Boardwalk Empire – “Two Imposters” (season 3, episode 11)
Like I’ve written before, Boardwalk Empire is a show that takes its precious time with its pieces. The series will set things up and let them hang there for episodes upon episodes until it is finally time to knock it down, or cut it loose. Boardwalk Empire wants you, the viewer, to feel like everything that is going on in front of you is earned and respected.
“Two Imposters” does both of those things. After Nucky’s place is raided and all of his men are killed, he and Eddie flee to Chalky White’s side of the fence. Eddie is unfortunately wounded and Nucky insists that Chalky helps his friend so that he doesn’t die, as they both cannot go to the hospital. Mr. White recruits his future son-in-law Samuel, who is just a medical student. This could all feel forced, contrived, and generally boring if we didn’t meet Samuel way back in episode two of this season. We’re aware of the relationship between Chalky and Samuel, and how this certainly is the only time the two have really connected like this. We’re also aware of Chalky’s disconnection with Nucky all season.
As you may recall, something I have always wondered about Boardwalk is the inclusion of Chalky. It’s not that he’s a bad character, because he’s definitely an interesting person to watch, but I’ve always felt that his stories just have little to do with the main plot. It’s almost as if the writers just want the great Michael K. Williams to stay on the payroll just so he doesn’t go on another show.
And so it is, I stand corrected. Chalky does have a position in all of this other than just to just be there. His role of helping Nucky get away from Gyp, proving to him that he can trust him, and therefore getting what he wants (Babbette’s old place off the Boardwalk) is fantastic. The line to Nucky about how they’re both too old to make any new friends is absolutely correct, and absolutely sad. They’re both in a world of their own and need to stick together.
The tying of story lines doesn’t stop at Chalky’s though. The great Richard Harrow, who also felt a little tacked onto this season’s main plot, seems to be sliding right in with the war on Nucky. His love for Julia has finally pissed off Gillian enough to kick him out of her house. As he stacks his guns up on his bed, we can only assume that the great sniper will fall right into place with Nucky’s need for more men.
Which, of course, the need for more men isn’t necessarily a problem anymore because Al Capone’s men have been recruited for duty thanks to Eli. Again, the season just keeps reeling in everything it seemingly gave up/tacked up on the season as a whole. There’s also something about how everything gets together, starts to connect just when Nucky realizes he’s truly alone in all of those. Margaret has been cheating on him with Owen, and now Owen is dead. The phone lines have been cut, and he must start trusting anyone who might give him the time of day. Nucky learns of this fairly quickly due to Eddie telling him that he has a family. One wife, two kids. How did Nucky not already know this? He’s known Eddie for so long! Sadly, it’s because Nucky has isolated himself from everyone else.
And so he’s going to stay in Atlantic City, his city. Gyp and his men are coming for him either way, so why not go out with some sense of identity?