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Boardwalk Empire Recap: Prepare for War


“Hold Me in Paradise”

Grade: A-

In Atlantic City, the time has come to prepare for war.

A single shot can spring nations to war, and tonight, Eli Thompson was Archduke Franz Ferdinand; and though Eli clings to life, the bullets that passed through him awakened his brother, who went to Chicago to curry favor, but returned with a soldier.

War is brewing from many sides in Atlantic City, most notably between New York’s World Series-fixing Arnold Rothstein and New Jersey’s bootlegging president-maker, Nucky Thompson.  The casino heist planned in episodes past finally came to fruition, but unlike the Chicago massacre, this scene came and went with a whimper.  A single shot due to the sheriff’s bad timing escalated the coming clash between Rothstein and Nucky and as of now, based on Nucky’s beside words with his ailing brother, Rothstein seems to have the upper hand.

But Nucky isn’t completely unprepared for the fight.  After proving that his influence knows no ceiling in Chicago, he solicited help from his exiled war veteran, Jimmy Darmody.  A cold re-introduction not withstanding, Nucky knows Jimmy is cutthroat and loyal and offers him a large cut of his profits to return to the boardwalk and serve as his soldier.  Jimmy, desperate for the family that has moved on without him and aware his Irish heritage will never fully mesh with the Italians, mulls over the offer, but since we’ve all seen television shows before (not to mention the previews for upcoming episodes), we know Mr. Darmody is heading back home (hopefully with his new masked friend in tow).

Jimmy’s homecoming will be bittersweet, though.  His common law wife is into girls now, his mom is banging a guy who was hired to kill him and Agent Van Alden, when not intercepting his letters home, is making him the prime suspect in his sprawling investigation.  Jimmy will most certainly be at war with Van Alden at some point, but the masochistic agent is currently battling his own impotency (though he blames it on his wife and/or God’s divine will).  Van Alden began the series as the white knight, the good guy who was poised to track down and stop the bad guys.  However, as the series progresses, Van Alden’s shades of gray are becoming more prominent.  He coldly dismisses his tearful, barren wife at dinner and later with a letter that could’ve contained the money for her desired fertilization operation (in one of the series’ better fake outs).

Meanwhile, Margaret’s war with Lucy is interrupted so Nucky can use her to hide his business ledger.  Unaware of how the man who supposedly cares for her is putting her life in danger, Margaret watches over the book and abides by Nucky’s instructions to not open it.  Yet, after answering an anonymous breathy call to Nucky’s office, she opens Pandora’s box and learns of Nucky’s shady business dealings, igniting to the upcoming war I’ve been anticipating most – Margaret vs. Nucky.

In my last recap, I criticized Boardwalk Empire for not having a sense of urgency.  Tonight’s episode made those words empty as every major character is now careening toward certain confrontation.  What I love about this show is that plot points that would be major developments in other series (i.e. a gangster basically picking the next president of the United States) are side plots in Boardwalk Empire.  Yes, Nucky is a powerful and influential man, but the wars brewing in his hometown are more important than backroom election politics.  He could theoretically make a move for an office like senator or president, but instead uses his influence to put “imbeciles in the White House” to better his current situation – a situation currently being threatened on several fronts.

Additional Thoughts

  • I’m not a religious man, but “If you watch nun-themed pornography, you’ll get shot” is a lesson ripe for Sunday school.
  • Question: What’s more disturbing than seeing men watching primitive nun-themed pornography?  Answer: Seeing men watching primitive nun-themed pornography that is being hand-cranked on a soon-to-be-inflamed projector by a large sweaty man with a mustache.
  • Mrs. Harding should’ve gone back to that fortune-teller, who apparently correctly predicted her husband would die in office.  Could a widowed first lady get a line on this year’s Kentucky Derby?
  • Apparently, Warren Harding was as nefarious ladies’ a man as he was portrayed.  Harding’s presidency was plagued with scandals caused by the people who were given government positions as rewards for their backroom deals that helped elect him.  I could write more about Boardwalk Empire using the 1920’s setting to criticize modern political theater, but we’ve all had our fill of political b.s. in the last week.
  • Nucky’s back-story continues to unfold one nugget at a time.  We now know he had a son who died.  That brings our total knowledge to he had a wife and a kid, who are both dead.
  • The great Christopher McDonald played Harry Daugherty, Harding’s campaign manager.  He has been a number of great characters over the years, but whenever I see him, I still think of him as Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore.  If you can apply Happy Gilmore quotes or plot lines to Boardwalk Empire, it will be greatly appreciated.

    McGavin, Shooter
  • How great was Margaret slapping Lucy?
  • SPOILER ALERT: The previews for upcoming episodes reveal that Van Alden tells Margaret that Nucky was behind her husband’s murder.  She then slaps Nucky, too.  I knew this would happen eventually, but I hate when previews spoil big moments like that.