By Dave Gilmore
7:56 AM EST, November 26, 2012
"I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down, and we talk about who dies."- Al Capone
"Two Imposters" picks up no more than a couple hours after the crate containing Owen Slater showed up at Nucky Thompson's door. Right away, "Boardwalk Empire" is answering questions as quickly as possible and moving on to the siege of Nucky Thompson's Atlantic City.
Nucky knew, or if he didn't, he now knows about Owen and Margaret. Before he can fully process that information, the New York crew sends three guys to hit Nucky's room, which affords Steve Buscemi the rare chance to kick some serious ass. It also gives Gyp Rosetti the chance to liberate Regina the dog back from the Thompsons.
So Margaret and the kids are gone, Owen is dead in a box and Eddie is bleeding out in the passenger seat next to him. The town is under such an assault that Nucky can't even get his right hand medical aid at the hospital where he donated a wing.
More than ever, Nucky Thompson needs muscle and friends. Coincidentally, Chalky White has a small army at his disposal, and a med student for a son-in-law. It appears that Chalky might get that night club after all.
Chalky and Nucky both have a big choice to make when Rosetti shows up at Chalky's safe house under the guise of an olive branch from a conquering emperor. Chalky could easily sell Nucky to Rosetti, betting on the new regime. Nucky could let Eddie die on the table and stay hidden. Because he's in the opening credits (or because they're both decent guys, if you don't want to be cynical about it), both make the choice that works out best for Nucky.
Determined to retake his city, Nucky resists skipping town and instead continues to look for help, calling upon a conspicuously absent Eli's oldest son Will for safe harbor. After killing a couple New York invaders, Dunn Purnsley and Chalky prove that they are not the titular "two imposters."
Riding in the back of a truck like cattle down the White Horse Pike (U.S. Route 30 to us Google Maps users), Nucky is a far cry from his former seat of power. In fact, his actual throne (the desk he sits behind at the Ritz), has been looted by Rosetti's goons and taken to Gillian's cathouse for their new base of operations.
Speaking of Gillian, she has figured out that Richard and Julia are really in love, and her being the worst, she's determined to dash his hopes for happiness. Wisely, Richard plans to exfiltrate himself and Tommy to Julia's. Gillian, discovering Richard's plan and fed up with him trying to be a human being, uses her newfound pal Rosetti's muscle to chase Richard away. She should really clear space next to the "Mother of the Year" trophy on her shelf for that "World's Best Boss" mug.
Back in New York, under the financial pressure of the amount of heroin they bought, Luciano goes ahead with a deal against Meyer's wishes. Ambition never seems to be rewarded on "Boardwalk Empire," and "Lucky" Luciano finds himself in handcuffs after making the deal with two undercover cops. There's your "two imposters."
"Two Imposters" was a shortened, fast-paced, table-setter of an episode. If it wasn't abundantly clear, two goosebump-worthy scenes at the end let us know that it is very much "on" for the finale.
Richard Harrow breaking out his Army-issued arsenal from underneath his bed to the sound of ominous drums was enough to wipe away Jack Huston's mystique-destroying Guinness commercials.
As the military drum cadence ratcheted up, Al Capone finally showing up with Eli and a bunch of Chicago wiseguys was equal parts relief and exhilaration (unless for some reason you're rooting against Nucky). Capone's brilliant "we've been on the road for 18 hours ..." entrance was the icing on the cake.
Just so we're clear, Nucky Thompson's army now essentially consists of the most famous gangster in history and Omar from "The Wire" (sorry Michael K. Williams, I couldn't resist). I like his odds.
Three random facts from "Two Imposters"
• "Ragged Dick," the book Nucky's mom gave him, is a coming of age story about a New York shoeshine boy written in 1868 by Horatio Alger, Jr.
• Rosetti says "paging Mr. Chalky White" when he shows up at the safe house. It was hard to find verification on this, but it seems far-fetched (but still technically plausible) that a phrase referring to a networked audio system would make sense to anyone in 1923.
• The billboard prominently displayed when Nucky, Chalky and Dunn are stopped, was for Krueger's, a large brewery based in Newark until 1961. Krueger's Special and Krueger's Cream Ale would go on to be the first beer to be sold in cans on Jan. 24, 1935.