Boardwalk Empire – The Milkmaid’s Lot (Filthsposition)
One of the best episodes the show has ever done. Easily. We’re three quarters through the season now and I can admit that some flaws are starting to become more apparent. In hindsight, some of the creative decisions made about how to handle Eli, Margaret and Chalky this year have bothered me. Mainly that Eli seemed really interesting early on but then dropped off the radar, Margaret’s arc has changed focus abruptly since the halfway point of the season, and Chalky has had nothing to do at all this year.
However, the show continues to do everything else right, so it’s okay. For me Nucky has had an interesting arc this year. His weakness and lack of focus have been a flaw for some, but the writers deliberately chose to present the character this way. They wanted to make this year’s story about the pitfalls of complacency, and I feel that they have paid that theme off very well on a number of levels. I think Gyp Rosetti, Arnold Rothstein, Gillain Darmody, Al Capone, Van Alden and Richard Harrow have all had some amazinggggg material this season. I’m glad Harrow has become such a big presence in the second half of the season, it helps to compensate for the fact that the fan’s other favourite character (Chalky) has had so little screentime at any point this year.
“The Milkmaid’s Lot” was a fantastic episode. Possibly the finest hour of the season, battling it out with “Sunday Best”, “Bone for Tuna”, and “You’d be Surprised” for that crown. And this week also continued the season’s trend of the odd-numbered episodes (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) being better than the even-numbered ones (2, 4, 6, 8). That said, there has really only been one dud episode this season- Ep 6, which I didn’t review, because it pains me too much to speak ill of my beloved Boardwalk. The rest of the season has ranged between “quite good!” and “Masterpiece!!!”.
“The Milkmaid’s Lot” was pretty darn masterful. Steve Buscemi really acted his ass off in this one, portraying Nucky’s brain injury brilliantly. Here Nucky was a man who is veering in and out of reality, one minute being as focused as he’s ever been, and the next minute being unable to recognise his own brother. For once Nucky was absolutely and without doubt the most hypnotic character on his own series.
Gyp is sometimes cartoonish, sometimes very human. But always fun to watch. It fit so perfectly into his ego for him to wear that silly hat in front of his men, knowing that they fear him enough not to dare to laugh. Richard Harrow’s romantic storyline is just the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. Some people can never get over the irrelevance of certain characters to the larger story in Boardwalk Empire. But since Harrow, Van Alden and Capone are having their best arcs ever this season, I really couldn’t care less about how interconnected their scenes are with the rest of the show.
The level of dread built up in this hour was outstanding. It was one of the better “the eve of the storm” themed episodes I’ve ever seen a show do. All leading to that great, great sequence where the majority of the show’s ensemble gather in a room, for a desperate Nucky to ask them for their much-needed help, and them all to simply say “No.” Such a devastating, brilliantly done sequence. And it really raises the tension about how Nucky will manage to somehow turn his dire circumstances around by the end of the season.
This was a full marks episode, and not the first one of the season either.