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Boardwalk Empire recap: Ribbon & Blues

The flirtation between Margaret and Nucky heats up, but will creepy Van Alden get in the way?

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Kelly MacDonald Boardwalk
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Boardwalk Empire

TV Show
Current Status:
On Hiatus
run date:
Steve Buscemi

On last night’s second episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Omar from The Wire (Michael Kenneth Williams) is a no-show, but we learn his character Chalky White will be taking over for Mickey Doyle at the underground distillery. Kelly Macdonald’s Margaret returns from the hospital after losing her baby and must immediately invite federal agent and ribbon thief Van Alden into her home. Van Alden (Michael Shannon), who originally intended to investigate Arnold Rothstein, now thinks Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is the “bigger fish,” living like a pharaoh on the eighth floor of the Ritz and making him wait around all day. “Shouldn’t you be out raiding a barrel of still?” Nucky asks Van Alden. Why is he so hung up on the murder of Margaret’s husband, Hans Schroeder?

Jimmy, who had come into some money from the pilot episode’s woods massacre, buys a thousand-dollar necklace for a showgirl who couldn’t believe he’d waited over a month to come and see her. The showgirl is his mother. Angela and Jimmy’s son Tommy get presents, too: a truck for the little boy and an emerald bracelet, “vacuum sweeper,” and decaying old Christmas tree for mom. Jimmy’s not in the clear, it turns out. He tries to go back to work, clocking in at 4:30 p.m. as usual, but Nucky won’t even let him sit down. Jimmy apologizes, says he thought the woods job would never get traced back to Nucky. Not good enough. “You wanna be a gangster, kid? Go be a gangster. But if you wanna be a gangster in my town, you’ll pay me for the privilege.”

So Father Christmas suddenly owes Nucky an extra $3,000. Al Capone blows him off over the phone, so Jimmy lashes out at an innocent phone operator, then swipes back mom’s fancy necklace to get Nucky the money. And how does the county treasurer show his appreciation for such a hefty sum? He loses it all in a single roulette spin right before his former protege’s eyes. Roulette! The ultimate burn. Roulette!

There’s confusion over who killed “Big Jim” Colosimo, but it seems pretty clear to Arnold Rothstein in his private billiards parlor. Rothstein and Lucky Luciano demand to know who ordered Frankie Yale to kill Colosimo. Rothstein once got some sap to swallow a cue ball and die, just because he felt like it — imagine the terror he can impose on someone when something actually matters to him personally. Speaking of which…Rothstein tells Nucky over the phone that Nucky still owes him a hundred grand. “Show your face again in Atlantic City!” Nucky fires back, begging for trouble.

Meanwhile, a reporter in Chicago questions Al Capone about a possible link between the Big Jim murder and Al’s man Johnny Torrio. Al is much obliged to go on the record, and proceeds to smash a bottle over the guy’s head and kick him repeatedly. At least the newsman got his three-dollar whiskeys. Al Capone was making a statement!

NEXT: The award for most intriguing Boardwalk Empire character goes to…