BEWARE: SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE AND PREVIOUS EPISODES ARE INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW.
This week we reached the midpoint of Boardwalk Empire’s final season with the episode “Cuanto.” Al Capone had a meeting with Luciano, Van Alden may have soiled himself, Sally Wheet ran into trouble in Havana, and Nucky reconnected with Margaret while flashbacks showed Young Nucky giving Young Eli a peek at how the upper class lives.
Nucky’s more jealous tendencies were still on full display early in this week’s episode. He walked in on Joe Kennedy charming Margaret and was clearly perturbed by it. Kennedy was pretty damn successful, too, as Margaret seemed to really enjoy the encounter and would have undoubtedly taken Kennedy up on his offer of a ride back to New York. But Nucky and Margaret had important business to discuss.
I know Margaret isn’t anyone’s favorite character on the show. I, for one, have never had much of a problem with her, as you can see from past reviews. This episode was really satisfying and refreshing when it came to Nucky and Margaret’s scenes together. The pair have never really been this cordial in the series, despite being married, so it felt warm and pleasant to see them joke and drink together. A lot of the credit goes to the writers but there was also a charm and energy in Kelly Macdonald’s performance that was a very welcome change of pace.
In Cuba, Sally Wheet was left to deliver money to the Bacardi executive after Nucky was unable to fly to Havana, due to the rain. She meets with the Bacardi executive amidst a military/political coup in the country. There’s evidence that the militia are following her and setting her up for her final scene where she’s shot by the militia.
I really enjoyed this sequence for its tension and writing. However, I felt slightly disconnected from it, in the end, because Sally (for all her no-bullshit sass) ultimately didn’t interest me as a character. In terms of a business partner (and pseudo-romantic partner) for Nucky, the character was refreshing and fun to watch. But outside of her interplay with Nucky, there was a disconnect with me and the character. Her death scene was great but I’m more interested in how Nucky will react than I am in saying goodbye to the character.
In Chicago, Al Capone met with Lucky Luciano. They joked as old friends before talking business. I point this out because Lucky and Capone ribbing each other was really engaging to me. Capone is off his rocker and completely unstable but Luciano interacts with him with a combination of comradery and business that really illustrates the character’s growth over the series’ run. Luciano’s growth, of course, is juxtaposed with Capone’s failing sanity; as evidenced by Capone not remembering Jimmy Darmody.
We were treated to some nice tension when it came to Van Alden this week. Luciano recognized him in Capone’s headquarters from 1921/season 1. What followed was an intense moment that showcased (once again) how erratic Capone is. On one hand, Al’s antics are getting to be redundant. On the other hand, however, Van Alden twisted the scene around onto Luciano. Michael Shannon’s performance in this scene was really compelling.
By episode’s end, though, undercover fed D’Angelo picked out Van Alden’s file. I’m very curious what direction this will take. Since season 3, I’ve viewed Van Alden as a “witness to history.” He was present at the Dean O’Banion hit, but he wasn’t the gunman. I have a feeling D’Angelo is going to flip Van Alden but something may happen to our disgraced Prohibition agent turned gangster. Hell, maybe Eli will have to take him out.
Speaking of Eli, I wish he was more present in this episode. He had one line that really stung, given the nature of the flashbacks. But it would have been better for me if he had more screen time detailing his lonely life in Chicago to juxtapose his dependency on Nucky as a kid.
The flashbacks were better for me this week. There was a strong sense of brotherly love in the story of Young Nucky showing Eli how the rich people live. It was heartbreaking in the way it showed Eli’s innocence and Nucky’s yearning. The show should be transitioning to an older version of Nucky in the flashbacks now, if I’m not mistaken. I’m excited to see what the next stage of the flashbacks’ story reveals to us.