Boardwalk Empire: S4E1 “New York Sour”

8.5 Overall Score
Main Plot: 8/10
Sub Plots: 9/10
Anticipation: 8/10

Some brutal kills to start the season | Lack of Margaret

Harrow's actions murky

Fall television is back, and here to add to the slow burning dramas that kicked off with the final season of Breaking Bad is the exceptionally underrated HBO series Boardwalk Empire. And boy did season four of the Prohibition-Era gangster drama begin with a bang. While it wasn’t up to par with some of the greatest episodes of the series, it’s a satisfying premiere that leaves the viewer wondering which direction this show could possibly be heading. It picks up eight months after the bloodbath of a finale that show-stopper Gyp Rosetti left in his wake, and touches on several characters and where they have ended up in this time.

The weirdest part of premiere episode “New York Sour” was the exclusion of two major players: Margaret and Van Alden. While my hatred for Margaret knows no bounds, especially after last season’s finale, I wished we could have had at least one scene with Van Alden and where he stands after the events of season three. Yet less time spent with these characters allowed us to see some of the players that had receded into the shadows – Chalky White in particular, who now owns a club.

It’s the arc with Chalky and henchman Dunn that steals the episode. As Chalky begins negotiations with talent manager Dickie, Dickie’s wife has some plans of her own, inviting Dunn to have…“relations” with her *queue twisted sex scene*. If you hadn’t had enough of Gyp’s masochistic sexual pleasures before his demise, “New York Sour” will satiate you for now. Dickie showing up while the two were in the act was expected, but him putting a gun to Dunn’s head and telling him to resume acts on his wife while he watches…not so much. Needless to say, Dunn reacts drastically, smashing a whiskey bottle over Dickie’s head and repeatedly stabbing him in the neck with the sharp remains. Unfortunately, this act puts Nucky and Chalky in a tight spot, especially since Dickie’s wife jumps out the window and is nowhere to be found.

Speaking of Boardwalk Empire’s cunning anti-hero, Nucky is now living in the Albatross Hotel, seemingly laying low. We first see him in a meeting with Arnold Rothstein and Joe Masseria, each bringing their own second-hand men, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, respectively. It’s a cool scene to see: three of the major players meeting, bringing their seconds (Nucky brings Eli) and trying to make things right. Nucky pays Masseria, seeing as pretty much all of Masseria’s men were slaughtered by Harrow. Masseria accepts and the three leave with tensions eased, at least for now that is.

Other than the meeting, Nucky also meets the beautiful protégé of Eddie Canter. The exchanges between the two are the typical Nucky-flirts-with-pretty-girl fare, and after sleeping together she reveals her true motives for sleeping with him. Nucky immediately leaves, and two seconds later his loyal German servant Eddie briskly tells her to leave. It’s a pretty amusing scene, and shows how broken Nucky is after his relationship with Billie exploded.

Boardwalk Empire - Season 4 Episode 1Also amusing was the small arc with Al Capone and the newspaper article that misspelled his name. Capone was furious over an article, which states that he and Torrio are essentially gangsters and spells his name wrong. Torrio is distraught over the article itself, but Capone’s desire for notoriety ends up with him and his brother Ralph harassing the junior-editor. It’s a lighter arc compared to the other material in the episode, and makes for some laughs through the otherwise bleak hour.

Gillian’s arc begins with her current state, which is fighting for custody of Jimmy’s son Tommy and whoring herself out for money while shooting up heroin. After her malevolent acts in season three, to see Gillian at this low a point in her life may seem karmic, but you have to feel sad for her when she says: “If you want me to put it in my mouth it’s ten more.” Other than that, Gillian meets newcomer Roy, played by Ron Livingston, who is a Piggly Wiggly Executive. Roy eventually asks her to help him out with the new city, and she graciously accepts.

The big surprise this episode came with Treasury Agent Knox, playing not just a bootlegger openly who openly admits to storing a garage full of booze, but his own corrupt partner. It was interesting to watch him play dumb the entire episode, and even though we knew he saw his partner collect money from bootleggers and the man told him about the shotgun trap in his garage, it was still a shocking moment when his partner was blasted by the very trap. Then, to top it off he put a bullet in the bootlegger’s head. Agent Knox is looking to be a wild card this season, and so far I like the direction his character is headed.

You have to save the best for last, of course, and the best in this case would be everybody’s favorite war veteran: Harrow. The man with half a face did some bloodletting of his own this episode, the premiere opening with him slitting the throat of one man and shooting the other in order to gain an Old Mission Title insurance envelope. The next we see him he’s terrifying the president of Old Mission, and gets a name and address of someone unbeknownst to us. After receiving the information, Harrow shoots him twice in the head. Never any mercy from Harrow. The episode ends with Harrow meeting his sister at her house, which is confusing to me. I’m not sure why he killed those men only to end up at his sister’s house. Maybe we will find out more as the season continues, but it left me a bit confounded.

The Boardwalk Empire premiere was a great beginning to what could be another bombastic season for the gangster drama. We got to touch base with most of the main characters of the series after the intense third season, and despite not having the scene-stealing Gyp Rosetti present, we were still treated to some brutal murders and some character insight. The direction season four may be headed is still vague, but it isn’t Boardwalk Empire unless it’s a slow burn.


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Author: Justin Peterson View all posts by

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