Boardwalk Empire: Season 1, Episode 12 “A Return to Normalcy” (B+)
Cable seasons always seem to come to a close so quickly, yet there’s no debating the fact that much was explored and accomplished during the inaugural season of HBO’s next great drama. There have been some truly compelling arcs and plenty of characters whose names I don’t yet know and I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn. But knowing their names isn’t so important when it’s the grander drama that’s important. One of the episode’s scenes represents the formation of a crucial union, bringing Chicago boss Arnold Rothstein, who has been a fringe character for the entire season, into a partnership with his former enemy Nucky. As his chosen candidate enters the White House, Nucky has just expanded his empire by acquiring critical access in many high places. Though his good fortune may fluctuate, he always seems to come out ahead in the end, with Rothstein’s initial hit on him being unsuccessful and ultimately creating a (tentative) ally and Margaret coming back to him after trying to get away. Among this episode’s most compelling moments were Nucky’s confession about his past to Margaret and the montage of Nucky’s speech and his would-be assassins being hunted down by Jimmy and Richard. The look of pure hatred on Nelson’s face when his one-night stand shows up and announces she’s pregnant (though if you watch closely, you’ll see that the look of disgust appears even before that revelation). The somewhat minor plotline involving Chalky requesting to be invited to the party was intriguing, and I like the idea that he’s barely been in the show but could play a much bigger role in the second season, along with other aspects of the show yet to be explored. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see season two until 2012, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait. This has been one terrific year.
Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kelly Macdonald as Margaret