Boardwalk Empire Review: “The Good Listener” (Season 5, Episode 2)

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Furthermore, Michael Shannon continues to portray an enigma of a character with George Mueller/Van Alden, getting some great dialogue and scenes to chew on this episode. Seriously, his reaction to his child asking him why the sky is blue, along with him berating his wife for indulging in cigarettes, is just more of the stuff we have come to love from his indescribable personality. He then goes on to finish his business with Capone, which he ends up botching. Something tells me that there won’t be a happy ending crossing the paths of Al Capone and the many names of Michael Shannon.

This week we also got more flashbacks to the childhood of Nucky, but unfortunately, the experiment may beginning to wear out its welcome. Most of the exposition being dumped is already common knowledge, and is now just really starting to suck away time that could be going towards fleshing out the stories of other characters. We’re already two episodes in, with only six left, and the feeling is that outside of painting a complete picture on the past, present, and future of Nucky, the other characters are getting their moments but are admittedly being shoved away from the spotlight. There weren’t even any appearances by Chalky and Narcisse in this episode.

Further not helping this little dilemma is the continuation of some plot-lines that bluntly speaking just aren’t engaging. It’s hard to imagine anyone being invested in Gillian’s arc – which at the moment seems to have no real bearing on the central story. She’s in an insane asylum, we get it, it’s just not that interesting. Scenes like this could be giving more time to characters that actually feel relevant and important to whatever the climax HBO is building to, like this week’s emotional and dramatic glimpses of Eli wallowing in depression.

Eli scenes also set a nice juxtaposition for his son Will, who genuinely may want to wipe away the corruption. Will also shares a scene with Nucky where he completely lies to him, further raising the question of if he is there to look out for his uncle or not. The answer is probably no – due to all of the family drama that has burdened his life – which means Nucky has more enemies than he probably knows about. Can’t the man just rig the political vote and get some distribution going one more time so he could ride off into the sunset in peace?

On the whole though, “The Good Listener” may have been a slow episode fixated on trying to steer each character towards their grand finale, but it did plant some big seeds for the future. Seeds that will most likely morph into an onslaught of violence. If you pay attention closely you will even notice the introduction of Elliot Ness of the Untouchables – yes, we are discussing both history and the movie – delivering a speech vowing to take out Al Capone. So in summary, with only six episodes left of Boardwalk Empire and a vision for the final season’s narrative slowly beginning to form, things will likely heat up next week.

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