Words cannot describe how phenomenal Boardwalk Empire was last night. The penultimate episode, entitled “Two Imposters,” was action-packed and suspenseful from beginning to end, with nary a dull moment. We got to see Nucky in his finest hour, finding out who his true friends really are and embracing them for it.
Especially in the last three episodes, Steve Buscemi has really come into his own with the character, and definitely deserves an Emmy for his performance. Even though Nucky has wrestled with the “half a gangster” image throughout the whole season and is not a saint by any means, we see compassion in many instances (his love for the children) and a solid rationale behind his actions, in contrast with the sadistic brute of Gyp Rossetti. Is Nucky likeable? We, the audience, struggle with that at times (and understandably so), yet we are rooting for him to succeed regardless.
We begin in the early morning, roughly four hours or so from when Nucky and Eddie discovered Owen’s body in the crate. Nucky is still distraught over Margaret’s affair with Owen, but is satisfied when Eddie tells him that she and the children have left for the train station. He asks Eddie if he knew about the affair, but Eddie replies, “I attend only to you. That is all I do. That is my life.” Nucky then asks Eddie to leave, sensing that the crate was a warning. Eddie tries to pick up the phone, but there is no dial tone.
At this, three men sent by Gyp come up in the elevator and kill Nucky’s bodyguard. Nucky and Eddie run into a spare bedroom, and Nucky shows off his shooting prowess, killing all three. The two make their escape (leaving the dog behind, which disappointed me), wisely taking someone else’s car.
However, as Eddie is driving, he passes out because he was shot in the stomach during the firefight. Nucky drives to a hospital, but more of Gyp’s goons come before he can get inside. He escapes this ambush and drives over to Chalky White’s honkytonk seeking help. Once inside, Chalky initially takes advantage of Nucky’s weakened position to get through to him, but relents. He has Samuel, his daughter’s boyfriend who is a medical student, perform surgery on Eddie to remove the bullet.
Meanwhile, Gyp arrives at Nucky’s suite, and is not happy that Nucky escaped and killed three of his men in the process. He is uncomfortable with moving his base into Nucky’s domain, but he wants a trophy, so he takes Nucky’s desk and sets up shop at Gillian’s whorehouse, much to her chagrin. Gillian tells Harrow to keep Tommy in his room.
Gyp then comes outside the honkytonk while Samuel is performing surgery, asking to speak with Chalky. Gyp tries to appeal to their shared “darkness” of skin (which is a ridiculous comparison, and in most situations this is a surefire way to get yourself punched) to win Chalky over. He offers a reward of $25,000 for turning Nucky in, but Chalky feigns ignorance as to his whereabouts.
At this point we see a profound turning point for Nucky that shows his true character. If Eddie isn’t sewed up in five minutes he will die, yet Gyp is practically outside the front door. He refuses to leave Eddie’s side, enabling Sam to finish up while Chalky makes up a story about being found out with a mistress if Gyp comes in, dissuading him from doing so.
After Gyp and his posse leave, Chalky asks Nucky to give him the blown-out club on the boardwalk to rebuild, a request that Nucky denied last episode. Nucky is still unsure, because he doesn’t own it anymore, and therefore it isn’t his to give away, but leaves it on the table.
Gillian is not pleased with Gyp’s men causing a ruckus all over her house. She goes up to Harrow’s room and sees Richard putting Tommy’s coat on. Richard tells her they are going for a walk on the grounds, but Gillian coerces Tommy into telling her that they were going over to Julia’s. Gillian becomes angry that Richard lied to her, and proceeds to humiliate him, calling him an “incomplete person,” and kicks him out of the house. Here, we see that Gillian is acting on fears (not unfounded) that Richard is attempting to take Tommy from her.
That night, Nucky talks to a delusional and tired Eddie, and confronts his own callousness in how he treats the people loyal to him. He is caught unawares that Eddie has a wife and two children, and tries to do right by the man who took a bullet for him.
Chalky comes into the room, offering to take Nucky to a safe place because he doesn’t trust his men not to take Gyp’s offer. He assures Nucky that Eddie will be moved to a safe house as well. Nucky climbs on the back of a truck driven by Chalky and his right-hand man for the ride. The truck is stopped at a checkpoint run by Gyp’s men, who are cut down by Chalky when they try to investigate the back of the truck. Chalky urges Nucky to skip down, but he refuses.
Meanwhile, in New York, Lucky is worried that he won’t be able to pay the debt he incurred when he borrowed from Masseria. He gets arrested in a sting operation attempting to sell heroin to an undercover cop. Looks like his luck has run out for the time being.
We then cut to a quick scene where Richard is taking all of his guns out, getting ready to kill to honor Jimmy’s memory and get Tommy away from Gillian.
Back in Atlantic City, Nucky and Chalky go to the warehouse, where they are met by Eli’s son Willie. Nucky, knowing that Chalky saved him not once, but twice already, promises Chalky that if he wins back Atlantic City that Chalky will be able to set up his club. Chalky in turn promises to go down the same road as Nucky. Here, we see that Nucky and Chalky really appreciate each other as both friends and partners.
The two are caught by surprise when they hear car engines out the window. Fearing the worst, Nucky and Chalky step outside, but are greeted by Eli and the rest of Chalky’s crew, back from Chicago. Eli announces that he cut a deal with none other than Al Capone, and out steps the man himself. In probably the most bad-ass line of the whole series, Capone tells Nucky, “I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down, and we talk about who dies.”
I love how the Atlantic City-New York storyline and the Chicago storyline just came together, and how Capone is finally front and center after a whole season of superb character development. The Nucky-Chalky-Capone alliance will no doubt lead to a gangster battle of epic proportions with Gyp. However, I'm really curious as to how O' Banion and Van Alden fit in with Capone out of town.
Only one more episode of the season left, and we will see a conclusion to a fantastic season. Here are my odds of dying for several characters:
Nucky: 20 percent- The man just showed that he knows how to use a gun, and use it well.
Margaret: 20 percent- I’m assuming she’s safe for the time being, and like I said before, it's poor form to kill off a pregnant woman.
Gyp: 100 percent- He’s gone. It has to happen.
Eli: 10 percent- I just don’t see it happening.
Richard: 50 percent- I hate to say it, but I think it’s a coin toss if he lives. He’s packing heat, so if he does die, he’s bound to take some bad guys down with him. I’ll even venture to say that he’s the one who kills Gyp, in addition to my earlier prediction that he kills Gillian.
Chalky: 35 percent- Not likely, but still.
Nelson: 30 percent- He wasn't in the episode, but was not in the best position when we last left him.