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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Boardwalk Empire 4.1: Fame and Power

A good, atmospheric return of Boardwalk Empire with episode 4.1 tonight, with stories in Atlantic City and Chicago that start the pressure cookers simmering.

My favorite was actually in Chicago, where Al Capone gets upset over a story about him in the paper. He has two points of grievance.  He was called "factotum" in Johnny Torrio's organization, and the story spelled his name wrong.   This harkens back to George M. Cohan's quip that "I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right" - because, in Al's case, they didn't spell his name right.   So Al's furious about both.

Frank Capone provides the counter-argument, telling Al that he should be happy that he's not the subject of media attention - or the press, as the media was referred to in those days - and Al should bask in the unimportance that the newspaper story assigned to him.  But Al makes it clear - both to Frank, and eventually, and much more graphically, to the newspaper reporter - that fame is just as important to him as power.

Mobsters - including all the guys back east, Nucky, Rothstein, Masseria, and the Younger Turks Lucky and Meyer - are certainly all interested in power and money.   Lucky Luciano will go on to seek fame as well as fortune, and along with Al will typify the gangster hungry for fame that we saw later in the 20th century with Joe Colombo and John Gotti, who liked the limelight so much that he even gave big smiles in his mug shots.   Boardwalk Empire now in effect is giving Al Capone just what he wanted, a strong supporting role, with lots of screen time, which complements all the TV and movie time he posthumously received in various renditions of The Untouchables and other television shows and movies.

As for Nucky, he just wants money and power - in particular, confirming his domain in southern New Jersey, as he makes clear to Rothstein, Masseria, Luciano, and Lansky in a pivotal meeting he assembles.  It's important to note that Rothstein and Masseria's days are numbered, as is Torrio's (who will be badly wounded not killed) in Chicago, even though none of these guys of course realize that as yet.  But we the audience do, and it will be fun to see when in the story of Boardwalk Empire their time at the top expires.

The ambience is scenic - boozy, honky-tonk, frontal nudity, and death dished out at the drop of a hat, or sometimes as a result of careful planning, as we see with Richard's revenge rampage.  Neither Margaret nor Van Alden, though, are in evidence as yet, so the season is really just getting started, with pieces assembling on the board as staticky radios and molten jazz play on.

Note: Watch here for my sneak preview reviews - with no spoilers - of the next three episodes.  They'll be posted during the week, with the full recap and review to follow after the episodes air on Sunday nights.

See also Boardwalk Empire 4.1: Sneak Preview Review

And see also Boardwalk Empire 3.1: Happy News Year 1923  ... Boardwalk Empire 3.2: Gasoline and the White Rock Girl ... Boardwalk Empire 3.3: The Showgirl and The Psycho ... Boardwalk Empire 3.5: "10 L'Chaim" ... Boardwalk Empire 3.7: Deadly Gillian ... Boardwalk Empire 3.8: Andrew Mellon ... Boardwalk Empire 3.9: Impaired Nucky


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