I had presumed this episode of Boardwalk Empire, “The Pony,” would center around the funeral of faux-Jimmy. I was pretty damn wrong. Lines had been drawn in the sand since the season premiere, but with new players joining the ranks, there is no telling how this season of gangster drama will pan out. Everyone wants a piece! Emily’s getting a pony! My childhood was so unfulfilled…
The episode opened with Gillian (Gretchen Mol) and Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) dealing with the remains of faux-James. James #2 who died by “drowning” in a bathtub. James who’s life was riddled with an addiction to heroin. Richard though Jimmy deserved better than a fake cover-up cremation. Better than being pegged as a druggie, Richard? Noooo. Did Gillian have a slight sense of remorse in her eyes? Nah, just shamelessness.
Van Alden (Michael Shannon) is working off his debt to Dean-O by running a mini-distillery in his kitchen. Cute distillery, “George.” It’s like the Easy-Bake-Oven of whiskey factories. To pay off his debt, he needs to prepare twenty-four bottles of booze. At night, the man formerly known as Van Alden listened with shame to the dripping of the Devil’s water. In other news, I love his wife.
From a thrown together cremation bash to planning Emily’s birthday party, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) struggled with choosing the correct pony. They don’t want to coddle the girl stricken by polio by giving her a unicorn or a My Little Pony. They’re in the market for something that bites fingers and kicks. Meanwhile, Nucky also got word that “Jimmy” had died via the newspaper, and quickly made his way over the Gillian’s to sort the matter out.
Gillian’s Health Resort a.k.a. the worst cathouse ever seemed pretty dead when Nucky strolled in. Gillian played dumb for as long as she could stand it before throwing a toast to James right in Nucky’s face. Nucky wanted to toast the sap she murdered. Gillian burst at the seams and admitted to knowing he killed Jimmy. He, a man who buried a son himself, broke his promise to her. Nucky’s line about allowing her to exist kind of turned me off, though. Did I sympathize with Gillian? I did; I sympathized with Gillian and I live to keep writing this recap.
Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) is like that Great Uncle So-And-So every big Italian family has. He’s the guy who illegally buys lotto tickets for all of the kids at a communion party or sends a birthday card a few weeks early with your name completely misspelled. He’s the Great Uncle who’s probably a gangster. Torrio got back from a wonderful trip to Italy where life is easy and people don’t stress. Al Capone (Stephen Graham) needed to sort out the situation with the brutal bar stool killing he’d committed. Johnny went easy on Al. If he felt it was right, then it was right. Al looked like it seemed a little suspicious; however, by the episode’s close, he started to get a feel for what was actually going on. Torrio’s old and tired, and he needs a reliable heir. It’s time Al gets more responsibility and subsequently, more respect.
Shortly after his return to Chicago, Torrio, Al, and their smelly friend met with Dean-O and his gang at a meat market. That’s where the meat comes from! After an attempt to reason with Dean about how life is short, and people are too money focused by providing the example of the volcanic catastrophe in Pompeii, Johnny turned the floor over to Al. Al seemed to get off easy. They’re going to see how the future pans out with regards to their deal. Oh, and Van Alden was there to provide historical facts and nod in respect to Torrio’s wisdom. R.I.P, Blacksmith from Pompeii who hammered through death by lava!
Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) laid low this episode, continuing her work at the hospital and fumbling through the arduous task of picking the prettiest pony. The woman who miscarried on the premiere actually showed up to one of Margaret’s educational sessions looking for help. She revealed the truth behind the traumatizing event that sparked Margaret’s passion for sex-ed. She miscarried on purpose via bad milk. She doesn’t want another baby, she wants a diaphragm. Does Margaret want a… *gulp*… diaphragm, too? After all of the sex she’s been having with fellow Irishman Owen (Charlie Cox), I’m going with yes. By the episode’s close, she made the request for two from Dr. Mason. Call me crazy, but the “shock” of sex-ed in the twenties just isn’t stacking up with the rest of the show’s story arcs.
Nucky ventured up to New York to meet with Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) in order to further their attempt at ruining Harry Daugherty. Mr. Means showed up with some information, too. Andrew Melon is another higher power in Washington who happens to hate Harry. Prohibition is child’s play and the income tax is robbery, basically. With his support, they could bag Remus and Harry in the process. Also, he owns a distillery that isn’t up and running. In an attempt to get Andrew Melon on their side, Nucky would have to use another identity and infiltrate some snooty club. Upon doing so, Nucky managed to sell his hand quite well. In short, Melon could blow the lid off of Daugherty’s dirty dealings. In exchange, Nucky would run his distillery “unbeknownst” to him. Would stiff Melon take the deal? Yes!
One of my favorite scenes this week featured, surprisingly, Van Alden. Another day in the office from Hell, Nelson was forced to pretend he was selling an iron in front of his co-workers. Not in the mood, he went through the motions. The co-worker playing the part of the customer was one of those absolutely intolerable folks he’s been dealing with all season. I knew what was coming from the moment Van Alden stood up. After poking fun and taking jabs and being downright awful for a few minutes of awkward improv, a piping hot iron ended up smack on the tool’s face! The other workers scurried like rats into the other room in fear of Van Alden, who just walked away. That smirk!
Van Alden ran home and prepared to move to another state, yet again. His wife, however, wouldn’t have it. After bottling the whiskey herself, she revealed that she was actually very knowledgable with regards to the craft. She even made flavored vodkas to sell for profit at some Norwegian festival! Vodka sells easier than irons.
After buying out Lucky (Vincent Piazza), Gillian had Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) over to her boring whorehouse to chat about Nucky. She sees Nucky as an enemy, and suggested Gyp “surprise” him and Rothstein while they met for dinner. A little chitchat surrounding their children seemed to seal the deal. Gillian wants custody of Tommy! Richard, you know what to do, right? I hope so.
Billie Kent (Meg Steedle) is about to get her big break in Hollywood! After a few screen tests, Billie celebrated her future with her old blonde buddy and a new male friend and fellow movie star, Gill, she met while auditioning. The two had chemistry in front of the camera and off; however, the ultimate buzz-kill, Nucky, showed up to crash her celebratory party. Amidst fists flying left and right between Nucky and Gill, who was harmless enough, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Is that Rachel and Monica’s apartment?”
Afterwards, Billie and Nucky had it out, but more importantly, they revealed what they truly wanted. Eliminating the agreement they’d made, to not pry or ask questions, Billie asked Nucky to “be her gangster.” Nucky, in turn, gave her security, whether she liked it or not, via a lifetime of financial income. Whoa, sweet deal. Unfortunately, things wouldn’t quite go as planned. Sad, considering I actually started to like Billie a little this week, viewing her more as a lost girl struggling for an identity rather than a fame whore who would probably be a reality star in this day and age.
Walking along the boardwalk that night, Billie strolled behind Rothstein (Michael StuhlBarg), Lucky, and Nucky as they talked business. After running into the obnoxious George Baxter, Nucky shooed Billie off to the side. Rothstein looked like he knew something was up. As Nucky looked beyond the boys and gazed at Billie in the light of the boardwalk, we realized that they really had fallen for each other. Then, Billie and the rest of the boardwalk surrounding her exploded, leaving Nucky and Co. in shambles. Nucky, essentially, sent Billie to her doom.
What did you all think of the episode? Did you find yourself liking Billie in her final moments? What will come of Margaret and Owen? Will Richard Harrow be a thorn in Gillian’s side? Were you kind of hoping Gill would win that fight (at least, before he whined about his nose)? Where the hell is Chalkie White?!