The Breakdown

The episode opens on a snowy night inside a diner somewhere in Warsaw, Indiana.  Two unidentified men in suits who have a dangerous air about them ask the proprietor how far they are from Columbus, Ohio.  He tells them “You’re about 5 hours” and after discussing whether they should stay and go look at the world’s 2nd longest brick wall, they opt to leave.  After one of them flashes his gun while going for his wallet they exit peacefully after giving the proprietor a big tip.  The other man questions the amount of the tip and his buddy tells him, “We made some easy money, what’s the problem?”

Boardwalk Empire Season 4When they get into their car, it doesn’t start.  The driver gets out to see what’s wrong and looks under the hood.  When he doesn’t come back after a minute or two the other man gets out of the car to take a look.  He finds his  companion slumped over the front of the car, and when he turns him over, he sees his neck has been slit.  He stands up and turns and sees Richard Harrow pointing a gun at him.  “What?” he asks, but doesn’t have a chance to finish his sentence, which we presume was, “What, is Phantom of the Opera in Town?” because Richard shoots him.  Richard then goes through his pockets and pulls out an envelope with Old Mission Title Insurance printed on the return address.

Chalky’s looking at talent for his new enterprise, the Onyx club.  He’s sitting with his right hand man Dunn, Dicky the booking agent, and Dicky’s wife.  They’re all watching two tap dancers auditioning for Chalky.   The wife is scribbling something while Chalky tells Dicky, “The dancers look a little rough.”  Dicky assures Chalky that they’ll come along fast.  The wife asks for another drink, a New York Sour.  Dunn tells her, “I’ll fix you the New Jersey version,” and goes off to get her the drink.  After a bit of negotiating Dickey and Chalky settle on a price for the act.  Chalky asks them, “You boys break a sweat yet?” and the tappers kick it into high gear, and now they look like something people will pay to see.

Dunn comes back in the room with the wife’s drink, and before he reaches the table, she motions for him to look inside his coat pocket.  He pulls out the napkin she apparently slipped there, and when he opens it, he sees a rather crude drawing of two people having sex.  There’s a big question mark drawn over the woman in the picture, and Dunn gives the wife a look that either says, “Your post-modern take on the juxtaposition of man’s place in the universe intrigues me, “ or, “Why yes, Madam, I do believe I’d enjoy porking you.”

Nucky is upstairs getting ready for a meeting with Masseria and Rothstein.  Eddie is still recovering from the gunshot wound he sustained from Gyp’s attempt to kill Nucky with the assistance of Masseria’s men.  Nucky enters the room and approaches Masseria with his hand extended, but Masseria ignores it.  Apparently, he has Howie Mandel Syndrome.

The men quibble for a bit rehashing the recent conflict, what led up to it, who killed who, until Masseria gets out of his chair and asks Nucky, “Why I should trust any word comma outa you mout?”  Nucky responds by presenting Masseria a satchel full of cash, an Atlantic City postcard, and 3 pieces of salt water taffy.  Masseria quickly checks the cash, and he must like taffy because he asks Nucky, “Whatta you want?”

Boardwalk Empire Season 4Nucky tells them “I want peace.”  Masseria accepts the money and indicates everything is hunky-dory.  After Masseria and his guys leave the room, Rothstein tells Nucky he rans the odds on Nucky killing him at this meeting, but he figured “they were 14 to 1 against.”  Nucky tells him he’s set Rothstein up at his casino with “no betting limit” and to “consider it a thank you.”

Gillian is in court trying to get custody of her grandson Tommy.  He has been in the care of Julia and her father Paul after Richard took him there following Richard’s killing spree in Gillian’s house of cheap thrills.

Gillian says she is trying to sell her house and will use the proceeds to live a quiet life with Tommy.  Julia points out that Gillian was running a cat house, while Gillian’s lawyer counters with, “She was merely providing lodging for weary travelers.”  Julia’s expression indicates she thinks the only “lodging” that went on in that house was between the legs of the women that worked for Gillian.

Agent Stan Sawicki introduces fellow agent Warren Knox to Eli. Then Stan sends Warren outside while he chats with Eli and Doyle and Eli gives him his monthly payoff.  While Knox is outside, he talks with a bootlegger, Mr. Borst, who wants the Feds to protect his operation by shutting down a competitor.  He also shares with Knox that he has his backdoor booby-trapped with a shot gun to take care of anyone trying to break in and steal his hooch.

In Cicero, Illinois, Al Capone has brought in a truckload of hookers for a Shriners convention. His brothers Frank and Ralph have come to help him with his business dealings.

Capone’s boss Johnny Torrio is upset that the newspaper is writing about them. He thinks they should keep a low profile.  Capone is more concern that his name was misspelled in an article about the Democrats going after the town’s criminals.

Ed Cantor is back in Atlantic City and has brought an aspiring female performer.  She flirts with Nucky and they end up in bed.  When she mentions how much Nucky did for his (deceased) girlfriend Billie’s career, he realizes she is just using him.  He leaves the bedroom indicating that he’ll be back. Shortly thereafter, however, Eddie enters and tells her that Nucky’s not returning and that she should leave.

Gillian starts showing prospective buyers her house, and in the process turning tricks with them.  She has become a junkie, and shoots up just before she quotes a price for her services.

Richard visits Mr. Warner at the Old Mission Title Insurance Company.  Warner is frightened for his life because Richard is pretty scary just sitting in a chair, but he also has a gun aimed at Warner.  Warner tells him, “I’m just a middle man, I take orders from Milwaukee.” He writes down a name and address for Richard just before Richard shoots him in the cheek.  Warner asks, “Why?” and Richard kills him. (Remind me never to ask any questions when Richard’s around).

Nucky has dinner with his brother’s family, and Willie confides in Nucky that he smokes.  Nucky tells Willie, “I know, I went to college for a year; that’s where I picked up all of my bad habits.”

Boardwalk Empire Season 4Dunn and Dicky’s wife are in a hotel in the black part of town.  After a few drinks she wants him to get down to business but cautions him, “Don’t touch my hair.”  He begins laying some serious pipe when all of a sudden her husband appears.  “I couldn’t help but notice your penis is inside my wife.”

It’s not apparent at first, but Dicky and his wife run this game all the time.  Dicky gets off watching other men do his wife.  He orders Dunn to continue at gunpoint while he begins to play pocket pool. After a few seconds, Dunn grabs a whiskey bottle and breaks it over Dicky’s head.  Then he proceeds to jab him with the broken half of the bottle he’s still holding, until Dicky develops a slight case of the deads.

While Dunn’s killing Dicky, the wife escapes out of the window.   Dunn gets hold of Chalky, who in turn asks Nucky to help deal with the problem.  Nucky and Eli and the other two men take Dicky’s body out into the country where Dunn buries it.  Chalky tells him he’d better track down the wife, but when Dunn looks for her, she’s nowhere to be found.

Knox sets up Agent Stan by making him think they’re going to catch some bootleggers at Borst’s warehouse.  Stan goes into the backdoor and trips the shotgun booby trap.  When Borst hears the gun go off, he goes out back to investigate.  Knox shoots him in the head, then goes inside and tries some of his hooch, letting Stan bleed out.

Gillian continues to show her house and do drugs. She meets Mr. Phillips, a gentleman who decides her house is too big. When he says he’s seeing another house and mentions the locale, Gillian cautions him that it’s not a good area.  She offers her services as a guide to help him find a suitable place.  He accepts her offer.

Capone and his brothers visit the young reporter who misspelled his name and Al gives the reporter a spelling lesson.

Nucky and Eddie  are at the closed desserted Albatross Hotel on the beach.  Nucky reviews some papers and maps and appears to be contemplating his next project in Florida. He comes across a postcard from Bill McCoy inviting him to come down for the “catch.”

The episode ends with Richard walking up to a house.  He hides his gun in the woodpile on the front porch, and as he is about to knock on the front door, he hears something behind him.  It’s a woman carrying a shotgun and a dog.  It’s his sister, and he tells her, “I’ve come home.”

The Analysis

Boardwalk Empire Season 4Boardwalk Empire is written like a puzzle with pieces that don’t necessarily fit together until later.  Case in point:  Who were those two men in the diner?  How did they make the “easy money?”  Why did Richard kill them and later kill Mr. Warner at the title company?  What’s going to happen to Gillian’s grandson Tommy?

In the Season 3 finale, after a big gun battle between Gyp and Masseria’s men, where Nucky is aided by Chalky’s men and Al Capone and his group,  Nucky has brokered peace with the payoff to Masseria.  Since Gyp was killed by his 2nd in command in that episode, he’s no longer a threat to Nucky.  But before he was killed, one of Gyp’s men bombed the restaurant that Nucky frequented; Nucky narrowly escaped, and his girlfriend Billie was killed.  With Richard killing all of Gyp’s men that he found in Gillian’s cathouse – with the exception of Gyp, whose death was merely delayed – Richard unintentionally helped Nucky.

At least for the present, the two most damaging foes Nucky’s faced so far, Masseria and Rothstein, have backed off,  but he hardly has time to enjoy it due to Dunn killing Dicky.

Question:  How does a barefoot white woman, dressed only in a negligee, run through the all-black part of town and not attract any attention?  That’s just what Dicky’s wife was able to do.  Just a little bit of suspension of disbelief is required for this tidbit.

Nucky seems to have been changed by Gyp’s attempt to kill him and those he loves.  His concern for Eddie is touching, especially when Nucky tries to help Eddie do his job when Eddie’s injury affects his performance.  Eddie, though, is a proud man and won’t accept the help. His devotion to Nucky is also admirable, if not warranted by anything we’ve seen so far.

Richard is the closest thing to a heroic figure in this series, and he is deadly.  When the monster is unleashed and he kills every hoodlum in sight in the cat house during the season finale, we say, “Just because he’s a homicidal maniac doesn’t mean he’s not a nice person.”  He tried to forge a relationship with Julia, and after standing up to her father, Paul, a couple of times, Paul even seemed to accept him.  When he took Tommy to her house after his killing spree, we were hoping he’d move in with her and her father and live happily ever after.  How dull would that have been?  Instead, he resigns himself to the fact that he probably can’t ever hope to be happy, and leaves. Then, in this episode, he kills a few more people, but we don’t know why yet.  When asked, we just chuckle and say, “Aw, he’s just being Richard.”

Gillian seems in a downward spiral, to say the least.  So far she’s had incest with her dead son Jimmy (before Nucky killed him), killed a young man to serve as a dead body double for her deceased son so she could assume his estate, and turns tricks at the drop of a hat.  Nearly all men during that era wore hats, so there’s a lot of hat dropping in her house.  Now she’s shooting heroin and snorting coke.  Too bad she was born before meth was invented.  We don’t see much of a future for this lady.

Nucky seems to need constant female companionship, so it’s only a matter of time before we see him connect with a new lady friend.  Agent Knox looks like he’s going to be trouble in the future. It’s only his first episode, and already he’s killed 2 people, including a fellow agent.

Since history tells us that Al Capone was one of Chicago’s most notorious criminals, we know it’s just a matter of time before he gets fed up with his boss, Johnny Torrio, and kills him and takes over that operation.  We also expect that there will be some kind of repercussion to the murder of Dicky the agent, especially with his wife and her wayward va-ja-ja  on the loose.

This episode, while leaving several questions, contained all of the elements that make this show so much fun to watch.  It had lots of violence and sex, and the main character, Nucky, and his brother Eli, still have plenty of things to keep them busy and making money, despite the fact that neither of them hold a public office now.  It’s nice to see that Nucky was able to make good on his promise to give Chalky his own nightclub, in exchange for his help in dealing with Gyp.  It’s also nice to see Nucky spending more time with his brother’s family.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Nucky does in Florida, but I’m sure whatever it is, they’ll be plenty of violence and sex involved – and isn’t that what makes this country so great?