‘Boardwalk Empire’ Review: “Marriage and Hunting”
On this week’s new episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ tensions continue to mount between Chalky and Dr. Narcisse, as the latter makes a rather violent declaration. “Marriage and Hunting,” as the title implies, has a bit to do with marriage, but it also has a whole lot to do with secrets and lies.
There’s that old sing-song children’s rhyme that goes, “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone.” But that’s the funny thing about secrets — they end up hurting people whether they know about them or not. Whether they become aware of the existence of a secret, they discover the painful truth, or if the secret is intended to inflict hurt upon them without their knowing. And there’s always been a lot of that on ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ but this week focuses on those secrets, simmering in this stew, just about to reach the boiling point but not quite …
We see it in what Eli doesn’t say to Nucky about Agent Knox (aka Agent Tolliver) offering him a deal to flip on his brother. We see it in the tense, awkward silence between Chalky and his wife, who knows the difference between a man up to no good in his business dealings and a man up to no good with another woman. That other woman, Daughter Maitland, is at the receiving end of a severe beating from Dr. Narcisse this week, taking Chalky away from his daughter’s pre-wedding dinner at home to tend to business. The dynamic between Chalky and Nucky is a fascinating one — the way Chalky looks like a hurt, pouting child when Nucky maintains the professional need to distance himself from Chalky’s affairs. After all, Narcisse hasn’t show up on his doorstep … yet. What Nucky fails to understand is that someone like Narcisse, who envisions himself a king among men, won’t be done when Chalky’s out of the picture; he’ll simply move on to the next target, which could be Nucky himself. And Nucky almost understands that at the Onyx Club later, when Narcisse helps himself to Nucky’s table without invitation. When Chalky shows up all foaming at the mouth, Nucky gives him several chances, urging him to think about what he’s saying before he says it — Narcisse has outright threatened Chalky to Nucky’s face, and here is Chalky’s only real lifeline, but all it takes is a table flip to lose that support.
Nucky can’t help Chalky now, or at least it’s looking less likely that he will (but he was so close!). The scene in the club gives us a jarring juxtaposition between the sounds of laughter and entertainment, and Chalky’s violent exchange with Narcisse, making him look like a man who has lost more control than even he realizes. And at the same time, there’s the way Nucky handles his business: calm but commanding, assertive yet reserved, and always carefully calculated. But Chalky has been pushed to the perimeters of the life he’s made for himself, and agitated by this dangerous, charismatic doctor, a man whose duplicitous nature is further illustrated when we see him only in the reflection of the mirror in Daughter’s apartment. He is seen the way he wants to be seen, and in the Onyx Club, he lets Chalky put on quite the show.
Van Alden is also putting on a show this week, and his story seems to have finally proved its worth: nagged by his insistent wife and hounded by the Capones about O’Banion, Van Alden is, like Chalky, a man who’s been pushed to the periphery of his own life, constantly agitated and shoved around until, like an abused, dog, he lashes out. But it hasn’t been without warning. Van Alden warns his wife, the Capones, and even his former co-workers from the salesman gig (remember that amazing hot iron freak-out? They do) that they shouldn’t push him around. And then he tells O’Banion the truth about his name, his wife, his former vocation, how he drowned his partner, and how he no longer believes in God, and it’s like watching a man exhale after holding his breath for months. And though someone else beats him to the O’Banion hit, Van Alden still strolls right on home with a fistful of cash, ready to assert his dominance to his pushy wife. It’s a victory for Van Alden, who has finally come to terms with the man he is.
Speaking of men accepting themselves — Richard decides to help Julia out by marrying her (in the most adorably awkward proposal of all time) so she can keep Tommy away from Gillian, but he needs to make some money to keep the family afloat, especially with Mr. Sagorsky circling the drain. So here comes Richard, out of the darkness and fog and onto Nucky’s doorstep, asking for work. Richard has spent some time this season, like Van Alden, struggling to reconcile his deeds with his desires and his conscience. Richard may do some bad things, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy; the war gave him this skill set, and then sent him home to a place that has no need for that skill.
Elsewhere this week, Gillian comes clean about her own past (to an extent) and we see a very human side of her — a side that is still bruised from her days with the Commodore. Her story of her first kiss and the way her life was stolen out from under her before she even knew what it was is a sad one and it certainly makes her a little more empathetic, but I’m not buying the good girl act just yet. And when Gillian finds out who Roy was really talking to on the other end of that phone line, he’s going to be meeting the woman he’s really been shacking up with for the last few months. (Does Roy keep a mistress in every town where he installs a Piggly Wiggly? The man has a thing for franchises.)