Thematically, we’re following a “North Star” considering guiding lights reunite several estranged members of the “Boardwalk Empire” cast, even if it’s a bit of a mid-season episode lull. Perhaps the writers had to give audiences a reprieve after the sad suicide of Eddie Kessler last episode. “North Star” takes Nucky (Steve Buscemi) back to Florida to finish his land deals with Bill McCoy (Pearce Bunting) from earlier in the season and meeting him in the Sunshine State are his new partners Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) and Charles “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza). And so new alliances are formed, Nucky, McCoy and the new Italian man in Tampa, Vincenzo Petrucelli (Vincenzo Amato). But old alliances also crumble. Luciano gets spooked by Petrucelli as he has ties to his boss Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi). If Joe were to find out that Luciano was making side deals on his own there would be hell to pay. Luciano tells Lansky his long-time partner they have to back out, but the young ambitious Jewish gangster tells his Italian friend this is the end of the road and it looks like their partnership it at an end (though considering they both worked for two different mob bosses, this seemed like an inevitability).
Down in Tampa, Nucky connects with the sassy bartender Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette). Their affections for one another begin with a drinking game that gets them totally soused, which leads to an all-out fist fight and then primal sex. Suffice to say Wheet had to coax the not-so-subtle lust within Nucky out with a few punches to the head because he’s dealing with some existential and melancholic woes. In the end, Nucky makes his deal with land deal with Lansky, McCoy and Petrucelli, but tells the Tampa men, Wheet will be overseeing everything and reporting back to him. Perhaps the most important moments of these scenes is Nucky questioning who he is. One of his closest friends Eddie Kessler has died and all he can think about is if someone got to him and if he needs to be worried. What kind of person does that make him? Nucky doesn’t get much time to find out as the no-nonsense Wheet can’t stand this kind of self-pitying introspection and literally knocks him out of it.
Before all this though, Nucky has an awkward reunion with his estranged wife Margaret Thompson (Kelly Macdonald). She’s been working in an office in Brooklyn under her maiden name and laying low. Nucky ostensibly is meeting her there to inform her of the death of his manservant Eddie, who had been part of the family and knew Margaret well. But he can’t seem to get the words out right and Margaret, already suspicious of Nucky’s motives and business, assumes there was some kind of shady end for the beloved butler (there’s even a super awkward accidental reference to the death of Owen Sleater, Nucky’s lieutenant who was cheating on him with Margaret). This is probably isn’t the end of the Nucky and Margaret story, but this reunion sure doesn’t go well—Margaret is resilient and not crazy about being back in Nucky’s world. If Nucky persists in seeing and pursuing her in the future, he is a braver man than this writer, because the relationship feels done.
Another reunion takes place too. Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) returns to Atlantic City and tries to confess his sins to Paul Sagorsky (Mark Borkowsky). He admits he killed all those men to save the little boy Tommy Darmody (Brady Noon), but Sagorsky’s no fool and knows this all too well. Reeling off the news that he is dying (Sagorsky was an inveterate drunk all his life and his liver is failing), the father encourages him to get over the past and return to his daughter Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) and Tommy. Richard returns home and Julia tentatively takes him back, and he makes quite the little family along with the children. Let’s hope Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) doesn’t disrupt it later in the season with her custody battle. Though she has her heroin addiction to deal with first.
Having lost J. Edgar Hoover’s (Eric Ladin) confidence—when Kessler died, that was the end of their informant in Atlantic City—FBI Agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty) has to beg for one more shot at infiltrating Nucky’s bootlegging operation. Already undercover as a crooked hayseed FBI agent, Knox finds a new way to gain Eli Thompson’s (Shea Whigham) trust. Knox pulls the innocent “Is there anything I can do to help?” and in fact there is. Eli can’t access the deposit box that Kessler stored cash transactions, so Knox abuses his position of power, secures the money and begins to earn Eli’s confidence. If/when this backfires, this could set up yet another come to Jesus between Nucky and Eli who have now mended their past transgressions.
Bits And Pieces:
— Perhaps the other theme to the episode was violent sex. Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) has something stuck in his craw. Part of it is his residual anger with Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) having part control of his dance club (White calls his erudite adversary nothing but a “nigger with a dictionary”). But the real issue is that Chalky has a love/hate and sexual frustration for Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham). White’s frustrations manifest in outbursts at home with his wife and treating Maitland like cattle. But the singer is no wallflower and feisty on her own, and eventually their quarrelsome tête-à-tête come to blows in the form of some very heated sex.