After the absolute barnstormer of a character-piece last week things were bound to take a turn for the plot-heavy. If you are particularly big fans of Harrow, Rothstein, Chalky, Al Capone (remember him?) Gillian, Angela or Eli, this was not the episode for you. Fortunately, Boardwalk has the most amazingly gigantic cast ever assembled, and I challenge the world’s leading tv scholars to name someone who is not pulling their weight. This episode is about birth, death and confessing our sins, as Boardwalk carries its themes like the letters at the start of Sesame Street.
Agent Van Alden is back to his god-sanctioned evil again with an exceedingly pregnant Lucy still locked in his flat. Lucy wants lemons. Van Alden is like ‘how can you want lemons when Agent Clarkson got horrifically burned while investigating a still I patronise. So selfish, god.’ While he’s visiting the hospital Lucy goes into labour, and the rest of the episode is peppered with little scenes of her screaming in pain, alone. It’s horrific.
Margaret’s son is going for his first confession and is getting a lesson in hell and God’s judgement from Father Brennan, who compares him to the crowd who crucified Jesus and the Romans because at the age of seven we know right from wrong and should be judged accordingly. This episode gives Kelly Macdonald plenty of opportunities to make her ‘I am concerned but see this as a challenge’ face, as she will have to confess her own sins, ‘to set a good example’.
Some light relief from Charles Thorogood, who does an incredible job of being utterly reprehensible in record time, being a lawyer who does nothing but talk about who his father is and get paid in sex workers. He also gets comeuppance in record time: the attorney general has been politicked into appointing a prosecutor who actually gives a toot. Farewell Chip, we barely knew ye.
Meanwhile at the Commodore’s yacht club, a guy with the muttonest chops gives a highly portentous pep talk to Jimmy about Alexander the Great and how his story is directly transposable to the current circumstance. The key point here is ‘not every insult requires a response’, and that the Commodore had many virtues but prudence was not one. Muttonchap is basically Yoda.
Owen Sleater is still sleazing up a storm in Margaret’s house, hitting on Katy like it ain’t no thing. Charlie Cox is doing an amazing job of keeping Owen genuinely likeable despite being the doggest. Later he comes to apologise for Katy and his behaviour, but actually to flirt the crap out of Margaret, who deploys concern-face. The upshot: at Margaret’s confession she admits being drawn towards someone she knows is a bad man. But it isn’t Nucky, it’s… OWEN. Drama, you guys!
The episode is dominated by Van Alden at the hospital, having a bit of a religious freakout and confessing down the phone to his wife that he has been a bad person but not exactly why, allowing her to reassure him that he’s doing the Lord’s work, which is true if the Lord endorses getting baby-daddy-money by embezzling state funds in illegal bootlegging operations.
Agent Clarkson seems to be pointing the finger at Van Alden, but it transpires that this was just spoken out of a fevered haze on account of being covered in burns. VA takes this as a sign from on high to no longer give a care and is all ‘screw this I’m going to buy some lemons.’
There’s also a lot increasingly-Gordian booze dealery. There are now key players in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Atlantic City, and a scene in which almost everyone is in a room. My head hurts a little thinking about it. Anyway, someone is moving booze to someone and Jimmy spots them leaving the Ritz and calls Horvitz.
Horvitz knows squat all about it and will investigate, to whit, by the time Jimmy arrives he the traitor upside-down in a meat locker, ready to confess. This occasions a good old-fashioned woodlands ambush, as we haven’t had one in a couple weeks. Anyway Horvitz gets Jimmy to cut the guy’s throat, as touching a wounded man is not kosher. Never has the kashrut been so badass.
Out in the woods somewhere between Philadelphia and potentially four other major cities, Jimmy accosts Lucky and Lansky, and Jimmy uses his newfound skills with prudence to strike a deal against their former bosses. Intrigue!
The episode closes with Van Alden returning home with a doctor for Lucy, to find the place cleaned, the lemons neatly stored and the bedsheets soaking in the sink. Mrs Van Alden is home. Aw maaaan, rumbled. He tries to explain that he wanted to give the baby to her and she does not seem too amenable to that idea! Women, eh, Nelson? She bites him and is generally a bit awesome in this scene. Anyway, Agent Van Alden is having a bit of a strange day.
We’re a bit closer to something big going down. At any rate these are some of the most richly-painted characters on tv, and are just a pleasure to watch.
What will happen next on the Boardwalk? Give us your two cents in the comments.