The Whole Kit and Caboodle
While flashbacks shed light on his coming-of-age in Atlantic City, present day (1931) finds Nucky (Steve Buscemi) in Cuba to forge new deals in preparation for the end of Prohibition. Meanwhile, Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) is still hiding in New York, working as a secretary, Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) has landed himself on a prison chain gang, and Lucky Luciano is mobilizing his organization to make a big play.
What We Learn About Nucky This Week
His first taste of money tasted like the ocean and came from the Commodore. In the first of a series of flashbacks to Nucky’s childhood growing up as a wharf rat in the shadow of Atlantic City, young boys dive into the sea to fish out the glittering gold coins being tossed by the boardwalk’s original kingpin. Not only does it make for a visually dazzling opening sequence, it sets up the path laid out for him at an early age — after floundering in the water for coins, he changes his strategy. Instead of scrambling to make a quick buck, Nucky plays the long game, and the smarter one.
Most Shocking Moment of Violence
In an episode packed with surprises of a violent and non-violent nature, the most jaw-dropping might have been the increasingly unhinged monologue of Mr. Bennett (Patch Darragh) in front of his entire office staff, which climaxes in him whipping out a gun and taking his own life. There’s only one casualty, which technically makes it one of the least-bloody death scenes of the series, but the impact is seismic.
Most Flagrant Flaunting of the Law
While we haven’t yet learned what events occurred between the fourth season finale and 1931, there’s no denying that whatever put Chalky White into prison stripes was probably pretty bad. The only thing worse? Joining in on an escape attempt and running off into the woods with another prisoner, whose childhood head injury and crazed questions about the telephone indicate that he may not be the guy you want by your side while running from the coppers.
Most Memorable Dialogue
Two key scenes, featuring father figures: “I wasn’t sure if I’d be a father or a widower,” Nucky’s father tells his eldest son, about the three days of labor Nucky’s mother went through, which nearly killed her.
“There is sand, there is a broom and this is one dollar,” the Commodore (John Ellison Conlee) tells young Nucky as he gives him his first job working at the hotel.
Both are about putting responsibility on Nucky — but one of them is a lot more fair than the other.
Smartest Editing Choice
Moving from Nucky’s humble late 19th century roots directly to the lush tropical scenes set in Cuba is a reminder of how far he’s come — and how far he could still fall.
Drink of Choice
In Cuba, Nucky and a new friend enjoy a rum cocktail called the El Presidente. The recipe, in case you’re wondering: Two parts rum, one part curaçao, one part dry vermouth and a dash of grenadine.
Best Musical Interlude
Nucky is not perhaps a natural hoofer, which makes watching Sally (Patricia Arquette) show him the ropes of Cuba’s peppiest dances one of the episode’s comedic high points. (Could be worse, Nucky. Could be Club Med and the limbo.)
The Biggest Flopperoo
In the wake of Bennett’s suicide, Margaret has some explaining to do, as she was tied up in her boss’s schemes, and now his bosses want to figure out what happened. Her attempt to remove the most damning files, masked with an awkward “I found the key!” to the filing cabinet when she’s discovered, indicates that the trouble she’s in is only going to get worse.
The Best, Most Killer Diller, Moment
In Cuba, an assassination attempt on Nucky goes badly for the attempted killer, when Nucky’s Cuban bodyguard uses the man’s own machete against him, and then also takes an ear (normal bodyguard stuff). Raw, unexpected and dangerous on a level that “Boardwalk” has perfected over the years, it’s a reminder that no one is safe anywhere — especially in the last season of an HBO drama.