Episode Title: “White Horse Pike”
Writer: Dave Flebotte
Director: Jake Paltrow
Previously on “Boardwalk Empire”:
It’s about that time of season on “Boardwalk Empire” when bodies start droppin’. And the way things are going, either Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) or Dr. Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) won’t live to see next season. Perhaps even both.
Nucky (Steve Buscemi) doesn’t want a war between the two, but it may be a little too late for that. Backing his business partner, Chalky makes sense, but when Narcisse shows up at a sit down with Masseria (Ivo Nandi), things get complicated. After getting a tip from Sally (Patricia Arquette) about Masseria and Petrucelli using Nucky’s booze shipments from Tampa to transport heroin, Masseria introduces Nucky to his partner, Narisse and offers to cut him in on the action. In return, Nucky agrees to hand over Chalky.
As we’ve seen with Jimmy Darmody, Owen Sleater and Eddie Kessler, Nucky doesn’t get too attached to his “associates” and delivering Chalky to Narcisse would solve a big problem while fattening his wallet. Instead, Nucky has Mayor Bader (Kevin O’Rourke) arrange for two deputies to transport Chalky out of town. But again, it’s that time of season and when the deputies talk a “different” route, it comes as no surprise.
Thankfully, Chalky doesn’t go out in a such an obvious fashion, instead quietly pulling a gun out of his jacket and shooting one of the men while Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham), who insisted on leaving with him, stops the car. Chalky manages to kill the other deputy, surviving another attempt on his life, but Narcisse has amassed some powerful allies in the mayor and Masseria. And keeping Chalky alive could create problems with Nucky’s new business partners in the heroin trade.
Chalky isn’t the only one dodging bullets. Out west, the Capones narrowly survive when a gang fires at them from a neighboring building. If Van Alden (Michael Shannon) didn’t prove his worth by turning on O’Banion, he certainly does here when he spots the snipers and warns the Capones. Everyone makes it out alive, but Al Capone (Stephen Graham) comments on Torrio’s timely departure, just before the shooting.
Back in New York, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) has another run-in with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) at Mr. Bennett’s office. When he hears she’s looking to move, Rothstein offers her an apartment in one of his buildings. Not wanting to live off the generosity of men like her estranged husband, Margaret makes Rothstein an offer: five years rent-free in an apartment in a good neighborhood in exchange for a tip on the stock Bennett sold him. Having struggled to legitimately make it on her own, Margaret’s grown frustrated with her circumstances and rationalizes her arrangement with Rothstein by saying she “earned” it. We’ve seen Margaret slide down this slippery slope before with Nucky and now that Rothstein’s got her on the hook, he’ll surely reel her in further to hurt Nucky.
There’s plenty of tension in this episode, like when Narcisse encounters Chalky’s distraught daughter, Maybelle (Christina Jackson) and creepily starts babbling in poetry as has become his trademark. It looks like he just might kill her to get revenge on Chalky, but instead chooses to let her go and “forget” her called-off wedding and missing father. Then there’s Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty) getting in Eli’s (Shea Whigham) face about giving him bad info on one of Torrio’s men. And how about Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), just happy to be alive after Nucky threatens to toss him in a pit on the outskirts of town for using the Tampa shipment to move heroin.
There are also a few key alliances made that will likely impact the way the season finale plays out. Eli is somewhat shocked to learn that Willie (Ben Rosenfield) is acting as Nucky’s spy in Bader’s office. but it’s “what we do” Willie tells his father and Eli can’t exactly argue with that. Chalky also forms an alliance with Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), who is working as a dishwasher at the Onyx Club. What are the odds Harrow ends up saving Chalky’s life in the season finale? Just a guess, but if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s at least one dead body before the finale’s closing credits.