Last week we saw Marnie make a dumb move; in “I Get Ideas,” it’s Hannah’s turn. Hannah has always been the queen of gigantic missteps, but last week it looked like she was headed in the right direction when she broke up with Adam. She also made it a point to tell her new boo, Sandy, that, with him, she would do things differently: “I’m going to make logical, responsible decisions when it comes to you.” But it’s one thing to say you’re going to change your behavior; it’s an entirely different beast to actually do it, especially for someone like Hannah. She’s not going to stop being self-obsessed or stop putting her foot in her mouth overnight. And she’s definitely not going to be the girl we want to be best friends with any time soon.
We open with her doing an exercise video in her room while Elijah and his boyfriend George argue over his brief sexscapade with Marnie. Hannah’s oblivious to the argument, even as George is screaming at Elijah about the whole ordeal and wondering if Hannah knows. Elijah’s adamant that Hannah can never know, and George proceeds to break up with him. The next morning, things are a bit tense between Sandy and Elijah because Sandy’s a Republican and Elijah assumes that means he hates gays. Their beef isn’t of concern to Hannah, though. She’s more pressed about Sandy claiming to be too busy to read her essay.
Later, Hannah visits Thomas-John and Jessa (who are sporting new matching tiger tattoos) and Jessa offers Hannah her view on the Sandy debacle. “He’s not reading your essay, he’s not reading you.” Okay then. Jessa’s wisdom comes as she plays with three dogs her husband gave her as a surprise present – dogs that she named Garbage, F**ker and Hanukah. And how are things with the new hubby? She describes her marriage to Hannah simply: “This is what it’s like when the hunt is over.” Like Hannah, it feels as if Jessa is all talk here. She’s saying marriage is great, but I’m not sold on the fact that she actually enjoys a settled life. Meanwhile, Shoshanna’s relationship with Ray is back on. They pillow talk about her time at camp, and later Shoshanna helps Marnie get a “pretty girl” job as a hostess after Marnie fails to land a job with an employer who says she doesn’t seem fit for the art world.
Later that evening, while making out with Sandy at his place, Hannah stops mid-kiss to talk to him about her essay. After some pushing, Sandy admits he read the essay and didn’t like it because it wasn’t about anything significant. Obviously hurt, Hannah lies and says she’s glad Sandy doesn’t like the essay because it will lead to better dialogue between them. For instance, now they can talk about how he’s a Republican, something she doesn’t understand. “I also would love to know how you feel about the fact that 2 out of 3 people on death row are black men,” Hannah says. And from there, things go downhill with Hannah eventually telling Sandy she doesn’t think they should be together because they have different political beliefs.
“This always happens,” Sandy fumes before accusing Hannah of being just another white girl who’s dating him because he’s black. To which Hannah scoffs because, as she puts it, she doesn’t see the world in divisions and never thought of him as a black man. Anyone who says they don’t see race is incredibly naïve and dishonest and in this case, Hannah is a bit of both. I don’t doubt that Hannah may have liked Sandy but I also think dating a black Republican was too much of a great story for her to pass up. Hannah’s all about the story, even if, as Sandy points out, the ones that she writes aren’t substantial. Fed up, Sandy kicks Hannah out, effectively ending Donald Glover’s stint on Girls and simultaneously depressing me.
Back at Hannah’s apartment, Adam – who, earlier in the episode, posted creepy videos of him singing about Hannah – lets himself in with a key she gave him for emergencies. Hannah dials 911 but reluctantly hangs up and demands Adam leave. After Hannah repeatedly yells for him to get out, it finally hits him that Hannah is done with their bizarre relationship. He leaves only to be confronted by two cops who show up to check on Hannah because she dialed 911. Hannah tells them Adam didn’t do anything wrong but it’s too late. They run his name, he’s arrested for outstanding tickets and it looks like I was right about Adam reaching a new low. Next week, it will be Hannah’s turn to hit rock bottom, literally, as she goes on the hunt for cocaine to help her write and be vulnerable. Sounds like another bad essay in the making.
Best line(s) of the night:
“You don’t need two Republicans to make a Republican … like you don’t need two terrorists to make a terrorist.” – Sandy
“You were with George for a very long time and he’s still on Hotmail.” – Hannah
Compared to last week’s explosive action, the latest installment of Boardwalk Empire is pretty tame. There aren’t any unexpected casualties or creepy scenes with Gillian, but Steve Buscemi is a delight to watch as Nucky teeters on the edge of complete madness (or maybe complete clarity) throughout “The Milkmaid’s Lot.”
This week we find the Thompson family hiding from Gyp and his goons at a suite in the Ritz-Carlton. The kids are bored; Margaret’s patience is thinning, and rather than obeying his doctor’s order to stay in bed, Nucky’s desperate to attack Gyp and Joe Masseria.
More often than not, Nucky doesn’t recognize familiar faces; he’s overwhelmed by images of Billie and suffers from dizziness, blurred vision, and a constant ringing in his ears. Still, during brief moments of clarity, he’s determined to take down Gyp despite Owen Sleater’s warnings that they are outnumbered. “Joe Masseria is backing Gyp so I’ll need to kill them both,” he says matter-of-factly during a meeting with Sleater, his brother Eli, and Chalky White, who he mistakenly assumes is the shoeshine boy because the concussion ravaged his memory. The only way Nucky can go toe-to-toe with Gyp is by recruiting some allies, so he forces a reluctant Sleater and Eli to call a meeting where he plans to ask Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Johnny Torrio, and Waxy Gordon to help him fight back.
Nucky’s condition is most bothersome to Margaret as she tries to both tend to her husband and host Emily’s birthday party. Nucky’s a manic mess at the party. He mistakes Margaret for his first wife, Mabel; destroys Emily’s birthday cake, leaving her in tears, and faints after he sees a vision of Billie seconds before the explosion. Nucky’s emotional state causes Margaret to tread lightly, but that evening, when he tries to give her an earring Billie misplaced the night she died, she pointedly says, “This belongs to someone else.” Nucky then remembers the explosion and confesses that Billie is dead and it’s his fault. Then he tells Margaret, “No matter what you think of me, there’s no walking away.”
It’s a disturbing threat considering the proposal Sleater offered Margaret earlier that day: the chance to leave with him and run far away from Nucky and Atlantic City. Initially, Margaret is hesitant to run away with Sleater. Then Nucky frightens her by saying he wants to wear Gyp’s “guts like a necktie;” he also admits that if he’s unable to convince the other bootleggers to help him fight Gyp, he’s as good as dead. Later, it appears that Margaret believes her husband will die soon when she whispers to Sleater “we’ll go as soon as we’re able.” Nucky doesn’t seem to have clue about Sleater’s offer, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he does. It will be a shame, too. The evolving relationship between Margaret and Sleater is one of my favorite storylines, but there’s no way the both of them will walk away unscathed once Nucky discovers their betrayal.
Meanwhile, Gyp invades Tabor Heights with a platoon of men that could rival a presidential motorcade. After pummeling the sheriff, he offers the townspeople $200 a month to look the other way while he runs his bootlegging operation out of their city. They all agree, of course – no one’s crazy enough to challenge the guy who burned one sheriff alive and beat another.
Back at Gillian’s brothel, one of the working girls plays a cruel joke on Tommy by allowing him to walk into the room of another girl while she's having sex with a client and it upsets him. After calming him down with warm milk and rum (Who’s surprised Gillian would think this is acceptable? No one.), Gillian hassles Richard Harrow for taking a night off from his babysitting duties. While Tommy was getting an eyeful, Richard was with Julia Sarkosky at an American legion dance. The social event was a nice reprieve from Richard’s usual hardened ways. He’s a bit awkward with Julia at the beginning of their date, but she gradually shows him how to treat a lady and later he surprises her by teaching her how to dance. By the end of the dance, he’s charmed Julia and the crowd, and she wows everyone by kissing him. In a perfect world, Harrow would be the one who could escape Atlantic City – with Julia and Tommy, who really won’t stand a chance if he’s raised by his grandmother – but nothing ever runs so smoothly on Boardwalk.
Case in point: That evening Nucky manages to pull himself together long enough to give a provoking speech at his meeting with the other bootleggers. Everyone but Torrio shows up, and Nucky offers them “expansion, cooperation, profit [and] peace,” in exchange for their help fighting off Gyp. They all respectfully decline and wish him luck. Nucky’s left shouting after Rothstein, who, along with the other men, basically leave him for dead. Last week Nucky artfully dodged prison by striking a deal with Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, but now that his circle is tightening, and he has no real protection from Gyp’s ongoing attacks, jail looks peachy compared to the alternative – looming death.
"Sunday's Best" begins with Eli Thompson creeping around his front yard. With trouble on the horizon, it looks like he's prepping his home for combat. Then, he unexpectedly lifts a basket, hides a decorated egg underneath and we discover he’s simply preparing for the annual Thompson Easter egg hunt. Slow and methodical, the opening scene is how much of this show has been lately. Episode Seven was considerably better than last week's addition though, and there are some legitimate shockers.
Spring often marks new beginnings, so it’s fitting that many of the stories in "Sunday’s Best" put major players in fresh territory, starting with Margaret. She and her children meet Eli's family for the first time over an Easter meal at Eli’s home. The Thompson clan is on their best behavior, but eventually the sight of Eli doting over his wife, June (Nisi Sturgis), and June going on and on about how great Nucky is, cause Margaret to breakdown. When the two Thompson women are alone, Margaret tells her new sister-in-law about Nucky’s mistress and her failing marriage. “I feel like the life in me is being pressed out of me," Margaret confesses. Instead of acknowledging Margaret’s pain, June ignores Margaret’s confession and comments on the cake: “You brought pineapple upside down,” June says; squashing any hope Margaret might’ve had for a new confidant.
Meanwhile, Eli pleads with Nucky for more responsibility. The price he paid for betraying his brother is high, but perhaps the biggest consequence is living in constant fear that Nucky will finally kill him. Fed up, he pulls out a gun and tells his brother to "get it over with, 'cause I know you will, sooner or later, you will.” Nucky doesn't, of course – at least not yet – and later he delights everyone with an impressive juggling act and pressures Margaret to sing for the family. While singing, Nucky looks at her adoringly, as if there might be hope for their marriage, but when they return home, Margaret kills his weak attempt at reconciliation – an offer to teach her how to juggle – by telling him, "it's too late, it's just too late." Maybe the rejection made Nucky desperate to mend at least one of his broken relationships - or maybe’s he priming to put Eli at the front lines of the impending war – but later, Nucky calls Eli, praises him for trying to ward off Gyp's attack in Tabor Heights and promotes him to co-manager of his liquor warehouse.
Elsewhere, Gillian's reached new heights in crazy-town. With her staff and grandson out of the house, she continues her seduction of Roger (Billy Magnussen), the Jimmy look-a-like. The two spend the afternoon sexing, and eventually Gillian persuades Roger to let her bathe him. If this was any other woman the gesture might be sweet. It’s Gillian, however, so the bath is cringe worthy. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Gillian suddenly plunges a needle full of heroin into Roger’s arm and kills him. As Roger’s body lies underwater, she wraps Jimmy's dog tags around his neck and then calmly lights a cigarette. In her own twisted way, she's finally gotten closure (and if she needs one, a body to use to declare Jimmy dead and secure a loan). That evening, in tears, she finally admits to Richard Harrow that Jimmy is dead.
Away from Gillian, Harrow has some wonderful moments this episode. With Gillian's grandson Tommy in tow, he spends Easter with Julia Sagorsky (Wrenn Schmidt), the woman he met in Episode Six,and her angry, and alcoholic father, Paul (Mark Borkowski). Paul’s drunkenness eventually ruins Easter dinner, but it gives Richard the chance to ask Julia to spend the rest of the day with him and Tommy on the Boardwalk. By the time a photographer assumes they’re a family and snaps a picture of them, there’s no doubt Richard's falling hard for Julia.
Back in New York, we discover hot heads and loose tongues are common in the Rosetti family. Gyp’s mother and sister are just as rough as he is and they berate him throughout dinner. Later, having survived dinner with his family, he goes to church to pray -- not an unusual thing to do on Easter -- except Gyp talks to God the same way he might interrogate one of his lackeys. He curses, his neck bulges, and spit flies out his mouth as he pleads with God for answers.
When a priest approaches him to ask him why he’s yelling, Gyp responds true to form: he punches the priest and steals the church’s money. Later he uses the money to pay Joe “The Boss” Masseria (Ivo Nandi), who’s so fed up with his uncontrollable protégé he’s ready to kill him. Gyp’s nearly a goner, but he talks his way out of an execution by warning Joe that Nucky, Arnold Rothstein, and Lucky Luciano are trying to push him out of business. He says that with Joe’s blessing he’ll get rid of them before they can strike. “I’ll kill them all,” Rosetti snarls. “And when I do, they’re not going to call you Joe ‘The Boss’ no more. They’re going to call you Joe ‘The King.’”
Joe obliges, but I get the feeling he’ll regret keeping Gyp alive. I also doubt Gyp will forget Joe was mere seconds from killing him. Any man brazen enough to curse Jesus and punch a priest clearly can’t be trusted. It looks like a storm is brewing, and I don’t think Nucky and his allies are nearly as prepared as they should be for the wrath that’s coming.
Boardwalk Empire has been a lot of things this season – bizarre, wild, hysterical – but one thing it hasn’t been is consistent. At the end of last week’s episode it looked like a major battle was brewing, but all we got on Sunday with “Ging Gang Goolie” was a major letdown. One of my biggest beefs with Season Three is the total misuse or absence of some of the best characters week to week. This week was no different. If you hadn’t actually seen Gyp Rosetti survive that crazy Episode Five shootout, his complete absence from this episode may have left you wondering if he died.
Instead of the action-packed war we were counting on, this week was all about Nucky, who up until now only had two temperatures: cold gangster or pathetic lover boy. Now, he’s going to have to use his most clever moves to escape impending trouble. The result of those Senate hearings last week will likely lead to U.S. Attorney General Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald) indicting him for violating the Volstead Act, despite the $40,000 payments Nucky’s been giving him to avoid prison. Daugherty’s desperate to cover up his own corruption and needs to indict a big player like Nucky to get the heat off himself. Nucky suspects his days as a free man are numbered, so he goes to D.C. to confront Daugherty. The attorney general isn’t fazed, calling Nucky a “washed up bootlegger from New Jersey.”
Afterwards, Nucky buys a bottle of wine at a train station on his way home and Daugherty has him arrested. Nucky spends 18 hours in jail and when he finally appears in court, the prosecutor is none other than Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson), the feisty assistant attorney general who spent much of Season Two unsuccessfully building a case against Nucky. With Nucky once again in her grasp, Randolph attempts to tack on murder and extortion charges, but the judge has had enough of prohibition cases and only gives Nucky a $5 fine.
Later, Nucky invites Randolph to a meal and tries to convince her to indict fellow bootlegger George Remus (Glenn Fleshler) instead. Remus also pays off Daugherty, but Randolph knows her boss would never indict Remus because it would uncover all of the Justice Department’s corruption. Nucky reminds Randolph that Daugherty set her up to fail when she went after Nucky the last time, and it seems to be enough to pique Randolph’s interest. She doesn’t tell Nucky she’ll help him, but later he receives a potential game changing call from Gatson Means (Stephen Root), the middleman between Daugherty and all the crime bosses who pay him. For a $40,000 fee, Means promises to introduce Nucky and Randolph to a mysterious someone who will help them bring Daugherty down and ultimately save Nucky. There’s no telling if Means is setting Nucky up for Daugherty or if he really wants to help him. Either way, it will be interesting to see if Nucky can escape this latest conundrum as smoothly as he’s done in the past.
Back in Atlantic City, Richard Harrow meets the sister of a dead soldier and she doesn’t seem to care that half of his face is missing. I’d love to see Harrow in love, so I hope this story develops. Elsewhere, Gillian is about to outdo herself on the creepiness scale. While strolling on the boardwalk, she spots a not-as-cute as Jimmy look-a-like. You know, Jimmy, her dead son. Soon after, the two have sex in a manner that somehow is even more disturbing than last season’s shocking and incestuous scene between her and her son: Post orgasm, Gillian says she’ll not only help the young man find a job (I’ll be surprised if it’s not at her brothel), she’ll also call him “James” because James “was a king” and, as we know, Jimmy’s real name. Even worse, Gillian kept calling the kid “baby” and it sounded a lot like how a woman would talk to a child, not a lover.
Back at the Thompson residence, Margaret finally does something about the sexual tension between her and Owen. Late at night, she kisses Owen outside of the greenhouse she mistakenly believed her son, Teddy, burned down. (Earlier, a neighbor found Teddy in her garage with lighter fluid and matches, but Owen discovers the greenhouse fire was started by a homeless man -- not Teddy). Owen seems reluctant to return Margaret’s kiss at first, but the two finally go into the greenhouse and renew their risky affair.
As happy as I am that Margaret’s dry spell ends, that scenario isn’t what I wanted to see this week. Boardwalk was just picked up for a fourth season and the Gyp versus Nucky battle is one of the best on the show to date; I hope we don’t have to wait another season to find out who wins.
I asked for war and I got a war – plus a whole lot of other oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened moments on the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire, “You’d Be Surprised.” While some storylines actually weren’t a surprise, like Nucky’s maddening preoccupation with Billie, there were a few genuine shockers.
First, the night began with a bang -- literally, as Gyp Rosetti and the red-headed waitress he’d been eyeing indulge in a very kinky tryst. I was floored when the camera crept into his bedroom and revealed Gyp breathlessly ordering the waitress to pull a necktie wrapped around his neck harder.
From here we travel to Gillian’s brothel, a place where you’d actually expect an erotic asphyxiation scene, but Gillian’s new business is failing. She can put her home up as collateral to secure a much needed loan, but not until she declares Jimmy, the home’s legal owner, dead. Yes, Gillian still believes Jimmy’s alive – she even writes him letters asking him to come home – and yes it’s hard to watch. This is the same woman who tried to destroy Nucky’s empire. Did all of her spunk die with Jimmy?
Elsewhere in New Jersey, Arnold Rothstein, fed up with all of the delays, decides to relinquish his main booze supplier, but not before berating Nucky for chasing Billie around New York. Rothstein and Nucky also talk a little about Gyp, and Rothstein says that he refuses to go to war with Gyp because it would break a truce he has with Joe Masseria, the powerful boss Gyp answers to. Soon after, Rothstein goes to Gyp seemingly for the liquor, but he may in fact have another motive up his sleeve.... more on that later.
For now, Nucky’s concerned with Billie – which should be the least of his worries, considering a new Senate hearing looks to put him back in the hot seat. While an adorable showgirl is definitely easier to face than a guilty conscious, I’ve had enough of Nucky’s infatuation with Billie. I don't watch this show to see Nucky attempt to bribe Eddie Cantor (Stephen DeRosa) with vodka so the actor might agree to co-star with Billie in a failing musical. And I certainly don’t watch to see Chalky White and Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) scare Cantor into submission. Chalky and Dunn’s relegation to actor wrangler is one of the shows biggest missteps to date.
Fortunately the writers make up for this by throwing another wrench in the Thompson marriage. When Margaret gives the owner of the boutique she once worked at a stack of fliers for her health class, the owner hurries to shoo her away. She doesn’t do it fast enough though, because Nucky walks out of the boutique’s dressing room holding a gorgeous black dress for… his mistress. Then, Billie appears and basically says “uh oh.” After trying her best not to make a scene, Margaret manages to leave the boutique with an ounce of dignity but not before giving a flier to Billie telling her, “I doubt that you’re free in the evening, but…” Later, Nucky apologizes to his wife for “demonstrating bad form,” making it clear he doesn’t plan to quit; he just plans to be more careful about his indiscretions.
The Thompsons aren’t the only couple in troubled waters. Agent Van Alden’s new wife, Sigrid, thinks she knows the truth about his sordid past although she’s far from it. Van Alden doesn’t correct Sigrid’s assumption that he’s being chased by a “bad person” and the results are tragic. When Elliott Coughlin, the prohibition agent who shook Van Alden down in Episode Three, shows up to Van Alden’s home for what appears to be another extortion attempt but in actuality is an effort to return the faulty iron he bought from Van Alden in the premiere, Sigrid suddenly wallops Coughlin over the head. Because you can’t go scot-free after assaulting a federal agent, Van Alden and Sigrid decide to kill him. Sigrid holds Coughlin’s legs while her husband suffocates him. Van Alden is then forced to go to Dean O’Banion because he’ll need the gangster’s help to get rid of the body. This scenario is considerably better than the way I wanted O’Banion and Van Alden to join forces, so many kudos to the writers for shredding my prediction to pieces.
The award for the best sequence of the night goes to the brutally intense shootout at the end of the episode. Back in Tabor Heights, Gyp and the red-headed waitress are in the middle of round two of their freaky rendezvous when a gunman – who looks a lot like Bugsy Siegel – charges into Gyp’s safe house. Hearing gun shots, Gyp tries to grab his gun, but it’s out of reach because the tie around his neck is also tied to the bed post. So when the gunman shoots his way into the bedroom, Gyp uses the waitress as cover until he finally manages to untie himself and grab his weapon. Then Gyp, in all of his bloody and naked glory, chases the gunman out of the house. In the end, four people are dead, including the waitress, leaving the shooter’s main target, Gyp, infuriated and very much alive.
Here’s the kicker: If Bugsy is in fact the shooter, it would appear that Rothstein changed his mind about not going to war with Gyp. See, Bugsy works for Luciano and Luciano answers to Rothstein. It’s certainly a lot to keep track of but in short: it looks like Rothstein just took a shot at Gyp on Nucky’s behalf and Nucky had no clue it was coming.
Needless to say, the war is on; Sunday can’t come fast enough.
If you were worried that those hallucinations Nucky had last week were a sign that he was getting soft, worry no more: this week’s episode proved that he’s still every bit of the hardened boss we met in the premiere. While it was great to see the gangster Nucky make a comeback, unfortunately this episode was a bit redundant and... kind of boring. I tend to adore shows that creep along and explore the nuances of its characters, but “Blue Bell Boy” was too slow, even for my taste.
In this episode, Nucky’s no longer having those pesky dead Jimmy hallucinations, and he seems to be a little more together than we last saw him. But things aren’t perfect. Instead of taking Gyp to task for delaying his shipment to Arnold Rosthein, he tells his men to avoid Tabor Heights altogether and use the back roads to New York. On top of that, Eli repeatedly warns Mickey to avoid it as well (he suspects the sheriff is in cahoots with Gyp - probably because he himself used to be a crooked sheriff). But Mickey isn’t trying to hear it. He explains that this is nearly impossible to avoid because the back roads are icy and there’s nowhere to get gas. Nucky tells him to figure it out, which is the equivalent of turning his liquor over to a five-year-old because, clearly, Mickey is not too bright. Case in point: Mickey tries to pay off the new Tabor Heights sheriff with hopes that he’ll be able to pass through the city undisturbed, but just as Eli suspected, Gyp already has the sheriff in his pocket. The sheriff’s cooperation with Gyp isn’t much of surprise, since Gyp burned the last lawman who didn’t fall in line. So of course when Mickey sends his men to the town, they are ambushed and killed. The casualties are brutal, but Eli’s forewarnings might finally get him back on his brother’s good side.
Meanwhile, Nucky spends two days trapped in the cellar of a stash house used by Roland Smith, one of the men who stole his liquor in the premiere. Manny Horvitz was supposed to kill Roland, but that scenario couldn’t play out because Manny is, well, dead. This leaves Owen and Nucky to deal with Roland themselves. As they’re interrogating the teenager the feds show up, sending the three men down to the cellar to hide. Not much occurs over the two days – Owen assures Nucky that he knows he’s boss and Roland tries to talk his way out of getting killed. For a moment it appears the teenager’s slick tongue might save him, but to the surprise of both Owen and the audience, Nucky eventually shoots him in the head. I didn’t expect Nucky to kill Roland, but I’m not sure we learned anything new from the scene. I mean, I get it: Nucky’s a murderer. Now, I just need him to take his tough-guy act on the road and confront Gyp.
Adding to the lackluster showing of “Blue Bell Boy” were two storylines that didn’t do much to advance the season, but were good TV nonetheless. Margaret’s mission at St. Theresa’s Hospital continued. A great highlight was a funny exchange between Margaret, Dr. Mason and a nun about a health class they want to hold. While reviewing a flier, the nun expresses her contempt for some words: “vagina” (because she “never liked the sound of it”), “pregnant,” and “menstruation,” – you know, standard language for a women’s clinic.
As great as that scene plays, the best stuff of the night involves Al Capone. Stephen Graham shines as the Chicago gangster in two poignant scenes with his son, Sonny, who’s deaf. When Capone finds Sonny with a black eye and learns he’s being bullied, he tries to toughen the boy up by teaching him how to box, but Sonny scares easily and ends up crying in his father’s arms. Later, when Capone learns that one of his men, Jake Guzik, (an overweight man with terrible body odor) is also bullied – more like, nearly beat to death – by one of Dean O'Banion’s men, Capone goes berserk. He thrashes the guy in a bar and finally, when the man lies lifeless on the floor, yells: “You wanna pick on people who can’t defend themselves, huh?” Then, he throws money on the body and instructs the bar patrons to “pay for his funeral.” You’d think it would be hard for Capone to be sweet after this, but you’d think wrong. He returns home and sings a lullaby to Sonny, as if he didn’t just smash a man’s head in with a bar stool. It is quintessential Boardwalk – smart and unexpected – which unfortunately is what most of “Blue Bell Boy” is not.
For what it’s worth, the preview for next week’s episode finally shows Nucky preparing for battle with Gyp, but if episode five turns out to be more of the same – Gyp stacking bodies while Nucky does nothing worthwhile about it – I will probably channel my inner Gyp Rosetti and be all ornery about it.
There was a moment in this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire, “Bone for Tuna,” where the increasingly sensitive and quick to anger Gyp Rosetti grunts at Nucky Thompson like a monkey. It’s a fleeting and hysterical pause in an otherwise serious drama, but it was all I needed to question how this show ever survived without him. He’s so much fun to watch. I’m also sure he’s certifiably crazy.
In last week’s episode Gyp rerouted Nucky’s liquor, which is an offense that you’d probably expect Nucky to punish severely. Surprisingly enough, Nucky extends an olive branch to Gyp instead. Gyp’s reaction? To lose his mind because Nucky wishes him good luck. You see, Gyp Rosetti doesn’t need, or want, anyone's luck or “bouna fortuna;” which Owen later mispronounces as “Bone for Tuna” when Nucky has him pass this message on to Gyp.
Though Nucky has repeatedly told Gyp that his decision to sell solely to Arnold Rosthein isn’t personal, Gyp’s not buying it. He is a man who takes everything personally, so Nucky’s harmless message of “bouna fortuna” enrages him: “I need his blessing to make my way in the world? I need him, the likes of me? Nothing’s personal. What the fuck is life if it’s not personal?” Being wished “Bouna fortuna” by Nucky, or anyone else for that matter, questions Gyp’s abilities, his intelligence, and his power, so you’re better off not saying it lest you want to be set on fire. Yes, that’s right, set on fire. Which is exactly what he did to the Tabor Height’s Sheriff. Gyp burned him alive because he also foolishly wished him “good luck.” This seemingly minor offense cost the Sheriff his life, and will likely force Nucky to try to handle (as in get rid of) Gyp once and for all. This would really depress me, though; the guy is brilliant!
I’ve wanted an all-out bloody war between these two characters since the premiere, but I’m not sure Nucky’s even up for a fight. He’s now hallucinating about a bloody teenage Jimmy. The weight of murdering the boy he helped raise and the separation from his wife and Billie, who has suddenly disappeared, are taking its toll. So much so, he briefly attempts to run back to Margaret’s bed, but she’s not having it. One of my favorite moments of this episode is when Margaret suggests, “some warm milk, perhaps,” might help Nucky with his sleeping problems instead of, well, her warm body.
Margaret knows Nucky well enough. He’s not sleeping with her, which means he’s definitely sleeping with someone else. But she’s not going to bother him over this. Like it or not, she needs Nucky’s money and name, not only to provide for her children, but also to build the women’s clinic she wants so badly. With a clever move that suggests she’s no longer to be trifled with, she finally gets her way by forcing Dr. Landau (Nick Wyman) into opening the clinic when she lies and tells a Catholic bishop the clinic is the doctor’s idea. (Ironically, in the 1920s, women’s clinics are more likely be to approved by the church if it’s a man’s idea).
Meanwhile, Agent Van Alden is bullied by a few prankster coworkers. They convince him to visit a speakeasy, but the joint’s raided by the feds and Van Alden has to pay his way out of being arrested. This might be the push he needs to join the dark side – the payout leaves him with no money and he desperately wants to buy a house for his new family – but Dean O’Banion hasn’t appeared since the first episode. I’m not sure this storyline will unfold in the direction I want it to go any time soon.
The storyline I’m most excited about, though, is the possibility of Richard Harrow working for Nucky. Gillian’s gone mad – she tells Lucky Luciano that Jimmy is coming home (unless Boardwalk turns into The Walking Dead, that ain’t happening) -- and, I refuse to believe Harrow will waste away serving liquor at her brothel. Harrow is a killer and who else needs another enforcer by his side more than Nucky? And although Harrow claims he has no intentions of avenging Jimmy’s death, wouldn’t it benefit Nucky to keep Jimmy’s best friend close enough to watch him?
I can only hope Nucky is that smart, but his growing affection for Billie might be his Achilles heel. I adored the final scene when Nucky eventually catches up to Billie. He embraces her as she fries some bacon and it’s oddly sensual and sweet. But there’s no room for sensitivity on the Boardwalk. It’s going to eventually bring down Gyp, and if Nucky’s not careful, it will cost him too.
Hands down, Albert “Chalky” White is my favorite character on Boardwalk Empire. Partly because he's portrayed by the brilliant Michael K. Williams, but mostly because he’s a hardened and illiterate black man living in the 1920’s, yet he’s still able to command the respect of bootleggers and politicians looking to smuggle booze in Atlantic City. After Chalky was absent in the premiere episode I all but had a tantrum, but thankfully the television gods answer prayers. For once he had plenty of screen time on the latest episode, “Spaghetti and Coffee.“
There are lots of rich characters on Boardwalk, so it’s hard to be too mad at the writers for occasionally keeping a few out of each episode -- but Chalky should never be one of them. Last season when we learned he couldn’t read, I became obsessed with finding out how this man managed to become the leader of Atlantic City’s black community. It’s not much of a leap to assume that a violent streak helped Chalky gain his name but it also doesn’t hurt that he’s married to the wealthy, educated, and fair-skinned Lenore (Natalie Wachen). Themes of class and skin color are bound to be explored even more this season with the addition of Samuel, the soon-to-be doctor and suitor of Chalky’s oldest daughter, Maybelle (Christina Jackson). Played by the easy-on-the-eye Ty Michael Robinson, Samuel musters the courage to ask Chalky for Maybelle’s hand in marriage (even after this compelling season two scene). Following an awkward, quasi-medical exam, Chalky welcomes Samuel to the family, but we find out later Maybelle wants no part of the marriage.
Apparently, young women loved bad-boys in the 1920s too. Not wanting to marry a dude because he’s a bore is one thing but not wanting to marry a dude because he’s not an exciting, murderous criminal like your pops is a whole other scenario I wasn’t expecting. It seems a bit far-fetched considering Maybelle’s background, but I’ll believe anything to see more of Chalky White. Maybelle quickly gets to find out if the gangster lifestyle is for her, though, when Samuel’s face is sliced up (now he’ll have a scar just like Chalky!) by a drunk man at her daddy’s juke joint. I’m hoping the scare will get Maybelle to smarten up, but anyone who’s brave enough to stand up to Chalky White (she has no problem telling her father she doesn’t want to marry Samuel) might not be that easy to shake.
“Spaghetti and Coffee” also saw the return of Nucky’s younger brother, Eli (Shea Whigham). It’s hard to feel sorry for him ever since he conspired to have his only brother killed, but this episode exposes us to a different side of Elias Thompson. It was tough watching him attempt to convince his oldest boy to quit work and return to school now that he’s back home. To make matters worse, Eli’s been relegated to work for the idiotic Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks).
Elsewhere in Atlantic City, Margaret is moving forward with her plan to provide women at St.Theresa's Hospital with proper preventive care. While she’s crusading for women, standing up to a very handsome Dr. Mason (Patrick Kennedy), and pretending not to want to jump Owen Slater’s (Charlie Cox) bones (am I the only one rooting for these two to hook up again?), her husband is in New York City trying to pay his way out of jail.
Nucky’s also catching feelings for his mistress, Billie, who is everything Margaret is not – free, bold, and charming. He’s so preoccupied with Billie that he’s MIA when Gyp Rosetti manages to intercept the liquor his men are transporting to Arnold Rothstein – a power play that will likely push Nucky to want him dead. Surprisingly, there was no bloodshed in this episode, but that’s probably because Richard Harrow, hot-headed Al Capone, and Lucky Luciano were missing. There was no Gillian or Agent Nelson Van Alden either.
Boardwalk Empire isn’t terrible when a supporting cast member is absent, but there has got to be a way to knit all of these storylines together in a single episode. These characters are too good to completely leave out. Now that Gyp’s proven to be a worthy adversary to Nucky, my wish to see all of the best characters in one sitting might come sooner than later. The impending war likely means the Boardwalk body count will rise, leaving even fewer characters to keep track of. As long as Chalky isn’t one of them, I’ll still be watching.
Caution: Spoilers ahead!
Terence Winter, Boardwalk Empire’s creator, likes to kill off his most interesting characters with a shot to the head. In last year’s season finale, Nucky Thompson killed his protégé, Jimmy Darmody, this way; in this year’s premiere, it was psycho butcher Manny Horvitz’s time to go with an unexpected blast to the cranium. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before Horvitz’s death (William Forsythe was written out so that he can play another mobster on the new FOX drama, Mob Doctor), fans of the prohibition-era drama quickly discovered there’s plenty of room in Atlantic City for one more deranged and greedy gangster.
In the opening scene, we are introduced to Gyp Rosetti – a hot-headed bootlegger played by Bobby Cannavale (if he looks familiar to you, you may recognize him because he played Will’s boyfriend on Will & Grace for awhile). If Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito (Goodfellas) and Robert Dinero’s Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull) went back in time and decided to raise a child together, that child would be Gyp Rosetti. After stopping to help Gyp and his cronies fix a tire, a Good Samaritan explains to Gyp that “three-in-one” is obviously oil. Gyp didn’t know this, and doesn’t seem to appreciate being corrected. The man soon learns that you don’t point out Gyp’s ignorance lest you want to be bludgeoned and have your cute pup taken from you. The first death of the season is a nasty one and sets a bloody tone.
If Gyp’s introduction, or more importantly, Jimmy’s death, wasn’t enough to prove that things were a-changing, the jazz record leading up to our first Nucky Thompson sighting laid it out plain. “Ain’t nothing about me gonna be the same…They’ll be some changes made” plays as we are reintroduced to Nucky on New Year’s Eve, 1922. It’s been over a year since he murdered Jimmy and he’s gone full gangster, nonchalantly ordering Horvitz to kill a man who steals from him. Publicly, Nucky claims to be a philanthropist; behind doors he’s anything but charitable. He wants to sell liquor solely to Arnold Rothstein now – upsetting the other bosses (Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and George Remus --who hilariously refers to himself in the third-person). But it’s Gyp who is the most upset, calling Nucky a “pasty-faced cock sucker” in a hilarious scene that seals his fate as the break-out character of the season.
The storyline I’m most interested in, though, is Margaret Schroeder’s, now “Mrs. Thompson.” Played by Kelly Macdonald, Margaret’s struggle to reconcile her life with Nucky with her morals bored me, until she decided to turn over Nucky’s property to her church. That risky power play earned her a spot on the board of trustees at St. Theresa's Hospital and Nucky’s ire. The two appear to be a loving couple in public, but once they’re alone it’s revealed that Nucky pretty much hates Margaret. He’s now secretly shacked up with newcomer, Lillian "Billie" Kent, an affable flapper threatening to take Margaret’s spot. After witnessing a bloody miscarriage, a doctor at St. Theresa’s tells Margaret that women at the hospital aren’t getting proper prenatal care, setting up the likelihood that championing women’s healthcare, and becoming her own woman, will be Margaret’s arc this season.
The women of Boardwalk Empire have always been wild cards, and while there’s no telling what Margaret will do with her new, stiffer backbone, it is clear that Jimmy’s mother, Gillian, is determined to make her grandson, Tommy, the new Jimmy, much to Richard Harrow’s dismay. Richard has always been one of the most intriguing characters on the show. He’s consistently lonely, an expert marksman, and everybody he loves ends up dead. In a particularly disturbing scene, Richard finds out that Tommy believes Gillian is his mother. Tommy’s real mother, Angela, is actually dead. With this revelation, Richard becomes determined to keep Jimmy and Angela’s memory alive. Unfortunately, Gillian, now the owner of a brothel where she tells her flock of girls “gentlemen remain gentlemen only when they must,” doesn’t want Tommy to know Angela existed. Gillian’s insistence that Tommy call her momma is just as creepy as those times she kissed Jimmy on the mouth. When she told Richard that he shouldn’t bring up the past I prayed that she take her own advice. If Gillian raises Tommy like she raised Jimmy, poor Tommy will be all kinds of messed up.
Gillian is proof that some things in Atlantic City never change, but for Agent Nelson Van Alden nothing has been the same since he killed his partner and fled to Chicago. Since then, he’s assumed the name George Mueller and works as a door-to-door iron salesman. He’s now married to his nanny from last season and the two have a son together. Life as a salesman probably won’t last for long, though. It looks like he’s headed down the path of the men he used to arrest after he gains favor with mobster Dean O’Banion. It will be interesting to see if he will be morally tormented like Margaret or turn into a full-time gangster.
Boardwalk Empire has always been a show with superbly acted characters, but now we’re really getting to know them and I love it. Everyone is trying to move past the implications of the season two finale but even the New Year won’t keep the ghosts of Atlantic City quiet. Shortly after the city rings in the New Year, Richard’s knock on Horvtiz’s door and that fantastic blast to the butcher’s head (no doubt revenge for Angela’s death) reveals, yet again, that every action on this show has an equally unnerving reaction. I cannot wait to see which player Winter and his stable of writers will shoot down next. After all, even though there will be some changes made, some things stay the same.
With no space to waste on your DVR, its important to know which shows you need to catch and which you can skip. Here is a preview of what the summer TV season has to offer:
I’m not going to lie; last summer this show was my guilty pleasure. I can’t do nonstop-drama shows like Basketball Wives and all that nonsense, but there was something about Single Ladies that made me overlook the blatant ignorance and poor representations of black women and DVR the hell out of it. Maybe it was the way the fashion choices veer from hawt to hot mess with each episode. Maybe it was the parade of beautiful
people men, with everyone from T.O. to Common making guest appearances. But this season opener made me seriously rethink my ladies night TV pick. I mean, how did the already bad acting and plot lines get worse?? Stacy Dash playing Val, with her showstopper body and incredibly naïve storyline, is gone. Replacing her is the younger, but no more believable, Denise Vasi as Raquel, whose storyline is so disempowering (she leaves her high paying job to become a wannabe model?). LisaRaye as Keisha and Charity Shea as April have the same complicated storylines, but without Stacy Dash to anchor all the drama everything seems way too convoluted. In short, I think I am going to be switching over to re-runs of Sex In The City on ladies night. It never fails!
Sigh. Yet another singing competition show hits the airwaves just in time for the summer season. Duets features Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke and Jennifer Netters, who are not only mentors for a group of up-and-coming singers, but also singing partners who compete with them as well. Potentials from around the country will perform alongside these stars in order to win a recording contract with Hollywood Records. I’m not sure how this show based around a recycled premise plans to cover new ground, especially since Kelly Clarkson and Robin Thicke are already regulars on The Voice, but I do know that my momma is already hooked.
Premiering June 13th TNT is bringing back the classic 80’s soap Dallas. Not quite sure how they managed to resurrect Patrick Duffy (Dallas, Step By Step) for this one, but the cast including Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives) and Josh Henderson should liven things up. This show is bound to be chalk full of drama and backstabbing. Nowhere else on TV will you be able to watch a rich family torture each other and lie, cheat, steal in order to get even richer. Oh, wait I forgot about the Kardashians…
Everyone’s favorite group of vampires, witches, fairies, werewolves and shapeshifters are back starting on June 10! The last season of True Blood left viewers with a lot of questions. Is Tara really dead? What is going on with Arlene and Terry? How the hell does Sookie manage to have 3 of the hottest men in town all drooling over her? Will we ever get tired of hearing Bill say “SOOK-EH!”? True Blood loves reveling in its completely over the top fantasy-world and getting as wild and out there as possible, and that’s what makes watching this show so much fun. Even when some of the story arcs get a little ridiculous (Jason in a cult, anyone?), this show is impossible to tear yourself away from. You never know what new thing they’re going to cook up next, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that you get to watch Alcide’s amazing body running around shirtless, either. My DVR is already set!
This one is not for the casual couch potato. The Newsroom is a fast paced, new drama starring Jeff Daniels (THE Jeff Daniels! Love that guy.) that explores what happens when a news anchor actually, you know, tells the truth. The preview for this one looks like what might happen if Bill O’Reilly took a truth serum right before his show. And maybe a few shots of vodka. It has me intrigued. Can people really tell the truth on TV?? The Newsroom plans to find out. Premiering June 24th on HBO, vote yes for original, scripted television and tune in for this one.