Sunday’s episode queues up the fireworks for next week’s season finale. An episode made up almost entirely of filler, we find Nucky on the run once again, having barely escaped the penthouse with his life and a wounded Eddie Kessler. As Gyp pursues him relentlessly through Atlantic City – making stops at his office, the hospital and Gillian’s mansion – Nucky is forced to hide out at Chalky White’s, and Chalky’s son-in-law must attempt to save Mr Kessler’s life.
It’s a thrilling turn of events for Chalky, whose request to turn Babette’s into a Cotton-Club-redux was rebuffed by Nucky last week. As usual, Nucky is forced to avail himself of people that he hasn’t treated with the utmost compassion. Begging Chalky for assistance, Nucky is left hoping his loyalty will keep him silent even as Gyp offers full partnership (not to mention tens of thousands of dollars) in exchange for turning the fugitive bootlegger over.
But Chalky is a man of mettle. He wants neither cash nor partnership from the less-than-trustworthy Giuseppe. Gyp’s cloying sentiments that he and Chalky are the same, except Chalky had been “left out in the sun” a bit longer, fall on deaf ears. Chalky never loses faith in Nucky, even as the man appears bereft, everything he has in the world all but lost, Chalky vies for his position on the boardwalk, and refuses Nucky’s insistence that he can’t give what he no longer has.
At this point, Nucky has very little left. The slow death of his marriage to Margaret heaved its last breath – a sob actually, out of Margaret over Owen’s dead body. Eli is unreachable, lost in the wilds of Chicago in a vain attempt to secure the support of Johnny Torrio. Even Mickey Doyle, exiled to Pennsylvania, is unable to provide his usual modicum of idiocy. As Kessler lies near death, Chalky asks Nucky the most base question of all, one that Nucky himself had never taken a moment to consider: “Who is Kessler’s family?” As intimately acquainted with Nucky as Kessler is, Nucky is just as estranged from Eddie. It’s a cold realization for a cold-hearted gangster.
Having reached dead ends at both the hotel penthouse and Chalky’s headquarters, Gyp continues his sacking of Atlantic City at the Artemis Club. He moves Nucky’s desk into the main room, much to Gillian’s chagrin.
A woman who doesn’t handle having control wrested away from her well, Gillian takes out her frustrations on Richard Harrow, making scathingly biting remarks about his budding romance with Julia and petulantly refusing to let Tommy leave with Richard, even as Gyp’s men run roughshod over the house rules…. And furniture.
Just as Gyp shows no respect for Gillian’s sanctum, Gillian infringes on Richard’s privacy by looking at his private journal, mocking the picture of him with Tommy and Julia on Easter. She has him escorted from the mansion, presumably for carrying on this affair in the presence of Tommy, even as women are being effectively raped in the next room. Despite being within grasp of his pipe dream, Richard’s fury at Gillian’s violation is unquenchable. This final straw is all he needs to turn on her. A chilling final shot shows him organizing his formidable artillery collection, preparing for a battle.
Nucky, in full retreat, is forced to turn to his nephew, Eli’s son, for cover. Having driven throughout the night in the back of Chalky’s truck – like so many boxes of booze he had shipped over state lines – he reaches the lumber yard exhausted, hungry, and nearly friendless.
His innate sense of familial loyalty takes over when the sound of trucks rolling into the closed lumber yard is heard. Nucky’s instinct to protect Eli’s progeny causes him to hurtle into the yard, all but throwing himself between Will and the threat.
But it’s the prodigal Eli, who at this time last year was agreeing to head off to prison, this time returning as the white knight to save the day. In tow, he has the ambitious Al, whose indentured servitude under Torrio is drawing to a close, looking to make his mark on the world of bootlegging – wanting to make his debut with a bang.
Only one episode left, and the biggest question that hangs in the air—who will kill Gyp? Will Nucky grow a pair and face his mortal enemy? Will crazy Gillian turn on him in the Artemis Club? Will Richard Harrow turn up and end it all in a hail of gunfire? Or will it be Al, who we all know turns into the most deadly gangster of the 20th Century?
The showdown we’ve been waiting for all season is here, and everyone has something to lose.