Eight months have passed since the climatic end of the third season, and while the series officially focuses on the life of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), it appears that the show will continue to explore the underworld in Chicago and New York City. Although Thompson’s evolution from corrupt politician to full-fledged gangster is interesting, all of the action took place in Chicago and New York City, not Atlantic City, so I welcome the increasing attention to the underworld outside of New Jersey.
In New York, following his betrayal by Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Charles Luciano (Vincent Piazza) works for Joe Masseria, even though Luciano loathed Masseria’s old-fashioned mindset and distrust of all non-Sicilians, especially Luciano’s partner Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef). Nucky may have eliminated the threat of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), a New York-based gangster, but he made enemies of both Rothstein and Masseria. It seems likely that they will seek revenge.
1924 was a tumultuous year in Chicago, since Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham) expanded into Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, and the season will introduce Capone’s brothers Frank and Ralph. This is happy news for me, since Dominick Lombardozzi (better known as Herk on The Wire) will play Frank. The mayoral election in Cicero is fascinating, since both sides employed gangsters to get out the vote, and it is followed soon by the Beer Wars, which shattered the truce carefully arranged by Torrio. Also, in a bizarre turn of events former Prohibition agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) is now working for Capone.
Aside from Chicago and New York, the show will spend more time in the African-American community. Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) has been rewarded for his support of Nucky during the war against Rosetti with permission to build a high-class club for blacks on the Boardwalk. However, Dr. Valentin Narcisse (played by Jeffrey Wright), a gangster who controls Harlem, will be muscling in on Chalkie’s territory. A fictional character like Rosetti, Narcisse will pre-date Madam St. Clair (the Queen) and Bumpy Johnson, who fought Dutch Schultz for control of the numbers racket in Harlem in the 1930s. Just as Rosetti attempted to take control of Atlantic City, Narcisse will try to evict Chalky from his position as head of the African-American mob in Atlantic City.
Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol), the creepiest woman on TV, somehow survived the heroin overdose that she received when her attempt to murder Rosetti went horribly wrong. Actually, her survival should not come as a surprise, Gillian must be so much fun to write.
Margaret Thompson (Kelly MacDonald) does not make an appearance in the preview but she is still under contract, so she will likely return, even though her last meeting with Nucky was pretty final. I hope she comes back, not because I am interested in her relationship with Nucky, which can not possibly restart, but because all of the social commentary that elevated the show above a simple period gangster show was related to her.
Boardwalk Empire has managed to get better every season, so I have high hopes for this season.