This season, to help our readers better comprehend and follow along with the sprawling and slow-building nature of “Boardwalk Empire,” we have decided to offer something akin to a Cliffsnotes version of each episode to help fill in the gaps. It should not be a substitute for actually watching each episode, but hopefully, it will help you to better appreciate HBO’s best drama.
Richard Harrow: Harrow has been separated completely from the main action so far this season. Harrow’s killing spree, it turns out, was as a hitman. A man named Carl Billings met Harrow on a train and hired Harrow to kill his former business associates and the two men those business associates had sent to kill Billings. However, Harrow couldn’t pull the trigger on his final target. His trip home, and being with his sister Emma on the family farm, killed his assassin mojo. He can’t even put down the family dog. Now, he’s on a family farm with three years back taxes due, and with no way of earning the $11,000 owed, since his only abilities seem to be in killing men and fixing farm equipment. In the final scene, Carl Billings — who had to kill his business associate himself — calls Richard, having tracked him down using the tax bill Harrow had left in the dead business man’s office.
Nucky and Eddie Kessler: After 11 years of serving Chucky loyally, up to and including taking a bullet for his employer, Eddie finally vented his frustrations with the lack of respect he receives. “I have fought with you without concern for myself. I have watched other men come and go. Lesser men. Duplicitous men.” He demanded a promotion, and Nucky relented and gave it to him. Eddie is now part of Nucky’s criminal organization, charged initially with a task of stashing a pile of loot in a safe deposit box. That loot came from the Mayor Bader, who Nucky is shaking down, because Nucky’s fingers are in ALL of Atlantic City’s pies.
Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller: It’s so good to see Van Alden again; I hope the series uses Michael Shannon well this season. Mueller opened with episode in his position as Dion O’Banion’s lackey, delivering flowers and beat downs as he’s told. O’Banion, as he was in real life, is the main rival of Al Capone and Johnny Torrio’s organization (don’t read O’Banion’s Wikipedia page if you don’t want to be spoiled), although O’Banion is also a business associate of Capone’s. Mueller, however, gets crossed up with Capone’s men when he’s sent by O’Banion to keep an eye on them. Capone remembers Mueller, and forces him to admit that he’s spying on Capone on O’Banion’s behalf. Van Alden works with Capone’s and his men to administer beat downs to ensure the election goes for the Republicans. Meanwhile. Mueller’s home life gets a complicated when his wife buys some new furniture that Mueller can’t afford.
Agent Knox — Frederick Elliot is a supervising Government Revenue agent with the Bureau of Prohibition. He is in cahoots with Nucky to allow the free flow of liquor into Atlantic City. He introduces Nucky to his new employee, Agent Knox (who was instrumental in the death of Agent Sawicki, in last week’s episode). Knox witnesses Nucky give a kickback to Elliot. The next night, in D.C., Agent Knox — who is only posing as a crooked Prohibition Agent — rats out Elliot to J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin), the acting director of the FBI. Knox and Hoover plan to turn Elliot into an informant against Nucky.
Chalky White — Enter Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), who was Dickey Pastor’s employer. He is a soft-spoken, seriously evil bad ass. Narcisse leverages his relationship with Pastor’s wife to shake down Chalky for 10 percent of the Onyx’s take. Once he manages that arrangement, he has Pastor’s wife — who he knew was lying about being raped — brutally killed and dumped onto the Mayor Bader’s new construction site. Narcisse looks to be the season’s major big bad. In personality, he is reminiscent of an earlier generation Brother Mouzone in The Wire, which makes his interactions with Chalky White — in particular, the way he flusters Chalky — all the more fascinating.