Entertainment // March 24, 2014
Hollywood is much like playing the tables in Las Vegas. Success takes a touch of good fortune and a great deal of skill. Lena Waithe has both. A Chicago native, this Writer/Producer has taken the LA scene by storm. Just this past year, her film “Dear White People” graced Sundance audiences, her web-series “Hello Cupid" charmed small screen viewers, and she dropped a preview of her upcoming series “Twenties”– on which she’s partnered with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Productions. And just this past weekend “Dear White People” was acquired by Lionsgate and Roadside Pictures. Waithe’s future is bright and she’s been sure to bring fellow creatives and close friends along on the journey. After returning from Sundance’s whirlwind, which she self-described as “life changing,” Waithe took a few moments to chat with me about her creative vision.
MW: At what point did you realize you were a writer?
LW: I knew I wanted to be a television writer when I was 7. I saw a different world and I thought, whatever this is, I want to be a part of it. I was a child with a vision – always a big reader. I loved writing and television. So, this combined my favorite things.
I studied all the greats and great television can transcend time. It’s one of the reasons I take such pride in what I do.
MW: Is there a common thread in the stories you tell?
LW: Honestly, I think I’m really good at writing female relationships. Whether they be familial, romantic, platonic, or messy. I like writing about the relationships that women have with each other.
MW: If you could accomplish one thing with your voice, what would it be?
LW: To do what A Different World did for me, for someone else - allow people to see a better version of themselves and help them realize that the world is bigger than their backyard. A big thing too, is that I’d like to hold up a mirror to reflect the faces that are looking at it. I really want people to feel a connection to the characters that I write.
MW: Where do you think current programming is lacking in that regard?
LW: I think there’s a lot of aspirational stuff, which is fine. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t require characters to look inward. Usually, when you see a show that’s well done – it has a great impact because it’s really about flawed characters that are self-aware and are really trying to improve themselves. It’s about them trying to be better people. And I think that’s every human being’s journey. That’s why people hook into these characters more than these glossy characters with these fabulous lives.
MW: What creatives have helped influence your process?
LW: A person who really is my all-time hero is Susan Fales-Hill. She started out as an intern on The Cosby Show and Dr. Cosby thought she’d be a great fit for A Different World. I got a chance to sit down and have coffee with her. She’s very classy, and played a huge role in setting the stage for Mara Brock Akil and Shonda Rhimes. She has influenced my whole career. When we finally met, it was full-circle moment for me.
MW: What has been the most difficult part of your career and how did you overcome it?
LW: The difficult part is writing and rewriting bad scripts when you first start. That’s the hardest part. Everything you do isn’t going to be as great as you want it to be – it’s just not. That process of learning how to take notes and trying to find your voice – that’s hard. All this stuff about the industry, everyone is going to have a tough time. This is a hard business period. But to me the hard part is the internal journey to continue to go on and become the artist you want to be.
LW:Be great in whatever it is that you do. If you aren’t great at it, then everything you’re doing now should be working towards becoming great. When you’re great, good things will happen.
To those of you who jumped ahead to find out what’s next for Ms. Waithe, she kept things close to the chest. Good news: she says that great things are “brewing,” "Twenties" has found a home and Justin Semien ("Dear White People") will be involved, and there’s a secret project in the works with Issa Rae. It’s nice to know that the house doesn’t always win.
Follow Lena on Twitter: @hillmangrad
One thing that is good about the end of summer is saying goodbye to dull summer programing and hello to new hit programs and to the return of our favorite TV shows. So go ahead and set the DVR, here are the shows that we can’t wait to watch.
If you are missing a great crime/drama/thriller in your TV lineup, The Blacklist should be at the top of your list. Fans of Persons of Interest, 24 and The Silence of the Lambs will enjoy Emmy award winner James Spader as Raymond Reddington, one of the most wanted men in America. He strikes a deal with the FBI to catch elusive criminals and will only work with one small-time agent,, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). Fans will enjoy fast-paced thrills and Spader’s psychological exploration of each case, as well as uncovering his own agenda.
Another thriller we are adding to our must-watch list is suspense thriller Hostages, coming to CBS in September. The show centers around Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette), a surgeon who is scheduled to operate on the President. But when a FBI agent kidnaps her family to force her to kill the president, she holds the nation and her family’s lives in her hands.
Fans of The Avengers have a reason to rejoice: Agent Coulson is alive and well and is on a mission to save the world (again). Joss Whedon brings this mega-blockbuster to TV as Coulson (Clark Gregg) and puts together a top-secret team of super agents to help save the world from intergalactic threats. Sci-fi and fantasy fans will be eager to see Whedon’s latest TV series and comic book buffs will be eager to see a favorite series brought to life.
One of our favorite comedies, ABC’s Modern Family, is coming back for its 5th season and promises to bring the laughs and warm hearts all over again. The family experiences new changes as Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke (Nolan Gould) head to high school, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) adjusts to his job as a teacher and Claire (Julie Bowen) tries to reenter the workforce.
ABC’s hit show Scandal returns for what promises to be a sizzling 3rd season. Show creator Shonda Rhimes has hinted that the new season may pick up right where it left off, after a huge plot twist and reveal in the season two finale where viewers find out that Rowan (Joe Morton), leader of black ops team B613 is actually Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) father. Fans will be treated to nail-biting turns as Olivia continues to deal with a media frenzy after being outed as President Grant’s (Tony Goldwyn) mistress and delve into who leaked the news.
ABC is adding another real world meets fantasy show to its lineup with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a spinoff of their hit show Once Upon a Time (which we will also be watching). The original show includes some of our favorite fairy tale characters with a twist and places them in modern times. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is based on Alice in Wonderland characters (obviously) and includes favorites like Alice (Sophie Lowe), the White Rabbit (John Lithgrow) and the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey). Fans will also see even more favorite characters from other stories like Jafar (Naveen Andrews) from Aladdin.
After a season of heartbreak and shocking surprises (Andrea!), hit show The Walking Dead returns to AMC in October for its fourth season with a whole new set of problems and new cast members to fall in love with. The official season four 4 trailer shows walkers piling up on the prison and hints at a possible mole in the group. Fans of the show will enjoy learning more of the backstory behind fan favorite character Michonne (Danai Gurira) and plenty of screentime for Daryl (Norman Reedus).
J.J. Abrams is keeping busy. Between Star Trek and the upcoming Star Wars mega franchises, he is producing another sci-fi meets cop drama Almost Human for FOX. Fans of his previous sci-fi/fantasy/mystery dramas Fringe and LOST will enjoy the themes and premises in the show as well as the traditional elements of a cop drama brought to a whole new level. Almost Human explores LAPD officers who are paired with highly advanced androids. Be prepared to experience the differences between human intuition and computer logic and to explore your feelings about technologically advanced robocops.
What shows will you be watching this fall? Leave your comments below or tweet us your thoughts on fall hits @madewomanmag!
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
Let’s face it: with a nine-to-five, a budding business, side-hustles, gettin’ it right and keepin’ it tight and plenty of things to do and people to see; you don’t always have the time for TV. If you’re anything like I am – a TV lover, desperate for more hours in the day – your DVR is full and you have a growing list of shows you wish you had the time to catch.
If you do manage to find that extra hour, the first thing you need to do is contact us and tell us how you did it! Then, you need to add these picks -- which you might’ve missed when they first aired years ago -- to your life. They’re definitely worth every extra second of free time you can get.
The Show: Arrested Development, Originally Aired: 2003 - 2006
Who You Might Recognize: Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi
Why You Should Watch: This show is so beloved that nearly seven years after it was cancelled, the cast decided to reunite for a new season set to air on Netflix in January. Folks just can’t seem to get enough of watching the Bluth’s lives fall apart when the head of their family goes to jail for embezzling company funds. Smart, hysterical and timely, Arrested Development has a cult-like following among fans. After you watch the first episode, you’ll probably hop on Google to find out where you can sign up.
The Show: The Wire, Originally Aired: 2002 - 2008
Who You Might Recognize: Idris Elba, Dominic West, Michael K. Williams, Tristan Wilds
Why You Should Watch Now: Frequently listed as one of the greatest TV dramas ever made, The Wire has top-notch writing and a remarkable cast of character actors. These include a bunch of profanity-spitting cops, sympathetic corner boys, and a much-feared, gay stick-up man who only robs drug dealers. This is the show that you don’t want to admit you’ve never seen at a dinner party. President Obama says it’s one of the greatest shows of all time and Idris Elba is in it. Enough said.
The Show: Freaks and Geeks, Originally Aired: 1999 - 2000
Who You Might Recognize: James Franco, Busy Phillips, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen
Why You Should Watch: James Franco, Busy Phillips, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen. I could stop there but, seriously, when I discovered this show I watched every episode in a day. In reality, that isn’t that hard to do because -- due to poor ratings -- it was canceled only after its first season despite critical acclaim. It’s hard to believe a show that includes some of today’s most sought-after actors could be so short-lived...but it’s sadly true. That’s the only terrible thing about this Judd Apatow-produced drama, which chronicles the universal horror of being a teenager in high school. When you finish the 18th and final episode you will be absolutely distraught that there’s no more to take in.
The Show: Six Feet Under, Originally Aired: 2001 - 2005
Who You Might Recognize: James Cromwell, Michael C. Hall, Freddy Rodriguez
Why You Should Watch: Seven years before Alan Ball introduced a bunch of deranged Louisiana vampires to the world on HBO’s True Blood, he created this jewel. Six Feet Under follows the dysfunctional Fisher family. Who doesn’t have a few crazy family members? Well, imagine if those relatives were forced to run a funeral home together. That’s Six Feet Under. Death is the thread that runs through all five seasons but it’s not as depressing as it sounds. There’s plenty of drama, sex and dark humor all around.
The Show: My So-Called Life, Originally Aired: 1994 – 1995
Who You Might Recognize: Claire Danes
Why You Should Watch: You know that glorious lip-quiver Claire Danes does on every episode of Homeland that people can’t seem to get enough of? Well, she first perfected that quiver back in the ‘90s when she played an introspective 15-year-old on My So-Called Life. Yes, there are plenty of high school dramas, but none were quite as bold as this one, which aired at a time when you didn’t put gay teens or drug abuse on TV -- especially for an entire season. Don’t be turned off by the young cast. These teens are smart and will leave you relieved high school is long over.
With the holiday season underway – and hopefully some much-needed vacay on the horizon – now is the perfect time to catch up on all of the great TV you might’ve missed. Take a break from your daily hustle and get sucked into other people’s drama-filled lives. I’m certain that none of these stories will disappoint, or make you want to rush back to real life any time soon.
Do you have any favorite TV shows you think we should be watching? Please, do tell!
With evolving legal trouble and a slew of big-time gangsters always around, I’ve grown accustomed to Nucky Thompson being in the stickiest of situations, but I’ve never seen the Atlantic City bootlegger as terrified as he is in the latest episode: “Two Imposters.”
We open where we left off, with Nucky realizing that his wife was sleeping with the help. Margaret has left town with the kids and before Nucky can wrap his head around it all, three of Gyp Rosetti’s armed men charge into his Ritz-Carlton suite, aiming for his head. By now Nucky’s had some target practice of his own, so he grabs a gun and kills the men one-by-one, but not before a bullet pierces his long-suffering assistant, Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura), in the stomach. Nucky tries to drop Kessler off at St. Theresa’s hospital, but two more of Gyp’s men show up shooting, forcing them to flee. From here on, Nucky’s on the lam in one of the most intense episodes to date. Gyp hunts him like he’s an animal, takes over his city, and shows up to Gillian’s brothel with a crew of rowdy men, declaring the space his new headquarters.
So where does Nucky run now that Gyp has sieged Atlantic City? To the man he’s dismissed for years: Fan-favorite badass, Chalky White. Nucky shows up to Chalky’s juke joint in a scant shanty town and expects him to readily supply an army of men, but Chalky has no intention of helping him out so easily. And I don’t really blame him. This season alone Nucky has asked Chalky to intimidate an unassuming actor, mistook him for the shoeshine boy and scoffed at his wish to open a black club on the boardwalk. Now that Nucky has no one else to turn to –he can’t find his brother Eli – he must face the fact that he’s often treated Chalky like a second-class citizen. Chalky, of course, has always carried himself like a man of Nucky’s stature, so he makes him sweat a bit before finally offering to have his medical student son-in-law, Samuel (remember him?), patch Kessler up. He also agrees to hide Nucky from Gyp. Unfortunately, it’s not long before Gyp and an army of men show up outside of Chalky’s spot looking for him.
In one of my all-time favorite scenes, Gyp’s men square off with Chalky’s men while Nucky desperately tries to quiet Kessler, who’s having his stomach stitched-up by a very nervous Samuel. Outside, Gyp offers Chalky $25,000 to “drag Nucky Thompson out by his d*ck.” Despite the offer, Chalky lies and says he hasn’t seen Nucky in weeks. After some brilliantly awkward banter between the two, Gyp finally stands down and leaves; but not before making the same offer to everyone else. Chalky knows it’s only a matter of time before one of his men gives into Gyp’s tempting offer, so he and Dunn Purnsley whisk Nucky out of town in the back of a covered wagon. On their way out, they have to kill two more men who are out on the prowl for Nucky.
Only after cowering in the back of that wagon and witnessing his only allies kill for him does Nucky decide to stop running. He asks Chalky to take him to the lumber yard where Eli’s oldest son works. Once there, Nucky offers Chalky a nightclub in the event he’s able to snag his city back. In exchange, Chalky agrees to help him fight. Fittingly, it’s another man Nucky hasn’t always treated well who shows up with more help moments later. When a ton of trucks drive up to the yard, Nucky assumes it is Gyp’s wrecking crew. In fact, it’s Eli who hops out of a truck with an army. Then, a cigar-puffing Al Capone suddenly pushes his way through the crowd and tells Nucky, “We need a bath, some chow, then you and me sit down, and we talk about who dies.” It was all enough to make me actually squeal with delight in anticipation for next week’s season finale.
With any luck some loose ends will be tied up then, including the Richard and Gillian stories, which took an ugly turn in this episode. Richard tries to take Tommy away to Julia’s while Gillian’s brothel is overrun with Gyp’s crazy crew, but she catches him before they can leave. She fires him, hurling a bunch of terrible insults his way while he silently takes it. Later we see Richard prepping a case of artillery. Even if he has to shoot his way out, he doesn’t plan on leaving without his best friend’s son. Thank God for that, because Gillian’s... well, insane. After the dust settles next week I hope the aftermath isn’t as devastating as last year’s finale, which ended in Jimmy’s unexpected death. If it is, I’ll be on the hunt like Gyp, except I’ll be looking for some boardwalk whiskey to calm my nerves.
It’s not unusual for the loved-ones of our favorite gangsters on Boardwalk Empire to suffer as a result of their companion’s actions. Last season, Jimmy’s wife, Angela, was killed because Manny Horvitz found her while looking for Jimmy. Last night, on “The Pony,” it is Nucky’s affable lover, Billie, who is taken down, all because she got too close to the gangster. The company you keep on the Boardwalk can be a matter of life or death, jail or freedom, access or exclusion – themes which are all explored on the latest episode.
In the opening scene, Gillian stages a funeral for “Jimmy”, except we all know the man being cremated is really the look-a-like she murdered. Richard Harrow is at the farce funeral and when Gillian asks him if he has any last words, Harrow deadpans, “Jimmy deserved better than this.” It’s true, but now that Gillian has a body, she’s able to get a loan and more importantly, plot revenge on Nucky, the man who actually killed her son. After Nucky reads about Jimmy’s death in the newspaper, he rushes to Gillian’s brothel to offer his condolences. At first, Gillian goes along with the act – they talk about how great Jimmy was – but when Nucky proposes a toast to James, Gillian throws a drink in his face. Nucky’s not rattled, telling her to keep her mouth shut and, “You exist in this town because I allow you to.” It’s a perfect example of how Nucky underestimates the women around him. Gillian exists because she’s as callous as any gangster and after Nucky leaves, she wastes no time cutting ties with another one. As her business partner, Lucky Luciano had been footing the bill for the brothel; however, with a new loan, she buys him out and rebukes him for dining with her enemy. Then Gillian tells Gyp Rosetti exactly where Luciano and Nucky would be dining later on, The Artemis Club, just in case he might want to “surprise him,” or in other words, kill Nucky.
Nucky’s not worried about Gillian or Gyp just yet, though. He meets with Assistant US Attorney Esther Randolph and Gaston Means to find out how Means plans to help him take down Harry Daugherty, the attorney general who wants to indict him to cover up his own corruption. Means advises Nucky to try to strike a deal with Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon (James Cromwell), who hates Daugherty as much as Nucky does. That afternoon, Nucky goes to a private club and offers to run Mellon’s secret distillery in exchange for him arresting Daugherty’s right hand man, George Remus. Mellon claims he’s uninterested and promptly instructs someone to have Nucky arrested if he doesn’t leave the premises.
Looking to blow off some steam, Nucky goes to Billie’s apartment. She’s there with two friends celebrating a successful audition she had earlier with a movie director. When her actor friend calls Nucky “sir,” – apparently a touchy word for ol’ Nuck – Nucky pummels the guy and kicks her friends out of the apartment. Alone, he confesses to Billie that he’s tired of their arrangement. He offers to take care of her for the rest of her life, but she’s not interested. “I just want you to be my gangster,” she quips, and they have one last romp in bed.
He gets good news the next morning when Mellon calls and agrees to arrest Remus in exchange for Nucky turning a profit on his distillery. Later, sporting a blond wig, Billie joins Nucky, Luciano, and Arnold Rothstein, as they head to The Artemis Club for dinner. Outside of the club, an old friend of Nucky’s wants to chat. Nucky sends Billie ahead to wait for him inside and suddenly everything’s in slow motion. Before entering the club, Billie turns to glance at her man and Nucky smiles back at his dapper showgirl. Then, The Artemis Club explodes. Gyp’s made his move, except Nucky, Luciano, and Rothstein are still alive once the dust settles. Nucky looks for Billie but she’s not there and he loses consciousness.
Elsewhere, Agent Van Alden, tired of his coworkers teasing him, puts a hot iron on one of their faces and goes on a rampage. It looks like he’s going to have to skip town again, but his wife wants to sell some of the whiskey Dean O’Banion is forcing them to make as retribution for the body he helped Van Alden dispose of in “You’d Be Surprised.” Mrs. Van Alden says she used to make whiskey for her father and can sell some to other Norwegians to help them get enough money to buy a home and stop running.
Margaret discovers that women are only coming to her health class because they want to learn how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Mrs. Shearer, the woman who miscarried in front of Margaret and sparked her women’s health crusade, wants Margaret to help her get a diaphragm because her husband won’t keep his hands off of her. Margaret can’t seem to keep her hands off of Owen Sleater either, and the two have sex in Sleater’s car after they’re caught in a rainstorm while out looking for a pony for Emily’s birthday. Later, Margaret goes to Dr. Mason to ask him for a diaphragm not only for Mrs. Shearer but for herself too. If she gets pregnant, Nucky will realize she’s having an affair, since the child couldn’t possibly be his.
It’s only a matter of time before Margaret’s affair with Slater will come to light, but Nucky has more pressing matters now that Gyp has killed Billie while trying to exact his revenge. Earlier this season, Nucky tried to tell Gyp that nothing’s personal but now that Billie’s dead, Nucky’s next move will likely be very personal, indeed.
"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.