From the executive producer, Martin Scorsese and award winning writer of the Sopranos; Terence Winter come the adaptation of the book by Nelson Johnson; “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City.”
It’s 1920 and Prohibition has started giving crime a new dimension. World War I has ended and the boys are coming home looking for jobs. As the clock strikes midnight, two boats meet in the Atlantic City harbor and exchange several boxes of liquor and disappear into the night.
Men are riding on a vehicle and see an overturned truck with the driver lying in the road with his head bloodied. They stop to see what has happened and find that it was a trap and there is nothing wrong with the driver and from nowhere masked and armed men appear. Then the scene flashes back to three days prior.
Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the Treasurer of Atlantic City is speaking at a Temperance League meeting hosted and attended by many women who are happy to hear that in three days, demon rum will be outlawed. He tells the woman about how he was so poor that he scraped by hoping to find a potato that fell from a bag that was being loaded on a truck or a lump of coal to heat their home and killed three wharf rats that he brought home for dinner. The day arrives and the politicians and businessmen have plans of their own.
Prohibition Agents are being sworn in to uphold the law and prosecute any violators. Hundreds of these agents are sent out to destroy liquor that is being sold against the law.
A very pregnant woman named Margaret Schroeder has an appointment to see Nucky and ask a favor of him. She tells him her story about how her life has been devastated by her husband who plays dice and drinks, and hopes he can give her husband a job. He hands her a bundle of money and she thanks him and he has her driver take her home. Her husband sees her get out of this fancy blue Rolls Royce and orders her into the house. As she is feeding the children, her husband asks again about how she happened to be chauffeured all over town. Then he asks how she got the money he found under the mattress. She tells him that it is for the children and he slaps her around as her children watch.
A group of very high ranking gangsters meet with Nucky and want to make a deal for liquor. They sit around a dinner table in a nice restaurant and talk business. Nucky tells them they have to supply their own delivery.
Jimmy Darmody is on the boardwalk with his wife and small boy and is approached by two agents who want him to join the IRS as an agent rather than work for Nucky. Then Nucky gets a call from his associate who tells him that one of the gangsters they met with earlier has taken the house for $90,000. After he settles the score with the gangsters, he is approached by a drunken man who is playing craps. The man calls him out and tells him that he better leave his wife alone. He shows him a handful of money and Nucky realizes that he is the husband of the pregnant woman. He tells him that it is her money and to give it back to her. The man tries to take a swing at him and Nucky slams his head into the craps table several times and tells his men to toss him out. Later that night, he goes home and severely beats his wife who winds up losing the baby.
Going back to the ambush in the woods, we find out that the men killed were high crime individuals belonging to the Rothstein gang. Jimmy was one of the masked men who ambushed them. He tells Nucky that during the war he was no hero, he killed a lot of people and that he cannot be half a gangster and he wants to have it all. Nucky tells him that he can have him killed, but Jimmy tells him that he knows that he will not. He then hands Nucky an envelope full of money and tells Nucky it is his take from last night.
A man is walking down the street after leaving his house and taken by two police officers who throw him into the back of a paddy wagon. They then put him in a boat and proceed to beat him mercilessly and finally throw him overboard. The next day as the fish catch for the day is released from a large net on the boardwalk, his body is among the catch. He is identified as Hans Schroeder (husband of the woman who lost the baby) and positively implicated in the ambush of the Rothstein gangsters.
As the episode winds down, Nucky appears in the hospital with flowers for the woman he gave the money to.
The cast includes:
Enoch “Nucky” Thompson played by Steve Buscemi
James “Jimmy” Darmody played by Michael Pitt
Margaret Schroeder played by Kelly Macdonald
Agent Nelson Van Alden played by Michael Shannon
Commodore Louis Kaestner played by Dabney Coleman
Elias “Eli” Thompson played by Shea Whigham
Eddie Kessler played by Anthony Laciura
Al Capone played by Stephen Graham
Angela Darmody played by Aleksa Palladino
Arnold Rothstein played by Michael Stuhlbarg
Lucky Luciano played by Vincent Piazza
Lucy Danziger played by Paz de la Huerta
Mickey Doyle played by Paul Sparks
Chalky White played by Michael Kenneth Williams
Gillian played by Gretchen Mol