BOARDWALK EMPIRE Recap: Erlkönig
by Perry Michael Simon on October 6, 2013
This week, Boardwalk Empire resolved the Temple University poisoning plot line from last week, rejoined Gillian’s descent, and saw a popular character… well, read on and you’ll see what happened to one of the regulars.
First, though, Nucky gets a call from his nephew Willie, and while we don’t hear the details, it’s obviously about the mess from last week. Nucky goes looking for Eddie to help him, but Eddie is not there, and we know why. That beings us to a wreck of a room, where the agents are grilling Eddie, and to Cicero, where, on Election Day, reform candidate Pflaum’s campaign caravan passes Van Alden/Mueller’s house, followed closely by Frank Capone, picking Nelson/George up for a busy day.
Willie’s in a jail visitation room when Nucky arrives in Philadelphia. Nucky promises that he’ll try to keep the matter between them and not bring in his parents, and proceeds to set forth how they’ll handle it. Gillian’s on the appearing-every-two-weeks plan, so she’s back this week, a touch on the strung-out side, calling for Mr. Piggly Wiggly and preparing her next fix. And Nelson and Frank pay a visit to a coke-snorting Al Capone, where Nelson gets assigned to do some Election Day work and inhales some coke himself. Can’t turn the boss down.
At the Philadelphia police station, Willie tells Nucky about buying booze from Mickey Doyle, which concerns Nucky, considering that the booze trail leads back to him. Nucky tells Willie he’ll talk to the D.A. but coaches Willie on what to say — the deceased was a friend, he drank a lot, and he did not bring the booze to the party. That’s his story and he needs to stick to it.
Gillian’s trying to get custody of her grandson back. She’s having a hard time coping, though, and breaks a water glass just squeezing it, drawing the judge to the other side of the desk, where she asks if there’s anything she can do right now, running her hand across his crotch. He tells her it will be in her best interest to leave immediately. So he’s not into that, or anything.
Nucky is upset that the D.A. has pushed the matter off to an assistant, and discovers that the dead boy’s parents are major Republican contributors and, therefore, this is not going to be easy. When Nucky rejoins Willie, he insists on the truth, and Willie implicates his friend Clayton and admits that Henry was targeted because “he thought he was better than me.” In A.C., Knox is still coming down hard on Eddie, admiring his loyalty but noting that Nucky hasn’t been enquiring about his whereabouts. Eddie tries to avoid telling them anything, saying that he has a gun because of “Apaches,” but Knox ends up punching Eddie in the gut, prompting projectile vomiting. Knox is not Eddie’s friend. In Cicero, Frank Capone brings Nelson George Van Alden Mueller to the Western Electric plant, hands him a wad of cash “as an advance,” and sends him out to his band of “campaigners,” who want to bust heads. But Nelson warns them to resist using violence… until “his way” doesn’t get results, leading him to punching out a guy and setting off a chain reaction of violence.
Ah, now, we have paths crossing, as Gillian shows up at a barbershop looking for heroin and meets Dunn, who calls himself “Mr. Oxford” and, when Gillian is short on funds, sells her some anyway, but warns her to “go easy. I like my little lambs to come home.”
Nucky’s still with Willie, and Nucky gets a direct meeting with the D.A., who wants Willie to explain what happened. Willie launches into an embellished version of the story, staring with how Henry was a very good friend of his. Back at the shore, Gillian shows up at Tommy’s school, intercepts the boy, and weirdly tells him how she’s met a man and they would all be together. But as she tries to give the boy an Abba Zabba bar and take him home, Julia Sagorsky materializes to take the boy as Gillian gets escorted out.
Nucky and Willie head back to his dorm room, obviously having been successful in sweeping Henry’s death under the rug. Nucky advises the boy that he will be able to live with the death of Henry — “is that what you do?.” Willie asks him — and lectures him on life, but Willie only asks how much Nucky paid the D.A. But they end with a handshake as Clayton barges in; Clayton’s still panicked, but Willie tells him “it’s been taken care of,” about which Willie won’t elaborate.
At the Western Electric plant, there’s another confrontation looming between the workers and the Capones, even if Frank and Al are scuffling. And it devolves into a brawl, of course. Heads are busted, nuts are cracked, blood is shed… and then Nelson pulls his gun. As he sees Al crawling away, he points his gun at Al… but before he can pull the trigger, and before Frank can shoot Nelson first, another mob shows up and blows Frank away with a barrage of shots, leaving Al screaming his name.
Gillian has a visitor. You’ll never guess who… what? Oh, okay, you CAN guess. Yes, Roy Piggly-Wiggly is back and he found her kit, which he flips onto the bed. He says he understands, and when she says she’s “done the most awful things,” he only caresses her forehead. What’s his game? That isn’t explained in this episode. Maybe in two weeks.
Knox comes back to Eddie’s captivity with his employee file from Germany, which involves his leaving the country with money and without his wife and kids (who are grown now and have changed their names so as to not be associated with Eddie). The two exchange lines of poetry in German — Erlkönig, Goethe’s piece about the killing of a child — before the agents threaten him with deportation back to Hannover. What do they want from Eddie? One thing, they say. And as the wind blows a newspaper page covering the window up and reveals a ray of light, he sings: Ralph Capone is who he gave the money to at the train station, he blubbers, because Nucky told him to. That’s good enough for the agents, who let Eddie hobble out but call out, “Hey, Eddie — we’ll see you again soon.” That, as we eventually learn, may not happen.
Ralph Capone, you say? He’s in the hallway with Nelson, telling the fallen agent that he got off the train and said he saw the news about his brother right there on the newspaper. And he tells Nelson that Al wants to “speak to you personal.” Nelson walks into the morgue, where Al is grieving by his brother’s side; he tells Al that someone called Chicago police, who called in the thugs because they said Cicero police couldn’t be trusted. Al says they’ll pay. This is not a surprise.
At Temple’s library, Clayton’s studies are interrupted by the police. Willie’s back in the dorm room, playing notes on the ukulele, and the girl who was the subject of Willie and Henry’s affections knocks on the door and informs Willie that Clayton’s been arrested for poisoning Henry. “Why would someone do anything like that?.” she asks, and cries on Willie’s shoulder. He CAN answer, but he does not.
Eddie shows up back at Nucky’s and hobbles in; Nucky is having dinner, and asks “what the hell happened to you?” Eddie’s alibi: he “spent the night with friends.” Nucky scolds him and goes back to his dinner, offering Eddie a meal. “I am not hungry,” Eddie insists, but Nucky calls him over and shows him his mismatched socks. “There’s something else I’d rather not worry about,” he notes. Eddie goes to his room and writes a letter in German, then sets up Nucky’s socks for what seems like a year’s worth, gets dressed in his fine suit, and calmly jumps out the window to his ostensible death.
The final scene was as much of a gut punch as the one Agent Knox administered in the interrogation. Eddie, in the last couple of episodes, had become more of a fleshed-out character; while the loss of the character (assuming he’s dead, which may not be a fair assumption) wouldn’t kill off the narrative at all, he offered some interesting possibilities that now, again assuming he’s dead, won’t happen. And, once again, we’re on an every-other-week basis with major story lines, including Chalky, who didn’t appear, and Narcisse, who only “appeared” by implication in Dunn’s heroin sale. That’s better, I suppose, than Margaret, who has yet to appear. Gillian’s descent might bear some fruit, but the Capone thread is way more interesting than Nucky at this stage, and the Chalky-Narcisse-Dunn triangle is, too. Frankly, Nucky’s kind of boring at this stage. Maybe something more exciting will envelop him soon. He does have that Tampa deal and the Rothstein-Lansky situation on the table, but that was forgotten this week.
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