Boardwalk Empire Just May Be My Favorite Show… and Now There’s Jeffrey Wright

Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

I have always liked films, television shows and other stories in general about gangsters. Despite its flaws, I love The Godfather saga and The Usual Suspects topped my list of favorite films for years. I only got into Boardwalk Empire earlier this year and watched the first three seasons over a few days. I was amazed at how well-written this show is and at how well these characters are developed.

Then over the summer I knew I would come back to this show even if I had to watch it one episode at a time like we used to do. The announcement that Jeffrey Wright was coming to the cast practically made me salivate. Wright is one of those actors who should be in everything ever made from now on. I knew he would bring it no matter his role in Boardwalk Empire.

I finally caught up on the first two episodes of the fourth season and was not disappointed at all. With Nucky Thompson overlooking his investment in Chalky White’s club, the black cast is getting plenty of development here. So the dynamic between Michael K. Williams’ Chalky White and Wright’s Dr. Valentin Narcisse, who insists upon being called “Doctor” because he worked too hard for the title, becomes quite fascinating.

White is an uneducated man who managed to make his way in the world through his own devices. He is not unlike the ethnic whites who control the Irish, Jewish and Italian criminal elements in that he practically owns the black community. White is a Texan who saw his father murdered when his father started to become successful. His first line of recourse is not negotiation.

On the other hand, Narcisse is a very educated Trinidadian fond of quoting Bible verses, which is how we know he’s sinister. He also refers to whites as those of the Nordic persuasion and calls black folks Libyans. Interestingly, he politely corrects Chalky who calls him Jamaican because Narcisse’s characters seems to be inspired by Marcus Garvey and the Pan-Africanist movement. This is the first time we see this type of tension within the black diaspora experience with Narcisse referring to White as a servant who thinks he’s a king.

I for one am anxious to see how this tension plays out. Narcisse also seems to prescribe the idea of pure races. I wonder if this has anything to do with his response to the dark-skinned Chalky White as he is a light-skinned man from a majority black country. I don’t think he hates Chalky, but I wonder how he will try to come between the alliance Chalky has formed with Nucky. Narcisse is now involved with the both of them because he finagled his way into part owner of the club. However, I think he’s going to bring it worse to Nucky’s doorstep than Bobby Cannavale’s Guisseppe Rosetti did in season three.

The way this season progresses will be quite interesting because during Rosetti’s war, both Nucky and Chalky conceded that they needed each other. However, Nucky is already back to treating Chalky like he works for him, not like they are partners. Valentin Narcisse has already realized this and will probably use this to his advantage. With Jeffrey Wright portraying Narcisse, this will be an awesome season.

By the way, here’s Wright in Lackawanna Blues in a short but memorable role.