A review of tonight’s “Boardwalk Empire” coming up just as soon as you can break a hundred…
“Dreams are where we should live. But we have to live in life.” -Gillian
After dominating the action for the season’s first five episodes, Gyp Rosetti is in the wind for “Ging Gang Goolie,” having taken the hint from Bugsy Siegel’s failed hit that it might be a good time to make himself scarce. Without him controlling the bottleneck in Tabor Heights, we’re able to focus more on Nucky’s other problems this season, as Harry Daugherty begins making his move to set Nucky up as a patsy, while a lonely Margaret reconnects with Owen.
Whether characters are interacting with Nucky or not this week, there’s a lot of people looking for fallback options when their dream plan has gone awry. Margaret, for instance, needs a man to keep her company – and to provide stability for her increasingly troublesome son(*) – and with Owen she has the comfort level of their shared homeland as well as their previous time together.(**) I have to admit that Margaret’s hospital storyline has been one of this season’s less compelling ones. Putting her back with Owen – whom Nucky already feels resentful of – will hopefully make her a more central character again.
(*) The conversation with Owen briefly creates some ambiguity about whether Teddy burned down the greenhouse, but the later scene with Teddy and his sister makes it clear that this kid – unsurprisingly, given all that he, his mom and sister have been through in the past few years – is deeply, deeply troubled. Still ambiguous: whether there was actually a drifter and, if so, if Owen’s guys killed him.
(**) Though keep in mind that for a while, Margaret thought her daughter’s polio was divine punishment for her various sins, which included sleeping with Owen. Will the Catholic guilt return even harder now that she’s married (albeit in name only), or has she evolved past that?
Gillian and Richard (thank goodness he’s back after several episodes away) are both struggling to move on without Jimmy (and, in Richard’s case, Angela), and though Gillian finally takes down the many portraits of her son that adorn the Commodore’s mansion, she almost immediately falls into bed with a handsome Jimmy doppelganger who has no idea what kind of crazy he’s in for. And though Richard doesn’t connect with any of the fellow vets at the American Legion hall, he’s intrigued to meet one of their daughters, who doesn’t even flinch at the sight of him. Like Angela before her, Julia shows interest in Richard’s family, and though Richard told Angela that he no longer feels connected to his sister, the conversation with Julia prompts a happy trip through some old family photos. (In one of those rare scenes where Richard appears with his mask off, looking so much more hopeful even as the makeup and CGI show how half his face is ruined). Will this encounter prompt a trip home? A doomed attempt to court Sagorsky’s daughter? I’m in favor of anything that gives Jack Huston more to do.
But the main action this week involves Nucky’s trip to Washington, and his unexpected reunion with Esther Randolph, who’s come down in the world since Nucky and Jimmy foiled her big case at the end of last season. This has been a more gangster season for Nucky so far, but the man came up as a politician, and in many ways, he’s still more comfortable in this arena, even if his newfound bluntness doesn’t sit well with the likes of Harry Daugherty. The big question here is whose side Gaston Bullock Means is on – if, that is, he’s on anyone’s side but his own. Was Nucky’s arrest on such a petty charge a happy (if briefly irritating) coincidence that gave him access to Esther, part of Means’ plan to cash in before the Harding administration falls, or part of a more elaborate plot we can’t see yet to take down Nucky? Means is such a slippery character (and so well played by Stephen Root) that it’s hard to tell. And given that Nucky himself is not always the easiest man to read, this could turn into a fascinating game of chess, or a really frustrating experiment in reading micro-expressions.
What did everybody else think?