At long last, the good people of the east coast are getting fed up with Nucky Thompson.
In the aftermath of last week’s Tabor Heights massacre, Arnold Rothstein travels to Atlantic City to figure out just what is going on. Whatever glow was cast by Nucky’s decision to do business solely with Rothstein has worn off in the weeks-long delay of the liquor delivery to New York.
Rothstein, whose patience we already saw wear threateningly thin last week in his brief discussion with Mickey Doyle: “Why am I talking to you? I don’t want to be talking to you!”, finds himself once again without the shipment Nucky promised.
In response, Nucky once again passes the buck. He demands that Rothstein take Gyp Rosetti out of the equation in order to open up the travel route between Atlantic City and New York.
Finally, we are on the verge of learning why everyone has been tip-toeing around Rosetti for the last 5 weeks… Rosetti is well connected with a rival of Rothstein’s, a rival with whom, Rothstein admits, he has a very precarious accord. This unidentified persona remains a mystery, thanks to a well-placed cut in the middle of Arnold and Nucky’s argument. My money is on the same gangsters from Little Italy that are putting the squeeze on Lucky Luciano. They dislike Arnold and they’re lying in wait to take their city back.
Arnold agrees to Nucky’s demands, despite fighting tooth and nail for Nucky to solve his own problem. Why? What does Nucky promise him? More booze? More protection? At this point, Nucky seems incapable of delivery anything. And, thanks to the facile cutaway, we’ll squeeze at least another week out of Arnold’s New York dramas.
Whatever was said behind closed doors, Rothstein agrees to do away with the Tabor Heights problem. This doesn’t sit well with Owen, who prefers a more hands-on approach, but leaves Nucky free to focus on more important things – namely, keeping his pretty young thing, Billie, firmly planted in Atlantic City.
Cast in a floundering Schubert revue, it looks like Billie will be headed back to Manhattan soon – unless a suitable leading man can be found in a matter of hours. Despite Billie’s direct request to leave it alone, Nucky focuses his considerable energy on this goal – first bribing and then threatening Eddie Cantor into taking the lead. Cantor, however, has been to this rodeo before, and glibly remarks to Billie: “Ever heard of Lucy Danziger? The next one won’t know your name either.”
Billie has one thing that Lucy didn’t … independence. Lucy needed Nucky, she wanted the companionship, the spotlight. She wanted to be taken care of. With Billie, Nucky’s in the Lucy role. Trying to keep her around, overly focused on her, letting his business suffer for the sake of his relationship.
As Margaret points out after unfortunately crossing paths with Nucky and Billie in Madame Jeunet’s shop, it’s not like him to fall for such a headstrong woman. He prefers someone who needs saving. Despite Nucky’s claims to the contrary, a leopard can’t change his spots.
The same goes for George Mueller, down-on-his-luck iron salesman, former Prohibition agent and murderer. Despite having run all the way from Atlantic City to a suburb outside Chicago, his past seems to be catching up to him – in the form of a relentless Prohy agent. When he is finally cornered in his own house, George discovers the agent doesn’t want to arrest or even blackmail him, but to complain about George’s product. It’s too late for Mueller’s clairvoyant wife, who attacks the agent with a frying pan. The two work together to finish the job, Mueller’s mail-order bride proving to be a better match than he ever thought possible.
To dispose of the body, Mueller turns to Dean O’Banion, rival of Al Capone’s boss Torrio. This burgeoning partnership could be exactly what’s needed to breathe some life back into the Mueller and Capone storylines.
Continuing his season-stealing appearance, Bobby Cannavale is horrifically captivating this week, being strangled by a belt in two sex scenes that further explore the twisted depths of Gyp Rosetti’s psychopathy. I didn’t think anything could top the callousness with which he walked among the dead bodies at the end of the last episode, cavalierly identifying which waitress he had chosen as his conquest. Sunday’s penultimate scene is the failed attempt by Rothstein’s lackeys to murder Gyp. In the aftermath, a naked Gyp, belt hanging from his neck, covered in the blood of the redheaded waitress, walks over the corpses of his protectors to finally lay eyes on the dead body of the newsboy.
If Gyp was a threat before, he’s a rabid tiger now, and it remains to be seen who is really holding the leash.