Time is running out on season two of Boardwalk Empire, and my goodness things are getting batpoop crazy all up in here. Perhaps more so than usual, it’s ALL SPOILERS, ALL THE TIME.
So most of the episode is a flashback to Jimmy’s time at Princeton, where he was Leonardo DiCaprio. The episode jumps from the present to Jimmytime, so let’s keep it simple. It all starts with Angela’s voice telling young Jim she has to go… but not because she’s dead, obvs, but because they’re having a studenty tryst in 1917 and she has to be smuggled from the dorms. Incidentally, Jimmy either waxes daily or has localised torso alopecia.
At a seminar populated by the Princeton von Snoots, Jimmy reads from Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (I think), a faraway world where everyone is boundlessly corrupt and all the women are treated like prostitutes. SLOW DOWN, WEBSTER. Anyway, Jimmy has a keen understanding of the play: the protagonist’s mother hasn’t taught him what he needs to know to get rich. Prof Pearson reminds him that, as a man from the working class himself, they need to be smart to get one over on the rich kids who were set from the day they were born. “What, because I am poor, shall I be vicious?” John Webster <3s Boardwalk Empire.
Gillian has come to visit, and remarks on how Jimmy has changed, what with dating Angela and not being smothered by her constantly. “I never get too sad, because no matter what, I have you.” That’s…sweet? So they meet Angela at the box social and Gillian is all “I’m going to kiss you [...] let me drink you in” and oh my goodness she can barely conceal her rage at Angela existing. But that’s okay because she goes a-flirting with Mr Pearson, who makes the weirdest face, and suddenly Jimmykins is all aboard the jealousy express. This plotline is getting mighty Greek all a-sudden.
THEN, oh my goodness Angela is pregnant. Jimmy is all over the dratted place. Suddenly he’s talking about getting a place, “it’ll be swell!” I’m convinced! Angela asserts that he barely knows her, and that is a good point. Moments later Jimmy is at the bottom of a bottle of Colonel’s Whittaker’s My Girlfriend’s Pregnant Old Timey Bourbon, Gillian emerges from a back room, dress torn, followed by a slightly bashful Pearson. Jimmy confronts him, Pearson ventures, “your life is pretty Jacobean already,” and gets a knuckle sandwich, followed by a knuckle smorgasbord.
Afterwards, as heartily drunken Gillian and Jimmy carry each other back to their hotel room, she assures him Nucky will fix things and he won’t get expelled. She also questions him about Angela, makes him promise he won’t do anything stupid. A train passes. Woo woo. Oh my goodness there is some gross tension in the air. Jimmy helps her undress and drops her into bed, they reminisce about his childhood – I am not kidding – and as he moves away she pulls him back, and says ‘there’s nothing wrong, baby, there’s nothing wrong with any of it’. Then they get their Oedipus on.
The next morning, he remembers everything, but Gillian is gone. The army is training outside. Faced with a choice between gouging out his eyes with pins, marrying a stranger and raising their child, and enlisting for the Great War, he blags his way off to stab the Kaiser right in his guts. My good golly.
OKAY SO back in 1922, Nucky is facing hard times. Until his butler says he saw Van Alden murderbaptise Agent Sebsoe.
Meanwhile, lovely Swedish nanny Sigrid learns a little about clan Van Alden: his father gave away his farm because he was told the rapture was coming. Now he doesn’t like to acknowledge his son exists. Ouch.
At the hospital, Emily is being fitted for leg braces, and Father Brennan spins a parable about heaven, hell and some guys with spoons. Point is it’s good to help others. He tells her the donation is being put to good use, but hints that she needs to go further in the Lord’s work. Margaret, you used to be fun and encouraging. Look at the decent, God-fearing person you’ve become.
Present Gillian is just as Jacobean as the past version, Jacobean meaning sociopathic. She spins some lies for the police invesitgating Angela’s murder and inquires as to Eli’s whereabouts, covering Harrow’s presence as ‘a simpleton Jimmy likes to give charity to.’ Harrow goes sadly upstairs and touches the still-wet blood on the floor, teary-eyed. I’m going to go watch the Harrow episode on repeat until they figure out what they want to do with him now his most interesting thread is severed.
Team Gangster is joking about Angela’s murder and stealing Jimmy’s booze. They’re basically one character now. Anyway, they’re needlessly mean to Mickey Doyle, who has a $500,000 life insurance policy with Arnold Rothstein. Uh oh.
Nucky and Margaret chat about divine retribution and how everyone in this show uses little stories to illustrate the key themes of the episode. I am only half-joking. Yawn.
Eli’s lawyer tells him he can testify against Nucky in exchange for maybe not being executed. Soon afterwards, Nucky learns Eli will go to the stand against him, and already has plans to pass money on to Margaret should the worst happen. For some reason Margaret tunes all this right out, on account of morals I guess. Snooze.
Later, she is ready to confess to almost everything bad she has done to Nucky, in kind of a clunky scene. She has stolen from him, deceived people who thought she was good, and cheated… Nucky tells her to say it. “I live with the man who had the father of my children murdered.” Fair point. She hints that she might testify against him. Nucky gets his Nuckface on and says she can martyr herself, but he won’t permit her to sacrifice him, and “If you don’t think I’m as good as my word, you don’t know me at all.”
Van Alden has agreed to meet Doyle, but not before making the Best Entrance With Fedora In Darkened Doorway of 2011. Doyle rats out the rest of Team Gangtimes in exchange for half of their total wealth and his safety. Van Alden: “I’d prefer not to.” Exit Van Alden. Doyle is having a bad week. But not as bad a week as Van Alden, who arrives at the post office to be identified as Agent Sebsoe’s murderer. He grabs Agent Clifford’s gun, shoots him in the foot and hastily absconds.
At casa Nucky, Owen is still in this show! He helps Margaret fix Emily’s brace, and ventures to ask if she still thinks of him, on account of it being fairly clear she does. Instead she tells him to stop, and that she’ll pray for him, and oh look Katy has heard everything. Stealth Katy, away!
Finally, Jimmy in the present is recovering from his one-man heroin party in which he flashedback all of the Princeton stuff. Gillian is already putting together the lies to tell Tommy about Angela. Jimmy starts yelling “I’ll remember” and choking her, before the Commodore comes outta nowhere and stabs him with a spear. I could not make that up. Anyway, Jimmy turns it around and daggers him in the heart, before passing out. Bye bye Commodore, you were always a joke character.
When he comes to, Harrow is silently cleaning up the crime scene. He pulls the curtains. Gillian appears with Tommy. When he asks where his momma is, Gillian says ‘I’m here.’ She then tells Jimmy “you didn’t mean it, I know you couldn’t. We don’t have to mention it again. Everything’s going to be better now.” Holy goddamn, Boardwalk Empire.
So certainly one of the most powerful episodes this year, and most of the character-focused charm and humour has fallen off the boat in favour of getting to the Bay of Good Plot before sundown. My reservations about Suddenly Boring Margaret and Chumpkill Angela aren’t entirely abated, and Angela remained a bit-player even in her own flashback. But things are shaping up nicely for next week’s finale, and as you can tell by the sheer weight of this recap, there is so much at stake here, you guys. See you next time…
What’s on your mind heading into the last furlong for 2011 on the boardwalk? Let us know in the comments.