Boardwalk Empire: All In, Review

It's all fun and games on the boardwalk until somebody loses an eye.

It’s game night on Boardwalk Empire and the usual players are “All In.” Arnold Rothstein sets the tone by observing that you can learn a lot about a man by the way he plays cards. Rothstein will bank a game at $100,000, just to get to know Nucky Thompson. Everyone plays tonight as new alliances and friendships are made. It’s all fun until somebody loses an eye, as Van Alder, I mean George Mueller witnesses when his boss Dean O’Banion’s roughhousing goes a little too far. He’s not happy with O’Banion. Sure he pays him enough but he gets no respect.

Arnold Rothstein is a degenerate gambler. Who’da thunk? This is the guy who’s been known as “The Brain” in mobster mythology. On Boardwalk Empire, he’s been shown as nothing less than a cautious professional who keeps his cards close to his vest. He never gets ruffled. Not really. And he always figures out all the angles before he makes a play. If the game doesn’t feel right, he walks away. And then comes back to break the bank. And standing over his shoulder is Meyer Lansky, advising, cautioning and keeping tabs on every slight given to A.R., because Rothstein is, indeed, a great man who occasionally runs into rough patches. If this seems like it’s not being true to character, it’s not really a cheat. Gamblers who don’t like to lose never blow their poker face when they’re winning. This will be borne out to its ultimate conclusion with Rothstein because, in real life, it was a gambling debt that did him in.

The Capones really were fun guys. Sure, The Untouchables, both the TV show and the movie, branded Al Capone as nothing but a bully, but look who wrote that show: J. Edgar Hoover, public scumbag number 1. The Capone brothers knew how to have a good time and how to make the people around them feel appreciated. Hey, Al can tell Jake Guzik (Joe Caniano) he smells like a sardine’s twat, but fuck anyone else who treats one of his friends with disrespect. Respect is a big thing. Sure, the Capone brothers might be gruff and wild, but Italians have a thing about respect. It’s important to show respect to those who deserve respect and never to humiliate anyone who might twist a knife in you later.

George Mueller isn’t getting his due and Al and Frank Capone can see that. They turn a bad day into a night on the town. Jake’s ticker sputtered while he was in the middle of making collections and in a happy moment of reminiscence Al and Frank, who haven’t made collections since they were in Brooklyn shaping up for Frankie Yale, think it might be a fun old time to finish Jake’s rounds. They bring the big O’Banion man along, cos he’s gotta be good for laughs. The Capones treat Mueller to some excitement a night away from the balls and chains of wives and rival bosses. This is just some guys having a good time, breaking balls and bagging bucks. They might be a little rough around the edges, but the Capones are friendly to Mueller. They treat him as equal. He is, basically. He’s just a soldier in another gang. Mueller knows the score and hey, what’s a little thing like a witness to come between them. George’s gun got a little jammed, Al stepped right in. Didn’t even have be asked. Nobody fucks with one of our own and if you’re not one of us, yet, keep your options open. You might get a house with indoor plumbing.

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Meanwhile, on a trip from Chicago in Atlantic City, Al and Frank’s brother Ralph “Bottles” Capone (Domenick Lombardozzi) is getting to know Nucky’s wet nurse, Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura), who is actually a wet nurse no more. Eddie got a promotion and he takes his new duties very seriously. Ralph, respects that, but really, he doesn’t have to be too serious now, does he? Eddie and Bottles grab a bite and some coffee with a little extra. Bottles is fun, friendly and ready to try some German songs as Eddie shows him his part of town. It was heartwarming to see Eddie loosen up and let go a little bit. He’s got two sons. His wife died and they were big enough to look after themselves so he came to America and has been working for Nucky for 11 years. Eddie and Bottles toast new beginnings and it looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship until the Feds show up trying to break a weak link.

Harlem has a great history of being a center of social change. In the twenties, white people slummed there in the finest that the high life had to offer. All around them was the low life, where only crime paid more than minimum wage in a place where there were no unions around to bust heads to make sure a wage was paid. Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) makes the trek to Harlem to pay his dues and respects to of Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright). Purnsley makes his visit to the good doctor in his office at the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which is not the place Dr. Narcisse takes appointments with the like of Mr. Purnsley. As the pair walk up to 127th Street, Dr. Narcisse explains what sucks the life out of his Libyan brothers and sisters, or in Pursley’s broad-featured case, Senegambia or Noambo, and the soon-to-be former Chalky White henchman needs no explanation. He’s on the case, letting Dr. Narcisse enlighten the darkened souls of Uptown Manhattan. Meanwhile in the jazzy part of Atlantic City, Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) is keeping a cool distance from Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham).

O’Banion’s not the only one who goes a little too far with his pranks. Willie Thompson (Ben Rosenfield) decides to get some payback on the preppie assholes at college that are making his every boner a lesson in humility. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an intestine.


Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars


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4 out of 5