The latest installment of Boardwalk happens over the course of Easter Sunday, 1923, and thus "Sunday Best" moves considerably slow. With a cast of seemingly thousands the narrow focus might hurt in the long run, but for the purposes of this hour, the team behind the show delivered another great episode.
As the centerpiece of the series, Nucky's Easter earns considerable screen time. Brother Eli, his wife Jane and their horde of children host the holiday and reluctant Nuck brings his newish family over after repeated pestering. The Thompson Brothers' well-documented disagreements, from wrestling each other in sunrooms, to assassination plots and served jail time still bother Nucky, but Eli makes an earnest request to squash the beef. Nucky's extremely hesitant, but after sharing a drink, he promotes Eli to the same station as the annoying and ineffectual Mickey Doyle.
Sharing the room for longer than three minutes Nucky and Margaret discover they might still like each other. Maybe. Kinda. Answering the question on what people did on holidays after the family meal in the era before television, the Thompson family have a mini talent show and both Nucky and Margaret perform a little piece. This reopens their dialogue and Nucky extends an olive branch, but his wife denies it. Additionally, she admits to Jane most of her spouse's transgressions, including the adultery (failing to mention her own, of course). It's nice to touch on the marriage at the core of the show, but really, it's so tattered it's hard to believe any wholesome good can spring from it.
Everyone's favorite Gyp gets some kick-ass scenes, adding wonderful layers to a character previously defined by anger and lack of restraint. After a near shooting took his life, Gyp is back in New York for the holiday. We meet his family, a clan of women barely intimated by him, which means they would probably make two thirds of Gyp's peers cower in their shined shoes. As his sisters and mother pick on him we see the hothead in a slightly different scope and it's the next scene with Gyp that really denies the character to me. We find him sitting in a church alone, speaking to God, and Gyp, like any man, questions his plight. Then he abruptly begins to accuse God of withholding him from greatness. The primary villain for the season shows his distorted worldview, one where he believes everyone is against him, no one is his friend and he is never to blame. As he screams at God for neglecting him a priest asks Gyp if he's alright, and of course he pistol whips him and steals the church's money.
Now completely off the rails Giuseppe finds himself on the verge of losing his only ally, Joe Masseria, New York City big-timer. Joe explains to Gyp that since he cannot control him he cannot trust him, and as the noose tightens on Gyp he puts forth a case for Masseria to spare his life — he needs Gyp to stop the Nucky Thompson/ Arnold Rothstein, etc alliance. Gyp plays to Masseria's pride and competiveness and explains that a gang of bootleggers in cahoots cannot bode well for the future of business. This stirs the pot for a potentially violent second half of the season.
When someone replies "Murderous" to a simple "How ya doing?" it's wise to keep an eye open for corpses. From early on in "Sunday Best" it's clear that Gillian is going to participate in something vile, and the whole the episode really pushes the viewer to sympathize with the wacky woman who lives in a hazy, sectioned off life.
Gillian spends her Easter with Roger from Indiana, a handsome world traveler, vagabond type who looks uncomfortably like her son, Jimmy Darmody. Using the day to make love and lie about her life, Gillian lures Roger to a Greek-bath inspired room, injects him with heroin and drowns him. She does this most likely because she needs a body to prove Jimmy's death to gain ownership of the huge mansion she lives in, but also to achieve twisted closure. We spend a bunch of time with Gillian in this episode, but it appropriate since she's been nearly invisible much of the season.
Richard Harrow gets a lot of time devoted too, but his growing story with Paul Sagorsky, a misanthropic war vet, and his daughter Julia is too infantile to be engaging. With Jimmy's son Tommy in tow, Harrow joins the Sagorskys and a few other vets for dinner, only to have Paul throw a little fit because Tommy went in a room he wasn't supposed to. Maybe Harrow is only exciting when he's wielding a rifle since most of his scenes this week fail to engage. However, it is pretty awesome when Richard awkwardly asks Julia out. "We're leaving." Haha, I share the same women skills as a guy with half a face. Excellent.
Weirdly, this episode in a differently-paced season could have been absolute gold. The truth is this year has moved particularly slow, so the focus on about a half dozen characters should be questioned. Can we get satisfying character arcs for most to all of the main players by the end of the season? I'm not sure, but in terms of what's on the screen, this season of Boardwalk Empire delivers time and again.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.