“Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Five: “Erlkönig”

* This was a fine, fine episode, and that’s largely down to Tim Van Patten, the show’s go-to director (and an executive producer). The constant, sumptuously staged and shot off-center framing of its characters was dramatic and gripping and unsettling — simple enough to do, sophomore-year film school shit I suppose, but so rare on television, and so thoughtfully applied here. Characters addressing each other through the discontinuity of the edge of the screen from shot to shot; memorable set-dressing choices like the mountain of discarded chairs in Eddie’s interrogation room; the choice of who to show in close-up (Knox, Nucky) and who to show in a medium shot (Eddie, Willie) in order to establish the power dynamic…beautifully done. One of the most visually impressive television episodes I’ve seen all year.

* Oh boy, I didn’t like that opening montage of shots of Eddie’s stuff, no sir. Ominous.

* “That is for protection.” “Against who?” “…Apaches.” Lots of memorable one-liners and exchanges from writer Howard Korder, too.

* “Everybody is talking always, everybody has the opinion, nothing gets done.” Van Alden’s wife (wouldn’t it be nice if we were given enough to remember her name?) is the fertile soil from which autocracies would spring worldwide in the decade to come. Of course, she also straight-up murdered a guy once.

* Whoa, Willie was arrested! Or at least detained. I assumed it’d all be about whether he got caught, not how he’d handle it afterwards. The College Boy storyline surprises me for the first time.

* Gillian’s a very gauzy junkie. Okay, that’s a fine way to depict it, sure.

* In its way, the POV shot of Frank Capone coming up the stairs at Al’s HQ was as much of a tip-off regarding his fate as the montage of Eddie’s belongings was of his.

* “You know who dat includes?” “I don’t.” “Guess.” “I can’t.” “He likes flowers.” “Mr. O’Banion.” It would not have occurred to me to use Van Alden as a comic foil to the Capone Brothers, but that’s my loss.

* Al’s crude peer pressure, lol: “Don’t you wanna be my friend?” He’s a big child, right down to his rough-and-tumble affection for his brothers.

* “I didn’t want you to know.” “But now I do. You see?” Nucky’s philosophy of power comes through in that exchange with Willie, I think. Power is getting into the position to know about everything that concerns you, and to have the power to do something about it.

* Gillian already using Piggly Wiggly guy for custody purposes? Soliciting the judge? This storyline is moving a lot faster than I expected, but then that’s often the way for this show. The shattered glass was unexpected, too.

* It was clear very quickly that Nucky and Willie were gonna throw that other kid to the wolves, which is admirably shitty of them. But more importantly, taking all this time to hash this stuff out kept Nucky from actively worrying about Eddie, which he’d otherwise be doing, and which fact Knox used to help break the poor guy.

* “That’s who I am. And I’m going to own every last bit of you.” The vomit-punch was truly gross, and lingered on in a soul-shriveling way.

* “Stick with me, huh? I’ll put grass in your fucking lawn.”

* So did Van Alden suck at his job, or were the numbers just never in their favor at all? I can’t quite figure what we were supposed to take from the initial stage of the confrontation, when the workers retreated and locked the gate.

* Dunn Purnsley and Gillian Darmody, hot damn. Didn’t see that coming. Loved his throne. Loved this:
“May I examine the preparation first?” “No, you mayn’t.” Now, did Dunn give her that H gratis, or was the implication that he’s taking her up on her offer?

* Nice to hear Nucky mention both Mabel and the Commodore. I like links to the show of old.

* Oh, Gillian, please stay away from Tommy. Boy was I relieved that that plan didn’t work out. “I have to give him the Abba Zabba.” Guh.

* American flag hanging behind Willie. “I promise. You can live with it.” “Is that what you do?”
“The only thing that you can count on is blood….The rage you feel, listen to me carefully–it’s a gift. Use it. But don’t let anyone see it.” Nucky is really formidable, huh?

* Haha, Van Alden could have killed Capone.

* The death of Frank Capone took me by surprise — I hadn’t boned up on him. But gosh, that was some wholly convincing rage and grief on Al’s part. He’s lethal.

* Beautifully staged stuff with Roy in Gillian’s sickroom. “Roy, I’ve done the most awful things.” Interesting to see her and Richard arrive at roughly the same place in roughly the same time.

* Oh, Eddie ran off with the money and the mistress. Another thing I didn’t see coming.

* Sun and wind through the newspapers.

* “Every fuckin’ thing that crawls is gonna pay.”

* I feel bad for this College Girl character. She’s a dupe, she has no agency, she exists solely for Willie to have something to do, to be juxtaposed against him. You might could get away with this if your only female lead wasn’t Gillian Darmody now.

* A part of me thought Eddie might — might — play ball with Knox following Nucky’s insensitivity to him upon his return, but now that I think of it, that’s just Eli S1-S2 all over again, so they couldn’t go that way. The sad thing is that I found myself, god help me, rooting for Eddie’s suicide. Much as I enjoyed that character, and that marvelous little performance by Anthony Laciura, seeing him put to the screws over and over again in order to ruin things for Nucky on behalf of Knox was just going to be too much for me. Better to get it overwith. And he went out with perhaps the loveliest shot of the episode, centered at last, the open window paying off all the episode’s window imagery leading up to that moment.

2 Responses to “Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Four, Episode Five: “Erlkönig”

  1. Daniel Berman says:

    Dude, that’s a fantastic stream of thoughts on the show. Perfect. Thank you.

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