‘Boardwalk Empire’ recap: Willie abandons college; Nucky suspects fed

Willie and Nucky on ‘Boardwalk Empire’
On “Boardwalk Empire,” Willie Thompson (Ben Rosenfield) abandons college and turns to his uncle Nucky (Steve Buscemi) for a job.
(Macall B. Polay / HBO)

“William Wilson,” episode 43 of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” refers to an Edgar Allan Poe short story about a college student who in effect commits suicide by murdering his doppelganger.

Analyzing the cautionary tale proves too much for freshman William Thompson (Ben Rosenfield). Guilt-stricken after accidentally killing a classmate and then letting an innocent person go to jail, Willie storms out of class.

By turning his back on education and turning to gangster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) for employment, Willie squanders his chance of earning honest wages in the corrupt Prohibition era.

“Uncle Nucky never needed college,” Willie says, defending his rash move. But father Eli (Shea Whigham) is enraged.


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“You leave school, you leave this house,” Eli yells, slapping Willie and prompting Nucky to intervene.

When speaking with Willie later, Nucky emphasizes the importance of keeping one’s wits while in the cutthroat bootlegging biz. “This isn’t a game, Will. I need to trust you,” he says.

Nucky also has trust issues with Prohibition Agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty). Warren claims to be on the take but secretly works with Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin) to try to topple Nucky’s interstate criminal network.


To learn more about the agent, Nucky queries Gaston Means (Stephen Root), a slimy special investigator with the Department of Justice. Gaston feigns ignorance, however, because he avoids prison by secretly acting as an informant for Warren.

Hoover, meanwhile, falsely takes credit for Warren’s undercover work in a blustery speech to Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon (James Cromwell) and other Washington dignitaries.

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“That’s rich,” Warren bitterly says of Hoover’s grandstanding. “I was the one who sold him on the whole conspiracy angle. He didn’t even want to address it.”

In Chicago, mobster Al Capone (Stephen Graham) is out for vengeance after police gun down his brother Frank (Morgan Spector). Al picks a cop at random and puts a bullet in his head.

Believing rival gangster Dean O’Banion (Arron Shiver) ordered Frank’s murder, Al wants boss Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) to authorize payback.

“It’s not going to happen,” Johnny insists. “We’re not starting a war.”

Johnny changes his mind, however, when he’s nabbed in a police raid Dean apparently orchestrated.


“There is one thing I’d like you to do,” Johnny tells Al: Whack Dean.

In New York, Nucky’s estranged wife, Margaret (Kelly MacDonald), supports herself by luring clients into a realty trust scheme. Her job grows more complicated when gangster Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) arrives incognito as a potential investor.

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“I have a distinct feeling you and I met before,” Arnold says, pretending he doesn’t recognize Margaret. She nervously excuses herself and flees the meeting.

To Margaret’s surprise, Arnold makes a substantial investment and sends her a bonus.

“Did you receive my gift?” he asks. “I will thank you in advance for your discretion.”

In Atlantic City, drug-addicted Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) goes cold turkey with the help of her lover, wealthy businessman Roy Phillips (Ron Livingston). Confessing that career ambition ruined his marriage, Roy says Gillian is all that matters now.

“Everything else can go hang,” he vows.


Finally, the relationship between Onyx Club operator Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) and jazz singer Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham) progresses from professional to sexual.

Daughter is supposed to spy on Chalky and report back to heroin kingpin Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey White), who’s plotting to seize the nightclub. But Valentin strangled Daughter’s prostitute mom long ago, and Chalky might be the key to revenge.

“Dr. Narcisse was a decent man,” Daughter says after a bedroom romp.

“So what that make me?” Chalky asks.

“That make you my man,” the sultry chanteuse replies.


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