The Al Capone that Boardwalk Empire viewers have gotten to know during the show's early seasons isn't exactly the infamous gangster he's remembered as today. But that's all about to change.
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Earlier this season, Al (Stephen Graham), saw his brother Frank (Morgan Spector) gunned down by the police during a riot caused by the Capones, who were trying to rig the mayoral election in the Chicago suburb of Cicero. "Obviously, the death of Frank Capone was a pivotal event in Al's life," Boardwalk creator Terence Winter tells TVGuide.com. "When Frank, died Al ... was left to take up that mantle and lead this organization further into the 1920s. By the end of the year, Capone really reaches the pinnacle. By the end of 1924, Al Capone is the Al Capone that we know and love —or certainly recognize."
And the biggest part of Al's surge to power is born out of his quest for vengeance. "With Al being the kind of volatile character that he is, he's a man on the edge constantly," Graham says of his character. "He wants revenge for his brother's death and he's going to make anybody pay by any means necessary. He's full of vengeance and rage at the moment."
Indeed, the opening shot of Sunday's episode (9/8c, HBO) features Al, raw with emotion, just shooting a random cop in the head. "That's a way to get rid of his aggression and his anger about what's happened to Frank," Graham says. "He's just like, 'The first cop I see, I'm going to kill.' He kills him right outside the police station, so that's like a great big f--- you to the police. It's like, 'I know it was you. Come and get me if you think you've got the power.' That was completely an act for him to get rid of the demons that he no longer wants to carry."
Part of shedding those demons requires Al to realize some of his brother's strengths. "Frank very possibly would have been the leader of that organization had he lived," Winter says. "He was a much better politician. He was charming, he was good looking — a lot of the things that Al wasn't." Adds Graham: "If you look at the relationship, there was a lot of jealousy from Al's side towards Frank. Frank was very good with the ladies and could persuade most people to do anything he wanted. Al didn't have that character or that nature. Al would go from A to B straight away, as soon as he can. Someone like Frank will take his time and go all around the world to get to where he needs to go."
Although Graham says Al eventually becomes more like his brother, he will still be led by his emotions. On Sunday's episode, Al turns his focus squarely on rival gangster Dean O'Banion (Arron Shiver), whom Al believes played a hand in tipping off the police about the Capones' involvement in the riot.
Perhaps further steering Al in that direction is Van Alden aka George Mueller (Michael Shannon), who played his own part in Frank's death. After all, Frank was shot while he was presumably reaching for his gun to stop George from shooting Al. "Mueller is manipulating him to a slight extent," Graham says. "He's giving him advice and giving him the knowledge that he developed as an agent. He hasn't told [Al] that he's an agent, but he's letting some of that information come through as he's helping him along the way to find out who did it and kind of get them back. [Mueller] knows that there's no way Al could ever know what happened. He kind of protects himself and maybe slightly gets the taste for this gangster lifestyle."
So will we see the true Al Capone by the end of the season? Graham suggests that's more of the story for the recently ordered Season 5. But he acknowledges that Al will have perhaps learned the important lessons that will lead to that final transformation.
"By the end of the season, Frank has had such an impact on Al's life that it's really made him change his ways," Graham says. "It's made Al a little bit more hesitant. He's become a little bit more weary. He's still a "guns blazing" kind of person... but he has taken a bit of his brother's legacy on board. He's trying to be a bit more like Frank about what he should do and how he should run the business and ultimately take over. "
Boardwalk Empire airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.