Boardwalk Empire 1.10 – “That’s Mommy’s kissing friend!”

At last, the spotlight is placed back onto Richard Harrow…and, wow, how utterly depressing it must be for him to go from a dreamworld where he’s still the man he used to be back into a reality where his face frightens children. Nucky looked like he might’ve been as least slightly more sympathetic about the situation than Margaret was (which stands to reason, given that it was her daughter who had the bejeezus scared out of her), but he’s right: after his assassination attempt last week, they are already on edge. Hearing the shriek of her child no doubt stopped Margaret’s heart cold.

Sepso’s trying to look as utterly innocent as possible as he swears up and down that he had no choice but to kill Billy in self-defense, even going so far as to claim that the incident will haunt him for the rest of his days, but Van Alden’s expression when Sepso’s exonerated reveals that he doesn’t even remotely believe him, and he only gets more exasperated and infuriated as he’s accused of being a bungler. He’s got one more chance before his career comes crumbling down around him…and, boy, does he know it. The later scene with him flipping through his paperwork, trying desperately to find a way to bring down Nucky, is pitiful.

Angela’s painting a peaceful beach scene when Jimmy emerges from the bedroom for his first cigarette of the day and compliments her on her artwork. She seems mildly surprised that he’s even been paying attention. When he first started groping on her, I thought she was getting annoyed, but instead she found herself titillated to the point of letting her canvas clatter to the floor and allowing Jimmy to have his way with her. Clearly, their relationship is getting at least somewhat back on track.

It’s surely no coincidence that the shot of Nucky perusing the paper gives us a close up on the headline about the grand jury convening in the Black Sox scandal, but the topic of conversation quickly turns to the status of the Constitutional amendment ratifying women’s suffrage. Richard’s appearance in the doorway, however, causes it to change once more, this time to the state of affairs in the Thompson household now that Nucky is considered a target. Margaret is understandably nervous about the safety of her children, but Nucky – rather selfishly, I think you’d agree – dismisses her suggestion that she and the children take a trip ’til things cool down somewhat because he’d miss her too much. Poor baby.

Rothstein’s having another talk with D’Alessio, Doyle, and the boys, but this time it’s about their failure to take down Nucky. “Sheer and utter incompetence” is how Rothstein describes their actions on the boardwalk, and they swear they can take him down, but he refuses to accept their assurances outright, saying, “Nothing says ‘I’m sorry’ like money.” Is he expecting them to knock over another one of Nucky’s establishments?

Looks like the relationship between Torrio and Capone is as tense as it was when Jimmy was still in Chicago, and it’s still because Capone’s a loose cannon who doesn’t know when to have fun and when to do business. That stunt with the loaded cigarette was downright ignorant…like, to the point where another mob boss would’ve shot Capone outright…and yet Capone looked pissed at Torrio’s reaction. History tells us that these two worked together for quite a few years, but you’d never guess it from the way they’re looking at each other right now. In the synagogue, however, Capone gets an education on the Jewish faith, and it’s a surprisingly poignant scene which seemingly underlines to Capone that the time has come for him to set aside his boyish ways and become a man. The next time we see him, he’s apologizing to Torrio.

Nucky and Jimmy are talking about Richard’s effect on the children when Mickey Doyle unexpectedly drops by for a visit and for…an apology? It doesn’t exactly go swimmingly for him when he admits to having been working with the D’Alessios, but with a gun to his temple, he assures Nucky and Jimmy that he didn’t have any idea what they were planning and that he’ll tell him everything he knows…which he does, albeit with an attitude. Yep, we get a snide comment from Nucky about Rothstein’s connection to the Black Sox, but at the end of the scene, we also get word that women have received the right to vote. Maybe I’m wrong, but the look on Nucky’s face seemed to say, “Oh, great. There’ll be no living with Margaret now…”

Speaking of Margaret, she’s reading L. Frank Baum to the kids…and, seriously, I’m going to have to order me some of those old Oz books. I used to love them, and it’s about time I started to get my daughter interested in them. Margaret makes a kind gesture to Richard, inviting him to sit with them while she reads to them and, even better, he gets the kids to laugh at his suggestion that he’s the real Tin Woodsman.

Nucky offers Margaret a champagne toast to celebrate her gender’s right to vote, and, of course, her toast is to say, “You’ve caught up with Ireland at last.” She’s a fiery one, that Margaret, so it’s no surprise that when Nucky asks her to recommend to the League of Women Voters that they throw their support behind Edward Bader, she asks why they should. She scoffs at the suggestion that an owner of a construction business should be qualified to be the mayor of Atlantic City, and when she realizes that her opinions are only infuriating Nucky, she asks, “What am I to say?” Margaret’s an intelligent woman, but methinks the lady doth protest too much for someone who’s got the sweet setup that she does. She’s clearly aware of this, but it equally obvious that she doesn’t like what she’s being asked to do, either.

Jimmy, Angela, and Tommy are strolling the boardwalk, but the second Tommy’s put down on the ground, he immediately runs off. And even after Jimmy catches him, Tommy runs off again…this time at the mouth. “That’s Mommy’s kissing friend.” Whoops. Tommy may have meant Mary, but that never would’ve occurred to Jimmy, which is why, moments later, the good Mr. Dietrich is flying through the glass of his establishment’s front door and, a few seconds after that, getting the living shit kicked out of him. And, then, of course, came the hitting. Ouch. I think the most horrifying part of the scene, however, was when you heard Tommy crying, “Daddy!” Brutal. The results of Angela’s subsequent visit with Mary were somewhat unexpected, with Mary taking the blame for the incident, saying she should’ve left him long ago. Despite Mary’s suggestion that Angela and Tommy run away with her, I just don’t see it happening. But maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see soon enough, I reckon.

Agent Van Alden pays a visit to Margaret, also getting a momentary meeting with Richard. I strongly suspect that they will cross paths again. After Richard steps out of the room, Van Alden breaks out a photo of Margaret from Ellis Island and starts laying a major guilt trip on her. His expressions range from anger to insanity, and when he finally realizes that his efforts to play to her common decency have failed, he snaps into religious threats…which, given that he’s dealing with an Irishwoman, he really ought to have started with.

‘Bout time: Chalky White’s in the house, having a sit-down with Nucky and finally getting the record set straight about this “Michael Lewis” character who came by his place awhile back. This was probably my favorite scene of the episode, with all of these disparate personalities – Nucky, Jimmy, Chalky, and Mickey – forced to interact to get things straightened out. When Chalky asks what’s going to be done about Rothstein, Nucky indicates that he’s not long for this world. History tells us that Nucky’s a bit optimistic on this matter, however, so it was interesting to see what actually did go down, with Chalky managing to put up a good front right up until he whipped around on Meyer Lansky and his boys, brandishing a pair of shiny guns.

Despite her uncertainty before stepping up to the podium, Margaret manages to offer a solid speech in favor of Bader. Having done so, however, she looks over at Nucky, sees that he’s having conservations with his cohorts, and frowns. Clearly, she’s second-guessing her decision to acquiesce to Nucky’s request. How much longer can she last in this situation, where she’s having to keep her own thoughts and opinions suppressed? Later, when she and Richard have their brief heart-to-heart chat, his comments about how he finds that he sometimes forgets the man he used to be clearly lead her to remember the person she was when she first arrived at Ellis Island. Or maybe not. But given that the next scene focuses on Agent Van Alden, I’m hard pressed to believe otherwise.

Watching Van Alden toss back a shot of liquor was somewhat surreal, and it got moreso when he opted for a second helping of the stuff. As soon as he laid eyes on Lucy, I remembered how he’d flipped by the program (or magazine) with her picture on the front earlier in the episode. At the time, I thought, “If they made a point of putting that shot in there, we’ll be seeing her before the episode’s out.” Given her predilection for getting naked, it’s no surprise that we saw all of her. Well, in Van Alden’s defense, the man did have quite a lot of stress that he needed to work through. For a moment, I thought he was actually going to choke her to death. Instead, he headed for the fetal position and started to weep. Uh, yeah, I’d say that guy’s issues run decidedly deeper than his issues with Nucky Thompson.

Well, well, well, looks like Chalky’s got things pretty well under control. Lansky keeps his cool remarkably well, given the pressure he’s under, remaining completely in business mode and trying to work out a plan of action to get himself out of the situation he’s found himself in. This tactic works far better than the one utilized by his compatriots, who get either a bullet through the forehead (thanks, Jimmy!) or get choked out (thanks, Chalky!) for their trouble. Meyer heads back to Rothstein with a heck of a message to deliver, while Nucky heads home to Margaret, who – in the last shot of the episode – looks at herself in the mirror and, based on her expression, no longer recognizes the woman staring back at her.

Am I wrong in thinking that this song could serve as the theme of next week’s episode?

  

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