‘Boardwalk Empire': A Demonstration of Loyalty

Published 2 years ago by

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire Erlkonig Boardwalk Empire: A Demonstration of Loyalty

Early on in ‘Erlkönig,’ a statement is made regarding the desires of people everywhere, and the general consensus is that “people don’t know what they want.” At least that’s the impetus for most characters on Boardwalk Empire to do the kinds of thing that they do – i.e., supply people with everything they didn’t even know they wanted.

That’s certainly been the reasoning behind the actions of the Capone brothers as they seek to secure their place in Cicero, and control the voting of the working class there. And it’s also been the direction of Chalky White’s temperamental associate Dunn Purnsely, who has fallen under the spell of Dr. Narcisse, and considering that man is given to speaking with such measured elegance by Jeffrey Wright, it’s hard to find blame in Purnsley. But with every action there is a reaction, and placing volatile people like Al Capone in the middle of potential riot situation is tantamount to putting a flame to gas, and the result is the brutal death of his brother Frank (Morgan Spector).

Ultimately, it’s not so much that people don’t know what they want, as people are going to make a thousand choices everyday, so, for those inclined, the challenge is to push those seemingly aimless few into make the choice that will be most beneficial to them. And in it own excruciatingly bleak way Boardwalk Empire demonstrates the repercussions of those choices made with and without the guiding hand of individuals who think they know better. It’s felt in the depressingly gauzy and unfocused world of Gillian Darmody, who had deluded herself by not only believing Tommy will one day come home with her, but that Roy Phillips (Ron Livingston) will actually be the key to her salvation. And who knows, Roy claims to know a thing or two about “weakness” and “sin,” so the only question is: will he drive Gillian away from, or closer to those things he knows?

Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire Erlkonig Boardwalk Empire: A Demonstration of Loyalty

But the heaviest part of ‘Elrkönig’ refers to the poem from which the episode derives its name, about a father who fails to protect his son from an attack by a supernatural being. In that regard, the episode seems to suggest that the ramifications of choices made years ago can still have a devastating impact, even though few know such a choice had ever been made. As it is, after spending a day being pressed into giving information on Nucky, Eddie Kessler finds himself choosing suicide over causing further harm to his employer, and creating further scandal for the now grown sons he left behind in Germany.

Like Nucky’s nephew Willie, Eddie wanted something more, and what they both found was a world full of people telling them what they should think and do. Nucky’s guiding and influential hand pulls the young Thompson from the fire, but at a cost of his only friend. At the same time, giving Eddie what he wanted wound up being the most disastrous course of action Nucky could have taken. Aside from the obvious issues with Knox, the question now is: who’s going to match up Nucky’s socks?


Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘The North Star’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below:

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  1. The storyline involving Gillian is my favourite of the series so far. Simply because this show in itself is so very self contained. You watch one episode and that it is. No hidden secrets. All the information is present and there. If each episode is a chapter, then the series as a whole is a book you read once, file on the shelf and perhaps come back to in a few years…

    So, Gillian is a rarity. A continuation, a progression of a storyline running through all seasons and whilst the principles seem to get more and more untouchable (and therefore unlikeable), Gillian, along with Richard Harrow, are the touchstones here, the honest portrayals away from the more cartoon aspects.

    It is a fine show made by and starring talented people. But it is so distanced I find it hard to engage emotionally. The deaths of Frank looked gorgeous, but meh. The death of Eddie should’ve been a major throat-lumper, but again, meh. Admiration, but not participation.


    • since i pre-read ahead on wikis on how these people die, soon as i saw were als brother was taking him, i knew he was gonna get shot there, i just didnt know how, the way they did it, was great, irl al kidnaps and kills alot of people after this event. how they play it out in the show i cant WAIT to see.

      the death of eddie, i agree should have been more of a impact, since he has been with the show since season 1. ill miss eddie, since luckys inner circle is getting smaller and smaller.

  2. Great episode. The death of Frank is really going to get the ball rolling on the Capone storyline which is great because I want to see how they are going to approach his story. Eddie jumping was sad and I sense the note he wrote was probably telling Nucky everything from his family, the money he stole, and of being pressed. Although it has been somewhat slow this season it’s still moving in the right direction.

  3. Absolutely loved it. One of the best episodes of Boardwalk Empire to date in my opinion.
    Gretchen Mol compelling as always, the subtle yet brilliant machinations surrounding Nucky taking Willie’s situation in hand, Van Alden almost pulling the trigger on Al only to be nearly shot down by Frank who was then mowed down himself in spectacular fashion and last, but certainly not least, the brilliant scene upon which the episode is named and Eddie’s shocking back story revealed, only for him then to completely take me by suprise by jumping out the window. Loved every minute of it.