S02E02: Last week’s episode of Boardwalk covered a hefty sum of ground—understandably, as it was the season premiere. It caught us up with almost every character we knew from last season, and established, even a little bit, what role they’d each be playing this year. While it did a good job, it naturally had an all-over-the-place feeling to it (comes with the territory). This week feels a little more substantial, as it primarily only covers a few characters.
“Nobody wants to be in school forever.” – Lansky
Nucky has just been arrested, and Maggie is the last to find out. She doesn’t let this frazzle her (Maggie has come a long way since we met her a season ago), as she must maintain composure to prepare for Nucky’s visitor: Mr. McGarrigle, an Irish representative seeking finances in order to support the Irish’s resistance of the English. Maggie is visited by one Owen Slater, McGarrigle’s associate who has come to check if the household is safe for his boss. Slater, sort of a sharp-tongued character, finds a liking in Maggie’s no nonsense demeanor and intelligence. Let us expect something to amount from this later on this season.
Meanwhile, Nucky’s attorney bails him out of prison. Chalky (put in jail by Nucky who insists he did it to save Chalky from a lynch mob…Chalky isn’t particularly convinced) remains a prisoner. Chalky’s wife comes to visit, giving him a book that their son asked her to deliver—David Copperfield. Another Black inmate, Don Pernsley, makes insulting comments about Chalky’s wife, and about Chalky in general—notably, his high-class attire and self-righteous attitude. As luck would have it, Chalky is moved into the cell of this man, along with a handful of Black prisoners. The man continues to insult Chalky while he attempts to read in peace.
“I dont’t have children. I’m told they often say unexpected and amusing things.” – Rothstein
Jimmy pays a visit to two characters who were notably absent from last week’s episode—Rothstein and Lucky, who we are all glad to see again no doubt. Jimmy wants to supply New York with alcohol (a deal behind Nucky’s back). Tensions are high, considering Lucky’s connection to Jimmy (he slept with his mother repeatedly), and professionalism is sacrificed for hostility. During a card game, mention of a new character is made: Masseria, boss of an Italian New York mob, who is rivaling Rothstein’s organization (Masseria’s men will later attack Jimmy in the park, ending up with cut necks). After the card game, Meyer Lansky (best…character…ever) and Lucky talk to Jimmy about their plans to get into heroin sales. We also get more of a glimpse of a very young, very strange Bugsy Siegel. Seriously, this guy is out of his mind. He makes animal noises completely unprovoked.
“Who is against you?” – Maggie
“All of them.” – Nucky
Nucky’s office is torn apart as a result of his investigation. Once freed, he pays a visit, finding that his very incriminating ledger book has been taken—he only finds out later that it was Maggie who took it, while on a visit to the office pretending to be a pregnant, flustered woman in need of the treasurer’s help. She’s becoming quite the ringleader. In any event, this episode shows Nucky coming to grips with a loss of allies—many of the ‘bosses’ have sided against him in the Commodore’s unholy plot. His only loyal friend appears to be Damian, who informs Nucky of the plight against him. Nucky even speaks to Eli, who all but states outright that he has turned against his brother.
Nucky arrives home to dine with the perpetually dissatisfied McGarrigle, arranging a deal with him at the end of the night that seems to finally please him. After this, he speaks with Maggie, who informs him about the ledger book, and proposes that he will become the victor of this political war so long as he keeps his head in the game. Seriously, she’s really amping up the awesome.
“Which one of you boys knows letters?” – Chalky
The coolest part of this episode was the infusion of Chalky, a formerly one-dimensional character, with some more depth and interest. After endless antagonism from the loudmouthed Pernsley, Chalky coolly begins to ask each of the other cellmates how they are doing, revealing that he has helped out each and every one of them financially or personally in the past. This provokes Pernsely to attack Chalky, but the men stop him and beat him to a pulp.
At this point, Chalky no longer feels the need to hide behind his pride, and admits he cannot read, asking the only literate cellmate to read the story aloud to the group.
The episode was far more fun and interesting than last week’s. Of course, premieres are constricted by the necessity to reintroduce almost all the characters, so they are forced to lose some legitimate plot and character development. This week, we see a Maggie grow stronger in the face of her mate’s weakness. We see more to Chalky, which was by far the best part. We see hints of a drug ring to come. And we see pain in both Thompson brothers as one betrays the other in the interest of power (and, more so, out of sheer resentment and jealousy that he has felt all his life).