In the second episode of the HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire's fourth season, there were power struggles galore and some great changes among the characters we've grown familiar with. There were physical, emotional, and downright brutal fights for control — we saw Richard's complete 360 from heartless killer to animal-loving softie, Eddie's promotion request, Dr. Valentin Narcisse's arrival that ended with homicide, Van Alden's demotion from FBI tough-guy to the mobster's lackey, and in Washington, we saw J. Edgar Hoover as the acting director of the Bureau of Investigation. No one's safe this season, and HBO is turning these characters over on their heads with new challenges.
Let's start with Van Alden, who's still going by "George Mueller" professionally still: He officially become Dean O'Banion's lackey in Atlantic City. The episode opens on him making flower deliveries to people on O'Banion's collection list before he gets sent off to Cicero to keep a watchful eye on Al Capone. He ends up joining forces with Capone and his men to keep the voters of Cicero "informed" to not vote democrat, which really means beating most of them senselessly at a rally for the democratic candidate.
Cicero town politics and Van Alden attempting to embrace his new "position" was power struggle number one. It was also really kind of hilarious to see Van Alden clipping the thorns off of long-stem yellow roses in a gangster's greenhouse after his past power-trips and thankfully for us, he was as awkward as ever.
So Richard went back to his sister in the Midwest, which is really nice and everything after spending a significant amount of time on an extensive killing spree just to get out of New Jersey. He ends up holding a gun to a man's head in the Plover County Association, after being paid by the man's partner, Carl Billings, to off him while on the train over. Richard can't bring himself to do it. Why? He gets personal with the guy ... not the Richard we know. Upon finding out he has kids, he spares him. Agian, why? There's also an endearing moment where he can't pull the trigger on the old and dying family dog and instead passes the gun onto his sister and says, "I don't want anymore part of it."
Have we lost raging killer Richard for ever? Perhaps not, considering his most recent employers seem to want their money back and they know where he lives ...
Eddie, Nucky's devoted manservant from the past three seasons, doesn't feel appreciated anymore. He's started spitefully overcooking the eggs and spilling the coffee and he's generally off his game. Nucky solicits his opinion, prompting one of the greatest poetic responses we've come to expect from Eddie about Nucky's involvement in everything. Not satisfied with being a part of a supposed-to-be private conversation between Nucky and the Mayor, he attempts to the resign the next day. Nucky promotes him and all is happily ever after because after all, Eddie is too damn smart to get rid of.
Chalky and Nucky are getting put through the ringer by Boardwalk's newest villain, Dr. Valentin Narcisse in regard to Dunn murdering Paster last week. He turns up at Chalky's club with none other than Mrs. Paster, the recent widow. After mumbling about him and Chalky being "Libyans" for an unnecessary amount of time (we get it, you're educated, Doctor), Chalky covers for Dunn and the two men move on to a meeting with Nucky.
Narcisse kind of beat the topic of race to death in a short amount of time, scoffing and then seeming surprised at the relationship, both business and personal, between Nucky and Chalky, and continued with the "Libyan" talk. Something doesn't seem right with Mrs. Paster's rape story, but it ends up dismissed when Nucky inquires. Narcisse walks away from the meeting with 10 percent ownership of Chalky's club, further proving that he "owns a piece of everyone." Needless to say, we won't see any more of Mrs. Paster after tonight.
Last but not least, there's Agent Knox in Washington who's pulling out the stops. He's aligned himself with a pretty-boy version of J. Edgar Hoover to frame Government Revenue Agent Fred Elliot by handing him an envelope of money and claiming it's from a meeting with Nucky. So Knox is clearing the cabinet almost as quickly as he could've cleared the room with his bad joke about upholding the current laws to the greatest extent of his ability (ha ha?). The boy-wonder is making Hoover his puppet and he's going to save the world from corrupt politicians, yay!
With Nucky en route to check out a business opportunity in Florida, it can only mean more free reign to terrorize Chalky for the "Libyan" Dr. Narcisse on the Boardwalk. It's nice to see an intelligent villain that isn't Arnold Rothstein after being subjected to Gyp Rosetti for so long last season, but he's going to need new material. Mrs. Paster's body makes a debut at the end of the episode under a sign boasting about the "Future", perhaps a foreshadowing? All I know is, Sigrid Van Alden is going to give us, and "Nelson", a run for our money this season. She might be the next Margaret Thompson.
Boardwalk Empire airs on HBO, Sundays at 9 p.m. EST.