Boardwalk Empire 1.11 – Thou Hast Fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked

At last, after several references to him during the course of the season, we finally get a first-hand look at Hardeen, brother of Houdini. His performance, while ostensibly impressive, receives little more than a yawn from Nucky. Margaret, meanwhile, is on the verge of offering a standing ovation. Harry and Annabelle are also in attendance, with Harry looking particularly nervous. He claims it’s because it makes him nervous to see Hardeen tied up. I’m skeptical. I don’t know what’s going on, but Harry’s clearly up to something…

Angela’s drifting off in thought while sitting at the dinner table, which really apparently pisses off Jimmy. Fair enough: he’s still smarting from the situation with the photographer, clearly distrusting his wife despite her assurances that she never slept with the man…which is true insofar as it goes, but let’s not go there right now. What’s more important is that he receives a phone call. It sounds like business, but he says it was his mother, letting him know that his father is dying. Given that Jimmy seemed to have viewed Nucky as a father figure when the season kicked off, I think it’s fair to say that the bond between him and his real father must be pretty weak.

Agents Van Alden and Sepso are enjoying a spot of Chinese when Van Alden unsurprisingly turns the topic of conversation to that of Sepso having killed Billy, and it’s not exactly what you’d call a polite dinnertime chat. Sepso maintains his cool, relatively speaking, but it’s clear that this won’t be the last time Van Alden brings up the matter.

The evening with Hardeen continues beyond his proper show, as he entertains the troops back at Nucky’s place. Once again, Margaret and Annabelle are enthralled, while Nucky shrugs and Harry sweats. It’s pretty funny to watch Hardeen play up his reputation even as he plays down his brother’s, but the fun stops when Harry explodes and at least explains why he’s been looking so sketchy all night: he’s lost a huge amount of money at the hands of one Charles Ponzi…and if the name sounds familiar, yes, he is the one who gave name to the so-called Ponzi Scheme, which most recently came to prominence via Bernie Madoff. So much for the relationship between Harry and Annabelle, eh?

Rothstein gets word from Chicago that things ain’t looking good for him with the whole Black Sox situation. His attorney suggests that he heads to Chi-Town, but to make sure he knows someone in the city who’s willing to do him a favor. Will it be Capone or Torrio?

No, The Commodore’s not dead yet, but you can’t blame his maid for fearing the worst. I mean, the guy’s already sick, and then his dog dies…? Talk about the kind of thing to send a guy into a tailspin. But, wait, who’s the Commodore’s guest? Jimmy?!? Wait a minute: Jimmy’s the Commodore’s son? Did we already know this? I’m pretty sure we didn’t. (Given the predilection of the majority of this blog’s few readers to only comment when they have a chance to criticize or complain, I can only presume someone will quickly confirm if I’m wrong.) Boy, Jimmy’s really pissed off that he’s had to make this visit, and it’s clear that he won’t miss his father when he’s gone. How else to explain the fact that, when the Commodore says he’s dying, Jimmy’s only response is to say, “Well, then, I will call you a priest.” Still, when the Commodore adds that the wrong person is running Atlantic City, it causes such mixed feelings in Jimmy that he promptly pukes. Still, I guess it would be a little confusing to realize that a man you’ve loathed for decades could well be the one who holds the key to the future you’ve been seeking.

I admit it: I’m surprised that Angela is so seriously considering Mary’s suggestion that they run off together. Watching the way Mary kisses her husband, however, I’m wondering if maybe Angela’s going to make a break for it, only to find that Mary’s the one who’s gotten cold feet.

Sepso’s scared shitless about Van Alden’s refusal to back down on his accusations that he killed Billy without having had the provocation he’s claiming, so much so that he’s calling Nucky for advice. To help him out of a tough spot, Nucky offers up the location of an illegal distillery, so that Sepso can bust it, thereby ostensibly redeeming himself in Van Alden’s eyes. I can’t imagine it’s going to go down smoothly, though. That’d just be way too easy.

After hanging up with Sepso, Nucky finds Annabelle rushing into his office, complaining that Harry has swiped the money that she’d hidden in the floorboards. Of course, it was money she’d stolen from Harry, but even so, Nucky’s a soft touch…and, it seems, Annabelle’s even softer. When he tells her to “skip to the part where you say you’ll do anything for me,” she tells him to “draw the curtains and I’ll do it right now.” In a moment of brilliantly bad timing, however, he tells her that he’ll keep that offer in his back pocket just as Margaret is standing in the doorway. Nucky looks momentarily horrified, but he recovers well. She’s understandably still pissed, however, revealing that she’s accomplished her mission with the League of Women Voters by saying, “I’m glad to have been of use to you.” Two strong wills, to be sure. I don’t know if they’ll last the season as a couple or join forces and become the power couple of the 1920s, but I can’t wait to find out.

Gillian quizzes Jimmy on the state of The Commodore, but he’s just as curious about the relationship his mother maintains with his father, clearly bothered by the fact that the man took advantage of a teenage girl and got her pregnant. He also seems a little uncertain as to why Nucky would’ve stepped in to help her care for her child. Jimmy views Nucky as a pimp, but I’d guess that, at least to a certain extent, Nucky feels guilty that he’s the one who brought Gillian to The Commodore in the first place.

Sepso takes Van Alden to the woods in an attempt to curry favor by busting up a distillery, but what they find instead is a Negro church preparing to perform a baptism. I was surprised to see Van Alden grow so belligerent, but he changes his tune at the minister’s unbridled belief in his faith. A tense moment follows with Van Alden dismissing the Jewish faith with a withering comment, then dismissing Sepso himself just as easily.

Jimmy finds himself quickly swayed into favoring The Commodore after he hears the old man say, “You’re a good son,” offering to stay by his sickbed, and his expression shows that he’s beginning to dread the thought of losing a father that he’s never known or even tried to know. And speaking of beds, Nucky’s perched on Margaret’s as she prepares for their evening outing, but their conversation quickly devolves into sniping back and forth, with Margaret growing further upset about the fact that she’s expected to do anything and everything Nucky asks of her, even though he’s unwilling to entrust her with any information about his goings-on. He throws a small fit over the fact that she cleanses herself after their “close encounters,” and she counters by saying that she doesn’t want to have another baby, let alone his heir. He says he thought she wanted saving. She accuses him of killing her husband. A slap. A throwing of a bottle against the wall. Yeah, remember when I wondered a few paragraphs ago if they’d become the power couple of the 1920s…? Probably not happening.

Richard stops by to check in on Jimmy, giving him the update on the D’Alessio brothers and basically offering to kill anybody necessary if it’ll help the situation. Before anything can be decided, however, The Commodore’s doctor returns and reveals that someone’s been trying to murder him via arsenic poisoning. Clearly, we know Jimmy’s innocent, so there are really only three other possible suspects: the maid, Jimmy’s mom, and Nucky. Cue the dramatic music…

Angela’s all packed and ready to roll, despite Tommy’s uncertainty about the situation, leaving a note for Jimmy and preparing to sail off to Europe and, she hopes, to a better future than the one which waits for her in Atlantic City. It’s like I said earlier, though: I just don’t see this happening. This means one of two things is going to happen: Angela will return home and find that Jimmy has already read the note she left for him, or she and Tommy make it back before Jimmy but, because of Tommy’s previously established tendency to mouth off, he blabs to his father about where they had been going. Basically, this is going to be a lose-lose situation when all’s said and done.

The brothers Thompson, together again! We haven’t seen much of Eli since his shooting, let alone their father, but we get a brief glimpse of the latter wasting away on Eli’s porch before Eli and Nucky sit down for tea and conversation. If there was any question about which of the brothers is the classiest, I think we get a definitive answer when Nucky says that he didn’t deny his involvement in Margaret’s husband’s death because he wanted to hurt her and Eli responds by holding up his fists and asking, “What do you think these are for?” Nice. Eli’s pissed off about the current political situation and views Margaret as a liability, mouthing off to Nucky in a big way. In return, Nucky offers up one of the great comebacks of the season by making a comparison to Eli and Hardeen: if it wasn’t for his brother, nobody would give a fuck about him. Eli is left speechless…and rightfully so.

Jimmy visits Gillian and bumbles around with his suspicions about whether she might be the one slipping him the arsenic. Suddenly, however, we see his earlier vomiting in a different light: it wasn’t mixed feelings that caused the puking but, rather, poison cookies. Gillian doesn’t exactly look like a model of innocence at this news.

Nucky’s mood is less than giddy when he meets with Edward Bader and the rest of his boys, instigating a change in the way they’ll be approaching the future. Exit Eli, enter Halloran. Good thing he found his balls a couple of episodes ago, eh?

Meanwhile, back on the boardwalk, my theory was proven correct, but, unfortunately, that means that Angela’s worst fears were realized: Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich have vanished without a trace, leaving an empty store and a single photograph, one which Tommy presents to his mother with the words, “Look, Mommy, ghosts!” It’s a little too on-the-nose, that line, but it doesn’t change the overwhelming feeling of sadness you get when you see Angela’s face, the poor woman.

Sepso’s decided to bail out of his assignment and head elsewhere, having grown weary of being constantly badgered by Van Alden, but even as he announces his departure, Van Alden is still making him feel as guilty as possible and refusing to change his tune. So what does Sepso have to do to get Van Alden to trust him? Why, get baptized, of course. It looks at first as if it’s going to be too much for Sepso to handle, but, no, he decides to step into the waters and accept Van Alden’s challenge. As soon as I realized that Van Alden was going to do it, however, I knew what was going to happen…or, at least, I thought I did. I absolutely did not think that Van Alden was going to hold Sepso down until he had drowned. Wow. A “holy shit” moment…and a literal one, given the situation. Misguided faith is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

Nucky learns from Richard that Margaret and her children have departed, offering no idea as to where they’ve gone. Angela, meanwhile, returns home to find that, as I predicted, Jimmy’s already read the note that she’d left for him. Angela’s guilt is palpable, as well it should be. Cut back to Nucky, who visits the palm reader on the boardwalk to see what the future holds for him…and I guess we’ll all learn the answer at the same time, since, as I won’t be able to see next week’s season finale in advance, we’ll all be watching it together.

See you then!

  

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