Last season (not necessarily in this order): Margaret slept with the sexy Owen Slater; Lucy had Van Alden’s baby and his wife Rose wasn’t very happy about it; Van Alden evaded arrest for murdering his fellow agent back in season 1; Jimmy tried to take over AC with the Commodore; Nucky made a slightly more honest woman out of Margaret; the beautiful Richard contemplated suicide and broke my heart about 50 times in only 12 episodes; Jimmy hired someone to kill Nucky, then intervened so he only got shot in the hand; Horvitz killed Angela and her lover when meaning to kill Jimmy; and Nucky shot Jimmy at the end (leaving poor Tommy to be raised by Gillian if Jimmy is indeed dead).
And now the season premiere…
We open in Tabor Heights, NJ, where a couple cars are stopped because one has a flat tire. A passerby stops and offers some oil to loosen the nuts and I immediately worry they’re going to thank this sweet man and his dog with bullets to the head. (Please don’t shoot the dog.) Our mysterious smoking man in charge of the scene is apparently Sicilian and he’s feeling offended because he’s stupid. Just when we think he’s letting the guy go with a “have a good day” he comes up behind our passerby and beats him with a tire iron. This is the perfect opening for anyone who may have forgotten that gangsters can sometimes be violent.
Cut to a child running down the boardwalk in AC. He pops into a deli and then leaves with a box full of coffee cups and sandwiches and then he’s off running under the boardwalk and eventually up into a run down building where we see the delicious Owen and finally Nucky among others. Everyone’s wearing their coats as though the building isn’t heated.
Nucky’s talking to someone we cannot see about the importance of a hot breakfast to start the day. Then we see the man he’s speaking to is tied to a chair. His name is Nathan and apparently he’s a thief. Idiot Doyle is in the background as Nucky talks about Nathan stealing booze from Doyle’s warehouse “with an unknown accomplice.” Doyle (not for the first, and most likely not for the last) shows us how stupid he is in some lovely banter from Nucky as the boss man is more pissed at Doyle for leaving the place unlocked while he went to the bathroom than at the thief who was just doing his job (stealing). I am heartily amused.
Poor Nathan, however, is not so amused. In fact he looks terrified, but Nucky says he’s not angry with him. He just wants the name of his wheelman and then they can let him go… after they put a bullet through his brain. Nice.
Back at the house Margaret is overseeing some extravagant decorating and we learn that it’s New Year’s Eve and there’s going to be a lavish party. The children have taken to calling Nucky Daddy all the time and Teddy informs us that Daddy has said he can stay up until 1923. There’s news on the radio about an “aviatrix” who’ll be the first person to solo the North American continent but I’m not sure what history they’re following because the first nonstop transcontinental was two men in May 1923. No other aviation “firsts” fit the bill. I think we’re getting another fictional character.
Over at the Commodore’s place, Mama Gillian writes a check and signs Jimmy’s name. Does that mean he’s still alive? Probably not; this is Gillian, after all. She then introduces a new woman — Evelyn — to a group of ladies known as the Artemis Club. She then speaks to the ladies about what will be expected of them this evening for the festivities. And it quickly becomes clear that she’s become become a high-class madam. Mr. Harrow chases Tommy into the room and the new girl seems intrigued by him. You’ve got good taste girl. I think Evelyn’s going to become important.
Out in Chicago Johnny Torrio and family are preparing to travel to Naples. He and Capone and some guy named Jake have a visitor. A Mr. Dean O’Banion. Jake and Capone count money while O’Banion sits down and chats with Torrio. There’s a lovely moment of Irish vs. Italian as they toast “Salut” and “Slainte.” They’ve got a North/South Chicago conflict over where OB has been doing business and whether or not he had permission. During the convo OB makes a cut about Capone being deaf and when Torrio tells him Capone’s kid is deaf he seems to quiet for a moment. But then when he gets up to leave he tells Capone to “say hello to your boy… or at least wave” and Capone flies out of his seat after him. Torrio pulls him back and tells him to behave, he doesn’t want any trouble while he’s gone and if that’s not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. Capone then makes a new year’s resolution to be good, but new year’s isn’t until midnight.
Back in AC, Nucky’s hobnobbing with the politicos. Good ol’ Harry Daugherty is going back to DC and will miss the night’s party. Nucky’s all forget the party, we’ve got problems with the press and Harry insists that ’23 will be a better year. Nucky’s more concerned about ’24 — election time again. Everyone clears out except Nucky and Harry. It seems Nucky’s paying $40k a month for politcal protection and he’s worried about going down with them once the president’s term is up. He also insists he’s a philanthropist now, not a gangster. Harry picks up the paper with a photo of the dead man in Tabor Heights from the opening. He’s not buying the philanthropy line. And by the way, Nucky… Harry won’t be taking cash directly anymore; his middleman will be in touch. Another page of the paper shows us Carrie Duncan to be the aviatrix from earlier. Now we know who she is — a new fictional character. (She better be at least half as awesome as Angela was or I’m going to be might annoyed.)
Margaret’s at the St. Theresa’s Hospital along with other people be led on an informational tour for Board members. They stop by the new Enoch and Margaret Thompson Pediatric Wing and I guess the philanthropy line isn’t total hogwash. The doctors say they’ve been improving the hospital and hope to one day be a teaching facility. As they stop to talk more, a woman walks in behind them looking pretty rough and holding her abdomen. All of a sudden blood gushes from between her legs and she collapses. Margaret’s clearly shaken by it all but seems unable to react just yet.
Van Alden! He’s a door-to-door salesman now. Selling electric irons that will revolutionize the lives of housewives everywhere. He knocks on a door where the man inside is busy making bathtub gin? The man finally answers the door only to send “George Mueller” away. Who goes door to door on New Year’s Eve? “George” does, as he’s involved in a sales contest that he’s clearly desperate to win. He goes down the row of houses one door after another with no luck.
Back in AC Harrow has taken Tommy down to the arcade area of the boardwalk. He’s making every shot on a shooting game (much to the game hawker’s annoyance) and wins a pinwheel for Tommy before he’s told he can’t play anymore. They walk away and Harrow tells Tommy that his daddy was a good shot. Harrow then says Tommy’s mother was a wonderful artist and Tommy says that she’s not. Then he says his mom’s taking him to the movies and as I suspected, he thinks Gillian’s his mother now. Richard doesn’t look particularly pleased with this. (And here we have the confirmation that Jimmy is definitely gone. Not that there was much hope otherwise, but a girl can dream.)
Back at the hospital the tour is over and after the group splits up, Margaret approaches a different doctor to ask about the woman who collapsed earlier. It seems she had a miscarriage due to an E. coli infection that could have been avoided by not drinking raw milk. The doc is pissed that the hospital doesn’t provide prenatal care or educate women about their own bodies and health. He reminds Margaret that she’s on the board, but when she asks he expects her to do and he says, “Nothing.” New project for Maggie?
Nucky’s at Doyle’s booze warehouse. And guess who else is there — Manny Horvitz. Nucky’s got a name for him of someone in Philly who needs to die. But it’s New Year’s Eve and Mrs. Horvitz is having a little party, he argues. Nucky reminds him that he did him a favor or two. Finally Manny relents, but in exchange he wants his own still, his own operation. He says friends shouldn’t be partners and Nucky’s bewildered (as am I) that Manny considers Doyle to be a friend. Ha ha. Now go kill Roland Smith by tomorrow.
Van Alden/George Mueller has moved from row houses on to an apartment building. He stops in front of a mirror and says (in a not so convincing voice), “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” It’s like “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley” (http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/daily-affirmation/1349640) only much, much sadder. He repeats it with a little more conviction, but I’m still not buying it. Then he goes to another door and starts his spiel only to get a door slammed in his face.
It’s party time at the Thompson home! People are dancing in flapper dresses and tuxedos. There are some gorgeous headbands and fascinators on display. And the insane decorating is done — the theme is Egypt. (King Tut’s tomb was uncovered in 1922.) There’s even someone with a peacock thing on her head. Everything about the party scream extravagance and all I can think are these are some of the men who will kill themselves in 1929 when the market crashes. Anyway… Teddy’s on the stairs and Nucky says to let him come down for a bit. As Margaret goes to get him, Eddie Cantor arrives and bows to “pharoah.” Teddy comes over in time to meet Eddie’s guest Lillian “Billie” Kent in her leopard wrap. She double fists some champagne and then moves on with Eddie for more partying. That’s my kind of lady (and probably Nucky’s too).
Back at the Commodore’s mansion Richard is showing Tommy a painting Angela gave him. He points out her signature in the corner and while Tommy gets that the name is the same as his, it’s slow to sink in. He wants to make a picture of his own though, and Richard gets him pencil and paper. Richard tells him that Angela drew him once, a long time ago and then Gillian comes in to interrupt. She asks what they’re doing and Tommy says making a picture like the one his mom made and points to the painting. “I’m your mother now,” Gillian says. “Remember?” She takes him away for bed and I have my first moment of heartbreak for Richard of the season. (I’m sure there will be eleventy billion more.) He looks at the painting again and I can’t help but think it’s a self-portrait even though the woman in it is shown from behind.
Back in Chicago, Torrio has left town and Capone has “chewed through [his leash]” and is at OB’s flower shop ready to do some damage. Just as he gets started, Van Alden walks in the door behind them and OB asks where he’s been. OB tells Capone that unless he wants a taste of what’s in Van Alden’s case he’d better watch his step, they’re on the North side right now. Capone looks at the case and Van Alden lifts it and undoes one latch but then Capone and his man turn and leave. He and Van Alden are face to face for a second and it’s startling to see that Van Alden is a good foot taller than Capone. Once they’re gone, OB runs over and locks the door then thanks Van Alden even though he doesn’t know who he is. He introduces himself still as George Mueller of the Farraday Electric Iron Company. OB offers to make him a bouquet to take home to the wife. He also buys two dozen irons from him and I think “Mueller” may win his contest. OB says if he ever wants a real job… (more foreshadowing, no doubt).
Back at Nucky’s Eddie and Billie put on a song and dance number about Old King Tut and boy can Miss Billie move her hips. They pull Nucky in between them for a moment of happy train dancing. Luciano and others are watching and one of them actually says, “How about those Nephra-titties.” (I can’t even make that shit up.) And then Sicilian tire iron guy — Gyp (I first heard this as Chip and thought no way) — shows up. I cringe when I realize he’s got the dead man’s dog in his arms. Nucky walks up and asks if he was in Tabor Heights by any chance. Gyp Rosetti says he spent the last eight hours cleaning grease off his hands. He’s such a charmer, that Gyp. The men joke about it taking more than a whiskey to warm him up: “he’s got ice water in his veins.” That’s further proven when he gets pissed off that Eddie interrupts to get Nucky to come and lead a toast. His face says he might be beating Eddie with a tire iron later.
“George Mueller” arrives at a party with flowers and it’s clearly for work. He goes in to update the sales board, but is told he’s too late. He missed the tallying. Poor George’s name has no marks under it while the jackass who won sold 18 irons. (George would have won with his 24 to OB.) His boss said the deadline was 9pm, but he insists he’d been told 10pm (a glance at the clock shows it to be 9:50). “George” is pissed, but isn’t really going to do anything.
Margaret and another woman at the Egyptian party are talking about the aviatrix who will have 30 hours alone in the air. They can’t imagine it, but wouldn’t mind 30 hours of free time. (Maggie dear, you have a nanny, maids, and a husband who is never around. You’ve got way more free time than most of us.) Owen comes over to say the bar is out of champagne. She tells them to have it restocked and then says to say hello to Katie before walking away. She turns tail and meets up with one of the hospital administrators and brings up that she spoke to a doctor who thinks they need some prenatal care at the hospital. He asks which doctor she spoke to and since Margaret’s not stupid she says she cannot remember his name. (And by the look on this guy’s face, that was the right call.) Margaret then tells him that she believes the woman’s situation could have been prevented. Nucky comes up and interrupts before she can dig herself deeper, but I’m certain now that she’s got herself a new project (nevermind wishing she had more free time). Some scantily glad “Egyptian slaves” then distract everyone by carrying in a treasure chest full of gold jewels, and the crowd goes a bit crazy pawing through for their party favors. (I’m clearly going to the wrong parties.)
At the mansion, Gillian goes out on the deck to ask Richard to “stop filling Tommy’s head with stories about the past.” She’s terrible. Richard says he understands. He also says he’s seeing a friend and she tells him to enjoy himself.
Back at Nucky’s there’s a meeting of gangsters down in the kitchen. Gyp is upset with the “Yid” (Meyer Lansky) who’s only half way in. Nucky stops them and says he’s not selling alcohol anymore. He’s got a friend taking care of business and will only be selling to one buyer — Mr. Rothstein. The others can buy from AR if they want (at 50% markup according to Gyp). Then they get to the Irish/Italian problems again as well as the Jews and who will and will not sell to whom. Gyp says he’s got a Chinese friend who says it’s “the year of the pig” as he glares at Nucky.
Gyp then makes “Yid” look like a friendly word by pulling out “kyke” as he insults AR and then others at the table. It’s actually pretty impressive in it’s offensiveness. Gyp pulls no punches, turning to Nucky for his final attack but Nucky doesn’t take shit from anyone. He calmly interrupts Gyp and suggests he must be tired, that that can make some people cranky. He offers rooms at the Ritz to Gyp and his men for the night. Gyp gets pissier and for a moment looks violent when Owen steps in only to make this asshole even angrier. After threatening to wipe the floor with Owen, Gyp finally calms down and says “Nobody here can take a joke” before leaving. Upstairs they are ringing in the New Year with yelling and kissing and confetti being thrown by little people dressed as babies with top hats (stay classy, Nucky).
On his way to the door Gyp goes up to Margaret and hands her the dog he took from the guy in the opening scene: “For your kids.” He thanks her for a lovely evening and leaves. It’s kind of creepy and leaves Margaret a little bit bewildered.
Manny’s at home toasting his wife. She counters that it’s the New Year for the goyim (and there’s no party in sight despite what he’d said to Nucky). He hands her a glass of champagne and reminds her they’ve been in America for 20 years, that they’re Americans now. The conversation is in Yiddish (I think); she doesn’t say anything to him in English and I wonder if she speaks the language at all. I get the sense that she’s completely isolated from the outside world. When she leaves the room to get ready for bed, Manny pulls a gun from hiding and checks to see that it’s loaded.
Back in Chicago, Van Alden comes home to nanny-cum-wife Sigrid holding a baby. “I thought he sleeps through the night,” he says and I think where did they get a baby boy??? Abigail is sleeping in her crib; she’s got a cold but it’s better. Two babies? WTF? He tells her he lost the contest. “This year we’ll be more lucky,” she says. I guess the baby is theirs? She’s truly playing the role of wife now.
The final guests leave Nucky’s party and then Nucky turns on Margaret and totally loses his shit. He tells her to never drag him into her issues again. It gets even more heated when he brings up her giving away his land last year. (Remember that? He signed his land over to her because of his legal issues and then she gave it to the church instead of giving it back to him? Apparently he didn’t take that too well even though it helped launch his as a “philanthropist”.) He hands her a wad of cash to tip out the servers and then leaves, tossing a gruff “Happy New Year” on his way out the door.
Manny puts on his hat and says goodnight to his wife as his driver honks a car horn outside. When he opens the door, Richard shoots him in the head with a huge rifle. There’s no missing this time, no tussle that leaves Manny alive and his attacker dead. Richard’s brought his best friend (now that Jimmy and Angela are gone), and that lady rifle does the job. The camera shifts to the car outside and we see that his driver is dead too.
Margaret is in bed alone, staring at the bedside table. She finally turns on the light and grabs the paper, looking at the photo of Carrie Duncan and her airplane.
At the same time, Nucky’s at his rooms at the Ritz. He pours himself a drink, pulls his gun from his holster and flexes his hand that was shot last year. Then he walks down a hall into his bedroom to find Billie Kent in his bed wearing only panties. “What happened to Cleopatra?” he asks as he picks up the wig she’d been wearing. “I think she flipped her wig,” she replies. He says he’s never had so much fun pretending he didn’t know someone as he did that night. She climbs on top of him and things get playful and sexy.
Dawn finds Margaret out on the dunes. There are other people there watching Carrie Duncan fly by from Cape May. Margaret looks up to see the biplane travel up the coast. And I’m left wondering why someone flying across the continent would fly north along the coast, but that’s just me be silly I’m sure. Maybe Margaret actually drove down to Cape May?
Next week: Everybody’s got guns. And it looks like we get to see Eli and Chalky.