If there is one positive to the abbreviated eight-episode final season of Boardwalk Empire, it’s that we only had to slog through four lukewarm episodes in order to get from last year’s fiery finale “Farewell Daddy Blues” to the next (and, possibly, last) truly stellar hour of the series. Although, with only three episodes left, “King of Norway” will, at the very least, end up the fourth-best episode of the season, which ain’t too shabby. Not only was this episode one of the more productive in the show’s history, but, aside from an MIA Dr. Narcisse (who is poised to make up for his lack of presence next week), we got comprehensive updates on most of the major characters, a big-production shoot-‘em-up scene and a jaw-dropping plot twist at the end.
Lots of questions are finally answered in “King of Norway,” and it feels like we’re actually getting closer to wrapping up some important story lines. By the end of the episode, Eli Thompson and Nelson Van Alden (so long, alias George Mueller) have reached the “end of the line” of their run from the law. They’ve been pinched by federal double agent Mike D’Angelo and are tasked to help the IRS indict Al Capone on tax evasion. Nucky has all but tossed his intentions to go straight out the window; having survived yet another assassination attempt and betrayal, he’s out for the kill—his targets now Charlie Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and his supposed former ally, Johnny Torrio. Chalky White, out of his prison stripes and back in Atlantic City, offers up a vague description of what he’s been doing these past seven years, with Nucky providing him (and the audience) an update on what became of his family after Maybelle’s death and he went on the run. But probably the biggest reveal tonight (aside from Daughter Maitland’s little surprise) was the meaning behind Eli’s mysterious alcohol-fueled reverie that bookended the second episode of the season.
So what was up with the novelty racist song on the phonograph that Eli kept hearing amid visions of whiskey being poured into a tumbler, flesh-on-flesh, a lock of ginger hair, and a pair of creepy-looking eyes (who else thought that was Richard Harrow at first?) staring down at him? Oh, it turns out Eli has developed a taste for the Scandinavian: He’s been enjoying the company of Van Alden’s Norwegian nanny-turned-wife, Sigrid, for some time. (Props to Christiane Seidel for completely transforming her character from a dainty immigrant nanny into an ornery hot mess in the span of two and a half seasons.) But Eli’s been living in such a drunken stupor that it’s not until Van Alden’s 10-year-old daughter Abigail drops the needle on the “Yodeling Chinaman” record and he stands face to face with a creepy-eyed portrait of the king of Norway on Sigrid’s kitchen wall that his fuzzy memory comes into focus.
NEXT: Oh, brother