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Boardwalk Empire 4×06 “The North Star” Recap

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Little Tommy Darmody has developed quite a fascination with astronomy, particularly the North Star.

The North Star – otherwise known as Polaris – is unique in that it remains nearly steadfast in the same position while the rest of the northern sky swirls and converges around it. Not equal in brightness to the sun, but to those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, it is is quite literally our guiding light, helping us lost souls realize where we are, discover where we came from, and know where we’re going next.

En route to Tampa, Nucky Thompson waits alone in a restaurant adjacent to a New York City train station, musing about how he never noticed the rumble of the trains. Perhaps the sting of Eddie Kessler’s death has prompted him to reconnect with his estranged wife, Margaret, who joins him at the restaurant table. Their exchange is curt and insipid, and more like a job interview more than a reunion.

Nevertheless, Nucky presents the embalmed lizard he obtained from Sally Wheet as a gift for his stepson Teddy. When Margaret expresses displeasure at the thought of a pet lizard, Nucky retorts that he’d “never put anything live in a box.” (Cringes all around as Owen Sleater presumably rolls over in his box… er, grave…)

After Nucky arrives in Florida to the tune of feuding alligators (literally), Bill McCoy introduces him, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano to a new investor, Vincenzo Petrucelli. But upon learning that Petrucelli has ties to Joe Masseria, Lucky backs out of the deal. Meanwhile, a handful of locals harass McCoy regarding the whereabouts of August Tucker – until barkeeper Sally Wheet brandishes a rifle and chases the men off.

Later that night, Nucky and Sally sit at the bar sharing a bottle of poteen, a moonshine that packs quite a punch. Not as powerful a punch, however as Sally herself; she clocks Nucky for his his self-pitying diatribe, declaring that she can’t stand a “whiner.” That punch is followed by scuffle, which culminates in a lovemaking session amid an unrelenting Florida thunderstorm. When he meets with Bill McCoy and Meyer Lansky the next morning to discuss the land deal, Nucky recruits Sally to manage his affairs in Tampa once he is back in New Jersey.

But affairs in New Jersey are still under the shadow of Eddie’s suicide, as Eli and Mickey Doyle scramble to access the safe deposit boxes Eddie opened at Nucky’s insistence. Enter Agent Knox, still posing as a bumbling newbie around the Thompson warehouse, while determined to regain J. Edgar Hoover’s goodwill. Eli recruits Knox to use his badge in order to gain access to the safe deposit boxes. Knox is successful, and Eli assures him that he will be needed for such endeavors again in the future.

Back in Eddie’s room, Knox reads the letter Eddie started writing aloud – and Eli breaks down while lamenting his own relationship with his eldest son. Knox offers Eli his handkerchief, and as the camera zooms in on its monogram, we (and Eli) note that the initials are “JTM.” Thus, we start wondering whether Eli will be Knox’s next “weakest link,” or if Eli’s police instincts sound an alarm regarding Knox’s presumed identity…

Tensions between Daughter Maitland and Chalky White continue to rise – and eventually explode – at the Onyx Club. With his wife tightening the reins at home – especially regarding their musician son spending time at the club – Chalky does not take kindly to his role at the club being challenged by Ms. Maitland. Daughter has revised her set to include songs that Chalky insinuates are boring, even causing customers to leave the venue. The two exchange heated words – including Chalky referring to Valentin Narcisse as “a n—– with a dictionary” – and then, an even more heated love scene.

And after receiving a devastating (but altogether predictable) diagnosis at the veteran’s hospital, Paul Sagorsky reconnects with none other than Richard Harrow, who has returned to Atlantic City. Paul assures Richard that the massacre at the Artemis Club was an act of heroism, and encourages Richard to reunite with Julia.

As Harrow lingers beneath a starry sky with Julia and Tommy, Tommy exclaims that the Hercules constellation is over their house. And although Julia seems hesitant to trust Richard after his sudden departure, she nevertheless assures Tommy that Richard is coming back home with them. Richard complies, reaching for Tommy’s hand as he does so. As Richard lifts his head and appears to look toward the heavens, his expression evokes words of old:

Star of the north! whose steadfast ray 
   Pierces the sable pall of night,
Forever pointing out the way 
   That leads to freedom’s hallowed light:
The fugitive lifts up his eye
To where thy rays illume the sky.

– James M. Whitfield

Written by: The Harrowin' Addict