Boardwalk Empire, I thought we were good. I thought we were getting somewhere. Sure, maybe you made some mistakes in the past, and maybe I didn’t always appreciate you for what you were trying to do. Maybe I didn’t give you enough time to sort yourself out. But then you go and you do something like this and I just … I just don’t know that I can do this anymore. It hurts me, Boardwalk, it really does. More than you know. I mean, we’ve been through some real stuff, you and I. But this? I saw it coming, I’ll admit. But I didn’t know it would go down like it did. (Sigh). Hit the jump for less of my break-up letter and more of the nitty gritty of this very full-of-feels and all over the place episode.
Obviously, last things first. We knew that Owen and Margaret were never going to be able to run away together and his time on this Earth was probably going to be short but … Corpse in a Box? Really? And the fact that Nucky could smell what was happening before the lid was fully off? Come on, throw us a bone here. Can’t we have anyone likable on the show survive? (And the timing of the baby reveal at the end, which was also heavily foreshadowed, was rather too manipulative. Damn my eyes and these tears. Melodrama!)
At least for now there’s Richard Harrow, and him finally getting laid (I’m presuming … was it innocent? Look, after Owen’s death I am interpreting as I will and throwing caution to the wind) was such a nice moment that had been building for so long. It was the natural culmination to the dream life he sees with Julia and Tommy. The two of them on the sand and him getting ice cream cones reminded me a great deal of Jimmy and Angela in happier times, though without the darkness that always clouded Jimmy’s features. Harrow is finally starting to open up, and now that he’s no longer a gangster’s thug but a male nanny and occasional protector of damsels in distress, he’s able to leave some of his own shadows behind. At least I hope so. Unless Gyp slaughters Tommy and Julia next week, which I wouldn’t even doubt at this point.
“A Man, A Plan …” was a strange episode in many ways, and its ultra violence just felt so over wrought. Boardwalk gives you a bad feeling in almost every scene now, you’re left to wonder not just if things will go bad (they will) but how. The scenes between Jess and Harry and later Jess and Gaston were great examples of the show drawing out our fear of someone’s death and subverting it (we knew Gaston would come to kill Jess, but how? I mused aloud with my friend Martha, “will they poison him? Smother him in the night? Or just shoot him? Hmmm”). Gaston did creep up on Jess but, surprise! Jess was waiting with a gun. Will he? Won’t he? And then boom! Another twist! Jess kills himself and Gaston looks on with disgust.
Elsewhere on this site I have chastised Sons of Anarchy this season for being cartoonish and completely over the top with its violence, and I don’t know why its taken me so long to wag that same finger at Boardwalk Empire. The scene by the beach was a great example, again, of how excessively gruesome things have gotten.
I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen on the show — the show is about gangsters, bootleggers and nefarious sorts: people are going to die. Many will die terrible deaths. But do we need to actually hear the sound effects of a shovel being repeatedly beaten against a skull? That’s not something that will leave me any time soon. The sickening crunch and squish of brains being liberated from the skull as the neck cracks from the force of an angrily wielded tool? I could have done without hearing that in my life, Boardwalk. It’s disgusting, it’s unnecessary, and you should be better than that.
When your story is in doubt kill some people and fuck some corpses up I guess. It doesn’t bode well. There were some really great moments in “A Man, A Plan…” revolving around Van Alden (again, the sickening feeling of doom in his scenes), who begins to pray to God about Job, as a man in his position very well should. It was great to see his journey finally intersect with the Chicago situation, making him (once again) a spy, this time for Capone on his nemesis O’Banion. But none of that could even be focused on well enough because of the gratuitous nature of the rest of the episode.
Nucky continues to make enemies when he can’t afford to, Gyp continues randomly and brutally killing, Margaret’s dreams continue to be crushed like Frankie’s head, and the beat goes on. I have tried terribly hard to appreciate this fractured season and enjoy it for what it has given us (instead of dwelling on all that it hasn’t), but I’m tired of playing defense. With two episodes left, this show better really show us something good, or it will become as relevant as Babbette’s.
Episode Rating: B (That B is all for Harrow getting laid)
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I doubt that, with Margaret’s pregnancy (as long as that lasts, anyway) that she will be teaming up with the Doc anymore to host women’s health classes. Unfortunate, I was starting to really like where that was going. I appreciated the nun acknowledging how helpful it had been, though.
— So now Nucky knows about Owen and Margaret (I guess) … I don’t know where that’s going to go, though. He doesn’t really have the moral high ground.
— “What’s the difference between an Italian and a catfish? One is a filthy scum-sucking bottom-feeder, the other is a fish.” Heavens.
— I think Katie will come back as a very loose canon to haunt Nucky and Margaret.
— It looks like in the preview for next week that Nucky tries to reconcile with Chalky. It is at his own peril that he be so dismissive with him. Seriously, like he can afford any more enemies?
— “Jess may say anything to anyone about everything. It’s the nature of hysteria.” – Gaston
— Whiskey in the water … opening credits callback.
— Richard’s story was so damn cute I am incredibly upset it was mowed over by the rest of the mess.
— In useless news, I learned the other day that “race car” is also a palindrome.
— “Why do they keep killing off the young, good-looking ones? Who the hell are we supposed to look at now??” – my friend Martha