Boardwalk Empire: “The Good Listener” Review

Boardwalk Empire Season 05 Episode 02

Nucky’s search for answers bears fruit, while Mueller and Eli find themselves in a tricky situation with Al Capone.


Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!

Boardwalk Empire really isn’t waiting around this season. We delved right into the mystery of who tried to kill Nucky and ended up getting firm answer by the end of the episode. It’s a refreshing turn of pace for a show that has always taken its time to tell the story it wants to tell. With only a handful of episodes left in the series, there’s no time to waste. I’m really glad that it turned out to be Lansky behind the hit after all, with it being way too big a coincidence for him to run into Nucky the day before it went down. Having Lansky and Luciano in a potential bloody conflict with Nucky is a fitting way of closing out the series.

Things have already started getting quite bloody in fact, with Nucky dropping a body on Lansky’s doorstep at the end of the episode. Said body was left with lovely postcard from Havana, just to let Lansky know Nucky isn’t a fool. Killing Tonino Sandrelli was a fantastic little touch and callback to Season 3, where Tonino was Gyp Rosetti’s right hand man, and the one who eventually ended up killing Gyp to save his own skin. Nucky meeting with Sandrelli underneath a picture of Billie Kent really set up Sandrelli’s death as an act of revenge for Nucky, who never got to take direct retribution for Billie’s death. Billie dying was a pivotal moment for Nucky, who struggled for a long time in the aftermath of it. Several times during “The Good Listener,” he was shown to be pretty much alone. His only ally is his wonderfully named, Cuban bodyguard, Arquimedes. Even his own nephew Will seems to be distancing himself from the family’s darker activities. He’s going to need a few more friends if he is going to go up against Luciano, Lansky, and co., but right now, it’s hard to see where they’ll come from.

The flashbacks made a welcome return this week, and it looks like they might well accompany us through to the end of the series. Boardwalk hasn’t used too many flashbacks in the past, but there is something fascinating about watching how it all started for Nucky, just as we are beginning to see how it ends. Young Nucky’s sister passed away after her battle with illness, and his father then continued his downward spiral into the bottom of a bottle. I’m interested to learn more about exactly what happened between The Commodore and Nucky’s father, as it sounds like a shady land deal may be the cause of all of their problems. Nucky never had it easy growing up by the looks of it, and I’m expecting the flashbacks to perhaps jump ahead a little bit and show us a slightly older Nucky’s first criminal activities.


Van Alden/Mueller and Eli returned this week to provide us with a comical odd couple pairing. They find themselves owing a lot of money to Al Capone after a raid by the feds. Their solution of robbing more money from Capone to pay him back was such a boldly idiotic move that it may just have paid off. Mueller and Eli are a perfect pairing, with both of them having to flee Atlantic City after brushes with the law. Additionally, one of them is a family man who misses his family, and the other seems like he wants to get away from his. Few characters on the show have gone through the amount of changes that Mueller has, including several changes of residence, occupation, and his own name. When once he seemed like he would be a long running law enforcement opponent of Nucky’s, he now finds himself a hardened criminal working for Al Capone. He has completely lost it on several occasions in the past, and by the looks of it here, we’re not too far away from another meltdown.

Gillian also returned in a few brief scenes inside of a women’s institute. It seems that instead of incarceration in a regular prison, she got sent to a mental institute, which seems like a correct decision considering her past acts on the show. Saying that Gillian seemed like the most normal person in that room full of women speaks volumes about how disturbing the institute is, as something as simple as turning off the radio sent the inmates into a frenzy. I’m glad that the female warden’s “deal” with Gillian ended up being about evening wear instead of clichéd sexual favors, although Gillian getting access to writing materials probably isn’t such a good idea. We can safely assume she wants to contact Jimmy’s children, but that probably isn’t such a good idea considering her fragile mental condition. Gillian hasn’t always had the most enjoyable storylines, but she is one of the most tragic characters on the show. Given that she has been an important character from the start, it’s good to see her have a place in this final season.



Boardwalk Empire has set itself up nicely with these opening two episodes of its final season. We’ve caught up with pretty much all of the characters we needed to, and the season long storylines have been put in place. There is very little time to waste this season, so I feel these two episodes have done a great job setting up what’s needed for the remaining six. There are plenty signs everywhere that the world is changing, my favorite being the introduction of Elliot Ness (played by another alum of The Wire, Jim True-Frost). Nucky’s bold move at the end of the episode may set things into overdrive and could even be considered an act of war. So, we may be about to find out if he should have left things alone and got out while he had the chance.

Is Nucky foolish to be picking a fight with Lansky and Luciano? What’s the deal with Will? Is he really trying to make a name for himself as a “clean” lawyer, or will he follow in his Father’s and Uncle’s footsteps? Let us know in the comments below.


*We do not comment on anything relating to previews for the next episode and beyond.
About Michael Spring (159 Articles)
Michael Spring is a staff writer for If he's not playing Metal Gear or watching some excellent TV show, he's more than likely asleep. For some witty banter and the occasional rant about football, you can follow him @OldSnake24 on Twitter

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