Nick Hanover: Since it’s now become tradition, let’s kick this off with a look at the current Nucky prognosis.
In the third episode of this second season, we got a glimpse at how well things are actually going in the Commodore camp and the answer is…not very. The Commodore and his cronies ran into some early trouble trying to sway Team Nucky member Bill McCoy into running booze shipments for them rather than Nuck. But good ol’ Bill wants nothing to do with that and accuses the Commodore of essentially throwing a hissy fit because Nucky beat him in a fair deal. All this is going down while Nucky is feeling pressure from the casinos who are wondering why their booze deliveries are so minimal and are turning in lighter profits to match. But this being Boardwalk Empire, we spend the bulk of the episode witnessing how far the tentacles of these two power players reach, getting peeks into how torn Jimmy really is, how the game in Chicago is changing in a violent way and how Nucky’s White House connections are even looking a little unstable, all culminating with two masterful showdowns.
Nick:The first is direct, with Nucky and the Commodore coming to loggerheads over lobster at Babette’s, while the second is indirect, as the hired guns of the two sides square off, with Sleater immediately showing why he’s been added to the ensemble as he stares down Harrow over a rogue booze shipment. We’re not yet in the middle of the season and already Boardwalk Empire is ramping up the tension. Do you think we’re going to see even more escalation in this no-longer-quite-so-Cold War soon?
Jamil Scalese: Boardwalk Empire is a slow cooked roast, my friend. It may have a bit of a char on the outer layer but the overall Nuck vs. Commodore story will probably last us until the end of the season. However, I do expect both sides to poke each other throughout.
The dual showdowns were a highlight of the episode and a great win for Nucky’s side. Last week we talked about how bad it looked for him, but after this episode it looks like the Commodore is on the ropes a bit. Also last week I questioned the inclusion of Sleater into an already bustling ensemble, but his role in the plot was a pleasant and welcome surprise. Although I don’t see the guy has a menacing threat, there is a heroic charm to him that even the supervillain-esque Richard Harrow is not immune to. The confrontation between the big boys is very surprising to me. The Commodore’s bold moves and strong handedness are not subtle in the least, but I did not expect Nucky to lash out so soon. Enoch just doesn’t take shit, I guess.
Jamil: Jimmy is in the middle spinning like a turnstile, and it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll end up in a half dozen episodes. I thought a boon of this particular hour was how well it featured all those characters we whined didn’t get screen time previously. My favorite was Capone’s visit to the Darmody house. Where do you think that particular relationship will go? Will Al, like Harrow, harbor resentment that Jimmy has “everything”?
Nick: We did get some excellent hints about a coming rift between Capone and Jimmy based both on Jimmy having “everything” and the difference in the two’s styles. Jimmy is much more patient and strategic, while we already know that Al has quite the temper and tends to just rush into things without thinking. Al is learning, though, so maybe he’ll continue to milk Jimmy for an education. I think the likelier conflict for Jimmy is going to come from the Luciano/Lansky camp, who now have to deal with the consequences of Jimmy’s self-defense. Rothstein barely got an appearance in this episode but it was huge nonetheless, as he gently but firmly put Luciano and Lansky in their places in regards to their little gambling operation. I think there’s a good chance that Jimmy will get removed from the Commodore/Nucky war altogether and placed right in the middle of Luciano and Lansky’s little rebellion, where he might have even more of an impact.
Jamil: The repercussions of the card game were an excellent development, and it took me awhile to put together the connection that it involved the men who attacked Jimmy in the park. Rothstein has only shown up in tidbits so far, but his ability to command the scene is indicative of his overall power. His line about why he takes 50% of the Lucky/Lanksy was golden. The mess over the card game could have some big ripples in the main Atlantic City political shift storyline, and it continues to amaze me that this show reaches outside of Jersey as much as it does. Still though, there is a lot going on in the beachfront city. Everyone’s favorite Prohibition Agent/1920s equivalent playgirl duo have some extremely engaging scenes. Tell me, what the hell is Nelson Van Alden planning to do with that kid once it’s born?
Nick: Oh, I’m absolutely certain he’s going to “adopt” the kid, since that’s what his wife has always wanted. There have been hints that she’s sterile, so it seems to me that his plan is to give her her dream. Everything involving Van Alden is insane, though. What kind of concerned me in this episode wasn’t even that odd relationship but instead the potential insanity we’re seeing from Margaret in regards to her identity. The little tidbit dropped at the end of the episode, that she may have somehow faked her death, seems like a pretty dangerous, soap opera-like development that immediately made me think of Mad Men, but with less faith. I seriously hope they don’t try to turn Margaret into a Don Draper style of con artist/manipulator.
Jamil: Margaret’s double life is an unnecessary development for a pretty strong character. Not everyone on Boardwalk needs a quirk! Really, and in a poignant, sad way, her existing quirk is that she has had the wherewithal and gall to stand up to men of position and get what she wanted. Though with that said, how did she end up being the down-trodden housewife at the start of the show? What brought her from Ireland to the States? While the answers to those questions are ones that would be cool to have, the show has spoiled me with the stuff it does in between the lines of real life. Feels like her story might detract from a lot of the bigger ones. Plus, her interaction with the maids was peculiar, and I wonder what might roll out from that. At points she is very candid and open with then, but when they reach out she reminds them of their duties. Let’s not forget that she’ll be making out with Sleater by the end of the season, so Margaret, or Peggy Rowan, is in for some character-testing trails ahead.
Nick: It’s baffling to me because Margaret, or Peggy, or whatever, is basically the stable center of the show. She’s the only relatively normal person in the entire cast and it’s basically through her that we get perspective. If you go and make her into some crazy, twisty schemer too then you essentially lose that stability, and I’m not sure what kind of repercussions that will have for Boardwalk Empire. I can understand the desire to make Margaret more complicated, but I think ultimately that has a lot of risk of becoming a se
rious misjudgment, especially when there are so many other complicated plots in action at the moment.
All that said, though, I do feel like each episode this season has been stronger than the last. This episode gets the from me with no reservations whatsoever, with the well-acted conflicts giving this installment excellent tension and the quiet character moments accomplishing an immense amount with very little. Eli’s interaction with his father alone revealed more about the character in one Alzheimer’s influenced line (“he has no goddam idea what he’s doing!”) than some shows can muster in an entire season.
Jamil: I don’t know, I thought the story languished in certain areas, like trying to make Lucy a respectable character, and the aforementioned Margaret stuff. In a hypocritical statement I actually liked the previous two episodes for their movement and diversity. A lot of what happened with the card game aftermath, Lucy’s prison-like apartment and the overturned lobster confrontation only muddled my vision of the season. I guess in a way it’s good storytelling to keep the plot ambiguous and keep the viewer guessing on how the various threads with tie together, but the choices where weren’t as nourishing as they could have been. A from me, and still a good episode, just not very memorable.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics fan and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, lover of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation.