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Boardwalk Empire: Season 5, Ep 01 (Recap)

Golden Days for Boys and Girls (Warning, Spoilers)

Do any of you remember the advice given to Nucky by Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) right before Nucky capped him? (Watch it here) "All you gotta worry about is when you run outta booze and you run outta company, and the only person left to judge you is you." Nucky is a survivor in the dangerous world he moves around in, yet he's burdened with something none of his "business associates" seem to have; a conscience. With the flashbacks of Atlantic City 1884, showing a very young Nucky getting his start in life from The Commodore and the current state of affairs, that little speech by Jimmy kept playing in my head. The show has a helluva lot to wrap up in a mere 8 episodes, with one now spent already, it looked like Nucky was feeling more alone than ever before, giving Jimmy's words an uncomfortably prophetic ring. 7 years have now passed since Eli tried to set up Nucky, but as of yet, we're none-the-wiser to what happened to Eli, although, we do know he's alive and well. That was the second time a jealous Eli had done that to his big brother.

Thanks to a generous helping of flashbacks we're learning how Nucky Thompson was molded by The Commodore, to finally become the man we've become so familiar with. It's a nice gesture and all, but with too few episodes of this magnificent show left, I hope they don't expend much more time on backstory. Not with so many other characters and arcs left to tie up. We do get to see Nucky's heavy-handed father and The Commodore crossing swords, as you can read below in the details for next week episode.

Boardwalk Empire
Directed by Timothy Van Patten
Cast Steve Buscemi, Shea Whigham, Michael K. Williams, Stephen Graham, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon
Release Date 7 September 2014
Ed's Grade: A

It's now 1931 and with the Prohibition repeal getting closer (5 December 1933), Nucky wants to go legit importing Bacardi Rum back home. He and Sally now own a fancy club, where they meet with Senator Wendell Lloyd. The Senator is advising Nucky and vouching for him in his bid to secure the importation of Bacardi. Knowing how the game is played, Sally had previously set the happily married Senator up with a house hooker, and Nucky was forced to use this as leverage. I don't feel sorry for these guys, because they know exactly what they're getting into when they do business with people like Nucky Thompson.

Nucky is surprised to bump into Meyer Lansky, who claims he's in Havana with his wife. Before Nucky watches Meyer go over and sit with his wife, he also tells Nucky he has a son. Nucky is almost killed a few days later, when a machete-wielding knuckle-dragger tries to part Nucky's head from his shoulders, and almost succeeds. Nuck's silent bodyguard finally stops the killer by using the dropped machete on the assassin's head. The bodyguard then casually proceeds to cut off the man's ear using a straight-razor, then wrapping the piece of flesh in a handkerchief. Banged up, bruised and horrified, Nucky stares in disbelief, and who can blame him after Tarantino done the same thing in Reservoir Dogs. (Now anyone asked to appear in a movie with Steve Buscemi, will quickly scan the script to see if they lose an ear.) A few days later Nucky sees Mrs Lansky, and quickly learns she's a hooker who speaks poor English. Did Meyer Lansky set up the hit on Nucky because Nucky almost killed him last season? (Watch the mock execution scene here) It's a real possibility yet it feels a bit too obvious.

Chalky White is wearing prison garb to better blend in with his new surroundings. How and why Chalky landed in prison remains a mystery but we do get to enjoy a gruesome scene when Chalky and his new buddy make their escape. Chalky is part of a chain-gang clearing a forest for timber. A con attacks a guard using his shovel, which causes fighting to erupt all around. This gives Chalky the perfect opportunity to attack and disarm a guard who was starting to get on his nerves. During the struggle the shotgun is accidently triggered, taking off the prison guard's face. Ouch! Chalky grabs the keys and hobbles away as fast as he can. He doesn't get far before another convict knocks him down, and holding a gun to Chalky's head, asks him if he knows how to work a phone. After surviving that strange job interview, it would appear Chalky White is back in business.

Margaret Schroeder still has the same job as when last we saw her, at the brokerage firm Connors & Gould. But with the depression in full swing, jobs are far from secure. Her immediate boss Mr. Bennett is giving a talk to all the workers, but he's not acting himself. In what looked eerily like the TV footage of Bud Dwight sticking that chrome .357 Magnum into his mouth and blowing the back off his head off, Mr. Bennett follows suit, only shooting himself in the temple. This leaves everyone shocked, and none more so than Bennett's boss. He wants to know if Margaret has a key to Bennett's filing cabinet, which she does, yet she quickly lies and says "No." A curious Margaret waits until everyone goes home and then almost gets caught just as she finds Arnold Rothstein's file. What did she plan on doing with the file?

In a fine example of Mafia politics, we get to witness Lucky Luciano step even further up the ladder of success. Luciano is meeting with Don Masseria in a small diner, where Lucky is impatiently listening to Masseria say the same words he's been saying for years. After the phone begins to ring for a second time causing Lucky to be noticeably distracted, he tells Masseria he needs to use the toilet. Masseria obviously hasn't seen The Godfather, and excuses Lucky. While he's in the toilet listening in to what's happening outside, Lucky can hear the cacophony of death that's all too familiar to men in his line of work. With the killing of Masseria, Luciano is now free to rule his very own turf, under main mob boss Sal Maranzano. If the show remains faithful to the source material, it would mean Maranzano only has weeks to live. I don't want to spoil any upcoming surprises about this arc of the story but if you are interested in who killed who and when, you can read it here

Next week should see the return of Doctor Narcisse, Nelson Van Alden, Al Capone, Eli and a few other show favorites they didn't have time for. Usually the opening episode of the season is difficult to gauge, yet this episode felt more like a middle season episode rather than a first. They have much to do if they want to end the show satisfactorily, however, I'm confident they'll do just that. I have no idea why they thought 8 episodes would be enough to end this fine series but it feels almost like it was a compromise. It's as if someone holding the purse strings said "You can either do it in 8 episodes, or none at all."

By Ed Blackadder

Next Week's Details

Episode #50: The Good Listener

Debut: Sunday, 14 September (9:00-10:00 p.m.)

Other HBO playdates: Sept. 14 (11:30 p.m., 1:00 a.m.), 15 (12:05 a.m.), 16 (11:30 p.m.), 17 (8:00 p.m.), 18 (10:00 p.m.) and 20 (11:30 a.m.)

HBO2 playdates: Sept. 15 (10:00 p.m.), 17 (10:00 p.m.) and 21 (3:45 p.m.)

Back from Cuba after a dangerous encounter, Nucky pays a visit to the now-retired Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci), who agrees to broker a meeting with the new “Boss of Bosses,” Salvatore Maranzano (Giampiero Judica). In Chicago, Eli (Shea Whigham) and Van Alden (Michael Shannon) are tasked by Mike D’Angelo (Louis Cancelmi), Al Capone’s (Stephen Graham) new right-hand man, to recoup money lost during a federal raid by Eliot Ness (Jim True-Frost). Fresh out of law school, Willie Thompson (Ben Rosenfield) has a job interview. Rebuffed by a group of would-be financiers, Nucky dines with Tonino Sandrelli (Chris Caldovino) before sending a message to Lansky (Anatol Yusef) and Luciano (Vincent Piazza). In 1884, a young Nucky deals with the death of his sister, Susan (Onata Aprile), while his father (Ian Hart) has a standoff with the Commodore.

Written by Terence Winter; directed by Allen Coulter.

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