Written by: Howard Korder, Christine Chambers and Riccardo DiLoreto
The Spin: Coulter masterminded his best Scorsese impression, harkening back to the style of the Marty helmed pilot, with montages and narration and a tick-tock-gun-shot-gavel-pounding score accentuating this written-by-committee penultimate episode. It was a refreshing and impressive piece of workmanship coming off the jaw-dropping events of the previous episode and the scattershot nature of the season prior to this.
AS ALWAYS, BEWARE OF SPOILERS: The gang war between Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Nucky reaches a fever pitch that results in the nabbing of Ben Siegel (Michael Zegan) as a bargaining chip. Luciano one-ups Nucky, however, by nabbing Eli’s eldest son (Ben Rosenfield) in return. Continue reading →
The Spin: SUPER DUPER SPOILERS AHEAD – A skipping record plays over the closing credits of Korder’s masterfully penned slow-build to the two-fold finale, and Daughter Maitland’s (Margot Bingham) rendition of “Dream a Little Dream” haunts the hour as our dear Chalky (Michael K. Williams) makes a deal with the devil Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) in order to give Daughter and her/his daughter a chance (even if only in a dream). It’s been a roller coaster season of highs and lows and mostly frustration, but Korder, who has always been the most reliable of the Boardwalk scribes, operates on this one with the expert precision of a Shakespearian surgeon. Did anyone ever really doubt this was a tragedy?
Mud, despite its name, is anything but muddy. It’s a finely tuned man’s-man tearjerker about boys coming-of-age, fathers realizing what’s important, the women they love and the trouble we’re all capable of making for ourselves and others. Writer director Jeff Nichols (who previously haunted us with another fine piece of blistering Americana in Take Shelter) crafts the film like an adaptation of a long-lost great American novel, framing it with a strong plot and filling it to the brim with fulfilling character arcs, character foils, and visual motifs of migrating birds, slippery snakes, open windows and the great wide flowing waters of the Mississippi.
Mud sure is a tale, but it’s also a man – a man called Mud, played with crafted precision by good ol’boy Matthew McConaughey, who in the past few years with roles in films like Bernie, Killer Joe and now Mud, has eradicated the stank left on him from years of bad rom-coms and “sexiest man alive” shenanigans to emerge as a truly great (dare I say method) actor. Here he’s a man in hiding on an island out in the middle of the Mississippi River running through Arkansas. He’s discovered by a pair of young teenage boys: good-hearted, sensitive and eager-to-throw-a-punch Ellis (Tye Sheridan, who previously only got to cry and play in The Tree of Life, but here emerges as an appealing young actor worth watching for in the future) and shit-talkin’ smart-as-a-whip Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who ventured out to the island on the promise of finding a cool-ass boat lodged in a treetop (“A helluva thing,” says Mud). Turns out Mud’s been living in that helluva thing, and boy, does he have some stories for them boys. Continue reading →
The Spin: It was a tense hour as two oncoming “showdowns” ran parallel in this David Stenn penned episode. First, Nucky joins Slater (Charlie Cox) on a run to finally take out Roland Smith – the last guy Manny was supposed to have taken care of. Turns out Roland Smith is just a kid – a charming chap with plenty of moxy who was also being trailed by the Feds who come crashing down on his hideout forcing Nucky, Slater and the kid to bond in the cellar and wait things out. There Nucky tests Slater’s loyalty, and once free and clear, comes to terms with his new nature, making it clear to Slater who is boss. Secondly, idiot extraordinaire Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) decides to run Rothstein’s shipment through Tabor Heights (which is increasingly becoming like a Middle East occupied territory) despite Nucky’s clear orders and the wise protest of Eli (Shea Whigham) leading to a Gyp-ordered massacre that at the end of the episode throws Eli back into Nucky’s confidence.
Meanwhile, there was nice little side-story in Chicago where the writers finally found something interesting to do with Al Capone (Stephen Graham, whom I’ve slighted before but pulled off a nice performance tonight). We get to see Al’s softer side as he comes to the defense of his deaf son and the fat slob of a collector working for Torrio. Seems he’s becoming a champion of the defenseless, even if it involves beating a man to death. The closing rendition of Capone playing “My Buddy” on the mandolin while his little boy “listens” by touching his father’s throat was another sweet, melancholy moment in an increasingly melancholy season. I couldn’t help getting misty as it transitioned into playing over the scene of Eli “reuniting” with Nucky at night in the cold on the boardwalk – the pretty lights strung up over the damp wooden planks – the Empire quietly lying down for a winter’s nap…for now. For there’s a war brewing. Continue reading →
The Spin: Here I was thinking tonight’s episode was another food-themed affair after last week’s “Spaghetti and Coffee” – but the title is instead a riff on the Italian for “Good luck” – a play on words that Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Canavale) takes as a personal insult after Nucky tries to repair their relationship to avoid bloodshed. This was a finely nuanced affair that gazed deeply into the dominant arcs for our main characters. Nucky is heartbroken and guilt-ridden over killing Jimmy while Margaret appeases her own guilt for being a “gangster’s wife” by conning the hospital’s head-honcho into opening a women’s clinic by getting the Bishop to give his blessing to the idea. Meanwhile, Gyp sees an opportunity in Gillian (Gretchen Mol – receiving one golden moment tonight to paint a look of regret as wide as the Atlantic Ocean on her beautiful face when remarking that one has nothing if they don’t have their own flesh and blood) to find out secrets about Nucky. Out near Cicero, The Muller formally known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon) finds himself in an ironic pickle when he gets bullied by coworkers into going to a speakeasy only to see the place get busted. Lastly, that world-class moron Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) tries to be a bad-ass by telling people he killed Manny leading Harrow (Jack Huston) to a revelatory confrontation with Nucky. Continue reading →
The Spin: Home is where the spaghetti and coffee are in this Winter & Korder penned family-focused episode. That old dope Eli (Shea Whigham) must’ve learned him a few things in prison as he comes out contemplative and humbled to a loving brood of children and a kind wife he knows he doesn’t deserve while having to suffer the humiliation of now working under that even bigger dope Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks). Meanwhile, Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) shows up and is served a compelling self-contained story-arc concerning his eldest daughter. After having a turn of heart and blessing her well-groomed boyfriend’s intent to marry her (a doctor will be good for the family is his train of thought), his daughter rebuffs the idea thinking her suitor a bore and longing for the romantic thrills of gangster life. Well, my friends, expect a lesson to be learned here. Chalky ain’t havin’ none of that youthful foolishness in his house. Up in NYC, Nucky can’t seem to get enough of that youthful foolishness and has become totally enamored with the flighty but charming Billie Kent (Meg Steedle – again stealing the show) to the point it might affect business. Lo and behold, in Tabor Heights, Gyp Rosetti (an increasingly interesting Bobby Cannavale) sets up shop to get back at Rothstein and Nucky for their rebuke of his business offer last week by blocking their fuel supply on their route from AC to NYC. Continue reading →
Boardwalk Empire– Under God’s Power She Flourishes
Season Two: Episode Eleven
Directed by: Allen Coulter
Written by: Howard Korder
The Spin: Well, my friends, Angela (Aleksa Palladino) may have lived one episode longer through a flashback, but it was Gillian (Gretchen Mol) whose insidious ways haunted the hour. Here we learn the back story of how/why Jimmy (Michael Pitt) left Princeton and joined the Army. Korder and Coulter cinematically weaved the long flashback into the current proceedings where an air of melancholy hung over various characters in dire straits who made desperate plays to turn the tides. What’s that, Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks)? The Italians told you to go screw yourself? So why not try to screw them by brokering a deal with Van Alden (Michael Shannon)? Well, guess what, you moop, Van Alden is too busy getting ratted on concerning his 86-ing of his Number 2 — ahhh…remember that baptism by drowning last season? Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) must’ve thought it was Christmas as just as she was tying the rope tighter around Nucky’s neck, in comes the surprise that Van Alden murdered a fella, too. But that screwy Van Alden pulls a fast (and dumb) one before he can be brought in by shooting Esther’s Number 2 in the foot…and here we had just gotten some juicy back story to his childhood, too, that explained an awful lot. And then there’s Margaret…coming to blows with Nucky after she receives a subpoena…but she stops short of telling him her most damning sin. Still it was refreshing to see Nucky in the classiest of ways threaten his paramour. “If you don’t know me by my Word, then you don’t know me at all,” he says to her. Sounds an awful lot like her God. Continue reading →
The Spin: It seemed like a ho-hum episode from Podeswa and Flebotte. Everyone was doing their schtick. Jimmy was proving to be completely ineffective, getting a lashing from his stroke-ridden pops while failing to broker a deal with Chalky to end the strike. The impatient hotheads from New York were getting on his case and trying to open up the heroin market in light of Nucky’s Irish whiskey run flooding AC. That saucy ADA (Julianne Nicholson) arrested that dope Eli (Shea Whigham) in hopes of getting him to squeal on Nucky concerning the disposal of a certain Hans Schroeder. Naturally Margaret saw poor Emily’s polio as an indictment from God regarding her sinful ways, while her son – desperate for attention – decided to accuse Nucky of burning down the homestead (ah – remember that from last season?) while Nucky took him to New York to meet with Rothstein’s lawyer concerning his troublesome case. But don’t worry, Nuck – the kid won’t tell no one. And lastly that silly Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) gets caught in the middle trying to make amends with a none-too-pleased Manny (William Forsythe). Which in all its slow-paced, period music accompanied glory led us to…. Continue reading →
The Spin: The latest Winter/Van Patten hour opens in purely Sopranos-esque style with Nucky’s dream. Oh, the symbolism! Oh, what does it all mean? Where’s Dr. Melfi when you need her? What transpires next is possibly the series’ finest hour. Behold! – Nucky’s old pap bites the dust. At last! – The Schroeder kids start callin’ ol’ Nuck “Dad.” Look Yonder! – It’s Torrio and Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) meeting up with Nucky to discuss the little problem with their underlings. Apparently Rothstein is the 1920’s gangster version of our own modern-day Warren Buffett advising the others to wait…wait…wait…and then place the perfect bet. And then! – After his own brush with death last week, Nucky sees all the signs and tells his enemies he’s resigning and stepping down to retire with his new “wife and kids.” Oh, brutha, but even Nucky’s own dumb-as-dirt brother (Shea Whigham) knows that Nucky is smarter than Jimmy – he’s smarter than them all. And we know that Nucky is bamboozling his enemies into thinking they’ve won – as you see, he’s plotting with Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) to shut down the city with a strike and arranging for Slater (Charles Cox) to take him over to Belfast and arrange a meeting…for perhaps a little arms dealing? While pouty-lipped Jimmy is too dumb to realize his wife (Aleksa Palladino) is about to hook-up with novelist Louise, he takes out his blind frustrations by throwing the even stupider Mickey Doyle (whose laughing now, buddy?) from the balcony of Babette’s during their evening of celebration. Continue reading →