Well, in the antihero-focused years of TV since The Sopranos, “villain” is a relative term—one supposes we could redefine it as “someone who promises to thwart the seedy dealings of the main character and appears to operate in an even more coldblooded fashion”—but nevertheless, we were surprised when Jeffrey Wright’s Dr. Valentin Narcisse didn’t show up in the season premiere of Boardwalk Empire, and our anticipation only mounted from there.
The second episode, “Resignation,” showed us that Dr. Narcisse would be part of the lingering fallout from the previous episode’s extravagant neck-stabbing—though all in all, it’s almost as if he’s just used the incident as leverage to get his foot in the door of Nucky Thompson’s Atlantic City criminal empire. His icy sophistication is a lovely change of pace from the entertaining but rather one-note sociopath Gyp Rosetti, who was the homicidal thug threatening the status quo last time around: the show may have just found its Professor Moriarty.
Quoting scripture as if sitting in holy judgment of all the peasants below himself (he twice referred to himself as a “king” with no irony whatsoever; another frightened character quaveringly remarks that “he owns a piece of everybody”), the Trinidadian, Harlem-based doctor of divinity burns at a different, mysterious temperature against the rest of the cast, but his bloodlust easily matches theirs, and he seems to be a racial purist as well—he invokes the imagery of a lynching before having a white woman killed in part for seducing a black man. With motivations like these, why bother predicting what’ll happen next week? Just sit back and let the carnage unfold.