Hello and goodbye to Buck (Warner Miller). This was an intense character, a shooting star on Boardwalk Empire. Buck started out as the happy singing stripie, all chuckles and dented head. Making the boss man smile, but shit. Once he got himself a gun, that man was gone, off and running with a sidekick who knew how to use a telephone in tow.
Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) is no sidekick. The man is a leader, a pillar in a community block that he carved out himself. Sometimes he’ll walk in step with men who have more power, but that’s because all leaders understand that there’s strength in solidarity. But Chalky steps in line with Buck when that gun’s in face, sure as shit, and quickly too. That was the most emotion Chalky showed last week under his granite demeanor. But Chalky also steps up for Buck when he’s got the chance to take the gun and call its shots. Chalky defends Buck. Chalky may not be as country as Buck, but they are both bad ass motherfuckers.
Buck is never wrong, either. The man can smell a lie. It’s just a matter of finding the source of the aroma. Everything he says comes true. There was a safe in the house. There were no man’s clothes in the closet. There was no man in the house. The women were hiding something, lying when they could have gotten out of the situation. He knew. And he knew how to get the information out of the hostages. Painstakingly and steadily, everything he says comes true. Why the women waited so long protecting worthless Liberty Bonds is beyond me though.
I’m on record as saying my favorite HBO roles are the “Manson Lamps” characters, which started when Tony Soprano told Richie Aprile to “stop shining those Manson lamps” at him. Gyp Rosetti shone those Manson lamps. Russell Edgington was a Manson lamps character with some true blood. Last season I was hoping Dr. Narcisse would go off the rails in a huge flare-up but he proved to be just another problematic gangster and a rat fink snitch to boot. Buck had the makings of a Manson lamps character. Such a shame he got a hammer in his skull. I know it happens to all the best of the Manson lamps characters but I’m going to miss him. I might not have missed him so much if he weren’t that shooting star.
This episode marks the emergence of the real Benny Siegel (Michael Zegen). Sitting at the left hand of the future Godfather, Charlie Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Benny is also no side kick, though he and Luciano trade straight lines and payoff in a brief litany of veiled threats: The thing I love about this city, Charlie says, is that everything is so close. Dr. Narcisse had just apologized that the two Marranzano representatives had to travel so far. Harlem is a world away, but in a city so small, everything is local. Everything local is up for grabs. Siegel has the makings of a Manson lamps character. His nickname was Bugsy for a kickoff. Though you’d have had to have been crazy to say that to his face.
The big crazy, to me, on tonight’s show was Luciano and Benny’s guys shooting up all Narcisse’s whores and I’m not talking skag. Burning white powder in the streets, like Chalky did to Narcisse last season or shooting a wise guy who gets in your way is one thing, but shooting whores? What the fuck? In the first season of Boardwalk Empire, Jimmy Darmody’s brothel beauty got her face slashed, but really, just indiscriminately taking out eight women with a hand gun like it’s some kind of turkey shoot because management isn’t kicking up? That’s some crazy shit. Some truly Bugsy shit that I don’t think Siegel or Luciano would have done. Luciano may have been sent up the river for pimping, but he really was no pimp. He was an unlucky landlord.
You wouldn’t see Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) signing off on such a waste. Nucky (Nolan Lyons) learned at an early age that love is an all or nothing kind of thing. Love is worth the bad looks from the family and respectable people in the eyes of god. Nucky learns that kind of love is lethal. Nucky is a romantic at heart. In the flashbacks we see the future Atlantic City treasurer stumble his way into his first love, Mabel. We knew from the very beginning of the series that Nucky never really got over the death of his wife. He corralled a second wife by dumping and fishing her husband out of the ocean. Sure, it may have been politically expedient at the time, but Nucky really did it for family.
Joe Kennedy’s got a big family and he’s beginning to build an empire big enough for his kids to play as roughly as they might want. Kennedy (Matt Letscher) comes across at first like an affable fellow, not quite a good fella, but he’s got some potential and a bunch of snappy repartee. Nucky actually chooses to abstain from all booze while with his fellow Irish Catholic brethren. Just because he sells the booze doesn’t mean he’s a drunken Irishman. It’s saddening to see Nucky turn down libation after libation when he’s always been a happy drinker himself. It’s maddening, though, when Kennedy turns out to be a sanctimonious fuck amidst the tassels, pouring Nucky the drink he assumed he was desperate to have. Drink it down Nucky, you think this guy’s going to really leave off some kind of legacy? Like one of his eight kids might some day grow up to be president or something? Dynasty my ass.
Arnold Rothstein didn’t leave a legacy. While he was alive barrels of money came and went through his hands. But all he left Mrs. Rothstein, Carolyn Rothstein, was buckets full of humiliation. That and a ring and a hideous chair. Rothstein’s mistresses made out better than the wife in that funereal arrangement. The mistresses didn’t have to be dragged through public dirt on account of a no-good gangster husband. Margaret has been living in one of A.R.’s apartments, which would normally make her a whore, but in this case, the once and future Mrs. Thompson is a thieving bond secretary. But she’s not very different from Mrs. Rothstein. Margaret can be paraded on the front pages of the yellow press just as easily as Carolyn. She’s probably even more photogenic.
Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) cracks me so, consistently, up, to paraphrase The Simpsons‘ Fat Tony. He catches the early century slang so well he could be a Dead End kid. He finds a budding Bowery Boy tonight. One that’s wise enough to know to that kicking up half his salary is better than keeping a whole paycheck. That kid’s got a future.