Dr. Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) makes his debut, and Richard Harrow is starting to understand the need for family – whether it’s his or someone else’s – in the latest episode of “Boardwalk Empire,” which aired on Sept. 15.
The episode, titled “Resignation,” starts with Nelson Van Alden, also known as George Mueller (Michael Shannon), going door to door for Dean O’Banion for various purposes. The first place just welcomed a new addition, so flowers were given as a sign of congratulations. The second place just lost a family member, so flowers are given as a sign of condolence. The third place was someone who owed money, so Van Alden punched him in the face and collected what was needed.
“Resignation” showed the struggles of almost all characters involved. Van Alden is having financial problems, while his wife is making purchases on fancy furniture and other accessories for the house. Richard Harrow is coming to grips with the fact that Emma is the only person left of his family, and he can’t bring himself to continue killing people – for hire or not. Eddie Kessler doesn’t feel that Nucky is treating him with the respect he deserves and turns in his resignation letter – putting a bit of a damper on their relationship. And Chalky realizes the trouble he is in with Narcisse around.
Narcisse is a well-educated and arrogant man, who prefers to be called “Doctor” and never “Mister,” because he “studied too long to forgo it.” Chalky sees him in a private room and doesn’t like it. He enters the room to find Cora Pastor with Narcisse. Cora fabricates last week’s experience with Dunn in which she offered him “15 minutes of jelly” as Chalky called it. She says that Dunn raped her, and her husband Dickie – Narcisse’s employee – was killed while trying to stop Dunn. After she leaves the room, Nucky tries to figure out how Dickie could have known the whereabouts of Cora and Dunn, but Narcisse is not saying anything.
One night at the Onyx, the band is nowhere to be found. Two of the members enter Chalky’s office to tell him that Narcisse won’t let them perform, and that he “owns a piece of everybody.” Narcisse, Chalky, and Nucky all come together to discuss the situation. Narcisse tells the two that he’s seen too many clubs fail without entertainment. Chalky doesn’t want to give Narcisse any part of the club, but Nucky insists that ten percent is a “fair price.” Narcisse accepts, and he and Cora leave.
As the two are leaving to go back to New York, Cora tells Narcisse that she would like what happened to her husband to happen to Dunn, “but worse.” When he asks her the question of how Dickie found the two, she still tries to make him believe she was raped. Narcisse doesn’t believe her and has the driver pull off to the side of the road. Cora is taken out of the car and killed by one of Narcisse’s men.
At the Harrow residence, Richard and Emma get caught up on family stories. Richard reveals that, even though their father’s grave reads he was born in 1869, he was actually born in 1862. Their father told Richard that he never wanted to let their mother know exactly how many years difference there was between the two. Emma tells Richard that she is glad that he is now home, but if he leaves again, she doesn’t want him to return at all. “I couldn’t bear it,” she says.
The Harrow family dog, Samson, has disappeared, but is later found by Emma. She asks Richard to put him out of his misery, but Richard can’t bring himself to do it. Emma takes his gun and does it, while Richard walks away sobbing.
Later in the episode, Richard had a contract kill that he didn’t complete. As he was holding the man at gunpoint, Richard asked if he had any family. The man replied that he had a wife and two daughters. Richard let him go and left. Later, the man is killed, and a phone call comes in for Emma – saying that she owes some back taxes. We don’t know who this man is, but there’s a sneaking suspicion that he has something to do with Richard’s other contract kills.
Even though he is recovering from his injuries, Eddie Kessler is still serving Nucky his breakfast and making sure his bags are packed for the upcoming trip to Tampa. Eddie believes that Nucky isn’t giving him the respect he deserves. He turns in a letter of resignation, but after a brief conversation, the two settle on a promotion for Eddie. It’s really funny when Nucky seeks out Atlantic City Mayor Ed Bader for his share of money from a project, and Eddie responds in a deadpan tone with: “Mr. Thompson is part of everything. He's in the sky and sea. He's in the dreams of children at night. He is all that there is. Forever.”
As Nucky gets ready to leave for Tampa, he gives new orders to Eddie – telling him to put the cash from Bader in a new account and that more will come.
Van Alden is assigned to spy on the Capone boys in Cicero, but he’s acting like he is part of the gang. And if the Capones feel the need to leave Chicago, that information must be reported to O’Banion. The brothers attend a political rally to make sure that everyone votes for the right candidate. A fight breaks out, and Van Alden is able to get in a few punches.
Last week’s suspicious character, Warren Knox, returns in this episode, and it turns out that he is working undercover for J. Edgar Hoover – who makes his debut in this episode. Nucky meets Knox and informs him that Eli will be dealing with him from here on out. But with the big reveal of Knox working for Hoover, this won’t be the only time Nucky and Knox deal with each other.
Jack Huston gave the episode’s best performance as Richard Harrow – a contract killer who’s done with killing. It was a powerful and emotional turn, and Huston should be getting more recognition from awards ceremonies. Stephen Graham also gave a great performance as Al Capone – showing that the family will only become more ruthless as the season progresses.
“Resignation” had more promise for the season than last week’s premiere, which served as a good return episode but not a great one. This second episode dealt more with characters than action, and everyone involved was magnificent. There was still no sign of Margaret Thompson here, so it’ll be interesting to see when and where she’ll come into play this season.