Reader, I have a confession: I am Irish. Feels good to say it. So this episode was just The Best. Lighter on the action and overt scheming and klansmen with gatlings, heavier on the let’s put several powerful and/or dangerous people in a room and see what happens. The thing that happens is drama in a period setting.
“Ourselves Alone” is the partly-correct translation of “Sinn Féin”, the political party which in the 1921 of Boardwalk Empire is visiting the US to raise money and find guns for the Civil War. They do so by sending the world’s most charming Irishman, played by Charlie Cox, who does the best Northern Irish accent I have ever heard by someone who is not Northern Irish, and better than some who are. He is also given a convoluted reason to stick around the show for multiple episodes, smirking roguishly all the while, and I am Fine With That. Chances of him having a sex scene with the Thompsons’ maid next week: definite.
Of course, we are all still too shocked about Nucky’s arrest to care about that just yet. He spends about thirty seconds hanging out in prison with Chalky before taking his leave when it emerges that he is far too white and rich to be in the slammer. Chalky’s entire sub-plot in the cell is not only a wee masterclass of how to handle simmering violent tension, pretty much Boardwalk Empire’s bread and butter, but a highly effective reskin of this scene from Game of Thrones. It’s good to have a lot of people owe you things.
Meanwhile, the Commodore is still being a ridiculous Teddy Roosevelt parody, lifting the crap out of things to prove that his plan to overthrow Nucky Thompson is foolproof and any who oppose him will also be lifted over his head. He is absurd and I love it. Eli has never looked more like a kid brother when he is ushered into a creepy room full of men with mutton chops ‘who built this town’, who salute him in Latin and Eli is all like ‘uh…’. Don’t see things ending well for him.
Jimmy has pottered off to New York to talk Arnold Rothstein into buying alcohol from him, which doesn’t go so well but Lucky decides that it’s probably easiest if they forget he spent most of season one in a state of intimacy with Jimmy’s mother and become bezzie herion-dealing mates instead. There’s some faffing around with a poker game until Jimmy is jumped at night in a park while scouting out a good place to set up his heroin shop, and stabs both of them in a big way with a trench knife. It is brutal and on-screen for an unsettlingly long time.
Probably the best thing about the entire show is Kelly Macdonald’s Margaret Schroeder – her development over the course of a year has been slow, continuous and totally believable. This week was her week. Immediately after hearing about Nucky’s arrest she demands her maid’s overcoat and turns up to Nucky’s apartment – full of investigating federales – essentially playing a version of herself from this time last year. Under the pretence of being a poor pregnant Irish woman (megalulz), she retrieves Nucky’s secret ledger and a bundle of notes from under the police’s nose, and later reveals to Nucky that not only did she know about his secret crime scrapbook but goes all Stringer Bell on him and says ‘no more writing down our insanely illegal dealings, begorrah.’
This season is shaping up nicely, and this episode bigs up all the right characters in all the right ways. Maybe lacking a little in heart without any Angela, and only fleeting references to Chalky’s family, but some great spots and Margaret’s final scene had me literally punching the air Breakfast Club-style. BRING IT, COMMODORE.