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Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Builds Up To An Explosive Finale In Episode #8, 'The Pony'

The Playlist By Edward Davis | The Playlist November 5, 2012 at 12:07PM

"Jimmy deserved better than this," Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) says with disgust. The "funeral" for Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) is equal parts sham, disgrace and an utter joke. Shockingly killed off at the end of season 2 by his mentor and only real father figure Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) as vengeance for an earlier betrayal, Jimmy's mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol) has spent the last few months in delusional mourning, claiming Jimmy was off on one of his "adventures" rather than acknowledging his death. But when faced with practical matters -- her brothel business is failing, the house being in Jimmy's name stopping her from acquiring a loan -- Gillian proves her head's not entirely in the clouds and she can be sinisterly lethal. Buried in lieu of Jimmy is the dead-ringer Roger McAllister (Billy Magnussen), a handsome bumpkin Gillian lured into her web for the specific purposes of having a surrogate body to bury. It's ruthless stuff and it makes Harrow, Jimmy's dear friend, ill and sickened by the charade Gillian puts on.
3
Meg Steedle, Boardwalk Empire

The pony theme re-emerges once more. Billie Kent (Meg Steedle) does a screen test for Hollywood film producers in Queens and blows them away with her spunk, charm and ability to improvise. She plays, “the pony,” a theater term for the comedic foil. Billie entertains one of the actors she auditioned with, but is interrupted by Nucky who drops by unexpectedly and his jealousy and possessiveness flare up to uncontrollable levels when he sees her partying with friends and another man. Things quickly go sour when the actor calls Nucky "sir," and the turn of phrase grows into a challenge, and then a brawl, with the actor crying that Nucky may have broken his nose and how the studio will sue him. Billie screams at Nucky and warns him he’s behaving like her dad whom she left long ago, a controlling tyrant who ends all arguments with fists.

Thinking their meeting has been a bust, Nucky is surprised when days later Mellon calls him back out of the blue. Mellon has no proposition, just details, facts and commands, but they are all to Nucky's liking. Bootlegger George Remus will be arrested for multiple violations of the Volstead act, including one that involves the purchase of government liquor permits from an associate of the Attorney General. This essentially means they're all going down with the ship and Nucky is free and clean as a whistle. In exchange Mellon expects Nucky to have his own distillery operational in two weeks, and generating a healthy profit a month thereafter. His neck off the chopping block once more, Nucky, obviously, is more than willing to be part of this arrangement.

Nucky visits Billie Kent who has dyed herself bleach blonde. He doesn't love it, but goes along with it. More important he has another offer: quit acting and take a guaranteed income every month for doing nothing. The catch? Nucky says he's actually setting her free and she can do with the money what she pleases and with whomever she chooses. And while they embrace, this feels like a slow goodbye as they know this relationship won’t last.

Boardwalk Empire, explosion

Nucky, Rothstein and Luciano discuss their potential new business on the Boardwalk as they walk to dinner: the heroin trade. Nucky is interrupted by an annoying acquaintance and tells Billie Kent to go on ahead without them to Babette’s. As he's being tortured with a trivial story, Billie's beauty catches Nucky's eye, for what turns out to be the last time. A bomb goes off in front of his eyes, the violent blast knocking him unconscious, obliterating the club and wiping his darling Billie Kent from existence.

Bits & Pieces:

-- Former disgraced Prohibition officer now masquerading as an iron salesman Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) aka George Mueller is paying the piper in full. Having recently killed a Prohibition officer by accident (his wife maimed him when she thought he was at their home to arrest him and Mueller was forced to finish him off or face true consequences), Mueller had to make a deal with the devil: ask North side Chicago mobster Dean O'Banion (Arron Shiver) to help him dispose of the body. And now holding Mueller in his pocket, O'Banion has come to collect by setting up an illegal whiskey distillery in the Mueller's apartment. As additional collection, because he can, O'Banion also forces Mueller to come work with him occasionally as muscle.

- Meanwhile, George finally breaks down. Constantly out of his element and taunted by his co-workers, during a make-believe sale session, George can no longer suffer the abuse and goes ape; disfiguring a man in the process with a steaming hot iron. Sympathetic viewers who had enough of the abuse will practically stand up and cheer when Mueller finally fights back. George's full-on destruction of the offices, his taunter's whimpering sobs and the staff's terror, is total vicarious gold for anyone who's wanted to go postal on their co-workers. After the incident, George tries to quickly leave Chicago, but his canny wife Sigrid (Christiane Seidel) has a plan and talks him out of it. She makes extra whiskey from the batch they make for O'Banion and she posits they can sell it to make money and George's sales job can go to hell. While concerned, she eventually sells him on staying in Chicago (though won't the cops come for George for the assault?)

Boardwalk Empire, Michael Shannon

- Having just returned from a trip to Italy, South Side Chicago mafia boss Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) seems like a changed man. Usually ill-tempered and impatient, the leisurely pace of the home country suits him well, so when he returns to hear of problems in the business -- namely that Al Capone (Stephen Graham) beat one of Northside rivals Dean O'Banion’s men to death in retaliation for another fight. While initially perturbed, Torrio waxes philosophical and decides to let Capone and O’Banion settle their issues instead. In general, Torrio seems to be kicking back, and letting go of the tight reins, letting Capone and his men take care of their end of things. While it’s nice that Torrio’s blood pressure is likely going down, there’s a moment when Capone sees his boss relaxing and there’s a glint in his eye. Is his newfound demeanor a sign of weakness that Capone could capitalize on later? It’s a small, but interesting storyline that’s being floated here.

- Pre-natal care continues at St. Theresa's Hospital and Mrs. Shearer (Kerry O'Malley), the cynical woman from the beginning of the season who had a miscarriage in rather gruesome fashion, returns. Having a highly religious husband, Shearer claim they'll try again to have another baby, but they already have a brood of ten. Mrs. Shearer confesses to Margaret that she sabotaged her own pregnancy, wants no more children and begs her to help her acquire contraception that she can use. Knowing Mrs. Shearer will just try and self-abort again, potentially risking her life, Margaret delicately asks Dr. Douglas Mason (Patrick Kennedy) for a diaphragm, a tricky request considering the Church that runs the hospital is vehemently anti-contraception. Margaret makes things extra tricky when she tells him she actually needs two contraceptives, one clearly for her so she doesn't get pregnant with Owen Sleater's lovechild now that their affair is back in full swing.

This article is related to: Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Stuhlbarg, Gretchen Mol, Television, TV Reviews


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