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2010 Year End TV Review: Will Harris

You’d think it’d be easy for me to pull together a “Best TV of 2010” list, given that I’ve attended two TCA press tours (one in the winter, one in the summer), participated in two editions of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings (one in the spring, one in the fall), and pulled together the site’s annual Fall TV Preview, but damned if that doesn’t somehow make the task harder. Nobody likes to feel like they’re repeating themselves, and given that there’s going to be some inevitable content crossover between all of these various pieces, I often find myself bouncing back and forth between all of these features, wondering if I’m subconsciously recycling a particularly nice choice of phrase. Hopefully, I’ve managed to make this sound at least somewhat original, but if for some reason you feel I’ve failed at that endeavor, please, for God’s sake, don’t take it out on the shows. It’s not their fault, and they shouldn’t be held accountable for my lack of creativity.

Oh, and one other note: in a further effort to avoid conceptual duplication, I’ve only written about each show once, so if you see a show’s title without anything written beside it, look back and you’ll find where I’ve already written about it. That, or I screwed up. Either’s possible, really. (I’m only human, after all.)

Best Shows to Come and Go within 2010

1. Terriers (FX) – It’s a testament to the quality of “Terriers” that FX president John Landgraf held a teleconference with journalists after breaking the news of the series’ cancellation in order to explain his actions, but I don’t think anyone really blamed the guy, anyway: the show’s ratings were as deplorable as the writing was phenomenal. Between the awful ad campaign for the show (no, it wasn’t about dogs) and the fact that many of the viewers who did tune in were kind of bummed out by too-real character traits and developments like alcoholism, infidelity, divorce, and mental illness, it’s not a surprise that it wasn’t a huge hit. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing.
2. Lone Star (Fox) – I’d like to think that this “Dallas”-esque series about a con man leading two lives would’ve been battling with “Terriers” for the top spot if only Fox hadn’t canceled it after only two episodes…but, then, if they can’t canceled it after only two episodes, then maybe viewers might’ve embraced “Lone Star” enough that it wouldn’t have been canceled at all. Oh, wait, never mind, I forgot: it was on Fox, so it probably still would’ve been canceled, anyway. Even so, Kyle Killen provided an intriguing concept and delivered it with the help of a top-notch cast. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see more of it.

3. Warren the Ape (MTV) – So falls another network effort by one of our favorite fabricated Americans. Greg the Bunny couldn’t keep a show alive on either Fox or IFC, but it really seemed like a given that the shenanigans of Warren the Ape were tailor-made for MTV viewers. Not so, apparently. Frankly, the whole thing smacks of anti-puppetism. Warren himself has conceded that “fabricated Americans still have a very long way to go in this country, and I think it’s always going to be an uphill battle.” How right he was.
4. Happy Town (ABC) – Note to ABC’s publicity department: while I appreciate your intentions when you underlined the comparisons between “Happy Town” and “Twin Peaks” with a giant Magic Marker, you have to expect that “Twin Peaks” fans are going to offer up their equivalent of the old “I knew Jack Kennedy” line. Yeah, I know, you only meant it as a point of reference, and you never intended to imply that the two series were on even creative footing, but try telling them that. For my part, I thought it was a creepy little sleeper of a show…but, unfortunately, the other five people who agreed with me weren’t enough to keep it on the air.

5. Sons of Tucson (Fox) – I’m still not quite sure what Fox was thinking by trying to slot this poor live-action sitcom into the midst of their otherwise-animated Sunday night line-up. Maybe they’d hoped it would instill viewers with a bit of nostalgia for the days of “Malcolm in the Middle,” given the similarity in feel between that show and “Tucson.” If so, the plan failed miserably. In a perfect world, the network would raise the series from the dead and team it with “Raising Hope.” Now that’s a double bill I could get behind.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.12 – Life’s a Funny Proposition After All

Welcome, my friends, to the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire.” I really haven’t a clue how many of you there actually are, but given how few comments I’ve been getting, I have to figure that it isn’t a huge number. Still, I’ve been trudging ever onward, mostly because HBO has been kind enough to provide me with the episodes far enough in advance that I generally haven’t had to stay awake into the wee hours of Sunday evenings to finish up my blogs. Tonight, however, all of America’s TV critic stand on even footing, watching the finale at the same time as everyone else…or, in my case, slightly later. I was away on a brief vacation – except not really, since it was a trip that I’m going to end up writing about for Bullz-Eye, thereby making it a work-related excursion – and literally walked in the door just as the finale was kicking off, and it’s taken me ’til now (10:50 PM EST) to finally get myself wound down from my flight, grab a snack and a drink, and settle in to write.

When we first see Agent Van Alden this evening, he’s quoting St. Augustine. Moments later, he’s smacking the living shit out of a potential new recruit and lying about Agent Sepso’s cause of death, claiming it was a heart attack rather than, y’know, at Van Alden’s own hand. Clearly, he’s losing it…oh, who are we kidding? He lost it long ago. One presumes, however, that a certain part of him knows he’s losing it, as he’s decided to depart the bureau. I can’t see him getting away with having murdered Sepso, however. Not with all of those witnesses.

Nucky’s pretty pissed off about the current state of affairs in the mayoral race of Atlantic City, with the democratic candidate, Fletcher, poised to take home the victory. In asking his team – which includes Chalky White – to hunt up as many potential voters as possible for his candidate, Bader, Nucky’s seething with anger over the goings-on his personal life is palpable, and it doesn’t help that he’s being constantly told that his decision to remove Eli was a wrong one. Chalky admits, however, that Fletcher’s people have approached him in an attempt to get him to use his sway with his “people” and get them to vote for him. In truth, however, he says he’s only doing it for the money, that he’s really doing it for Nucky…particularly if he can get a little bit more money out of the deal. In addition to the money, Chalky wants a new car and an invitation to the new mayor’s victory party. Nucky said it’s tough to promise the latter, but Chalky calmly suggests it’s probably in both their best interests if he comes through.

Although she’s evacuated from the love nest provided to her by Nucky, Margaret and her kids are still in the general area, hanging out with Nan, mother of Warren Harding’s love child. Nan’s still quite naive, the poor thing, expecting to hear from Harding any day now. (Yeah, right…) As such, she can only offer Margaret a place to stay for a few more days, focusing on her future as a resident of the White House. In the meantime, Margaret keeps her chin up as best she can, baking a barn brack but clearly worrying a bit about her new friend’s state of mind.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.11 – Thou Hast Fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked

At last, after several references to him during the course of the season, we finally get a first-hand look at Hardeen, brother of Houdini. His performance, while ostensibly impressive, receives little more than a yawn from Nucky. Margaret, meanwhile, is on the verge of offering a standing ovation. Harry and Annabelle are also in attendance, with Harry looking particularly nervous. He claims it’s because it makes him nervous to see Hardeen tied up. I’m skeptical. I don’t know what’s going on, but Harry’s clearly up to something…

Angela’s drifting off in thought while sitting at the dinner table, which really apparently pisses off Jimmy. Fair enough: he’s still smarting from the situation with the photographer, clearly distrusting his wife despite her assurances that she never slept with the man…which is true insofar as it goes, but let’s not go there right now. What’s more important is that he receives a phone call. It sounds like business, but he says it was his mother, letting him know that his father is dying. Given that Jimmy seemed to have viewed Nucky as a father figure when the season kicked off, I think it’s fair to say that the bond between him and his real father must be pretty weak.

Agents Van Alden and Sepso are enjoying a spot of Chinese when Van Alden unsurprisingly turns the topic of conversation to that of Sepso having killed Billy, and it’s not exactly what you’d call a polite dinnertime chat. Sepso maintains his cool, relatively speaking, but it’s clear that this won’t be the last time Van Alden brings up the matter.

The evening with Hardeen continues beyond his proper show, as he entertains the troops back at Nucky’s place. Once again, Margaret and Annabelle are enthralled, while Nucky shrugs and Harry sweats. It’s pretty funny to watch Hardeen play up his reputation even as he plays down his brother’s, but the fun stops when Harry explodes and at least explains why he’s been looking so sketchy all night: he’s lost a huge amount of money at the hands of one Charles Ponzi…and if the name sounds familiar, yes, he is the one who gave name to the so-called Ponzi Scheme, which most recently came to prominence via Bernie Madoff. So much for the relationship between Harry and Annabelle, eh?

Rothstein gets word from Chicago that things ain’t looking good for him with the whole Black Sox situation. His attorney suggests that he heads to Chi-Town, but to make sure he knows someone in the city who’s willing to do him a favor. Will it be Capone or Torrio?

No, The Commodore’s not dead yet, but you can’t blame his maid for fearing the worst. I mean, the guy’s already sick, and then his dog dies…? Talk about the kind of thing to send a guy into a tailspin. But, wait, who’s the Commodore’s guest? Jimmy?!? Wait a minute: Jimmy’s the Commodore’s son? Did we already know this? I’m pretty sure we didn’t. (Given the predilection of the majority of this blog’s few readers to only comment when they have a chance to criticize or complain, I can only presume someone will quickly confirm if I’m wrong.) Boy, Jimmy’s really pissed off that he’s had to make this visit, and it’s clear that he won’t miss his father when he’s gone. How else to explain the fact that, when the Commodore says he’s dying, Jimmy’s only response is to say, “Well, then, I will call you a priest.” Still, when the Commodore adds that the wrong person is running Atlantic City, it causes such mixed feelings in Jimmy that he promptly pukes. Still, I guess it would be a little confusing to realize that a man you’ve loathed for decades could well be the one who holds the key to the future you’ve been seeking.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.10 – “That’s Mommy’s kissing friend!”

At last, the spotlight is placed back onto Richard Harrow…and, wow, how utterly depressing it must be for him to go from a dreamworld where he’s still the man he used to be back into a reality where his face frightens children. Nucky looked like he might’ve been as least slightly more sympathetic about the situation than Margaret was (which stands to reason, given that it was her daughter who had the bejeezus scared out of her), but he’s right: after his assassination attempt last week, they are already on edge. Hearing the shriek of her child no doubt stopped Margaret’s heart cold.

Sepso’s trying to look as utterly innocent as possible as he swears up and down that he had no choice but to kill Billy in self-defense, even going so far as to claim that the incident will haunt him for the rest of his days, but Van Alden’s expression when Sepso’s exonerated reveals that he doesn’t even remotely believe him, and he only gets more exasperated and infuriated as he’s accused of being a bungler. He’s got one more chance before his career comes crumbling down around him…and, boy, does he know it. The later scene with him flipping through his paperwork, trying desperately to find a way to bring down Nucky, is pitiful.

Angela’s painting a peaceful beach scene when Jimmy emerges from the bedroom for his first cigarette of the day and compliments her on her artwork. She seems mildly surprised that he’s even been paying attention. When he first started groping on her, I thought she was getting annoyed, but instead she found herself titillated to the point of letting her canvas clatter to the floor and allowing Jimmy to have his way with her. Clearly, their relationship is getting at least somewhat back on track.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.9 – The Road to Oz

Eli may still be stuck in bed, recovering from his gunshot wounds, but he’s doing well enough to finger the guys responsible for taking him down while robbing the casino: the D’Alessio brothers. Their reputation as a bunch of full-fledged thugs more than precedes them, and Eli wants them taken down before they do any more damage. (The Thompsons’ take on criminal activity is of a much higher class, you know.) Nucky, however, is concerned about a mayoral candidate named Derwood Fletcher who’s been talking about all the corruption in the city. Eli shrugs it off, but Nucky’s concerned about how it’s going to affect the election. Something tells me that Eli’s desire to get out there and perform a bit of spin control is only going to backfire. I don’t know if it’ll damage Nucky’s career or Eli’s health, but I just can’t imagine something’s not going to suffer as a result.

Meanwhile, on the boardwalk, Nan Britton – a.k.a. Warren Harding’s mistress – is musing to Margaret about how Warren’s love for her can’t compete for his love of America…not that she’s rationalizing her situation. They soon pop into Margaret’s former place of employment in order to get Nan a few new frocks, but Margaret also gets an earful from Madame Jeunet, who complains how much of her income goes straight into Nucky’s pocket. Oh, that woman: her complaints are valid, but the way she’s trying to play Margaret is despicable.

Hey, look, Jimmy’s back in Jersey! Once again, he confirms that his family isn’t his priority by conceding to Nucky that he came straight from the train station to his office. As I suspected last week, Richard Harrow is going to play a part, with Jimmy telling Nucky that he wants Richard to help him on the D’Alessio job. It’s interesting that Jimmy wants Nucky to admit outright that he wants him to kill the brothers, then makes a face when he gets confirmation that “the kid” has a death sentence as well. Criminals have the strangest take on ethics.

Speaking of the D’Alessios, they’re meeting with Rothstein, who clearly outclasses them by about 10:1, if not more. He knows it, too. First, he underlines the fact that he’s got a reputation to uphold, thereby indicating that he’s not sure they won’t embarrass him, then he discusses the methods of making money via bootlegging in such a way that he gives hem the opportunity to put their foot in their mouth with their stupidity. He wants to set up a scotch-importing business, and he’s hopeful that they might be able to assist him in bypassing Nucky in the equation, though he has them sign insurance policies to cover his bases. I had to laugh at Rothstein’s closing joke about the monkeys at the zoo, because he’s right: he and the D’Alessios are two completely different species of criminals.

I like how Nucky’s a fan of L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books. I don’t know if you’ve read anything beyond the original “Wizard of Oz,” but there’s some really great stuff to be found in Baum’s exploration of the land of Oz…but I digress. He and Margaret soon descend into a political discussion, where Nucky lays out his theory on politicians: “If we only elected good men, we’d never have leaders.” Is that an original quote? Somehow, it seems too profound for Nucky. The topic quickly shifts to Madame Jeunet and her business, causing Nucky to tense up at the unsuitable nature of the topic and leave abruptly. Whoops: power struggle in the Thompson house.

Angela looks horribly uncomfortable with a man’s arm around her, doesn’t she? Not so when she’s being kissed by another woman, though. Hello, menage a troi…? If so, it’s going to be a decidedly uneven affair. But, no, the proceedings are interrupted by the return of Jimmy, who’s acting pretty shitty for someone who’s been away from home and virtually incommunicado for as long as he has. Her friends make a hasty departure, leaving Jimmy and Angela to…interact? I don’t really know what you’d call it. It hardly starts off as consensual, but it appears to end up that way, unless she’s just resigned to her fate.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.8 – It’s A New World

As Eli sits behind Nucky’s desk, trying to make everything look just so, only one thought comes to mind: “This man could not possibly look less comfortable in a position of power.” Clearly, everyone knows it, too. When Nucky’s in town, there’s always a line of people to see him, but with Eli in charge…? The place is a ghost town. As soon as Eli started mouthing off to his right-hand man about how easy it’d be for him to do what Nucky does, I knew that a major screw-up was destined to go down before the end of the episode. The only question was what it would be, and it didn’t take long to figure out that it’d have some connection to Neary’s replacement missing his route for a day to be with his polio-stricken daughter.

Similarly, it was inevitable that Nucky would cross paths with Jimmy at some point while he was in Chicago, but until that happened, we got to see him try to pull rank with a hotel concierge. I actually thought he might fail, given that he wasn’t on his home turf, but never underestimate the power of a big wad of cash. Sitting down for dinner, he flips open his brochure for the Republican National Convention and finds an ad for Colosimo’s, thereby securing a visit to that particular establishment in the near future, but before he can make any specific plans, Senator Edge swings by the table to invite Nucky to attend Harry Daugherty’s shindig on his behalf. Obviously, it’s funny in retrospect to hear them disparaging Warren G. Harding, but looking back at the race for the Republican candidate in 1920, you can see why. Even with all the bootlegging going on in the wake of prohibition, Harding’s nomination may have been the biggest crime to be committed that year, and Harry Daugherty was the man behind it.

Margaret and her gal-pal Annabelle (a.k.a. Harry’s woman) are gossiping it up over tea when a harried Madam Regina approaches, unexpectedly asking for assistance with…Lucy? Oh, God, this is going to be bad. Lucy’s trying to get a few more things on Nucky’s dime, but when Margaret tries to politely sway her into leaving calmly, it descends into namecalling that, somewhat surprisingly, leads Margaret to slap Lucy. Ouch!

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Boardwalk Empire 1.7 – Daddy Issues

I feel like I have to start off this week’s write-up by noting that, as a result of having been watching the show via advance screeners that I received way back in August, this week is the first time that I’ve ever actually seen the opening credits of “Boardwalk Empire…and, hey, they’re pretty awesome! I particularly dug the shot of the ocean filled with bobbing bottles. And as far as the theme song goes, I was briefly convinced that I was hearing an instrumental portion from Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” but, no, it’s The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Straight Up and Down.” Fair enough.

Things start out in Chicago, with a cop keeping close tabs on a gentleman indulging in a bit of corned beef hash and eggs. Bad news for him: turns out the cop is one of Capone’s informants. Worse news: I didn’t recognize him at first, but he’s the son of a bitch who slashed Pearl. How nice of Al to help Jimmy extract his revenge. I had no idea he was so sentimental. Now that they know where they can find the bastard, Jimmy heads over to the doctor to get his leg checked out (it’s the one that was wounded during WWI), since it’s been giving him trouble, describing the pain as “a dull ache inside.” A la the medical history lesson we got from Margaret’s pamphlet last week, this time we find out about Dr. Robert S. Woodworth and his so-called “Personal Inventory Test.” Jimmy agrees to take the test, though he’s clearly skeptical of its worth, but then he sees a guy who’s lost an eye and is wearing a colostomy bag. Surely he thinks the same thing we do: it could’ve been a hell of a lot better off.

Who’s the eccentric old codger in the bathrobe, wielding a fireplace poker? Shit, is that Nucky and Eli’s dad? Sure is. All the money Nucky’s got up his sleeve, and this is how his father lives…? Looks like the old man has a reason for preferring Eli…and not just because he was the first son to arrive on the scene after his accident. After Eli makes sure that his pops is in safe hands, he sets onto Nucky for seeing Margaret, reminding him between the lines that he was directly responsible for putting Margaret on the market by making her a widow. Nucky assures him it’s not an issue (though you know it will be one of these days), then shifts the subject back to their father, suggesting they put him in a home. Eli nixes the idea and, after Nucky dismisses any possibility of paying for a live-in nurse, suggests that he and his family can take him in, thereby underlining further why he’s Daddy’s favorite, but it’s the moment where an annoyed Nucky muses on how much the toaster cost ($9) and how it was never used that’s the more telling: Nucky wants to show off his wealth on his own terms, and he’s pissed when his gestures aren’t appreciated.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.6 – “I think you’d agree that Greektown belongs to us now.”

If I was supposed to recognize the gentleman who was strolling the boardwalk at the beginning of the episode, picking up “donations” from the various business owners, I must admit that I didn’t. (Did I mention how glad I am that this is my first Sunday night in many months where I haven’t had to blog two shows? My retention of faces just isn’t what it used to be.) It didn’t really matter, though: by virtue of his actions, it was evident that he was part of someone’s operation. That punk kid had a set of brass balls on him, spitting in the face of a big bastard like that one. Let’s hope the payday was worth it…especially since, as we soon found out, the big bastard in question turned out to be one of Nucky’s boys. As far as who the kid belongs to, that’s a mystery, but it’s one that Nucky wants solved sooner than later. All things being equal, though, it might’ve been better to put someone other than Eli on the case, given that he comes across as more ignorant and belligerent than usual this episode. Is Lucky really responsible?

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not disconcerted by Lucy’s insistence on calling Nucky “Daddy” – as the daughter of a 5-year-old, it really creeps me out – but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy any opportunity to see Paz de la Huerta’s naked body. Seriously, the woman is a full-fledged sex bomb. If Lucy isn’t aware that Nucky and Margaret have officially made the move from idle flirtation to full-fledged ugly bumping, she’s at least conscious that she’s got to work to hold Nucky’s interest, but while drawing blood definitely works as an attention-getter, Lucy’s on the wrong HBO series if she thinks she’s dating someone who gets off on bloodletting.

Margaret goes to visit Mrs. McGarry of the Women’s Temperance League, providing a very carefully phrased statement which indicates that Nucky has offered to take care of her and her children. In return, she gets a frown from Mrs. McGarry, along with a copy of Margaret Sanger’s now-famous “Family Limitation” pamphlet.

It’s a miracle! Charles Luciano is once again capable of getting lucky! And to think: all it took was to hop into the sack with Jimmy Darmody’s mom. Rothstein might’ve been pissed off for still not having a proper update on Jimmy’s whereabouts, but don’t tell me he didn’t chuckle to himself immediately after getting off the phone. The look on Lucky’s face was priceless.

Jimmy’s playing a round of Five Finger Filet, a probable sign that he’s still really depressed about Pearl’s suicide, when Al comes up and tells him that Johnny Torrio is in the house. As soon as Johnny sits down, though, it’s evident that he has little time for Al, dismissing him within moments as a poor businessman. Jimmy might have been pressing his lucky by calling Torrio by his first name, but he’s got a sensible delivery that lends him a great deal of credibility.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.5 – Irish Blood, Jersey Heart

I’m not sure if this week’s episode was the best installment of “Boardwalk Empire” to date, but at the very least, it was the first episode where those of us who’ve been watching since the beginning of the series felt like we were finally getting some payoff to the storylines we’d been diligently following for the past month.

Margaret is awakened by a bustling at the garage across street, and given that it’s a garage, you could almost believe that it’s barrels of oil being rolled in…right up until the point when the gentleman takes a sip of the product. It seems at first that Margaret isn’t terribly bothered by the sight, nor even by being awoken so early, since she heads straight to the kitchen to whip up a batch of soda bread. As it turns out, however, she’s baking up a plan of action. Cut to Nucky and Eli, neither of whom are in the best of moods: Nucky isn’t exactly ecstatic about St. Patrick’s Day, and Eli quickly matches him with his annoyance over being slighted at breakfast. It’s not really about the breakfast, though. It’s about being considered of lesser importance by everyone all the way down to the waiter. Looks like the Celtic dinner is going to be interesting, what with Eli’s speech and the brothers’ dad being in attendance. It isn’t long before Margaret turns up to deliver the soda bread to Nucky…but what’s this? After several episodes of the show underlining Nucky’s interest in Margaret, suddenly he’s blowing her off? Interesting. He says, “My life’s complicated enough,” but something’s got to be up…and, clearly, Margaret’s pissed off by the reception, given that she promptly throws the soda bread into the wastebasket.

Her next move: to attend a meeting of the Women’s Temperance League…her first in quite some time, based on the reaction she receives when she strolls in…but when the topic turns to what can be done to prop up Prohibition, Margaret chimes in about what she witnessed earlier that morning. As I watched, I couldn’t help but suspect that neither Thompson brother would be quite as much of a friend after St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. Little did I know that one would be decidedly more than a friend by the end of the episode.

Can’t say as I expected that Nucky’s offhanded “I’m a little short” joke would ultimately result in a storyline devoted to the vertically-challenged – who knew there was such a substantial population of midgets in Atlantic City? – but they’re apparently none too thrilled about the way they’re being treated with this whole Celtic parade. Carl Healy comes to visit Nucky, who’s not in the mood to put up with small talk…no pun intended. Carl asks for a raise from $5 to $10, but Nucky’s not having it. He is, however, willing to cut a deal where the guys get a slight raise and Carl gets an extra cut. Not a bad deal, but somehow I envision it going wrong. When Margaret comes in, she’s clearly a woman on a mission herself, only taking time to confirm her suspicions that Nucky’s just another sheister politician (yeah, that soda bread sure wasn’t tasty, wasn’t it, Nuck?) before getting down to business. Clearly, no matter what these two may have thought of each other in the past, there’s nothing but annoyance between them now, thanks to this latest development. “This isn’t a personal favor, Mrs. Schroeder.” Yeah, no shit, Nucky.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.4 – “Well, I ain’t buildin’ no bookcase…”

Welcome back to Chicago! Yep, looks like my suspicion at the end of last episode was on the money: Jimmy’s first stop in Chi-Town was to get back into Al Capone’s good graces, although it’s pretty evident from Al’s idea of a prank that he’s more than a little bit of a loose cannon. Firing a gun off at that range is likely to cause permanent hearing loss, wouldn’t you think? Still, it’s true: opium is good for what ails you. Not that Jimmy’s interested in pursuing that particular line of medication. His focus is more on his new female companion and nursemaid, Pearl, and after seeing how violently Al deals with his “clients,” it was all too easy to imagine Jimmy following Pearl to California. Al reminds him that he’s got some pretty big coattails that he’s welcome to ride on, but Jimmy shrugs, tells him he’s only passing through, and then offers the kind of advice which reveals that he could have his own criminal empire if he’d just put his mind to it. The difference between their styles of business only becomes more evident during their meeting with Charlie Sheridan (not to mention when they’re getting fitted for new suits), but I can’t blame Jimmy for wanting to let Al be hoisted with his own petard: the dude asked for it with his boorish manner. I mean, I know how history ultimately turns out, but surely Al needs to learn when to be a thug and when to be a businessman. On a related note, though, as soon as Sheridan’s boy came back into the whorehouse, I knew Pearl was in trouble, but I didn’t know exactly what was going to go down. Rough stuff, that. Come to think of it, it probably couldn’t hurt Jimmy to know when to be a businessman and when to be a thug.

Nucky’s practicing to look surprised for an upcoming birthday party when the ever-gorgeous Lucy pops by to inform him that she’s going shopping…which, of course, means that she needs money. After she departs, he chats further with Eddie about the guest list for the party, talking about how he’s anticipating to pull in some funds from an upcoming road appropriations bill. The fact that he’s pointedly underlined this fact leads me to believe that things aren’t going to go quite how he’s hoping they will. Nucky seems to be the only one in his camp who cares about finding out who Chalky’s man last week, but as he loudly reminds them, “Chalky cares, so that means I cares, and you can bet your ass, come Election Day, you’re gonna care, too.” It looks like Nucky’s chances at reelection are directly tied to whether or not he pulls in the African-American vote, but you’ll notice that Nucky has no ego about his situation and makes the very important distinction that it’s not that the populace in that community are doing what he tells them, it’s that he tells Chalky, and they do what Chalky tells them. Eli’s got a good point – Chalky’s not going to want to give up what he’s got – but better safe than sorry. Nucky’s getting positively anal about making sure everything’s right for the party and is stressed out to the Nth degree, leaving Eddie trying to maintain his good-cop persona and save face, but even he seems a little nervous about how crazy Nucky’s getting. It’s clear that he won’t be calming down until things have been smoothed over in Chalky’s community.

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