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.
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For a recap of Acres of Diamonds