Boardwalk Empire: “The Good Listener”

By Eleonora Iafano on Sep 15, 2014 to Boardwalk Empire


Everyone has the ability to hear (well, mostly everyone). But can everyone truly listen to what another person is saying? Can you read between the lines? Can you tell when someone is telling the truth, or lying straight to your face? Can you listen to what’s being said and come to the right decision, especially when it concerns your life being at stake?

Eli witnesses his warehouse being busted by some federal agents and barely makes it out sober and in one piece. The years haven’t been kind to him; he looks unkempt, like he hadn’t slept or washed up in days and smells of booze and urine. Even Val Alden can’t stand to be near him. Both men have bigger problems: they were short money. Money that was taken from them in the bust. Money that belonged to Al Capone. They have to figure out how to pay the money back. D’Angelo, a new gangster in Capone’s camp, berates Eli and Van Alden, telling them to get the money back. Or else. Al Capone is seen enjoying movie star like status. He is surrounded by a lot of thugs who do his bidding, cash is rolling in and he has reporters asking him what his life is like. Al seems to be enjoying all the money and power that’s been afforded his way. A new player is shown entering the game: Elliot Ness. We catch a brief glimpse of this agent, who vows to take the Capone syndicate down. Should be exciting to see where this storyline goes. Al better keep a sharp eye out on his men. Not all of them appear to be loyal.

Nucky Thompson finds himself at odds with “the pups.” A few seasons ago, Nucky had a meeting with Arnold Rothstein and Al Capone’s old boss, Johnny Torrio. Not only have the ‘pups’ grown bigger, they’ve also become deadlier, doing anything to get a piece of the action. Two hits on two major figures. Joe ‘the Boss’ Masseria was killed in cold blood. Nucky narrowly escaped getting assassinated.

Nucky pays a visit to Torrio. They have a brief chat and both of them realize how lucky they are to be alive and to have amassed what they have. Torrio tells Nucky to get out, while he still can and retire. Enjoy life. Not worry about bootlegging and getting shot at anymore. Seems like a pretty good notion to me. Nucky has his suspicions regarding Lansky and Luciano. The same way Torrio alludes to Nucky that the attempted hit on his life was ‘closer to home’ – meaning that perhaps Capone had something to do with it. Capone wanted to be his own boss. The same can be said for Meyer and Salvatore. Throw a young, quick tempered Bugsy Siegel into the mix, while you’re at it. The three young wolves have been meeting in secret at one of the brothels they oversee and Tonino (a former man in Rosetti’s crew) is serving as a new gangster. I don’t think Tonino had much choice in the matter, seeing as how he personally killed Rosetti and then Masseria got offed. He supplies information but Bugsy doesn’t seem all that convinced. Nucky doesn’t trust Luciano or Meyer. He knows that they still talk. It’s only a matter of time before another hit is put out. Nucky needs to focus, regroup and think about who to shake down before things get rough. It’s all about staying alive and staying on top.


The episode goes back and forth in time to examine Nucky’s family life as a young boy. Life was not kind for young Enoch; his father was a drunk and had a temper; his mother desperately tried to maintain the peace while constantly worrying over finances; and his younger sister, Susan, died while still a child. Nucky had to compete with the other boys on the boardwalk for money. It always seemed like someone, or something got in the way. His own father would take money and drink it away, not caring where the next meal would come from. He was consistent in his duties and worked for the Commodore; the only time he was late was because his sister had passed away. Having a poor and emotionally bare childhood made Nucky a scrappy young kid – and this is how we come to understand how Nucky fights for what’s his during his present day dealings in Atlantic City. It wasn’t an easy way to the top and nobody handed Nucky Thompson a damned thing. He had to go out and earn it for himself.

Gillian is in some sort of treatment center for women who may or may not be criminally insane. Being around all those women and confined to an awful environment must take a toll on one’s spirit. I actually feel sorry for her – after all, there are bigger monsters in the show and she just happened to be an easy target. Equally disturbing is the implied sordid business dealings that go on between Gillian and the Head Warden in charge. Not to worry; this exchange is the female prison warden receiving expensive clothing – what appears to be Gillian’s old wardrobe – in exchange for paper and pencils. Who is Gillian trying to contact? What’s her end game? Does she have connections that will get her out of that looney bin?


Ah, the Thompson family name. Fine one it is, too, especially when your name is William Thompson and you just happen to be applying for a job. Not just any job, but one with the District Attorney’s office. Either this is one hell of a power play to have a man on the inside or this is another part of the Thompson family tree trying to be on the straight and narrow. Something tells me that it’s more beneficial to try and get the coveted position, that way, you’re on “the inside” and can help your dear old dad and uncle. After all, knowledge is power. Willy has learned a thing or two from his uncle. His smooth talking ways and earnest attempt at trying to be “good boy” may have won over the DA. Who stands to profit here: Willy or Nucky? Is Nucky perhaps grooming Willy to be a successor? Or does he really want his nephew to aspire to greater things? And what’s with Willy lying to Nucky about his name not being brought up? If you think Nucky bought that poor performance, think again. Meanwhile, Willy’s dear old pa has a plan: let’s rob some money off of one of Capone’s cronies to pay back the $20,000 that we owe. The consequences: after stealing from “Peter” to pay “Paul” they have to kill the men, that way there are no witnesses. They pay up what’s owed to Capone.

Nucky is left high and dry at a meeting with a bunch of prominent businessmen. His friend, the senator who had a real good time in Cuba, wasn’t at that meeting. Coincidence? No. Poor choice to make on the Senator’s part. I’m sure he’ll pay for it down the line. The rest of the businessmen play off as if they didn’t know about Nucky’s bootlegging past. What’s with the façade? Why give Nucky a hard time and treat him like he’s a child? If they really understood the value of the liquor business, they would have jumped on a deal like that in a heartbeat. After all, in business the bottom line is profit. However, one guy seems taken with Nucky’s business proposal and exclusive rights to Bacardi Rum distribution: Joe Kennedy. Does that name ring a bell? Will Nucky and Joe’s new found friendship be profitable?


Remember our friend Tonino? Who used to be in Gyp Rosetti’s crew, until he offed Gyp? Yes, our man Tonino is now running with the Lansky and Luciano company. Although, that partnership seems on pretty shaky ground. Turns out that he’s sharing secrets about Meyer and Salvatore with none other than Nucky. In a late night meeting with Nucky, Tonino lets on about Meyer and Luciano and their dealings. Tonino also makes it clear that he’d rather be working for Nucky then them. Something about a person who is eager to go from one person to the next doesn’t exactly inspire loyalty. As Tonino correctly predicted: he was going to be offed. He surmised it would be by either Luciano or Lansky.

The final scene is back at the brothel where Meyer and Salvatore conduct their business. A message was sent to their doorstep. Tonino’s dead body, complete with a slit neck, missing ear and a postcard.

Here is Terence Winter doing “Inside Episode 05.02”

“Greetings from Havana.”  Here’s what’s coming:

  • Tamara Winfrey

    I couldn’t tell who was killed at the very end– I thought it was Willie!

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