It’s pretty much a given that loyalty will end up a major theme in any mob-related narrative. In the case of Boardwalk Empire, the concept extends beyond the characters into the minds of its audience. The HBO drama has not made it easy for fans to remain faithful for all four and a half seasons, given its tendency to kill off favorite characters (Jimmy Darmody, Richard Harrow, Eddie Kessler) and muddle its story lines with tiresome plots concerning whiny, talent-free showgirls or whiny, insecure college kids. However, series creator Terence Winter rewarded those who have stuck by the Atlantic City gangsters since season 1 with “Cuanto,” an episode that brought us the return of OG “partners in crime” Nucky Thompson and Margaret Rohan-Schroeder-Thompson, as well as the unraveling of Nelson Van Alden’s decade-long evasion from the feds.
Praise must be given to Winter and fellow episode writers Cristine Chambers and Howard Korder for streamlining the focus back onto a handful of characters (namely Nucky, Margaret, Van Alden, Al Capone, and Charlie Luciano). Although, if given the choice between more 1884 flashbacks and a check-in with either Gillian Darmody or Dr. Valentin Narcisse, the latter option would have been preferable. (With only four episodes remaining and Gretchen Mol and Jeffrey Wright having appeared in one episode apiece so far, it doesn’t leave much time to resolve their characters’ story lines.) The 19th-century scenes are entertaining and informative, but perhaps they would be best served as a web series or DVD extras for the die-hard fans.
“Cuanto” continues Boardwalk‘s attempt to make up for Kelly Macdonald’s absence last season by being a Margaret showcase. Considering she’s a former member of the women’s temperance movement it was a kick watching her spend most of the episode drunk on cheap red wine in a matching figure-hugging crimson dress. Sally Wheet may have been the overall better match (both as a business partner and in the bedroom), but since she met her fate this episode at the hands of Cuban rebels, why else would Winter and Co. spend so much time bringing Margaret and Nucky back together (and killing off Sally) if the intended result wasn’t a reconciliation? After all, Margaret, like Sally, knows that Nucky can’t function unless he’s had his morning coffee. Do we want to see Margaret and Nucky start honoring their marriage vows again? Not really, but their relationship always seemed to work best when it was for their mutual benefit. And for what it’s worth, Joe Kennedy—right before officially refusing Nucky’s partnership offer (“Scotch and rum don’t really mix”) and heading out of town in his fresh-oyster-stocked private train car—immediately recognizes Margaret’s value as an asset (“Remember, sport, safety in numbers”—the man’s got a point there, Nuck. Right now, Teddy and Emily don’t exactly appear to be on the fast track to the White House; Emily’s prize for her Bill of Rights essay notwithstanding). A Gaelic-laced flirtation on Kennedy’s part hits just the right note of jealousy, and suddenly Nucky is all ears to Margaret’s financial predicament and is treating her to a leisurely Italian lunch.
NEXT: Margaret gets soused