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About half way through “The Good Listener,” Van Alden yells after a heist gone bad, “why must it always be pandemonium?” That’s not necessarily how I would categorize the majority of “Boardwalk’s” first four seasons, but if this episode is any indication, the shows final one will be a wild ride.

Nucky’s vacation is over as he heads to New York to try and figure out who tried to have him killed. He meets with John Torrio, Capone’s old boss, who is retired and urges Nucky to do the same. Nucky certainly has his eyes on greener pastures, as he continues to push for legitimacy when he meets with the board of directors for a business that is looking to get into liquor once prohibition is lifted. Despite actually closing the deal for Bacardi while in Havana, Nucky isn’t able to wedge his way in with a majority of the board once Senator Lloyd – the one who came down to Cuba – balks and leaves Nucky hanging. However, Nucky did catch the eye of one board member, Mr. Kennedy.

Nucky then meets with Marazano, the new Italian boss, and Lucky. Nucky believes that him seeing Lansky in Havana was no coincidence, and worries that he and Lucky are after him. Lucky tells Nucky that he and Meyer are on the outs, and Marazano assures him that he doesn’t have anything to fear.

boardwalk-empireThough it doesn’t appear Marazano is exactly in the best position to say that. Lucky and Meyer are actually still working together, did attempt to have Nucky killed and are attempting to make a play on Marazano so they can take over New York’s crime ring. They are working with Tonion Sandrelli, a former associate of Gyp Rossetti (Bobby Cannavale), who now works for Marazano.

Despite Marazano’s assurance, Nucky doesn’t trust that he is safe, and he struggles with what he should do. Should he retaliate and risk another war like he had with Rossetti, or should he let things play out, which could still end with a bullet in his head?

This debate is paralleled with flashbacks to Nucky’s childhood. Nucky’s sister has died, and his father doesn’t have any money to give her a proper burial. Nucky informs the Commodore of his sister’s passing, and seeing some potential political payoff, he attempts to give Nucky’s father money for the burial. Nucky’s father hates the Commodore, and threatens to kill him. Still, he takes the money but doesn’t use it for his daughter’s burial. He punishes Nucky for the choice of going to the Commodore, and makes him bury his sister.

Back in the present, Nucky meets with Sandrelli, who easily tells him Lucky and Lansky’s plan. Sandrelli says that he would like to come work for Nucky, and Nucky tells him to ‘pay Lansky a visit,’ and then talk with him later. But apparently Nucky doesn’t forget a grudge, as Sandrelli was responsible for the explosion back in season 3 that killed Nucky’s girlfriend, Billy. As a result, Nucky’s bodyguard kills Sandrelli and leaves him at the doorstep of Lansky’s brothel with a knife in his back and a postcard from Havana.

This was a great episode for “Boardwalk,” because not only was it great for setting up the rest of the season, but also it had plenty to entertain us in its own rights. The show is also relying primarily on Nucky again, with characters like Eli, Gillian, Van Alden and others around, but not as big of factors, at least right now, as they were last season. Not having Nucky at the forefront of the plot last season was one of my big problems with it. Between what he’s doing in 1931 and the flashbacks, problem solved this year.

Some other quick notes:

  • Eli and Van Alden work together in Chicago – there’s an odd, but potentially fun pairing. They clearly aren’t the most efficient team, though. First, their warehouse gets raided, causing them to owe $20,000 to Capone. Then to pay it off, Eli gets the idea to steal from Capone. Things go wrong when they try this and have to kill two of his guys – hence Van Alden’s ‘pandemonium’ line. Capone doesn’t seem to notice, so they sneak by for now.
  • Eli and Van Alden are also going to be in trouble when it is revealed that their boss, DeAngelo, is actually an undercover cop working to get Capone.
  • Gillian makes her first appearance of the season in the loony bin. She apparently doesn’t remember drowning the Jimmy look-a-like and is trying to recollect those thoughts.
  • Willie Thompson is moving up in the world, as he has an interview with the U.S. Attorney’s office to become an assistant prosecutor. When Nucky’s name comes up, he tells the attorney that he is not close with him and that he wants to put Nucky away for destroying families, and such. Willie then later meets with Nucky and they seem okay, though Willie doesn’t tell Nucky that his name came up in the interview.
  • No Chalky or Margaret this week, though next week promises to bring them back, as well as Dr. Narcisse.

Good start to the season, hopefully it can keep up and “Boardwalk” can go out with a bang.