New Show Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Acres of Diamonds”

Norma Neufner, Lady OfficerNew Show Recap6 Comments

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Following three seasons of the incredibly charming, though massively flawed Gillian Darmody as a staple of the show, she was a welcome returning character after being absent in Episode 2. After the almost-coup of last season culminating in a massacre in The Artemis Club, Gillian’s brothel, she’s left with no business to run and a bloody and abandoned house of ill repute.

Her new heroin habit that we were introduced to in Episode 1 has taken hold. While she’s been entertaining Mr. Piggly-Wiggly and keeping his polite company, he’s becoming accustomed to her charming ways. At his request, she attends a client supper posing as his wife. During a night-cap at a nearby diner, she’s recognized (at this point it’s a wonder she’s not “recognized” everywhere she goes, considering the past we’ve seen) by the friend of a boy she slept with and then murdered through an overdose last year. A boy who looks just like her disappeared and assumed dearly departed son Jimmy (a staple of the first two seasons of the show). Gillian has demons, and after bumping in the bathroom, Roy seems to start to understand her need for mystique.

Richard comes to us in a stark 180 from most times we see him. This week, he’s burying the pistol, seemingly holding up on his claim that he wants no more of the killing. He and Emma have seemed to have reached a familial level of comfort with each other but while he is cleaning out the barn and scrounging for nursery room baubles, we’re shown the monster inside. Moments after picking up two stuffed animals for the nursery, he takes off his face mask (placed there to hide the atrocities of war). We see that he truly has two faces and that no matter what he says, there is a monster waiting underneath the mask. Seconds later, Carl Billings of the botched train agreement shows up. Even though it looks like Billings and his muscle have the drop on Richard, Richard deftly stabs the goon with a knife he found and secretly stuffed up his sleeve while rummaging for baby things. Priorities, Richard, priorities. While on the ground, his mask falls off and Billings holds a gun to Richard’s face, telling him he is doing him a favor. In what seems to be Richard’s last seconds, Emma comes to the rescue, shooting Billings from behind and losing hope for Richard all at the same time. Her last words to him as he leaves are that he needs to hold himself to account.

Being home certainly didn’t last long for Richard and Emma, which is a shame because I hoped that Emma was going to be one of the strong women characters this season.

Dr. Narcisse’s motivations are further explored in Episode 3. At the head of a roomful of black men, Narcisse extols the importance of brotherhood among the “Libyans” (what he calls African Americans) in owning absolute power. Moments later, (my favourite) Arnold Rothstein shows up to talk business. Now that Narcisse has stuck his foot in the door of the Atlantic City gangland, he’s wasting no time in trying to make moves. A tapestry with the words “Universal Negro Improvement Association” hangs loudly behind Rothstein as Narcisse deals for heroin (a lot of it) and a promise that he’ll only sell to black people.

As a self-imposed “partner” to Chalky’s growing success, the Onyx club and hotel, Narcisse brings by the alluring songbird Miss Maitland. While Chalky is busy being twitterpated (along with the white folks in the audience), Narcisse slithers into what until now seemed like another tight spot. In a plot point parallel to Gillian’s, Narcisse frames Chalky’s right-hand man and talent scout murderer as a “brute,” but later propositions Dunn with a plan. Heroin can make great men fall, even the great Chalky White.

Lead man Nucky has spent the entirety of his screen time in Florida, for business, not pleasure – this is Nucky Thompson we’re talking about. At the request of his associate, McCoy, Nucky goes to a speakeasy called Sally’s to talk to the big man around town, Tucker, about land deals that Nucky should buy into. Not impressed with Tucker’s backwoods attitude and Southern drawl (Nucky is an elitist, naturally), he sends McCoy into a binge of booze and coconuts (seriously, he drinks so much coconut water in this episode). He needed Nucky to make a deal with Tucker to settle a bad deal he owes the man for, but he unfortunately couldn’t lead Nucky into the deal.

Bored and out of booze, Nucky returns to the speakeasy and meets its namesake, Sally (Patricia Arquette). When we first met Sally, I was hoping she’d coalesce into the strong woman character we’ve been wanting. And, in all of her Patricia Arquette coquettish glory, she charms and intrigues Nucky by telling him that, “Anybody that says money don’t buy happiness don’t know where to shop.” She also observes that while Tucker is, in fact, a dummy, with enough money and the right partners, you can do pretty much anything you want down in Florida. With that, a deal is struck and my heart sings at the emergence of a good solid lead woman character.

Since Nucky loves smart and savvy women, I see a lot of Sally in our futures. Nucky calls old Coconut McCoy the morning after to tell him that he’s had a change of heart and wants in on the deal. But, on McCoy’s end, we’re treated to a gory murder scene after a scuffle with Tucker the night before. As the camera pulls back on a machete embedded in Tucker’s coconut, we watch a moth hovering around the dim bulb hanging from the ceiling.

Nucky is ultimately drawn to the promise of big money in the swamplands of Florida. But, more importantly, like a moth to a flame, he is drawn to Sally and her bold, yet understated intelligence.

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Norma Neufner, Lady OfficerNew Show Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Acres of Diamonds”

6 Comments on “New Show Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Acres of Diamonds””

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  1. Profile photo of MJ
    MJ

    I think Narcisse could take a lesson from The Wire: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

    For the record, my money’s on Chalky.

  2. Profile photo of CijiTheGeek
    CijiTheGeek

    Narcisse is a fascinating addition to the show. He’s all Lybian advancement but will sell heroin to his own people. It’s clear he makes a distinction between Negroes who are worthy and those who are not. I can’t wait to see more of him and Chalky. Still rooting for Chalky though.

    1. Profile photo of Norma Neufner, Lady Officer
      Norma Neufner, Lady Officer

      I love the addition of Narcisse, for a lot of reasons. One being that it brings more discussion of race and race relations to the show and two, because I think it allows us to see more into Chalky’s world.

      Narcisse’s hierarchy of worth is very interesting to me and I think will lead to some really interesting scenes this season. When in one episode we see that Narcisse wants to rise about his white oppressors but then makes a deal to sell heroine to black people in his community is an interesting dichotomy (and maybe a comment on racism internalized if you want to go there), but is also a tool to show Narcisse’s personality – is he sociopathic? there’s a chance (he is the big bad of the season after all and the show loves sociopaths), but will he be morally blurry at times? probably. Because there will certainly be undertones of “that was called for” during his decision making process I’m sure.

      I agree – I think he also has a hierarchy in his mind of black people who are worthy and at his level, and those who aren’t. I get the sense that he is okay with using or abusing even people from his own neighbourhood to climb to the top because they are collateral damage to him.

  3. Profile photo of freckle [M]
    freckle [M]

    Yes, I’m up to date! Sort of. I watched the past three episodes of season 4 and am starting to get familiar with most of the characters again. I really hope the amount of Chalky and his adventures will stay like this.

    1. Profile photo of Norma Neufner, Lady Officer
      Norma Neufner, Lady Officer

      I think that a lot of fans have been clamouring for more Chalky since the very beginning. When he first appeared he was written a little differently than he is now, but I actually like where they took him in season two – as the boss of the north side of Atlantic city (the Nucky of the North so to speak). I love that he is a major character and that so much of this season so far seems to be taking place in that world.

      I think it’s opening up a lot of good opportunity for critical thought and discussion. Having so many scenes take place in the Onyx Club is lending the show to a lot of glimpses into important topics that haven’t really been explored so much in the show yet.

      1. Profile photo of freckle [M]
        freckle [M]

        One of the shallow reasons is that I’m more interested in his backstory and find it easier to follow because there are much more distinctive features than white men trying to backstab each other. I believe his balance with family life/successful business man will bite him in the ass one day, but until them it makes him a much more rounded character.

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