Boardwalk Empire: The Old Ship of Zion, Review
Don't nod through Boardwalk Empire's new episode.
Cigarettes on the stairs, there goes the neighborhood. In the middle of a quiet residential Atlantic City block, Miss Monroe is running a shooting gallery. No, I know what you’re thinking. It’s Atlantic City. The Boardwalk. Games, rides and ocean. But no, Miss Monroe isn’t giving out prize kewpie dolls for every fifteen bulls-eyes, she’s performing a new public service. Seems that there are all these junkies lining up in town and they got no works and no place to nod. I might be getting ahead of myself in era speak, but Lenny Bruce called places where junkies got together to shoot up and nod out “shooting galleries.” And here on Baltic Avenue, Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) is filling it up with paying customers. If only they’d keep the place tidy.
Dope ain’t the only thing Purnsley’s peddling on that side of town. While he’s tearing down the lesser Libyans he is a muted mouthpiece for a plan to uplift the race. Dr. Narcisse has that kind of power and that kind of ambition. He can bring a plague of skag to the weak-willed with one hand while holding the keys to a library of thought to stronger minds in the other. But people like Dr. Narcisse are on the outside. They don’t know Atlantic City. Not like Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) does. He grew up here. He’s got pull. He could call Narcisse out old-school, with the top of a trash can lid, cooking powder on the wind, people might be getting a sniff and to chase their own dragon. Now if Chalky could just pull his eyes back into his head when Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham) growls those deep gospel blues, he just might live through this season.
Is it any wonder kids wanted to be gangsters instead of G-men. Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty) has a stick up his ass so big, Margaret would be jealous. Prissy O’Frowney isn’t raining on anyone’s parade this week, but the feds can’t tell a good inside story about Arnold Rothstein without Knox pulling their punch lines. Guy’s got serious issues. And why? Why should be put so much energy into all this when Hoover’s just gonna steal the credit from him later? Why should he break his balls when he could just pull in some easy money looking the other way. But no, he’s got those monogrammed handkerchiefs and Eli Thompson can’t even eat in peace. Poor Eli, if he were Al Capone that fork would be so far in Knox’s cheek they could hang him on a coat rack. Just like Chalky passed his blade through Purnsley’s cheek. Fuck Agent Knox.
Oh, one more thing about Eli, there is a subtle bit of foreshadowing and unless you’re a gangster nut you might not catch it. Eli is the guy who opens the crates of oranges. If you know your Godfather lore, you know that’s a fucking SPOILER. Don’t you think it should be Mickey Doyle who opens the crates? Mickey has been Boardwalk Empire’s punching bag since Jimmy threw him off the balcony to send a subtle message to Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe, from the gangster classic One Upon a Time in America) a couple seasons ago. What Mickey doesn’t realize is that, with Sally Wheet, a sock on the jaw is just a part of foreplay.
You can learn a lot from Ragged Dick, the rags to riches story by Horatio Alger Jr. It tells the story of a poor homeless boot-black with a taste for booze and smokes who, through hard work and determination, becomes a rich and powerful society guy. Just like Nucky (Steve Buscemi) used to be. Before he went in that other direction, selling booze and shooting people and shit. Nucky came from nothing, killing wharf rats for food, to become the most powerful political figure on the Boardwalk. Hell, in all of South Jersey probably. He was that good. And he sees good things in Eli’s kid, Willie (Ben Rosenfeld). Sure, he got himself in a scrape that only a Dutch Uncle could get him out of, but he’s going to land on his feet. What can I say? I like the kid. He reminds me of B-b-b-billy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was played by Brad Dourif, who I think is one of the great characters actors of film. Just watch Ragtime. Right now. Bookmark this page and watch it before next week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire. It will come in handy. I promise.
I’m not kidding here. Go to Netflix or whatever and watch Ragtime before the end of the season. At least before your spearmint loses its flavor on the bedpost overnight.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars