Monday, November 28, 2011

Boardwalk Empire – Georgia Peaches

What to do when you’re caught in situations beyond your control? Pray? Pay? Create your own brand of justice? Limitations, both physical and situational have wreaked havoc on the residents of this little boardwalk town.

Margaret, desperate to have her little girl not become crippled by polio, goes to the only place she feels she can turn – her church. It was quite the stomach-turner to watch her priest guilt her into making a devotional by alluding to the possibility of a miracle. And Margaret falls for it! Yet, after giving all of her socked away money and new jewelry to the church, her daughter is still paralyzed. Margaret realizes that her prayers will go unanswered, and her priest used religion to not only take her money, but her hope as well. This may be the event that completely delivers her to the dark side.

Nucky is dealing with helplessness at home and in his public life. He cannot solve Margaret’s problem, nor can he make his legal troubles go away. Despite all of his bribing, payoffs, and efforts to deter attention from his illegal activities, Nucky’s trial for election tampering will soon commence, and he may have to serve jail time. Arnold Rothstein recommends the lawyer who is defending him for allegedly fixing the 1919 World Series. Even Nucky seems impressed with the sleaziness of this lawyer. Will more backwards dealings really help him to overcome this seemingly impossible situation? The way this story has unfolded so far, I suspect so. Until then, Atlantic City will continue to fall apart without his leadership.

As predicted, the African-American workers strike has brought the city to a standstill. Jimmy is ill-equipped to handle negotiations with Chalky White, so the strike drags on. His father, The Commodore, hindered by the affects of a stroke cannot even give his son advice. Their associates recommend strike breakers, but that approach only makes things worse. The demonstrators are only strengthened in their resolve. Would it be corny to say “strike one” on this issue being settled peacefully?

Poor Jimmy, not only can he not control the city, he cannot control his relationships. His failed assassination on Horovitz has manifested in the most unfortunate way. Despite Jimmy’s attempt to smooth things over by sending Horovitz cases of liquor, he fails to recognize the Yiddish butcher’s vengeful streak. This was a disturbing scene for me to watch, Horovitz murdering Jimmy’s wife and novelist female lover in cold blood. However, cold-blooded killing is nothing new in this series, it’s just usually Jimmy doing the killing. With the last two episodes of the season coming up, I fear the violence can only get worse from here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Boardwalk Empire - Battle of the Century

This week’s episode was full of rebellion. Some I was glad to see, some I would have rather not seen. Set against the background of the Dempsey-Carpentier boxing match of 1921, in this episode, we saw the main characters take on fights of their own.

Margaret’s strength is certainly tested when she finds out that her daughter has contracted polio. Every week, I find myself marveling at this character. She is probably one of the strongest females portrayed on television right now. She’s brilliant at using her reputation as a widow, a mother, and even as a kept woman to her advantage. The other characters always underestimate her, and it is quite thrilling to see her show what she is really made of. This week was no exception, as she is forcibly kept from her daughter who is considered highly contagious. The scene where Emily receives a spinal tap was pretty heart-wrenching. However, Margaret really shows her fortitude and spirit when she rebels against the doctors’ orders to sneak into the restricted ward to comfort Emily.

Nucky is unaware of the troubles at home as he has traveled to Ireland under the guise of burying his dead father. What we soon see, is that he intends on supplying guns to Irish rebels in exchange for whiskey. The Irish obviously prefer continuing to fight rather than negotiate peace with the British government. It was a little off-putting to see how much they really wanted those guns. They had no problem ridding their group of any naysayers to Nucky’s offer.

Though Nucky is not in Atlantic City, his influence is still working for him. Chalky White, working on Nucky’s suggestion, encourages a group of African-American workers to stage a walk-out. Demanding better wages and better treatment, an entire restaurant kitchen staff leaves in the middle of their shift. From the looks of the previews for next week, this will become a larger demonstration. It’s great to see this portrayal of early civil rights in action, but as we all know, everything that happens on this show serves a dual purpose. The reason Nucky encouraged Chalky to have the workers rebel in the first place, is to make Atlantic City contentious and a difficult place to manage for Jimmy.

In his second week as “king” of Atlantic City, Jimmy is not doing as well as he thinks he is. Sure, he’s living the life of a fat cat, ordering around his underlings, partying, and womanizing as much as possible, but he does not realize that everything is unraveling around him. Jimmy orders another assassination, this time on Horovitz the Yiddish butcher, and unbeknownst to him it goes awry. That was a scene I could have done without, no one should use kitchen tools that way! At this point, it remains to be seen whether Jimmy is strong enough to win control of the city.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Boardwalk Empire – Two Boats and a Lifeguard

This week struck a chord in me for a few reasons.

First, there is Nucky coming to terms with the death of his father. He spends most of the episode badmouthing and cursing his father, even at the funeral home. Nucky doesn’t grieve for his father until he is left alone with the casket. Maybe Nucky respected his father at least a little considering he stands over his body weeping. It is his own father’s death that causes Nucky to want to be more of a father to Margaret’s children, and he asks them to start calling him “dad”. It may also be in part the reason Nucky decides to step down as Treasurer of Atlantic City, and hands the reigns over to his “son”, Jimmy. I think he’s really just trying to teach Jimmy a lesson. Nucky always has a plan.

With all the new responsibilities, Jimmy is starting to ignore his own home life, but his wife has found a diversion. She befriends a newcomer to the series, Louise. Louise is, of all things, a free-spirited novelist. Now, we’re talking! This new relationship is sure to spark things up in Atlantic City. Louise is already breaking the modesty laws (that bathing suit was considered racy!), and appears to also be a lesbian, or at the very least VERY open-minded. This is already stirring a response from Angela, who was until now suppressing her homosexuality by marrying Jimmy.

This episode also gives us the return of Jewish gangster, Arnold Rothstein and Yiddish butcher Horovitz. Why do these two characters always seem to appear in the same episodes? I feel it’s only a matter of time before they meet, but right now they are still in opposite camps. It is Rothstein who encourages Nucky to hold back and be patient, even in the face of an assassination attempt. Rothstein is incredibly impressive in his restraint and calculative demeanor, but what is going on under the surface? In actuality, Rothstein was an incredibly successful gambler for many years, so the character on this series seems to match the legend. Equally mysterious in his motives is Horovitz, who approaches Jimmy for his liquor which still is yet to be delivered. Jimmy, drunk on power and bootlegged whiskey is pretty insulting to Horovitz. Mickey Doyle tries to warn Jimmy to be accommodating and less anti-Semitic to Horovitz, but that gets him thrown over a balcony. I don’t think Jimmy will be as successful as Nucky was at running Atlantic City. He’s much too hot-headed and violent. Not looking forward to an increase in violence on this show, but I am interested to see how Atlantic City fares with Jimmy at the helm.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Boardwalk Empire: Peg of Old

Just how twisted can the roots of a family tree get? From suggesting a brother be bumped off, to a mother abandoning her newborn, to siblings being unable to forgive past grievances, loyalty is not a virtue for this extended bootlegging family.

Jimmy is the only person struggling with where his heart lies. The thought of assassinating Nucky, who he considers a father, is eating him up. On top of this predicament, Jimmy’s relationship with his mother, Gillian, is probably the most unnerving relationship on the show. Every time Gillian gets close to Jimmy, I shudder. Of course, when a girl gives birth at 13, the mother/child relationship is bound to be slightly unconventional.

Speaking of giving birth, having a new baby doesn’t seem to catalyze the mothering gene in Lucy. She has no problem using her child as a bargaining chip to extort money from the men in her life. A little cash from Nucky, and Lucy abandons her child to pursue a chance in the limelight. Nelson, who began in the series as a slightly creepy character, surprisingly becomes the most family-oriented person in this episode, quickly adjusting to his role as a protective single father.

Resident single mother, Margaret, travels to New York to visit her Irish family this week. The stroll through 1920s Brooklyn takes me back as Margaret seeks out her working-class brother and sisters. The writers give a real sense of how hard immigrants had it starting out in America. Every person works in Margaret’s family. Despite their struggles, Margaret’s brother is too proud to accept monetary help from Margaret. He still cannot forgive Margaret for an unwed pregnancy, and he struggles with the fact that she is a kept woman.

Perhaps it is being faced with her painful past that drives Margaret into the arms of family bodyguard, Owen, or maybe she is more modern than anyone suspected. Margaret betrays Nucky as well as jeopardizes the family they’ve created. Distracting Owen means that Nucky is left unprotected at Babette’s supper club (another Babette’s dinner party. If it were mine you would have been there!) and an attempt is made on his life by Jimmy’s crew. Of course, federal agents thwart the set-up or the show would be over! As Jimmy quickly exits the club and realizes that Nucky was not killed, I can’t help but wonder if he has a look of disappointment or relief on his face.