Monday, September 23, 2013

Boardwalk Empire Season 4: Acres of Diamonds

I know this is going to shock a lot of Boardwalk Empire fans, but I actually felt a pang of sympathy for Gillian Darmody last night. I thought my brief compassion for Gillian might stem from the fact that she is one of the only vulnerable female characters on the show this season, but that can’t be so. We have Harrow’s sister, Emma—pregnant, recently widowed, with very few prospects –and we have Sally—a savvy booze slinging roadhouse owner who is pushed around by Tampa con-artist, August Tucker. Boardwalk Empire has many male characters to empathize with as well, so why Gillian Darmody? Why this week?

Gillian is telling the hardscrabble life of my mother. To my recollection, my mother didn’t resort to prostitution or heroin, but she did marry a bootlegger at 18—a man who could show her the comforts of life that she wouldn't dare to dream of as a child raised in a Jewish Orphan Asylum with no prospects of a higher education or pulling herself up by her bootstraps.

Just like Gillian lost her son, Jimmy, to Prohibition related crime, my mother lost her husband, my father, to the mafia during a bootlegging turf war in 1924. When my father died, my mother was no longer the attentive housewife and mother. She embraced the 1920s culture of debauchery—drinking, staying out late with her ‘boyfriends’, and neglecting her children.  

By the end of the episode I was routing for Gillian to win Roy’s heart. Maybe it will give her the chance to repair her life and “call herself to account” as Emma suggests to Richard during their good-byes. I can’t help but hope that Gillian becomes the exemplary mother and has a wholesome life with her grandson, but maybe this is a wish from my past and only the writers of Boardwalk Empire can make it so.

Read More by Babette Hughes

For a recap of Acres of Diamonds

Monday, September 16, 2013

Boardwalk Empire Season 4: Resignation

My father, Luis Rosen, was a bootlegger during the Prohibition. He was murdered in a turf war by the Jewish mob in November 1924. In last week’s episode, when the screen flashed, February 1924, I couldn’t help but remember the newspaper articles recounting the cold-blooded murder of my father and uncle. What are these mad men willing to do for power? Apparently the Boardwalk Empire characters are eager to pay the price for a piece of the pie.

In the beginning of Sunday night’s episode, Detective Van Alden, a.k.a. Mueller, is willing to crack some skulls to buy his wife a new davenport—a far cry from where he was in Season One. He is O’Bannon’s muscle during the day and Capone’s “political pressure” during the evenings. How quickly Van Alden has gone from praying and preaching the gospel of sobriety to defending a group of booze swilling sociopaths. At the democratic rally, we watch Van Alden embrace his new power when letting out a roar of strength before he bats another Democrat over the head at Capone’s request—making sure these citizens spread the word “…voting Democrat is bad for your health.”

Our next shocker for a plunge at power is Eddie. Last season he took a bullet in the leg to protect his beloved boss, Nucky, and he is ready for his promotion. Eddie has proved to be Nucky’s right-hand man in business and hygiene, and he “resigned” in order to get Nucky’s attention. Fortunately for Eddie, Nucky didn’t call his bluff. Will Eddie be successful in his new powers or will he finally fail Nucky?

BE’s third swing for power is the new character Dr. Narcisse. The New York businessman strolls into the Onyx with Cora, sharing his knowledge of God’s word and his own personal beliefs—“ a thing mixed is a thing weakened”. Narcisse suspends all black entertainment acts at the Onyx to muscle Nucky and Chalky into 10% of Onyx’s income, using Cora’s testimony of Dunn “raping” her as leverage.  He also plants the beginnings of a wedge between Nucky and Chalky—pointing out that a relationship between a black and white man can only be based on the white man’s need to use the black man to gain power. I have a feeling with the build of race relations and the introduction to Dr. Narcisse, an equivalent to a black supremacist, we are going to see the two communities clash, but who will win the struggle according to history?

Speaking of history, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, has made his appearance this season. He is in Atlantic City and ready to infiltrate the northeast crime ring through the US Attorney General. It looks like Nucky is on the government’s radar yet again. Is his stronghold in DC worth being in Hoover’s  spotlight?

Read more by novelist and Huff Post blogger Babette Hughes. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Boardwalk Empire: Season 4, “New York Sour”

With Harrow home from his last tour of “business” and a mob boss truce for Nucky maybe the episode should’ve been entitled “Clean Slate” considering both men are starting over for themselves. Harrow is back home in Wisconsin after “dealing with” some home title “issues” and Nucky, now a bachelor, is seducing new actresses and has his hand back on the reins of Atlantic City after paying Masseria and Rothstein some fat cash.

Chalky’s built his new night club, Onyx, upon the ruins of Babette’s (sorry to see my namesake go!), and the club’s opening night offers the dazzling party scene of the roaring 20s—scantily clad black women shaking their tail feathers while white men and women guzzle their giggle water and use words like “primitive”.

Gillian is also trying to be the poster girl for motherhood reform during her trial to gain back custody of Jimmy’s son from Harrow’s gal, Julia. Little do the courts know, she is fully addicted to heroin and selling herself for $30 a customer to save the cat house. Will Ron Livingston from The Office save her from herself? (That woman is pure evil, and although I am not a violent person, I am hoping that her days are numbered.)

Al Capone is making a mark for himself through the newspaper, and I am sure the writer will be sure to spell Al’s name right in the future.

It may be a clean slate for most of the Boardwalk Empire characters this premiere but there is one man who has already muddied his opportunities for success. Chalky White’s right-hand man, Dunn, has stirred up some trouble for “15 minutes of jelly”. While Chalky and Dunn are in New York, scouting acts to bring to the Onyx, Dunn takes the talent agent’s wife up on a scandalously irresistible offer. In the midst of “jelly”, Dunn and the wife are caught by the talent agent, Dickey. Without giving away the story, let’s just say, somebody dies. With the birth of Onyx and Dunn’s indiscretions, I’d say BE writers are making race a major topic this season.

Here’s a recipe for a New York Sour for next Sunday. Enjoy!

Looking for more Prohibition Mayhem?

Nonagenarian author Babette Hughes has penned three books, including the forthcoming The Red Scarf, due out in July. She lives in Austin, Texas. To learn more about Babette and her work, please go to: