Following the introduction of Dr. Narcisse, Boardwalk Empire shifts its focus more toward the plot of the season - and in order to seed the various plotlines, it travels a great many miles from Atlantic City to Tampa, and even a brief (and characteristically bloody) pit-stop in the Midwest.
Still, despite the great expanse it covers, 'Acres of Diamonds' has a concurrent theme running through each location, pertaining to future plans and the expectation of great wealth. Now, that expectation takes on a radically different meaning depending on the character in question. For instance, Nucky points out to future machete holder Tucker that he's already rich, so in order to entice him, the potential profit must be rather astronomical (and in this case also feature Patricia Arquette's Tampa booze slinger, Sally).
In many ways, Dr. Narcisse mirrors Nucky, in that he can drop $80k on shipment of Rothstein's heroin he plans to distribute throughout the Libyan community, but his real interest lies with getting Dunn Purnsley to do his bidding inside the Onyx Club, as his time spent with Chalky has the good doctor believing he must look elsewhere for the kind of man he seeks.
Meanwhile, for those who don't run criminal empires, wealth can be something as simple as the possibility of a lucrative relationship – as it is in the case of Gillian Darmody, who has set her sights on Piggly Wiggly bigwig Roy Phillips. But it's also as simple as case of booze for young Willie Thompson to impress a girl and show-up the class bully at Temple, and it's even simpler for someone like Richard who practically lives hand-to-mouth and doesn't seem to regard money in the same way as everyone else.
Naturally, as it's still early in the season, there's a kind of optimism surrounding the characters' endeavors, as they remain unaware of what the audience knows: that it will all likely go south very quickly. But for now, they're content thinking about the future, whether it's with a no-nonsense woman running a bait and tackle shop, or the parting words of Richard's sister Emma who tells him, "You need to call yourself to account."
Possibly because there was so much ground to cover, the writer of the episode (in this case series creator Terence Winter) instilled in many of the characters a need to underline the meaning of what they were saying and of who they were. In several instances – one of which includes Nucky Thompson saddling up to Sally's bar, and another featuring Richard's employer Carl Billings – the actors practically put on their best Edward G. Robinson impersonation to say things like, "You don't have any code, you kill for hire," and Nucky saying almost jokingly, "I was content to be a petty crook." Now Boardwalk Empire has never been accused of being particularly understated, but the series' dialogue has generally been more nuanced in its expression, and not so blatantly obvious as this. Here, it just felt like the actors had decided to play characters playing gangsters.
It's likely that 'Acres of Diamonds' will work out to be an important table-setting episode in terms of the ongoing storyline of Boardwalk Empire season 4 and that's fine. Provided future episodes use their dialogue for more than mere info dumps, the awkwardness heard here can easily be forgotten.
Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with 'All In' @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: