Boardwalk Empire
is back, and so are we! Returning for season 2 of HBO’s Atlantic City spectacle, a new batch of the CHUD’s brightest will recap each episode with our reactions, thoughts, and expectations for what is ahead. Join us each week as we follow the most opulent show on TV…


Albert Schwartz: We haven’t talked much about Gillian so far.  But Gretchen Mol gets to open and close this episode with a pair of showcase sequences that are bonerriffic and bleakly cathartic, although which is which probably depends on how exciting you find jiggly psuedo-mythical nudity and physically abusing partially-paralyzed old men, respectively.  I think I know which way this panel swings on the issue, but whatever, for once I’d like this column to be about something besides you people and your weird pubic issues with your grandfathers.

What this episode really brought to the forward is how little I understand Gillian as a character.  I get why Jimmy allied himself with the Commodore against Nucky.  Sure, it’s stupid to blame him for allowing his mother to be raped while forgiving his father for actually doing the deed.  But being absent for Jimmy’s entire childhood and adolescence has conveniently made the kid feel a greater need to rebel against his father figurethan his actual father.  Kids idealize absentee fathers all the time, so I don’t need that spelled out although what’s interesting about Jimmy is that he’s smart enough to realize he shouldn’t but too embittered not to sort of do it anyway.

What I don’t get is why Gillian encouraged him to join the conspiracy if she’s been carrying around this much anger toward the Commodore the whole time.  If it was simple opportunism, the old man was looking seriously frail and had been out of the game until last season’s finale, so it’s not like he was the only safe bet.  And she doesn’t seem to harbor a lot of specific resentment toward Nucky as she does for the old man, so I’m wondering why she got on board with this in the first place. And I’m really not to keen on a stroke removing him from the picture so abruptly.  It makes things a little too easy for Nucky, when the main strength of the season opening was how quickly it was turning the screws on him.
But speaking of Nucky, I got a big chuckle out of his plan to paint himself as a pimp in order to get his list of charges expanded enough for his friends in the federal prosecutor’s office to take over his case.  Not that he’s accusing himself of anything he didn’t actually do, mind you.  I got less entertainment out of Margaret being politely cruel to the help, which I can don’t need to spend 2 scenes on in every episode going forward, thank you very much.

Oh, and surprise suprise, I loved Richard’s parts.  So much that I’m a little nervous that all the wheeling and dealing to use Philadelphia as an alternate port for the booze shipments seems to be putting him on a collision course with Luciano and Lansky (who, spoiler alert! do not get sniped to death by a man with half a face in the history books).  Gotta love a Forsythe sighting, though.
The Episodes Best Moment:  If I don’t go with Mol’s extended striptease, she may very well never do one again, which would be tragic.  Although I love Nucky’s enthusiasm as he tells his woman “I violated the Mann Act!”

Where Does It Go:  Things are poised to get bloody in Philly, but on the homefront there is a distillery bombing that injured a federal agent, and something tells me that stick Chalky is carving in his garage ain’t fo’ no bookcase.  Even with the Commodore sidelined, things are not likely get any quieter in the coming weeks.



Renn Brown: This episode certainly ended with a bang and a slap, though the show once again oddly shifted its energies, took the wind out of one plot’s sails and blew it into other. Early on a litigious epiphany and medical issue for the Commodore suggest the show has had its fun twisting the knife into Nucky and is now interested in seeing how the coup trifecta can handle a setback of their own. One has to hope the show hasn’t totally thrown away the promise of the previous episode in which Nucky drew a public line in the sand. I think we want to see these guys do war, even if Jimmy is the wildcard that would ultimately forge a new relationship with Nucky.

I’m happy to see that the writers have decided its time for Chalky to become a fully realized character, and the new dimensions they’ve layered onto his character have all been fantastic. The scene in which he disrupts the family dinner was potent, and the tag on it at the end of the episode is more than a little ominous. At the same time, Arnold Rothstein showed up a few more times with some great scenes and excellent lines, not to mention indications that he’ll be showing up more frequently on the regular.

On the lady side of things there was no sign of Lucy, and hopefully she’ll return to a minor presence (though that baby can’t be too far off). Gillian and Margaret both keep spinning off and showing darker sides of themselves as Gillian finally gets to let it all out on the Commodore, and Margaret gets nastier with the help. I hope they don’t spend too much time treading ground that the Sopranos did all too well with Carmela– this show has so many of its own paths and beats to explore.

I’m still eating up every scene they throw at me, still love watching Nucky work, and can’t wait for each new episode. I’m happy the show feels no different than it did last season, though each episode surprises me with the directions they go but the measured pace they take to get there.

The Episodes Best Moment: If not the Chalky “filed nigga” scene, then probably the ringing smacks that ended the episode. This season has been a good one for final shots…

Where Does It Go: I expect to see some more activity from Chicago next episode, with another meaty couple of scenes for Capone. More generally I’d expect Nucky to take one more step towards victory, though some kind of loss or new threat will emerge. I’d be surprised not to see some kind of definitive progress between him and Jimmy as well.


MMorse: I’ve been referring to Richard Harrow, the wounded WWI veteran, as “Two Face” in my comments on the show so far, but that nickname applied to two others in this episode, which struck me as being a marked step up after last week’s sluggish Paz-De-La-Huerta-palooza. The Commodore and Van Alden’s cop buddy both have half their faces damaged in “What Does The Bee Do,” and I can’t help feeling as though this trio of Two Faces are meant to summarize some of what Boardwalk is trying to say about the people who populate it. After all, even the folks who don’t fall prey to physical disfigurement here are living two-faced lives – whether that’s Chalky’s home life, split between the world Chalky inhabits to provide for his family and the (largely-oblivious) world that family inhabits, or the rift between Harrow’s murderous job and his inner life, or the double-life Van Alden now leads, caught between his half-crazed devotion to the job and the secret lust-baby he’s squirted into De La Huerta’s oven, and on and on anon anon.

Speaking for myself, Schwartz, I’m a big fan of jiggly psuedo-mythical nudity. Not so much of physically abusing partially-paralyzed old men, but since this is the Commodore we’re talking about I’ll make an exception. Not having been aware of the back story here I was suitably repulsed by what Moll’s scenes revealed. That said I’m not sure I understand Gillian’s motives either, though I like and appreciate that the Commodore’s Grand Plans might be swept away by a stroke. I like the sense it gives that this world’ll fuck with you at random any way it can, whenever it can, for as long as it can. The best laid plans of mice and men and all. It’s appreciably realistic and even darkly funny in its way. The Commodore, so boastful of his own strength and prowess, laid low not by any external opponent, but by his own failing body.

I’m enjoying Boardwalk for these little moments and small touches – character beats like Rothstein’s fondness for apple bread, or practicing how he says “Mr. Thompson” over and again in a mirror,  or Jimmy commenting that he’s got creamsicles in his freezer to name just a few. What I’m hoping for is a stronger sense of a larger narrative here. All these characters are ping-ponging about, bouncing off of each other as they scheme their schemes and plot their plans, but there’s not a strong sense that Boardwalk adds up to something greater than the sum of its individually-interesting parts. We’ve spent four episodes now looking at the trees. I’m hoping that the show will take the time now to pull back some, and take a look at the forest.

The Episodes Best Moment: Definitely “I violated the Mann Act!” Rarely do we get to see a criminal so gleeful over the realization that they’ve broken the law. And that realization indicates that we may get to see a lot more politickin’ in the near future, which would please me very much.

Where Does It Go: Hopefully much deeper into Nuck’s political machinations.

Watch out for the next Tag-Team following episode 5!

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