up to?  And what kind of strange hell at home will Harrow be subjected to?  Though ultimately disappointing, the season premiere certainly set up enough interesting threads for the new season that will hopefully be the type of high quality drama we’ve all come to expect.

Commentary by David H. Schleicher

To my readers and Boardwalk strollers:  Thoughts, reactions, comments?


  1. Watching the Boardwalk Empire season opener right after Breaking Bad highlights how woefully inferior the former show is compared to the latter. Like you, I felt this opener was disjointed and haphazardly drawn out. The producers go out of their way to up the “brutish” ante, when they should develop their characters and storylines to greater effect. After three seasons of erratic highs and lows, I’ve accepted that Boardwalk Empire is a strictly second tier HBO show. This drudges up feelings of disappointment because greatness was in their grasp…

    • Maurizio – I would argue that if you look at The Soprano’s Seasons 3 through the end…Boardwalk Empire is actually a more consistent show (and stacking the first two seasons of Sopranos vs. first two seasons of BE – it’s pretty close). I like that no matter what, the plot and stories keep moving forward and shit keeps happening – reminds me of a longer-running Rome. There is always “action”. Granted, sometimes it is clichéd or disjointed, and it suffers from “too many characters in the room” ala Game of Thrones…but it’s always consistently entertaining and there are occasionally absolute gems of episodes in terms of the writing. I still think it’s the best show currently in production on HBO, so to say it’s a second tier HBO show is unfair.

      However, if you put it up against Mad Men on AMC or Homeland on Showtime, then you could argue it’s flaws more clearly, I think. But hell, Mad Men MIGHT BE the greatest television drama of all time, so again, unfair to compare.

      Granted, I can not compare it to Breaking Bad as I have never seen that show…I consider that a malady I need to remedy one of these days…I just don’t have the time to commit to starting it from the beginning and catching up (talk to me in five years and it might be a different story ha ha).

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