In the second half of its freshman season, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ may not be the well-oiled machine that ‘Deadwood’ was this far into its run, but it’s getting pretty dern close, and getting better every week. “Home” had a very ‘Sopranos’-like vibe to it, not only in Nucky grappling with childhood baggage, but in that storyline’s ultimate resolution.
After their father has an accident, Nucky and Eli decide that it’s time to get rid of their childhood home. So Nucky gives it to his friend, Damien Flemming, telling him that the house is his so long as he promises to fix the place up. Throughout the episode, we learn a lot more about Nucky’s past and his relationship with his abusive father, and the house serves as a sort of catalyst for all that. Nucky’s always going to have those memories, but as long as he’s looking at his father’s house in its current state of disrepair, he’s able to keep them more or less at arm’s length. But once Damien comes in, cleans the place up, and slaps a fresh coat of paint on the place, it’s opens those wounds all over again, and those memories become more and more vivid. By the time Nucky comes with Margaret’s son, Theodore, come to see the finished product, more or less exactly how it was when Nucky was a kid, it’s not exactly surprising when he douses the whole thing in paint thinner and sets it on fire. At least he was decent enough to give Damien a big wad of cash to buy another house.
The episode also introduced us to Richard Harrow, another veteran Jimmy meets at a hospital while getting a war wound looked at. Harrow was a sniper — I guess they were just called sharpshooters then — who’s had half of his face disfigured and wears a mask to cover it up. There was something about the way actor Jack Huston portrayed the character that was really amazing to watch. It wasn’t exactly a sense of brooding, but a sense that this is a person who, because of his accident, has almost completely separated himself from the rest of society. He’s an outsider, and that really gave his friendship with Jimmy an air of authenticity. In any case, if you haven’t had a chance to see the episode yet (and if not, why are you reading this?), he’s one of the best things about the show so far.
Jimmy gets a lead on Liam, the guy who sliced up Pearl’s face in “Anastasia,” and catches up with him toward the end of the episode. His speech about killing a German soldier during the war provided the hour’s most dramatic scene, made even better by Richard demonstrating his skills and shooting Liam from a hotel window across the street. There’s an interesting directorial flourish here, with the camera zooming in through the bullet hole in the window to a shot of the hotel across the street. I think you can make the argument that it was a little too much for this scene, but I like how the show has kept that Scorsese-esque style in its directing throughout the season so far. I think it works. If anything was over the top, it was the Phantom of the Opera theme they played over Marrow’s exit from the hotel room. I mean, on-the-nose much?
We’ve known that things between Nucky in AC and Arnold Rothstein in New York were always going to come to a head, and that’s really starting to pick up now in the season’s back half. After trying to set up a new bootlegging business with Chalky (which Chalky thinks is Nucky testing him and rejects), Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano approach the D’Alessio brothers with the same offer, telling them that they can knock over one of Nucky’s casinos and use that as start-up cash, which they quickly agree too. So, for you Philistines who don’t get off on good dialogue and conversation pieces, fear not. There’s some good bang bang shoot ’em up action headed your way.