Boardwalk Empire, Erlkonig, Review

Loyal friends go down.

Poor Eddie. Poor Gillian. Poor Frank. Poor Clayton. Boo fucking hoo. That’s life on the Boardwalk, where it’s too close to the ocean for tears to make much difference. Let’s start with Clayton. Clayton’s what the press calls collateral damage. In this case he’s collateral damage in the war on justice and Willie Thompson (Ben Rosenfield) just got drafted. Willie and Clayton slipped some kid Bucky a mickey because he put on airs. The rich preppie with the old line Republican parents thought he could mess with the working class kid who was really connected. Connected enough to bring booze to a party when the whole country’s under blue law. It’s not a good idea to humiliate a guy who’ll walk through a compound of guys with Tommy guns for a case of rye. If that guy doesn’t have stone balls already, he knows someone who does.

In this case, Willie knows his uncle Nucky (Steve Buscemi). The man with the plans. Give him a little time and Nucky sees what’s going on. It takes Willie a couple takes to get up to speed himself, but hey, he’s good Irish kid who can stick to his story once he figures out what it is. And what it is is this: he just went to the party. There was booze there already. Bucky was his good friend and wow, do you ever really know your roommate? I mean what kind of person goes around poisoning people? Not good people like the Thompsons who gave enough of themselves build a real community. Atlantic City is no Philadelphia and it’s a good thing, too, with college kids poisoning college kids like it’s a frat haze. Willie is on his way to the inside. He is just beginning to see that he’s being groomed for something bigger. Like his uncle Nucky was groomed by the Commodore to run the finances of the party city by the sea. He should listen to his Dutch uncle. He knows his shit.

A little bit of college goes a long way in a world of crime. Ask Joe Bonanno. He pledged his loyalty to the father of his family because Salvatore Maranzano was an educated mobster. Most of the mobsters who made names for themselves were a little smarter than the dollar guys. The ones who’d take a dollar to rob a store. A dollar to drive a getaway car. A dollar to shoot someone. Ask Ralph Capone (Domenick Lombardozzi). He’s not in on the muscle end of business. He makes sure the books look right. That takes brains. That takes numbers. People like Arnold Rothstein had brains and knew numbers and he became a great man. Why shouldn’t Willie Thompson? He can keep his head in bad situations and now that uncle Nucky’s explains he can start to forget those faces that he can barely remember already. That rage is a gift, if he knows how to use it and never gets caught. I learned from The Departed that the Irish are the only nationality immune to psychotherapy. You can live with a lot if you bury it deep enough.

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Buried deep in the heart of some non-descript dump apartment is Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura). Eddie’s being sweated by Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty). Eddie hasn’t really done anything wrong. He hasn’t broken any laws, at least nothing that the Feds have on him. He keeps that gun for protection against Apaches. They run rampant on the boardwalk and you always have to be prepared. You see, Eddie is a loyal soldier. He believes in loyalty and honor. He abandoned his family in Prussia because he couldn’t live up to his own code. All his sons know about their father is that he’s a thief and a liar who split with the girl at the store counter. Those kinds of things never last and Eddie’s kids changed their names from shame.

All that loyalty means shit, though, when you’re a fucking rat. It doesn’t matter how small a detail you give up. You give the cops something, anything, and you don’t deserve to pick your boss’ socks. Kind of a shame he had such a nice picture window. I’d a liked to have seen Nucky bust a cap in the back of his skull, the dumb Prussian sentimentalist. I mean it’s a shame. Eddie was coming along fine. He even showed his German sense of humor. He let himself be charmed by Bottles Capone. And then he dropped dime on him. Fuck Eddie.

Cops’ll do and say whatever they have to say to get criminals to talk. The problem is that in cops’ eyes, everyone is either a criminal or a potential criminal. Laws are there for a reason. So they have an excuse to punch old guys in the stomach when they can’t find any real laws being broken. Eddie was around long enough to know that’s how they played and still he proved himself the weak link that Agent Knox was looking for. Fuck Eddie that rat. But not Anthony Laciura, the actor. I’m going to miss him. He surprised me with his wit and subtlety. He played that Prussian pride thing straight to the pavement and he’ll never be nominated for any awards for it either. That’s a loyal soldier.

Every fucking thing that crawls is gonna pay

Not so loyal, though, is George Mueller. He’s got a wild streak in him. The faces that Michael Shannon pulls when he’s so torn between everything that’s tearing him apart. He’s come so far. He’s fallen so hard. His wife’s a little dictator and he’s really not one to take dictation. Al Capone (Stephen Graham) is right about the wild streak. This is a powder keg sitting on an open flame. He’s got his cop background telling him that things can be kept under control. But he’s got a whole life history telling him that there’s no point in keeping a lid on a bad situation. It’s gonna blow whether you want it to or not. Frank Capone (Morgan Spector) doesn’t want it to blow. Al Capone couldn’t really give a shit. He likes a little blow. He’d like it even more if his inner circle would share in his energy powder.

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Capone’s sees something in Mueller. He’s done bad things. Capone knows about bad things. He’s done them himself. Not bad things against his own boss though. But it’s not a bad idea that Mueller’s boss has some bad things done to him. If Al can keep his boundaries in check, and keep this Mueller guy from doing bad things to him like he’ll be doing to O’Banion? Shit, that would be one scary soldier and that wild streak can pay off dividends. Frank Capone is on the case. This is a guy who can grease over anything his brother can scuff up. Al and Ralph feel the loss, but they’re also smart enough to know that it’s more than a brother. This Chicago thing, it’s a pain in the ass. What was wrong with Brooklyn? They were so happy there. If they left Brooklyn for this, they better make sure they’re getting something out of it. “Even if it’s only money,” as Baby Face Martin says in Dead End. But you know it’s more.

Frank Capone really did die something like that. He was shot down by cops right on the street in front of his brother. A lot of cops. They wore plain-clothes and Frank allegedly shot at one of them. Allegedly, because witnesses say he never got the gun out his pocket, which Mueller attests to, before the cops drilled him with about a dozen shots. Capone will get so pissed he’s gonna shoot a cop and just steal the ballot boxes. Al threw Frank one of the biggest mob funerals Chicago had ever seen. At least $20,000 worth of flowers and you could buy a lot of flowers for 20 large in 1924. Let’s see if Mueller delivers the flowers.

You can’t bleach me out like a laundry stain

Gillian (Gretchen Mol) is fading. It’s easy to say it’s the junk and she’s just digging into a deeper vein, but there’s a loss here that goes beyond a jones and beyond a lost son and beyond losing the son of the son. Gillian’s loss goes past whatever she was thrust into too soon. Gillian knows all about how to make someone disappear. And she feels herself on the slide. She had no bearing to lose. She was rudderless and holding on to appearances that she only imagined she’d ever seen. The dope is just a way to stop the memories just a little bit at a time. Tommy (Brady Noon) is her salvation and downfall. And even if she does clean herself up enough to take him back, he is still his father’s son and we all know that’s another bad temptation to keep in the house. And she knows it. But to fade. Into nothing.

Gillian confesses to Roy Philips (Ron Livingston) that she’s done terrible things. She knows sin. I have a feeling that Roy knows his way around sin too. As mysterious as she is to him, he’s got secrets leaking out all over his nice Woolworth’s suit. Gillian propositions the courts and Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) as equals. But only can trust Purnsley to do right by her because as lost a sheep as she is, he likes his little lambs coming back. Roy gets it too. He understands probably better than anyone knows but himself.

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Boardwalk Empire‘s “Erlkonig” was directed by Tim Van Patten and written by Howard Korder. I loved the banter Frank throws at the muscle on the stairs on the way up to see Al. It sounded just like thirties gangster movies without sounding like it was trying to.


Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars


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4 out of 5