Boardwalk Empire Season 5 Review “The Good Listener”

In this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire, we caught up with more familiar faces and continued to watch Nucky navigate the lines between a gangster and a gentleman as he continued to pursue a “retirement” plan in which he walks away alive, out of prison and financially set. Good luck with that, Nucky.


As mentioned in last week’s review, the time jump to 1931 means we get to see real life characters on the show reaching the pinnacle of their (criminal) success, including Al Capone. After commissioning, witnessing and barely escaping Chicago’s violent mob life, Torrio has settled into a lifestyle of retirement back in New York. It was nice to catch up with Torrio and the writers did a good job at using his dialogue with Nucky to set up the biggest battle the Atlantic City boss will face this season – the battle to peacefully walk away from a life of violence. As Torrio observed, there aren’t many gangsters who aren’t forcefully retired by violent deaths or imprisonment. As much as Nucky fashions himself a businessman, he’s always had a hand in the criminal world and it’s certainly come at a cost, which we were also reminded of last night with the callback to Billy Canter in season 3.

With Torrio retired in New York, Capone is now the major player in Chicago and it is always amusing to watch Mueller/Van Alden struggle to earn a livelihood (and stay alive) as a member of Capone’s organization. Stephen Graham continues to amaze me with is portrayal of Capone and it was nice to see Jim True-Fost (Prez from The Wire) introduced as Eliot Ness.

We also caught up with Eli, who is using alcohol to numb the pain of being separated from his family. The elevator scene with the constant removal of hats with Eli and Van Alden was hilarious, as was his ill-conceived robbery of one of Capone’s bag men that he and Van Alden carried out in order to settle a debt with Capone. The idea is just that much more ridiculous when reflecting upon it in writing.

While Eli lived a life of loneliness and drunkenness in Chicago, his son Will is all grown up and looking for a job with the U.S. Attorneys’ office. Will’s motivations are still unclear at this time. I happened to believe Will when he said he wanted to become a U.S. Attorney to get even with Nucky for breaking his family apart. Not even an ear-slicing bodyguard could save Nucky from that type of double cross.

New York

Over in New York, Luciano, Siegel and Lansky continued to expand their criminal enterprise. We quickly learned that Lansky was lying to Nucky last week when he told him that he and Charlie weren’t as close as they once were due to Lansky’s marriage and Charlie’s bachelor lifestyle. It was quite the contrary and not only were the longtime friends increasing their influence in New York, they were also keeping a close eye on New Jersey thanks to another face from the past, Tonino. Poor Tonino. It was a miracle that he managed to survive working with Gyp Rosetti. His days with Gyp came back to haunt him, as Nucky had not forgotten Tonino’s role in Billie’s death.

Nucky also spent time with some new, notable faces, including a fellow bootlegger by the name of Joe Kennedy. It’s always exciting to see the incorporation of real-life characters on the show. We also learned that Nucky and Margaret are still married.

Other thoughts/observations:

– I’m not quite sure what to make of Gillian being in a facility for the criminally insane. It will be interesting to learn to whom Gillian is writing and I’m looking forward to the inclusion of a young Gillian in Nucky’s flashbacks – assuming they make it that far.

– The young Nucky flashbacks continued to be interesting this week, as we saw the source of Ethan’s hatred for the Commodore. We also learned a lot about how Nucky currently does business, as buying a vote by paying for a child’s funeral is right out of his playbook.

– Although Nucky would never admit it, I love the sense of urgency and desperation underpinning his efforts to find a way to legally/legitimately leverage his liquor connections before the clock runs out on prohibition.

Until next week!

What did you think of this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire? Sound off below!