Boardwalk Empire Review: "What Does the Bee Do?"

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"What Does the Bee Do?" was filled with so many plot turns and interesting character revelations that it felt like a really long episode. A long one, but not a boring one. I found myself completely engrossed in much of the hour's action, especially the quiet moments between individuals who haven't really interacted much this season or last.

Chalky's return to his home and seat of power in the black community did not go smoothly. Still faced with the impatient families of the four men killed in the season premiere, Chalky feels ineffective as a leader because Nucky keeps delaying his vengeance, an act that both emasculates and frustrates Chalky.

Nucky Image

I thought the character really started to question if his compromises are distancing him too much from his people and turning him into a glorified servant. Unable to express his growing rage to his boss, Chalky's disgust at himself boils over at the dinner table, declaring his family a little too posh for their "country" father. The dinner, which included his daughter's new boyfriend, Samuel, was a tense experience, and Chalky's rage was palpable, although misdirected.

Nucky has ignored Chalky for too long, occupying himself with his own vengeance, and this could have dangerous consequences in the very near future.

I've been a little wary of Gillian ever since she brought Jimmy and the Commodore together, bulldozing over her strange past with Jimmy's father in an effort to ensure her son's future success. Gillian, like Lady Macbeth, fuels the ambition of the men around her, mostly for her own good (and for Jimmy apparently). I've found her so mutable and ruthless in her determination that it's hard to feel much sympathy for her....

... Until she recounted the story of her first time with the Commodore. She clearly expressed her anger, sadness and continual fear from being raped at such a young age. When the Commodore cannot or will not remember his actions, Gillian's rage spills over and she repeatedly slaps him in the face, no doubt unleashing years of repressed resentment. It was a shocking and disturbing scene to watch, and I wonder how their relationship will develop from this point.

The most heartbreaking and mesmerizing moment took place between Richard and Angie. Over time, the show has highlighted Richard's fascination with families and his adoration (envy?) of Jimmy's relationship with Angie and Tommy. In a rare moment alone, Angie asks to sketch Richard's face and he, surprisingly, agrees. This scene beautifully illustrates Richard both literally and figuratively unmasking himself.

When Angie asks if he's ever been in love, he admits to only having loved his sister, Emma. When he spoke about what happened after his accident, I expected his sibling to be the one who turned away from him, but Richard's story is not that simple. His situation was even more tragic; once disfigured, he found that he couldn't look at Emma the same way again. He simply says, "I lost whatever I thought love was," a cold but succinct way of expressing what's really at the heart of Richard.

Having exposed himself emotionally to Angie, he takes the next logical step and removes his mask. It was an exquisitely acted scene and really made Richard more than just a tragic character. It also made him a little scary. There's an emptiness inside Richard that makes his job as an assassin much easier.

The episode did leave us with some interesting developments that will really change things over the course of the season. How is Jimmy's coup going to withstand all these losses? Will the Commodore's stroke cripple Eli and Jimmy's business?

What about Luciano and Lansky's business? Are they just going to follow Rothstein's orders and abandon their card game?  Is Van Alden going to be exposed as a corrupt agent?


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (34 Votes)

I agree with the review.


I loved this episode. Chalky was truly being tested. You see how vulnerable he is beneath his hardened exterior. In a way, it's sad. Here he is, so accomplished for a black man, able to give his family luxuries/education he never had; yet he is a slave in the sense of not exacting revenge until he gets Nucky's okay. For all he's done, he's still not looked upon as being an equal. Gillian is one of my favorite characters. You know she has an agenda, you know she's got this weird mother/son relationship where at times it seems she's in love with Jimmy rather than loves him. Yet for all of her twisted ideas, you can empathize with her. While the commodore lies helpless, partially paralyzed from a stroke, she beats him; doing unto him the same pain she was inflicted when he took advantage of her. It was powerful. You sense that moment is what shaped her into who she is now. It makes her scary, because you can't really know if she's doing this for good or bad. Richard letting go, showing us all he really is looking for is love and acceptance was beautiful. I loved watching him unmask. Seeing through Angie's eyes that he isn't scary, that he's worthy of love, made me excited to see where his character may head. Now that Owen has taken care of the stolen liquor situation (while unknowingly taking out Van Alden's men) it seems like another shift of power is coming. I love the bootlegging side of the show and when the gangsters come to a head, it will be great to see what (or who) will be left standing.


I interpreted the Richard scene with Angie crying because she recognizes herself in Richards sister. in that when jimmy came home from the war, he also fell out of love and went to Chicago (for different reasons but i doubt she know that). only jimmy came back.


This show is just as well-written as "Madmen". And I watched it twice to absorb all the nuances. I may watch it again just to re-digest it. I think this was one of the better episodes of the season!!


it was the prohi who was on fire im so bothered by the people who keep saying that nothing happens in this show there is so much going on under the surface the show is a fascinating character study...with brilliant writing and acting


Thanks for your insights. I got very confused about what was going on in Philidelphia and couldn't even make out who got blown up there, why etc. I mean I guess the former IRA working for NT did the blowing up but was that Jimmy who was on fire? How did he know to go there. etc etc etc Thanks.

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Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 4 Quotes

Mickey: From the tiny acorn grows the mighty elk.
Jimmy: If you had a brain, you'd be dangerous.

I didn't spend my life getting groped by a bunch of drunks to wind up in a goddamn poor house.