'Boardwalk Empire' recap: 'The Pony'

  • Somewhat unbelievably, Nucky Thompson (pictured) has now teamed up with Gaston Means in addition to Agent Randolph to take down Harry Daugherty, Jess Smith and George Remus.
Somewhat unbelievably, Nucky Thompson (pictured) has now… (HBO )
November 05, 2012|By Dave Gilmore

"I just want you to be my gangster" - Billie Kent

"Boardwalk Empire" teased viewers with two pretty slow-and-go episodes heading into “The Pony.” Gillian’s creepy disposal of Bizarro Jimmy aside, the show had crawled to a haunting, deliberate pace in the wake of Gyp Rosetti's personal Little Bighorn in "You'd Be Surprised."

The same could be said for the "The Pony" until the final 25 minutes or so, when all hell broke loose both in Atlantic City and Chicago.

We spent a lot of time with Billie Kent in "The Pony," and when she was caught in the wrong place as Babette's Supper Club went up like a Roman candle, it was apparent as to why. This episode was a somber and appropriate farewell (I'm assuming it's farewell) to Ms. Kent, who had the stones to call Nucky Thompson "Gus" (for "gloomy Gus") and certainly knew how to have a good time.

With Billie (or Nadine Beckenbauer) trying to break into the talkies, and drawing Nucky in with her, I was frankly getting weary of her involvement in the story. She makes Nucky very un-Nucky, which I suppose is an admirable quality in a relationship but not as a sustainable partner for a main character in a television drama.

Seeing Nucky trade blows with some prohibition-era Topher Grace isn't exactly why I love "Boardwalk Empire." Of course, when Billie Kent exploded, I kind of felt like a jerk for thinking she wasn't contributing  a lot to the show.

The reason Babette's was blown to smithereens was almost certainly Gyp Rosetti, and by proxy, Gillian Darmody. Whether you call her place a "health spa" or a "whore house," something is seriously wrong there and it's not just a leaky roof.

Richard Harrow realizes this and is getting more bold about pointing out how slimy she is. "Jimmy deserves better than this," he states bluntly over the corpse of a guy who sort of looks like his only friend.

Gillian sees the chance, after a great confrontation with Nucky, to take out her son's murderer and squeeze out her unwanted partner in Luciano in a single stroke. Her unholy alliance with Rosetti in this task is a union of the two most unhinged people on the show. My prediction is that neither of them are left standing at season's end.

Actually, Nelson Van Alden (who I'm going to just start calling George Mueller for simplicity), might have a good argument for taking the title of "most unhinged 'Boardwalk' character." The tension during the sales role-playing exercise at Fairdale Electric made my skin crawl, one because I hate roleplaying exercised and two, because I could tell that iron was going in someone's face.

For the second time in a row, Mueller is going to have to write "attempted to kill coworker in the office" on his resume. Now moonlighting as a member of O'Banion's crew, making his own hooch in his kitchen, and coming face-to-face with Al Capone, Mueller is finally succumbing to the inevitable pull of turning from g-man to gangster.

Capone is also finally starting to work his way up the ladder, after Johnny Torrio returns from his trip to Naples all mellow and philosophical. Are we sure it wasn't a trip to Amsterdam?

It's no secret I love me some Kelly MacDonald, so I won't complain that they are having her do silly things like going on pony hunts with Owen and getting caught in the rain like a trashy romance novel. At least the women's health clinic story now has now been woven into the main narrative a bit more, since she is finally admitting to herself that she needs to take the precautions she's so vehemently preaching to others.

Somewhat unbelievably, Nucky has now teamed up with Gaston Means in addition to Agent Randolph to take down Harry Daugherty, Jess Smith and George Remus in his stead. Even more inexplicably, their plan is for Nucky to walk right up to Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon himself and lay it out for him.

Apparently, it's crazy enough to work. "Boardwalk Empire" is either a) playing pretty loose and fast with Mellon's history, or b) setting Nucky up for a double-cross. I'm not sure which it is, but I am sure that Andrew Mellon is the only guy using the word "intercourse" to mean conversation, even in 1923.

There are four episodes left in what has been a somewhat up-and-down season for what is still, overall, a very strong show. The table has been set for some major conflict in the final third of 1923, and it's about that time to start looking around and wondering who's still going to be alive when it’s all over. I have my suspicions, but what are your predictions?

Three random facts from "The Pony":

- Norway celebrates its independence from the Danes in 1814, as Sigrid explains, on May the 17th or syttende mai. Norway became completely independent, after breaking away from Sweden, in 1905.

- David Sarnoff, who Nucky's pesky acquaintance mentions doing business with right before the explosion, founded and ran electronics giant RCA and a little broadcasting outfit called NBC until his death in 1971.

- Margaret Sanger, who sent Margaret Thompson her copy of "Birth Control Review," is actually responsible for illegally importing the first diaphragms into the United States. Whether Dr. Mason could get easily one (or two) in 1923 is up for debate, as the first company to manufacture them in the U.S. (founded by her friend Herbert Simonds) didn't begin operating until 1925.

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