Empire State of Mind: “Two Imposters”

bill bodkin and kimberlee rossi-fuchs smell a double cross…

The Low Down: After discovering Owen Slater (Charlie Cox) was murdered, Mrs. Thompson takes the children and flees Atlantic City. While cleaning up the mess, Nucky’s men are mowed down by the Italians. Nucky and Eddie fight their way out of The Ritz Carlton, but Eddie is wounded. Nucky must call on the help of his old pal Chalky White to help him. Meanwhile, Gyp’s set up shop at Gillian’s and are ruining everything. Gillian lashes out at Harrow repeatedly.

The Body Count: Roughly 10. A handful of Nucky’s men — we’re guessing about seven were mowed down at The Ritz Carlton, plus three of Gyp’s guys.

Favorite Performance: Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White. We’ve seen him more on TV in those Ciroc Vodka ads than on Boardwalk Empire…that is till tonight. Williams has had amazing moments on this series, including interrogation of a KKK member last season when he brought his “daddy’s tools” to torture the klansman but tonight was truly “his episode.” One of the main, suspenseful arcs of the episode was which way Chalky would go. After been referred to as “boy” and “uppity” a few episodes ago and then having Nucky put the old kabosh on his proposed nightclub, Chalky had no reason to stay loyal to Nucky. Yet even with 25K dangling in front of his scarred face, Chalky saved both Nucky and Eddie’s lives. Then he tossed in his lot with Nucky, promising to “go down the road a little bit further” with him. Williams portrayed Chalky as an emotional character — not the explosive character we’ve been used to. He was the linchpin for the entire episode and it was brilliant to watch. –BB

Once again, Michael K. Williams illustrates why Chalky White deserves much more screen time than he’s been granted this season. Although Nucky somewhat coldly rejected Chalky’s request to allow him to open a black-friendly nightclub in Babette’s former spot on the boardwalk, Chalky doesn’t let the sting of that refusal get in the way of his judgment when Nucky comes to him for help. Sure, he lords it over him for a bit, but Chalky ultimately chooses to exhibit his strength and power by helping Nucky rather than turning him away. When his future son-in-law expresses worry over the possible consequences of the backroom surgery, Chalky tells him, “We all take care of each other, son. That’s how it works.” It’s more of a message to Nucky than to Samuel, as Chalky’s help in Nucky’s time of need exhibits the benefits of his partnership and sets the stage for that desired club ownership in the future. Of course, Williams also gets to display Chalky’s classic bad-ass mode during the tense standoff with Rosetti. When he coolly suggests, in response to Rosetti’s little racial gibe about being left out in the sun too long, that “You just ain’t done cookin’ yet, friend,” it’s a subtle and clever way of letting the upstart Rosetti know that he doesn’t take him seriously as neither a business partner nor an adversary. –KRF

The Supporting Scene Stealer: Anthony Laciura as Eddie. The thick accented Eddie has always been mere comic relief for Nucky, outside of Season 1 when he iced a hitman on the boardwalk trying to assassinate Nucky. Eddie’s been Nucky’s lackey for so long that we’ve come to accept him as the guy who gets told to shut up. Tonight he became much more. –BB

Though he was on screen for under a minute, Stephen Graham’s Al Capone stole the show once again, coming to Nucky’s aid with his typical charisma and swagger. As Graham saunters on screen, chomping a cigar, he drops the episode’s best line and one that tantalizes for next week’s finale, smirking, “We’ve been on the road eighteen hours. I need a bath, some chow, then you and me sit down and we talk about who dies.” Like Chalky, Capone’s been underused this season and the promise of a pivotal role in next week’s conclusion has me beyond excited. –KRF

The Best Part of The Episode: The shoot-out and car chase sequences stole the entire episode. It was an out-of-the-ordinary moment for the series. First, Nucky gets involved in heavy gun play and holds his own. Nucky’s always relied on Jimmy, Harrow or Owen on doing his dirty work when it comes to guns and death. But with two out of those three dead, he was left to his own devices…and he did well. We can’t forget he was the sheriff of Atlantic City for a number of years when The Commodore ran things, so he’s not a complete dunce with a gun. Also, the car sequence was not something we’ve on the show. Nucky careening through the city streets, getting shot at at the hospital he helped build — all great, tense action sequences. –BB

In an episode packed with edge-of-your-seat moments, Rosetti’s surprise arrival at Chalky’s hideout was easily the most compelling and nail-biting. As if the prospect of medical student Samuel performing gruesome, anesthesia-free backroom surgery on the poor, wounded Eddie weren’t squirm inducing enough, the tension is further ratcheted up with the ominous sound of approaching cars and the sudden boom of Rosetti’s voice calling out for Chalky. As Rosetti, Chalky, and their men engage in a standoff outside the rundown cottage, Samuel continues to operate on Eddie while Nucky struggles to muffle the man’s screams. Besides being absolutely riveting, the scene allows both Williams and Buscemi to shine, as Chalky exerts his trademark cool in the face of Rosetti’s veiled threats and the unfolding crisis brings out Nucky’s humanity (a trait missing as of late), as he risks he own safety to help save the loyal Eddie’s life. –KRF

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: Seriously, I still could give two hoots about the heroin subplot. I’m hoping it goes somewhere. –BB

“Two Imposters” was such a tight episode (clocking in at a brisk fifty minutes), that every scene felt necessary and riveting. My only small complaint would be that the intricacies of Luciano and Lansky’s foray into the heroin trade have been a bit hazy at times and difficult to follow. Even so, the payoff in the form of Luciano’s rooftop bust was worth it (particularly the reveal that the mute prospective buyer was actually a cop) and will no doubt shake up the alliances in the raging Masseria / Thompson gang war.–KRF

The Little Thing We Loved: “I need a bath, some chow…and then we sit down and talk about who dies…” Oh Al Capone, how I love thee. –BB

Watching the loathsome Gillian (and it’s a testament to Gretchen Mol’s performance that the character is so wonderfully vile) helplessly squirm as Rosetti and his men forcibly take over The Artemis Club, openly disrespecting and mocking the proud matriarch in the process, was a delicious bit of schadenfreude. Furthermore, her decision to cruelly lash out at Richard (stating Julia must be blind and referring to him as an incomplete person) before kicking him out of her employ has the potential to come back to haunt her next week, since we all know Harrow’s not one to fuck with. –KRF

Final Thoughts: This was the episode I’ve been waiting for all season. This year has been a collection of really good episodes, but not ones that tie a great story together. Tonight, it tense. Wondering if Chalky was going to turn on Nucky. Would Eddie survive his triage-style surgery? Then we end it with the rolling up of the sleeves and it’s time for Nucky, Chalky, Eli and Capone to go to war. I’m also left with a lot of questions. Is Harrow going to mow down EVERYONE staying at Gillian’s house of ill repute? Will they allow Gyp’s character to live till episode three. Can our ‘heroes’ take back AC? Will the heroin and political subplots finally bear some narrative fruit? Have we seen the end of Mrs. Thompson on the series? What about Van Alden? Is he done for too? –BB

“Two Imposters” was an outright excellent episode and easily one of the series’ best to date. The brisk pace and tight running time added urgency to practically every scene and kept things riveting throughout. In addition to the pivotal strengthening of the previously fractured partnership between Nucky and Chalky, the episode succeeded in tying together all of the seemingly disparate threads of the season so far, with Luciano and Lansky’s business troubles, Capone’s increasing maturity and rise to leadership, and Gillian’s ill-advised involvement with Rosetti and her even more foolhardy treatment of Richard all coming together to set the stage for what looks to be an amazing season finale. –KRF

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  1. I thought that the chaotic car chase scene and following escape to Chalky’s hideout was totally reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs. Maybe it was partly due to Buscemi’s presence, but the violent madness following the bloodbath at the Ritz, including a seriously wounded Eddie losing control of his vehicle ala Mr. Brown, gave me déjà vu of the aftermath of the film’s botched robbery.

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