[This is a review of Boardwalk Empire season 4, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
As a series, Boardwalk Empire doesn’t have much time or inclination toward matters of the heart. In that regard, romantic endeavors typically end up being seen more as lust, or as a fruitless obsession that’s destined to end badly. And when there’s not even the spark of lust, the show generally manages to bring its characters together through some sort of business transaction or mutually beneficial agreement that may or may not involve matrimony.
That was certainly the case when Nucky Thompson wed the widow Schroeder and it was seen again when Agent Nelson Van Alden was forced to flee to the Midwest after being found out for murdering his partner. Neither arrangement wound up working out as well as any of the parties involved had likely hoped – though Mrs. Mueller does have a mostly functioning home from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, so that has to count for something.
But those are arrangements that have been in place for some time now, and it appears that after finally letting the volcanic rage of Nelson Van Alden out, the Mueller marriage may finally be on the mend. Nucky still finds himself estranged from Margaret, Teddy and Emily – though it’s not exactly eating him up inside. In fact, the suggestion seems to be that romance in the world of Boardwalk Empire is something of a fool’s errand: it never lasts and anyone imprudent enough to believe it will lead to something meaningful is in for a world of hurt. Perhaps this is why Nucky seems so taken with Sally Wheet.
Other than having a mean right hook and the ability to put back copious amounts of the stuff making Nucky rich, she seems to understand that, at the end of the day, it’s all just business. Sure, Nucky may call in the middle of the night for purposes not entirely expressed by either party during the conversation, but that still leaves the object of his affection clutching a shotgun to her chest while lying in bed. The implication being: no matter what way someone chooses to get in bed with Nucky Thompson, they would be wise to keep their heart and body guarded as best as they possibly can.
But ‘Marriage and Hunting’ isn’t only about Nucky and Van Alden’s search for fulfillment within the claustrophobic confines of their work; it’s also working to set up a string of potential tragedies in the making: the deluded Gillian Darmody and her shady love interest Roy Phillips; the quickie marriage of Julia Sagorsky and Richard Harrow; and, of course, the growing infatuation Chalky White has for Daughter Maitland – which only intensifies after the brutal beating she suffers at Narcisse’s hand.
Of course, it’s likely all a ploy by Narcisse to lure Chalky into making a move that will once again ignite the flames of war between Atlantic City and New York (i.e., Nucky Thompson and Joe Masseria) – but as usual, Nucky’s there to try and avoid conflict until the last possible moment. Like Sally and her shotgun, Nucky’s prone to keeping himself guarded. As he’s seen too often in the past, passions run hotter when dealing with matters of money than they do with matters of the heart.
Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘White Horse Pike’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: