Boardwalk Empire Recap: Oedipal Complex

Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Jimmy’s terrible leadership and even worse decisions came back to bite him in the ass hard. Esther started making moves against Nucky, even putting Eli under arrest, and Van Alden was served with divorce papers.

We start off either in a dream sequence or in a flashback as a long-haired Angela whispers to Jimmy that she has to leave. He wakes up just enough to pull her close and urge her to stay. They cuddle up together and she shows him a sketch she did of him. He tells her his mother’s coming up to see him and asks Angela to stick around and presumably be introduced. Oooh, meeting the parents. Stressful under the best circumstances, but in this case? Well, we’ll see.

One of Jimmy’s buddies knocks on the door and tells him he covered for Jimmy when some matron came around earlier, but now Ange needs to skedaddle. Seems like we’re back in Jimmy’sPrincetondays, when he was living in the dorm. How’d he get Angela in there in the first place? I thought they tended to keep those dorms pretty well monitored in those days. Jimmy thanks him and Angela goes to leave, classily asking if they can go back to using Jimmy’s car. No, unfortunately, because that wasn’t his car. She kisses him and hurries away.

Back in the present, Nucky’s taking a meeting with his new lawyer, who tells him things are going a bit rough: the judge isn’t interested in a bribe, and Esther’s a tough cookie. At least Eli’s keeping his mouth shut. For now. Oh, and Van Alden’s going to be taking the stand too. Nucky asks the lawyer how bad this is going to be, and the lawyer tells him he’d better get his finances in order.

As the lawyer goes to get some scotch, Nucky snaps at the black manservant who’s been puttering around in the background. The man hesitantly approaches Nucky, thanks him for keeping him working through the strike, and mentions the church he belongs to, which apparently holds a regular Week of Miracles that includes some baptisms. And who do you suppose showed up to one of those meetings but Van Alden and his former partner. Oh, THANK YOU! I was so hoping this would come up eventually, but I didn’t have any faith that it would. That’ll teach me to underestimate HBO shows. Nucky and the lawyer are shocked to hear about Van Alden drowning a man in front of 50 people, and then the lawyer grins and starts making friends with the guy.

The man in question comes into his kitchen to find the nanny making breakfast. While she cooks, she makes small talk about his family, and we learn that Van Alden’s family belonged to one of those sects that believed the end of the world was coming in 1892. To prepare himself and his family, Van Alden’s dad gave up their farm, because I guess it makes you godlier to be homeless or something. The family lived in a tent for a year, and of course God didn’t show up, and Van Alden senior was so shaken up by that, he can’t even look at his son, because Nelson has the nerve to keep living. Wow, what a whack job. No wonder Nelson turned out the way he did. Could you imagine your parent resenting you for being alive? The nanny sweetly and firmly tells him he’s a good man and there’s nothing for him to be frightened of.

At the children’s hospital, little Emily’s fitted for some leg braces. Margaret and the doctor help her stand, but when they start to let go, she begins to fall. They catch her and return her to her wheelchair, and the doctor tells her how well she just did before handing her a lollipop and drawing Margaret aside to tell her they need to develop Emily’s arm and torso strength, but she’s going to come along just fine. He leaves to sign Emily out, and Margaret’s unscrupulous priest, who’s there too, for some reason, takes his place and tells her a parable about a man who visited heaven and hell. In hell, people were sitting at tables laden with food, but they couldn’t eat it because they had spoons that were too long to get into their mouths. In heaven, there were spoons just as long, but everyone was feeding each other, so they were all happy, and God apparently got to laugh at his rather dickish joke on the dead. Priest goes on to tell Margaret that her donation was put toward the new parish hall. She seems glad to hear that. He mentions that they have enough for walls and a floor, but now they need a roof. She thinks he’s looking for a handout, but he says he wasn’t. Yeah, right.

Angela’s house. As Gillian watches through the window, the bodies are loaded into an ambulance. Inside, a policeman questions Gillian about Jimmy’s whereabouts. She asks where Eli is and is told he’s unavailable, so she tells him it looks like an intruder came in and killed Angela and the woman she was with. The policeman goes on to try to question Two Face about Jimmy’s whereabouts. Gillian jumps right in and tells the policeman TF’s a simpleton. Oh, ouch, Gillian! Uncalled for! Nonetheless, TF plays along, because that’s the sort of man he is. The policeman leaves and Gillian asks TF if he was able to reach Jimmy. TF says he couldn’t, then excuses himself, clearly upset and in stark contrast to Gillian’s total nonchalance about this whole matter. Well, she never liked Angela anyway.

TF makes his way down the hall to the bedroom, where he kneels beside the bloodstain on the floor. He dips his finger in it and starts to weep, looking at the blood on his fingers.

PrincetonPast. Jimmy’s reading aloud from John Webster’s The White Devil to a group of fellow students and a professor in the professor’s office. He finishes reading and the discussion begins, revolving mostly around corruption and the corrupting abilities of society. How very on the nose. Only Jimmy seems to realize that the scene is really about how the hero sees everyone around him getting rich and he wants a piece of it. And he resents his mother for never having taught him anything useful.

Class ends, and one of the students, a young man in uniform, mentions he won’t be able to make it to class the following week because they’re out on maneuvers. Jimmy makes a crack and the guy straightens up and accuses him of not being patriotic. Jimmy shrugs that the Kaiser never hurt him. One of the other students mentions a relative of his who died on theLusitania. Jimmy apologizes, even though I don’t think that really is much of an argument—the Kaiser still hasn’t hurt Jimmy, has he? The students file out and the professor asks Jimmy to hang back. He warns Jimmy that he’ll never get ahead if he doesn’t watch his mouth. Jimmy apologizes again and says that, where he comes from, people just let it all out. The professor asks if he’ll be going back there and Jimmy sighs that it’s what he’s supposed to do. The professor brings up Nucky and how he’s footing the bill forPrinceton. Jimmy says he is, as long as Jimmy doesn’t screw up. The professor says they have something in common: both of them came up from the lower classes.

AC Present. Jimmy’s crew, minus Jimmy, takes an inventory of the warehouse and discusses what to do with the liquor. They’ve got plans, and none of them involve Jimmy, because Lucky figures Jimmy’s gone on the run. Al says that, if it was his wife he’d found with another woman, he’d have done the same thing. Wow, word travels fast. Mickey pipes up that Jimmy didn’t kill Angela, it was Manny. Mickey figures Jimmy will come back to AC eventually, and when he does, who’s going to pay him for all the liquor that’s suddenly disappeared? The others gang up and tell Mickey to pay him out of his share, and if he doesn’t do it, they’ll shoot him in the head and cash in on the $500K life insurance policy Rothstein took out on Mickey’s life last season.

At Nucky and Margaret’s, Nucky’s trying to make sense of the senseless story that the priest told Margaret earlier. She gets annoyed with him for not understanding the parable and asks if he believes in a higher power. Nucky’s not sure, but he doesn’t believe in divine retribution.

Eli’s lawyer shows up at the jail for a meeting and gives Eli Halloran’s deposition, which apparently claims Eli murdered Schroeder. Eli claims it’s untrue and that Halloran’s just trying to get back at him for being renamed sheriff. Sounding tired, the lawyer suggests Eli testify that he killed Schroeder at Nucky’s behest. If he does that, Esther won’t go for the electric chair.

PrincetonPast. Jimmy unpacks his mother’s suitcase while she sits on his bed and grills him about his behavior, which includes kissing Angela, who is the head waitress in, I believe, his dorm dining room. She’s unimpressed by the additional detail that Angela draws. Jimmy, a little vindictively, asks about Gillian’s latest conquest, which is apparently over and done with. He sincerely says he’s sorry and she says she had her little pleasures. She invites him to join her in a drink and, after initially refusing, he does. He sits beside her on the bed and she tells him that she can’t ever get lonely, because no matter what, she has Jimmy. And the Creep-o-Meter just registered about a five.

At the post office, Van Alden glances at his divorce petition while Esther and her boys wonder how Margaret went from a three-room bungalow to a giant house with Nucky. She asks Van Alden how he thinks she managed it and he lies that she made no impression on him at all, so he has no idea. Esther tells one of her boys to bring Margaret in as Van Alden finally signs the divorce papers.Princeton’s alma mater, Old Nassau, kicks up on the soundtrack and I automatically cringe in anticipation of the Nazi salute that always accompanies it. It’s not really a Nazi salute—I think it’s supposed to be the singers miming throwing their hats, but it looks just like a Nazi salute, and one of the most horrifying moments of my life had to have been standing in a stadium filled with privileged white people doing that as if there was nothing strange about it at all.

Thankfully, we’re spared that sight. The song’s being sung at a Princetonmixer. Angela arrives a little late and Jimmy’s cutely happy to see her. I’m staring at the architecture and wondering where they filmed this. I don’t think it’s at Princeton, unless it’s one of the buildings I never went into, and I even doubt that, because if they were filming on Princeton’s campus, I probably would have heard about it. It’s a small town, and my husband was in the PhD program there until this past summer. Which begs the question: why didn’t they film inPrinceton? They film this show inBrooklyn, andPrinceton’s just an hour-long train ride away.

Jimmy gives Angela a corsage, then introduces Gillian, who comes right over, kisses Angela on the cheek, and compliments her dress in a way that seems a little backhanded. She reminds Jimmy to attach the corsage, then smirks that it’s very difficult to raise a gentleman.

Jimmy and his ladies make their way into the party, and his friend from earlier attaches to them immediately, explaining that he’s terrified and socially inept. He’s been drinking and hits on Angela, admitting he’s in love with her. Jimmy’s not even paying attention, because he’s too busy watching his mom work the room, and work her magic on his professor, which does not seem to make him happy. Anglea brings his attention back to her by whispering that she’s pregnant. She seems surprisingly happy about it, considering what a big deal it was to have a baby out of wedlock back then. Jimmy’s taken aback, but then he says the right things, saying they’ll get a place and it’ll be lovely. She asks if this is a marriage proposal, because he hardly knows her. He says he knows that she’s a good person. And that’s all you need for a marriage.

In AC, Margaret joins Nucky in his office. He sits her down and says he thinks Eli will testify against him, which will put Nucky in jail and could even put him in the chair. He’s prepared to stash his money somewhere safe, so the people he cares about are taken care of. For some reason, this pisses Margaret off, and she demands to know why that’s important to him. Uh, because he’s not a heartless asshole, Margaret? Jesus, lady, do you want to go back to the three room bungalow? With no money to pay for Emily’s medical care or Teddy’s education? What’s wrong with you? Nucky plows on, trying to explain his land deals and how he plans to transfer everything to her name. She leans back in the chair, looking petulant, because this is all so boring to her.

At the mixer, Angela finds Jimmy outside, getting some air. Gillian comes bursting out of a nearby room, dress askew. She spots Jimmy and grouses that she thought “they” were just flirting. Jimmy throws his cigarette aside and stalks towards his professor, who’s come out of the room in Gillian’s wake. Jimmy demands to know what the man did, and when the professor drunkenly offers to apologize “in a properly chivalrous manner” Jimmy lays him the hell out. As he should. What a dick! But then, even when the man’s down, Jimmy continues to whale on him. Angela looks horrified but Gillian looks…well, not horrified. Kind of intrigued, actually.

Mickey’s summoned Van Alden to his warehouse and says he’s in a tight spot, but not nearly as tight as Jimmy’s in. He wants federal agents to raid the upcoming sit down he’s going to be having with Capone, Al, and Meyer to divvy up the money from the sale of all the liquor. He wants half the take in return. He estimates there’ll be $300K there. Van Alden stiffly says he prefers not to have anything to do with this and tells Mickey not to contact him again.

Jimmy takes a very drunk Gillian back to her hotel room. He’s not exactly DD material himself. Gillian, a little excitedly, asks how badly he hurt the professor. Enough to get him expelled, Jimmy figures. Gillian laughs that Nucky will be able to fix it, because he can fix anything. She asks Jimmy if he really loves “that skinny girl” and he says he doesn’t. She warns him not to do anything stupid (too late, on many counts) and he starts helping her into bed, which is a really sad thing to watch a kid have to do for their parent, whatever their age. Jimmy, who’s now shirtless because his shirt had blood on it, helps her, half dressed, into bed, landing on top of her. She tells him how she used to curl up in bed with him when he was a baby and think they were the only two people in the world. He tries to leave, but then Gillian grabs him, kisses him fiercely in a decidedly non-maternal way, and whispers that there’s nothing wrong “with any of it”. Oh, Jesus, YES THERE IS! Gah! I can’t believe they went there! Even The Borgias had more restraint!

The next morning, Jimmy wakes up, looking horrified. He goes to the window and watches as a group of soldiers practice marching. And then, I guess, he decides to go to war.

Jimmy gets himself to a recruiting office, and when the officer asks about next of kin, Jimmy says both his parents are gone. He lists Angela as his next of kin, but he doesn’t know her address. The officer asks why he’s enlisting, and Jimmy says he wants to stick a bayonet through the Kaiser’s guts. To add a bit of color to the story, he steals his classmate’s tragedy and says he had a brother on theLusitania.

Margaret’s working on Emily’s braces down in the kitchens when Sleater comes down. Margaret explains that the braces are chafing Emily, so Sleater takes a look and says he can fix it. Margaret thanks him and he sits down to get to work. They sit in slightly awkward silence for a bit, and then he asks her if she thinks about him. Is this high school? He admits he thinks about her and she tells him to find the strength not to. As they talk, neither of them notice Katie coming in until it’s too late. She turns and runs out of the room.

Princeton. Jimmy drinks himself into oblivion, apparently now in the present. Gillian’s on the phone urging him to come home and tend to his son and his business and to show the world he has nothing to hide. Some time passes, and Jimmy lays on the floor of the room, sniffing something (maybe the sketch Angela did of him all those years ago?) and crying.

Van Alden arrives at the post office to find Nucky’s lawyer, Fallon, and Deacon Cuffey, the man who was doing the baptism Van Alden so rudely interrupted. Fallon starts pulling Sebsoe’s personal items out of a box as Van Alden stands there, the word “busted” all but stamped on his forehead. Esther’s there too, having apparently already heard the whole sordid story. One of her deputies starts placing Van Alden under arrest, but when he takes Van Alden’s gun, Nelson freaks out and runs.

At home, Margaret drinks and looks tense. Nucky comes in and notes the unusual fact that she’s drinking. She pulls out a subpoena and he tells her to ignore it, because Fallon will take care of it. He tells her his own case is doing well, because Van Alden’s not a credible witness, and he believes Eli will stick by him. She rather hysterically says that they began in sin, and they’ll end in it unless they change. Oh, for heaven’s sake, put on some sackcloth and ashes and race through the streets, if it means that much to you, Margaret. He tells her she’s talking rubbish and she claims she’s never been so sure of anything in her life. She believes she’s culpable for Emily’s disease, which is not only stupid, it’s also incredibly selfish. First off, why would God punish you by making a small child’s life miserable? That makes no sense. Even if it makes you miserable too, I don’t see why he’d be taking out innocent bystanders. That’s some serious Old Testament stuff right there. Second, sorry, Margaret, but your child’s devastating disease is not all about you. Grow up.

Margaret’s on a roll, though, as she says she’s stolen and lied and cheated and done all these horrible things. Nucky puts his drink aside and asks who she stole from. She admits to having stolen from him, among others, and he next asks who she cheated on. He comes towards her and she casts about, finally saying she’s living with the man who had her husband killed. He tells her, not for the first time, that he had nothing to do with that, and he’s been working hard to provide for her ever since. Margaret shouts that she’s been called to account, as she brandishes the subpoena, and Nucky, astonished, asks if she’s really going to testify. He grabs her by the arms and fiercely tells her that if she wants to punish herself, that’s fine, but she’s not to bring him down after everything he’s given her.

Jimmy’s finally arrived home, where Gillian’s embroidering and, still blithely, chattering about having a funeral, which she expects will be sparsely attended, because everyone hated poor Angela. She brings up the other woman, who wasn’t local, so they’re still looking for her family. Gillian suggests they tell Tommy his mother went off to live with friends inParis, leaving with his daddy and his grandma, who loves him so very much. In a month or so, Gillian figures Tommy won’t even remember who Angela was. That proves to be too much for Jimmy, who’s been listening on the verge of tears the whole time. He launches out of his chair and starts choking his mother, telling her that he’ll remember Angela, over and over again. He very nearly kills her, but then the Commodore comes swinging in with a staff of some kind and Jimmy releases his mother so he can do battle with his father, who gets Jimmy pinned to the wall by the throat. Jimmy manages to unsheathe his knife and stabs his father in the belly. The Commodore backs away and Jimmy yanks the knife out. Gillian tells him to finish it, so Jimmy stabs his father in the heart. The Commodore falls, and Jimmy makes it a few steps into the next room before collapsing himself. Damn.

Jimmy comes to sometime later and sees TF in the room, working over the Commodore’s body and, horribly, scrubbing up the old man’s blood. TF sees he’s awake, comes over, and pulls the curtains between the rooms shut. Jimmy passes out again, and comes around when he thinks he hears Angela telling him she has to leave. He looks into the next room, which is completely clean and body free. Gillian appears with Tommy, who tells his daddy he had a bad dream. Jimmy says he did too, but everything’s going to be fine. Tommy asks where his mother is, and Gillian tells him she’s right there, and he has nothing to worry about. Woah. Gillian tells Jimmy that she knows he didn’t mean to do what he did, and there’s no need to mention it again. She picks up Tommy and takes him upstairs to bed, looking back down at her son halfway up and telling him that, one day soon, Tommy won’t be a little boy anymore. She suggestively adds that she’ll be upstairs. Jimmy watches her go, his face inscrutable.

 



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