A historical note, before I even watch Boardwalk Empire, I understand that they’re introducing the J. Edgar Hoover character. Well, for the record, J. Edgar Hoover was a scumbag, self-aggrandizing piece of shit who kept his mouth shut because a friend of a friend of theirs had a picture he didn’t want anyone to see. J. Edgar Hoover’s men, his intrepid, enterprising, ethical and morally upright band of peace officers, flouted every decency in their pursuit of what the law deemed indecent. They let suspects die, watched it. Made sure it happened, so they could write their own press releases. The FBI controlled and controls everything that’s said about them, probably including this somehow, and it’s all because of J. Edgar Hoover, the paranoid prick.
I remember when I was first watching The Sopranos, I thought it was a comedy. Whenever I told this to someone they thought I was joking or just wrong. Years later I read an interview with David Chase and he also thought it was a comedy. I didn’t tell anyone, because that would spoil the joke. Even if I was the only one laughing, I will not spoil a joke. This probably only means David Chase and I share a fucked up sense of humor, which is why I will watch his show over and over again, like I will watch Boardwalk Empire in its entirety, several times. It is a good meal. It doesn’t photograph the food or mic up the wine the way The Sopranos did, but it’s their restaurant. “Resignation” was a comedy episode, with breakout comic performances.
A lot of humor on The Sopranos came as a direct result of Steve Buscemi, either as a writer or a director or an actor. He also directed the laugh-for-laugh funniest episode of 30 Rock. Buscemi allows others to shine around him. He’s a really generous actor to anyone in a scene with him.
I knew I was going to love this episode from the song that was playing on Nucky’s breakfast victrola in his first scene, “Wings of an Angel.” That is the song that the remaining Dead End Kids are singing at the end of Dead End, my favorite movie (“Look, they’re dancing like they like it.”). A comfort food kind of movie that also liberally sprinkled humor on top of gangland crime and intense poverty. The best dramas infuse their suspense with comedy. For Alfred Hitchcock, it was an unbreakable rule in filmmaking. Humor must balance whatever horror or intrigue you’re trying to build otherwise you’re building on, who cares, why build? Humor is the concrete in the bricks. It holds together Casablanca, which I can also watch as a comedy, and it holds together.
Every character on Boardwalk Empire has their own voice and their own sense of humor. Even Mrs. Shroeder (Kelly Macdonald) got in with some subtle cutting sarcasms and Rolling Stone called her “Prissy O’Frowney. I can’t say I miss her this season. “Resignation” opens with a one-two punch line from Van Alden (Michael Shannon), I mean George Mueller. O’Bannion’s got him delivering flowers. But he sees good things in the big lump of world-pressing responsibilities and sends him off to be his ears when Al Capone’s (Stephen Graham) men are busting Democrats heads because that’s politics in Chicago. I can’t imagine Van Alden telling a joke, but he can throw down like with the best of them. No flies on him, and why shouldn’t there be? He pays his taxes. I think Frank Capone (Morgan Spector) sees this. I also think he’s a little blinded by it. He missed Van Alden’s bible revival blubbering that ended with Al’s fork in his face but came with a nice plate of pasta.
There are serious things happening, some very serious things. Sometimes right in the midst of the happiest of places, like Club Onyx. Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) and his old cracker chum from the neighborhood are having a great time until the glad-handing fuck rubs Chalky’s head for luck. I drew in a pissed-off breath myself and waited for Chalky to cold-cock the son of a bitch, but he ate it. Something that didn’t get by Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright). The good doctor arrived in the company of a lady, not just any lady but a lady wronged. Just last week by Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey). She claims she was raped and her husband killed. That was probably in very bad form and it’s very bad for business. Now, Dr. Narcisse is educated and street smart. I never thought he bought the bullshit. It was just a way to a good deal. As to the pride of the people who go back to the motherland, I also knew he could not possibly let that go. Which is good. I don’t want to see Dunn hanged. Oh, he probably won’t make it out of the series alive, but hanged can’t be his destiny.
Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) and his sister Emma have a complicated relationship that they really strain to keep simple. Half-Moon’s heart’s just not in it anymore and its heartbreaking and affirming that he might be able to return to whatever life he had before he was twisted up in the war. It won’t work out that way. It can’t work out that way. This is HBO and the wolves are at the Harrows’ door in the form of back taxes. Somebody’s going to have to try and bite a flying bullet on this one.
I never trusted Agent Knox from the first second I laid eyes on him, he couldn’t possibly be that corrupt. When he winds up as one of the guys sucking on a Hoover, I wasn’t surprised. They made the young Hoover (Eric Ladin) look the way I always thought the young Hoover looked, old before his time. Filled with the righteous rage of a man with a badge and pieces of paper that told him he could use it. I anticipate hating him forever and ultimately holding it against the poor actor playing him.
But this was Eddie’s episode. Thank you Anthony Laciura. And thank you Dennis Lehane and Howard Korder for writing this for him. If only for writing the lines “Mr. Thompson is part of everything. He is in the sky and sea. He is in the dreams of children at night. He is all that there is. Forever.” Forget that. He had me at “He is in the dreams of children at night.” The rest of the show was a blur to me after that and I’m rushing through this right now so I can watch it again. I always miss the first showing because I have to see Breaking Bad. Boardwalk Empire runs almost constantly now. “Resignation” was directed by Alik Sakharov.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars