Boardwalk Empire: The North Star, Review

It’s up against the wall for Nucky and Chalky. Lansky sees the Promised Land.

The ground is shaking, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) can see it in his coffee cup. That can only mean one thing: Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is in this episode and she’s close. And getting closer. Rolling Stone branded Nucky’s estranged wife “Prissy O’Frowney,” and she does not disappoint her brand. Nucky at least comes back with some unconscious passive aggression, “I wouldn’t put something alive in a box.” Sure, it was an awkward moment for Nucky and Margaret, but, callous me, I laughed. For those who don’t remember last season, Margaret’s secret lover, Nucky’s right hand man, Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox), was delivered in a box C.O.D. too early in the morning.

It was the subway that shook the coffee, something Nucky should have picked up on before. It’s strange, the things you miss that happen right under your nose. Nucky doesn’t like missing things, especially when they’re right under his nose. Makes him feel like he’s slipping. He’s got to check every detail. Like his man Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura). He even kept receipts. Nucky has a cunning sixth sense and when he thinks he’s missing something, he has to figure out what it is. He gets his own minor quake in Tampa when Bill McCoy (Pearce Bunting) brings in an unexpected but better connected partner, after killing the last one, who was too loud and too Floridian.

In “The North Star,” we see how Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) took Florida. He really never left. Oh, he went back to the city, but once Lansky founder Florida, it was like the Promised Land. Enough to bankroll his end solo after Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) gets a splinter of Masseria caught between his teeth. Luciano’s problem is Vincenzo Petrucelli (Vincenzo Amato) and it’s a big deal. A big deal he shouldn’t have been making behind Masseria’s back. I think this isn’t going to play well in New York in general. The Tampa operation is not kicking up to Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi) and if Joe’s beak isn’t getting wet someone’s going to have to do some wet work to appease his big appetite. I’d lay odds on Petrucelli to take a bad dive in the tenth against Luciano.

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Paul Sparks, who plays Mickey Doyle, got in touch with his inner Huntz Hall and flew with it. “If this was my place I’d kill myself.” Sparks has been inching toward East Side Comedy block by city block. The transformation is complete. Huntz Hall never got the recognition he should have as a comic actor. None of the Dead End Kids, Bowery Boys whatever you want to call them, did, but their influence is still felt in urban comedy and drama. Paul Sparks nurtured his Mickey Doyle from minor annoyance to major joy. When, at the beginning of last season, Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) asked Mickey “Why are you still alive?” He asked for everyone watching. Now he spits his ad hoc wisdom of the ages out of the side of his slaphappy mouth.

At first you think Eli is falling back into old cop habits while he’s taking care of the business Eddie left behind. There’s a mystery to be solved here. Hurdles to overcome and he knows only police work is going to get to the bottom of things. Luckily, copsucker Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty) has a working badge and puckered lips cos he’s greasing his way to sloppy second undercover, having disappointed public scumbag number one J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin) and his search for anarchists in the closet. Then you realize, Eli isn’t cut out for this. At heart, he’s just a dad, who just lost a friend he didn’t even know had kids. He hasn’t gotten over that Irish sentimentality his brother substituted for croc fights.

Everybody gets up against a wall. The gangsters unholster their pistols and shoot from the hips, love and knees in the air. Nucky and Chalky both get it on standing up tonight. All fun and wet and nasty with a hint of barrelhouse and a bloody lip. When Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham) finally let loose those deep blues it made me harder than Chinese algebra. We watched Chalky fall in love, right there on the spot. He forgets everything he’s not getting at home. The look that crossed his face, when he wasn’t even changing expressions, was a beautiful piece of non-verbal communication. Michael Kenneth Williams, who plays Chalky, didn’t move a muscle in his face, he just felt it under the mask of his skin and that’s a happy actor. Nucky and Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette), though, scared me. They fell into an orgy of teeth and if either one of them bites the wrong way they can take off flesh, which would probably make it better for them. Sally’s pretty quick with a crocodile smile.

Boardwalk Empire takes it slow after some death. They let scenes play out leisurely. Boardwalk Empire is brilliant traditional cinematic storytelling. Sometimes the dialogue is brilliantly funny and telling. Sometimes no dialogue is needed. Paul Sagorsky (Mark Borkowsky) and Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) speak in half sentences. They leave a lot unsaid and it speaks volumes. Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) is subtly making up Richard’s mind for him. Tommy (Brady Noon) is a seen but never heard kind of kid.

Written by Eric Overmyer and Howard Korder; directed by Allen Coulter.

Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars

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3.5 out of 5