This is a Review of Boardwalk Empire Season 4, Episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.
Following the surprising death of Nucky Thompson’s right-hand man Eddie Kessler, there were grumbles that Boardwalk Empire failed to treat his death with any real impression, sentiment or emotion – other than the shock of watching a familiar and arguably well-liked character calmly tumble out the window of the minuscule room he called home. But considering it happened just seconds before the episode’s credits rolled, the emotional effect it gave was likely the one that was intended – after all, the influence of an incident upon the rest of a program can’t adequately be represented when the rest of the program has to wait a week before it can come back onscreen.
At any rate, ‘The North Star’ addresses the loss of Eddie by demonstrating how his demise lends Nucky a slight feeling of loss – but really only in the sense that he’s somehow become unmoored and will be adrift without the man who knew him better than anyone. The irony of this, of course, is that Nucky (or anyone else for that matter) knew very little about the private life of Mr. Kessler and remains completely unaware of the fact that Agent Knox managed to get a small but vital bit of information out of him before he died. Naturally, Nucky has his suspicions, but he mostly casts those off as the kind of paranoia that’s inherent in his line of work.
It’s likely that the shock of losing Kessler and the unsecured feeling it gave him that prompted Nucky to telephone Margaret and arrange a meeting with her at Penn Station. It’s a stilted conversation between the two that lasts only for a short scene, but demonstrates that for all appearances otherwise, Nucky is more reliant on people he knows – or, more likely, people he knows know him – than he would like to admit. This characterization not only explains why Eli is still alive and currently in his brother’s employ, but it also justifies his choice in appointing Sally Wheet his representative in all things Tampa related. It’s not much, but it adequately ties up Nucky’s restrained personal feelings with his increasingly complicated professional ones.
As usual, though, the episode is about more than just Nucky. Like last week’s installment, ‘The North Star’ manages to make a thematic link between the storylines that helps make them feel a little less disparate. Whereas ‘Erlkönig‘ was ostensibly about choice – or the lack thereof – episode 6 is really all about characters finding out where it is that they belong; it’s not home per se, but it is about them attempting to navigate their way into the place they need to be that very moment. The increasingly tender arc of Richard Harrow punctuates this sentiment, by finding him back in the company of the Sagorskys and Tommy Darmody, who has recently concerned himself with being able to navigate his way back home from wherever he may be.
It’s not entirely as affecting as last week’s episode, but ‘The North Star’ also has far more to deal with in terms of progressing the season’s plot. The episode is eerily anxious about the passing of Eddie Kessler and what about him remains unknown. If anything, Margaret’s words “No one knew how to look after you like Mr. Kessler,” stand as tribute to a man no one knew, and intimates the trouble still to come from his brief association with Agent Knox.
Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘William Wilson’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: