Boardwalk Empire: Truth and Consequences

Photo: Abbot Genser/HBO

Well, we’ve come down to it—the final episode of season one of Boardwalk Empire, and I have to say, I was quite pleased with it. I think it set up the start of season two quite nicely, and it wasn’t too maddening with the cliffhangers. Plus, I think just about every character who’s showed up over the course of the season was onscreen at some point (well, except Sebso, poor man), so it was like a charming reunion. With shotguns and corruption. But enough of this, on with the recap!

Van Alden kicks things off this week by–what else?—preaching. He’s reciting the words of St. Augustine to a bunch of agents gathered at the Post/Fed Field office. What he’s saying basically boils down to this—cities like AC (and Carthage in Augustine’s case) are modern-day Sodoms and Gomorrahs full of temptation that they must all resist. It seems these men are there to apply for Van Alden’s job. He warns them they’ll be bribed, coerced, and tempted every day. This prompts one guy to crack: “bring on the dancing girls,” which earns him a vicious slap across the face from Van Alden. It’s so brutal all the other guys recoil in shock. Supervisor Elliott, who’s sitting right there, does jack all, of course. Van Alden’s got the blazing crazy eyes on today, and tells the jokey recruit that his partner, Sebso, died in the line of duty of a heart attack (!!) and he won’t have his name sullied by infantile humor. He died of a heart attack in the middle of a lake? Did they not do autopsies on fairly young people who just dropped dead back then? Because if they had, I’m pretty sure those lungs would’ve been full of water, which would have put paid that heart attack excuse. Whatever, I guess we’re supposed to just accept this. But I really expect better than that from an HBO show.

Van Alden pulls himself together and dismisses the recruits, who hand in their resumes as they go. Once they’re alone, Elliott shakes Van Alden’s hand and asks him to reconsider. Van Alden just hollowly says there’s nothing there for him.

At Nucky’s, Bader and the cronies are laughing over a headline predicting success for the Democrats in the upcoming election. Nucky is less amused and orders the cronies to do whatever they have to do to get voters out that Tuesday. One of the men pipes up that he thinks replacing Eli was a mistake. He gets slapped down (metaphorically) by Nucky, and one of the other idiots says that Nucky will even get “spooks.” Chalky, who’s sitting right next to the guy, asks him to clarify that, please, and the guy gets really nervous (as he should, we all know what happens when you piss off Chalky) and explains he meant actual spooks—as in ghosts. He’s got guys combing the obituaries so they can find recently deceased people on whose behalf they can cast some votes. Bader has no issue with this and cracks a couple of jokes, which annoys Nucky, who hopes Bader’s half as amusing when he’s conceding.

The mood now broken, Chalky approaches Nucky and says they need to talk. Nucky dismisses Bader and the cronies. Once they’re alone, Chalky tells Nucky that he’s been approached by the Democrats, who painted a lovely picture of how awesome Atlantic City would be for him if they were elected. Chalky pretended to go along with it, and pocketed the bribe they offered. Nucky realizes that means Chalky’s sticking with him. Chalky says he would appreciate some recognition for his loyalty—say $10 grand, a new car (Packard not working out for you?), and an invitation to the victory party at Babette’s. Nucky swallows and says that last one might be a tall order.

Apparently, Margaret and the kids decamped to wherever Nan Britton’s staying after they left Concubine Castle. Margaret’s settled right in and is mixing up cake batter while giving a pretty inaccurate recitation of Robert Burns’s Halloween for her two children. Nan, whom I seriously almost forgot existed, listens from an adjoining room. Honestly, I feel bad, but it took me forever to figure out who this woman with the baby was the first time I watched this episode. And then she started spouting annoying, sappy lines and I remembered. Anyhow, Margaret sends the kids off to play and tells Nan her grandmother used to read the poem every All Hallows Eve. Nan asks if they’ll read it that night, at the churchyard, and Margaret explains that that event is more of a religious service. Nan comments that the Catholics certainly have a flair for the dramatic. And how. Nan saps that Warren loves poetry. Heh.

Nan then shifts gears completely and asks Margaret where she plans to go after the election, since Nan is certain Warren will send for them as soon as he wins. Wow, she makes Mary and Angela and their childish flights of bohemian fancy seem downright mature by comparison. Talk about a dreamer. Margaret mentions she was considering Margate, since she might be able to get work in one of the shops there. Eh, it’s close enough to Christmas. Head down to Cape May and get work as one of those Dickensian reenactors. You’ve got the right look, Meg. Margaret brightens and jokes that maybe she’ll be rich, it depends on what the cake says—she’s making barnbrack cake, and you bake a sixpence, a ring, and a piece of rag inside. Whoever gets the ring will get married that year, whoever gets the money will be rich, and whoever gets the rag will be cast into poverty. Why does there always have to be a downer prize in the cake? Why can’t everyone just be a winner? Although, you’re eating cake, so I guess in a sense everyone’s a winner already. I’ll give you all three guesses who gets what prize when the cake gets eaten.

Nan goes back to getting all dreamy about President Warren Harding, then she takes it upon herself to invite Margaret to visit the White House. Margaret’s got a look on her face that kind of says, “yeah, sure, keep dreaming, dingbat.”

The Commodore’s up and about and having a meeting with his doctor, Gillian, Jimmy, Nucky, Halloran, and Louann, the housekeeper. The doctor’s explaining that the arsenic was introduced so gradually that it seemed like the Commodore was just getting sick. But the stuff was in everything—even the toothpaste. Halloran asks Louann how she can explain this. She shrugs that the arsenic must have fallen into every food item that passed the Commodore’s lips by mistake. Sure, that’ll fly. Well, it would if the FBI was running this case. Sadly for Louann, that’s not the case. The Commodore moans that she killed his dog, and Jimmy pipes up uselessly that he ate one of the tainted cookies. Louann’s food, by the way, was untouched. She starts to get pissed at the mention of the dog and grumbles that the Commodore fed the dog better than he fed her. Ahh, we’re finally seeing some of the discontent I figured had to have been simmering for quite a while, considering his treatment of her.

Halloran gets things back on track by asking her why she did this. “Because if I had used a shotgun I’d have had to clean the mess up myself,” she answers, her face getting darker and scarier than I would have thought possible. Did she really do it? Because that right there makes me think she actually did. Plus, I never really thought Gillian had much motive or opportunity. She says that she’d had all she could take of his abuse. The Commodore orders Halloran to arrest her, but Nucky pulls her aside, tells her he understands why she did this, but she really can’t go around poisoning people. He then pulls out a wad of cash (you know what? I’m going to turn that action into a drinking game for season 2. It’ll make for a marvelous Sunday night. Possibly a crappy Monday morning, though.) hands it over, and tells her to leave town and change her name. She blesses him, tells him to be careful, and then hands him a book before leaving the room. Nucky opens the book to a marked page and looks thoughtful, even as the Commodore rails in the background.

It’s a rainy Halloween in NYC and Rothstein is, for once, not playing billiards or drinking a glass of milk. He emerges from his building with Lucky and Meyer and informs them that he’s planning to head to Scotland for a while with his wife. He’s been told that an indictment is imminent in the Series Fixing Case. Meyer opines that Scotland in November kind of sucks, by Rothstein’s trying to keep his spirits up and says he’ll try golfing and tour some of the distilleries until this whole baseball business gets cleared up. As they speak, two kids dressed as a clown and a scarecrow run by, so feel free to read some symbolism into that. Or not.

Lucky asks if there’s anyone in Chicago Rothstein can pay off, but Rothstein’s not too popular up there. Lucky suggests he use a middleman—Torrio. Rothstein points out that Torrio’s kind of new blood out there, so he lacks political connections. Nucky Thompson, on the other hand, does not. Lucky reminds Rothstein that Torrio could help connect him to Nucky. Meyer and Lucky double up on Rothstein and tell him that there’s no money in this war they’re embroiled in, and the D’Alessios pretty much suck. “I didn’t realize I was paying you boys for your advice,” Rothstein snits. “The advice is free, you pay us because we’ll get our hands dirty,” Lucky slings back. Rothstein considers this as he gets into his car.

Jimmy returns home after what was probably a looong day at the Commodore’s and asks little Tommy what he’s dressed as. The kid doesn’t answer right away, so Jimmy prompts him, and gets his response: pirate. Angela sends Tommy off to get ready for a party. When he’s gone, Angela gets a major dose of the silent treatment, which she calls Jimmy on. That gets him talking, and leads him to ask what’s wrong with the kid, who he sees as disrespectful. Angela informs Jimmy that Tommy’s terrified of him (since when?) because Jimmy’s been having some serious night terrors. Angela’s afraid he’s going to hurt them. Jimmy softens and says he wants to protect them. He invites her to sit with him and explains that he got seriously screwed up by the war, but the whole time he was there he thought of her and Tommy. He allows that they both did things they shouldn’t have when they were apart, but now he wants to start fresh and go back to where they were. She promises to try and they kiss and make up.

At Margaret’s church, the priest starts a prayer for the dead as he leads the congregation on a trip through the graveyard. Um, ok. I was raised Catholic and we never did anything like this. All the kids in the congregation are dressed up in the Halloween costumes, which is cute, but I figured most churches would frown on that.

Nan asks Margaret about her own prayer habits, which is kind of rude, but Margaret says she prays for those she lost and for forgiveness of her own sins. Nan blathers on, but Margaret stops listening because she’s come across a grave of particular interest to her: One for Enoch Thompson, Jr. who lived from December 16 to December 22, 1912, and for Mabel Thompson, who lived from May 6, 1885 to January 19th, 1913. Oh dear. Nan finally cottons on to what Margaret’s looking at and says, “so you have that in common.” That has to be one of the most mind-bendingly, shockingly insensitive things I’ve ever heard one TV character say to another on a non-comedy. Especially if she’s talking about Margaret’s miscarried baby, which she might be, because when Margaret turns to her with a total WTF? face, she elaborates that Nucky told her in Chicago that he had a son who died.

Nucky, meanwhile, is on the phone with Torrio, who’s trying to set up the meeting with Rothstein. Nucky’s not too keen, because he’s not getting many details about it, but he eventually agrees to a noon meeting the following day, somewhere near AC. Nucky hangs up, sighs, and finishes getting dressed in a tux and simple black mask. As he admires himself in the three-way mirror, Eddie leads Margaret in. Nucky takes a minute to remember he’s wearing the mask and he removes it, even though Margaret sniffs that he should leave it on, because it suits him—a “dapper villain in a Sunday serial.” Um, I don’t think that’s the tone you really want to strike here, Margaret, unless seeing the graves of this man’s wife and infant son somehow made you want to come here and be a total bitch to him.

Nucky gives as good as he gets, asking what her costume is today: firebrand suffragette, crusading temperance leader? She brings the conversation around to the real subject: Nucky’s dead son and wife. Nucky prickles and tells her it’s a little late for the tale of sorrows/fake sympathy game. She takes a seat on the sofa and tells him she wants to find out exactly who he is. Nucky looks at her for a moment, then starts to tell a real sob story: Seven years ago, he’d just been made treasurer, he was very busy, and his wife had just given birth. They named him Enoch, his wife’s wish. He was frail, and Nucky was terrified to hold him. And also, he was very busy with work. Very, very busy. He says that a lot, which is the only reason I keep repeating it. Then, one night, Nucky came home and found her in the nursery, rocking him. Nucky finally gathered up the courage to hold him, and he moved back the blanket, and could tell that the baby had been dead for days. Oh. My. GOD! That’s just too incredibly horrific for me to even process or think about at all. I just—I can’t. I’m sorry. Amazing work by Steve Buschemi here, though.

Anyway, it seems that Mabel’s mind cracked big time. She’d been taking care of her dead baby for more than a week as if it was alive—bathing it, changing its diapers, etc. Nucky took the baby—it was the only time he ever held him—and they buried him. Mabel couldn’t accept it and slipped into a deep depression. Doctors said time would heal all, and Nucky was too busy to deal with her, so he couldn’t stop her when, a few weeks later, she slashed her wrists with Nucky’s razor. Jesus. Worst month ever. He must hate Christmastime.

Nucky goes on to say that the time he spent with Margaret and the children, just being together and eating breakfast and being a family, were the best and most terrifying times of his life. And now, she knows more about Nucky than anyone else on earth.

“You thought I needed saving,” says Margaret. There’s a long pause, and then Nucky asks if she plans to leave Atlantic City. Margaret quietly tells him it’s for the best. She looks and sounds like she’s about to cry. She says that there’s kindness in him, so she can’t understand how he does what he does. “We all have to decide for ourselves how much sin we can live with,” he replies. That’s a teaser line if ever I heard one. I bet we’ll be hearing it a lot in previews leading up to season 2. Margaret sadly takes her leave of him. Good scene. Horrifying, but good. I really like these two together.

Now to counter that with a terrible pair—Van Alden’s paying a visit to his wife, who offers him a biscuit after dinner that’s turned down (“the molasses hurts my filling.”) Ok, other people who have watched it—she looks pregnant, right? Am I crazy? I totally thought she was—she looked like she had a belly out front. Maybe she’s just wearing a lot of layers or something, at least, I’m assuming that’s what the deal is, because no pregnancy is mentioned between them. Kind of misleading, though. And distracting.

Van Alden tells her he was offered a permanent assignment in AC, since they discovered a large still near where Sebso met his end. So, at least his info was good. Elliott was so pleased he offered Van Alden a raise and two extra agents. Van Alden turned him down, though, because he suddenly has a hankering to go into the feed business with his Uncle Byron. “In Schenectady?” Mrs. V-A says, in the same tone one might say “in the manure pile?” Van Alden tries to convince her that Schenectady is awesome, since she gets to wear snowshoes all the time, or something. Mrs. V-A finally admits that she rather likes being the wife of a Federal agent. He tries to shame her by calling her vain and says he’s unhappy and unfulfilled. She’s a smart cookie, though, or maybe just a really devout one, because she pushes exactly the right button by telling him that he’s doing God’s work down there in AC. Van Alden calls for God to send him a sign, if he wants him to stick around so bad.

The following day, Angela returns home with some groceries and finds, amongst the mail, a postcard with the Eiffel Tower on it. The message on the back reads: Forgive me, but don’t forget me. Je t’aime, ma cherie. Mary. Um, eff you, Mary. Who are you to make any demands? I hope she doesn’t come wandering back into this show in a later season.

Out on the shore (possibly the same dunes where Winslow met his untimely end) Rothstein and Lucky and Torrio and Al wait as Nucky’s car pulls up and out hop Jimmy and Nucky. Gang’s all here. Looks like Al’s sticking with his more grown-up look. The fedora suits him. Torrio greets both Nucky and Jimmy politely and warmly, but Nucky’s not in the mood for pleasantries. He wants to know what this is all about. Torrio begins by reminding everyone of Colosimo, who was a good man, but didn’t look ahead. “Didn’t look from behind either,” Lucky cracks. Al growls for him to grow up, which is both rich and confirms that he’s really sticking with this new code of behavior.

Torrio continues that they need to look to the future, and sometimes that means letting go of the past. The past, which, for him, included a near-death experience, is still a little too close for comfort for Nucky, and quite the sore spot. Rothstein says he’s willing to put an end to their hostilities. Jimmy points out that that’s probably because said hostilities are not going Rothstein’s way. Rothstein says they could continue to wage war, but it benefits no one, and he’s got some issues of his own he needs to have taken care of. Nucky realizes Rothstein’s asking him for a favor. Rothstein amends that to “asking for a deal”. He needs Nucky to pull some strings and quash the indictment. Nucky says that could be arranged, in exchange for $1 million in cash and the location of the remaining D’Alessios. Jimmy protests the idea of making a deal with Rothstein, while the others blanch at the amount of money he’s demanding. As they should—that’s worth about $10.6 million in today’s dollars, and Nucky’s asking for it in cash. Rothstein’s not happy about this, but he finally agrees and tells everyone to let all bad blood go and end the war here and now. Meeting over, everyone heads back to their respective cars. Lucky tells Al and Jimmy where the rest of the D’Alessios are, and Nucky tells Eddie to get Eli on the phone and to call a press conference for 3 p.m. that afternoon.

Ok, this part I did like. Since this is a gangster show, of course, they had to do their nod to/ripoff of The Godfather baptism scene, but they added their own little twist. As Nucky gives his press conference to a throng of reporters, we see Jimmy, Al, and Two Face finishing off the D’Alessios (including that kid who robbed O’Neill on the Boardwalk). In Nucky’s speech, he lays the responsibility for the convoy attack the previous January on Hans Schroeder and the D’Alessios, whom he says were captured due to the tireless police work of Eli, who’s sitting in the audience, dressed in civvies. He, too, wears a hat well. I mention that because it’s not true of everyone. He looks good outside his uniform. Almost as sharp as Nucky. Nucky goes on to say that there have been all sorts of claims of corruption and illegal activities in the current administration, but those responsible for these crimes were apprehended and punished under the administration too, so it can’t be all bad, right? As he says this, we get to watch Jimmy slit Leo D’Alessio’s throat with his crazy war knife. As he strides away, it’s to an excellent soundtrack of martial drumbeats. Nice. Nucky finishes up by calling for everyone to vote for Bader the following day (and yes, Election Day was on Tuesday, November 2 in 1920, so they did their research there) and keep Atlantic City safe.

The following day, Nucky’s out doing what he does best, gladhanding voters waiting in line, congratulating the ladies, eyeing Margaret, etc. He urges them to vote for a straight Republican ticket (I want you…to vote Republican) and gets a big round of applause from those gathered.

Jimmy returns home and calls out for Angela, who emerges from the bedroom with a new cropped hairstyle. The record that was playing during her sex scene with Mary is on again. Nice touch, but can we please kill this awful, boring lesbian plotline already? Jimmy looks started by her new look but makes no comment. She tells him his father wants to see him.

The cronies, Bader, and Jimmy have all gathered in Nucky’s suite to party, backslap, and wait for results to come in. Things are looking good for the Republicans. One of the cronies warns Jimmy to take it easy on the hooch, but Jimmy ignores him. In the adjoining room, Eddie tells Nucky he just heard that Rothstein will not be indicted. No news on the mayor’s race, though. Nucky pours himself a drink and tells Eli, who’s sitting nearby, stewing in bitterness, that they’re almost home free. Eli’s in no mood, and reminds Nucky that he kind of screwed him over big time. Nucky tells him to take it easy, he’ll make it right. “You do this stuff, you say things—maybe you’re so used to spouting bullshit that you don’t realize it, but your words do affect people,” says Eli. Nucky makes a crack at Eli’s speech-giving classes (this episode is full of callbacks) but Eli just snaps that there are consequences to what one says and does. Nucky apologizes, not all that sincerely, for hurting Eli’s feelings, and tells him to trust him. Eddie comes in and says there’s someone from campaign headquarters on the phone. Eli leaves so he can have a conversation in private.

For no real reason, Frank Hague comes wandering in to join the Republicans’ party, even though he’s a Democrat. Guess he’s just there for the free booze. The cronies greet him happily, and a moment later, Nucky comes in to announce Bader’s victory. Everyone cheers. Bader takes the stage and gets right down to business. He thanks Halloran for his service, and regretfully accepts his resignation. Said resignation is as much of a surprise to Halloran as Eli’s was to Eli. Bader immediately reinstates Eli. One of the cronies tells Halloran to chill, because this is what Nucky wants. Jimmy snorts, unseen by the others. As Bader gets back to the party, Jimmy rises from his seat and pours himself another drink. He’s recognized by Patty Ryan, whom you might remember he was expected to work under, way back in the first episode. Ryan asks Jimmy how he’s doing, in that cautious way people have of asking questions of someone who’s really, really drunk and possibly belligerent. Jimmy says he’s great, and how’s Patty? Patty says he’s good, Nucky’s been taking care of him. “He must have pimped out your mother as well,” says Jimmy. Ohhh, heeeey now. Ryan, of course, is offended by that, but before things can escalate, Nucky grabs Jimmy by the arm and drags him out of the room, asking what’s wrong with him.

Jimmy, who can barely stand straight, tells Nucky that Nucky’s his hero, because Nucky’s like a machine, clean, fast, ruthless. Jimmy says that Nucky will use anyone, including 13-year-old girls. The look on Nucky’s face says, “Oh, so that’s what this is about,” although that should have been clear from the get-go, considering how this conversation got started. Nucky tries to whitewash, saying that Gillian was an orphan and the Commodore took good care of her. Ick. Jimmy grins that he sure did, and then Nucky took care of Jimmy. Jimmy realizes that everything Nucky’s done for him was out of guilt, and Nucky essentially tells him to put on his big boy pants and get over it. Jimmy sadly says he thought Nucky loved him. At this point, he might as well be sticking his bottom lip out and kicking at the furniture like a five-year-old. From the party room, Eli closely watches the interaction between Nucky and Jimmy.

At Nan’s, Margaret’s serving up the cake. Nan, of course, finds the ring, and gushes about being the First Lady, because she really is an empty-headed twit who seems to keep forgetting that Warren Harding is already married and that divorce was seriously frowned upon in the 1920’s. Margaret’s fed up with this nonsense and asks Nan just what she plans to do if Warren doesn’t send for her. Ouch. Nan takes a minute to absorb that, and then says that of course he’ll send for her, he promised. And people always keep their promises, don’t they? Margaret sticks a fork in her own piece of cake and karmically pulls out the rag. Little Emily asks what it means, and Margaret passes it off as nothing, but it’s definitely hit home. Having tasted the good life, it’s pretty hard to go back, isn’t it?

At the Post/Fed Field office, Van Alden’s pushing papers around on his desk when one of the postemen comes in to say that there’s a lady there to see him. Van Alden hurries to pretty himself up, puts on his jacket, puts out what is probably a picture of his wife (strange) and tries to look all busy and official, clearly expecting Margaret. But who should come in instead? Lucy, looking her usual overdone self. His face falls spectacularly when he sees her. He asks what she wants, and she tells him he’s gotten her knocked up. The Lord works in mysterious ways indeed.

At the Commodore’s, Gillian’s trying to persuade the old man to drink some warm milk to rebuild his stomach lining. He’s garrulous, and asks for brandy in it. Jimmy sourly observes that they’re a happy family all of a sudden, and Gillian tells him to chill before going to make something to eat. Once she leaves, Jimmy helpfully adds some liquor to the Commodore’s milk. Eww. Jimmy then bitterly says that this is the first time they’ve ever had a drink together. The Commodore bitches about Nucky letting Louann go, and Jimmy merely says Nucky has his own concept of justice. The Commodore snorts and starts to rail about Woodrow Wilson, which is kind of random, so I’m going to take that as a shout-out to Jimmy’s Princeton history. Jimmy guesses that Wilson was the reason the Commodore went to jail, but the Commodore corrects him: Wilson was the reason he was convicted, but Nucky was the reason he went to jail. Jimmy sits down, now interested. The Commodore explains that Nucky was sheriff at the time, and the two of them got caught up in an election rigging scandal. You mean, like, having dead people vote? Surely not! The prosecutor couldn’t nail both of them, so Wilson made a deal with said prosecutor: one of the men takes the fall, Wilson gets his good headlines, and the rest of the case goes away. The Commodore already had a bit of a stink on him, but Nucky was still clean, so the deal was Nucky would run things while the Commodore was away and then square things up when the Commodore got out again. But then, Nucky totally took over, which still leaves the Commodore bitter. Thing is, what did he expect? How was Nucky supposed to run things without taking over? Still, the Commodore’s pissed at having been displaced by the son of some “drunken piney.” Hey! Don’t go insulting the Pineys by lumping that awful old man in with them! My grandpa used to sell life insurance to them waaaaay back in the day and apparently they were quite nice, sweet (albeit in many cases creepily inbred) people.

Jimmy pours his dad another drink and remembers how much he used to hate coming to visit when he was a kid. But Nucky would tell him to do it, for Gillian’s sake. The Commodore says he knows why Jimmy came back from Chicago—to do what Nucky didn’t have the balls to do himself. Jimmy defensively says he made a good deal, but the Commodore snaps that Nucky made him think he did, just the way he made the Commodore think he did. “He was like a son to me, but you’re my flesh and blood,” says the Commodore. Bottom line: he wants Jimmy to take back Atlantic City for the pair of them. Well, the new visitor conveniently being ushered in by the brand-new butler might be able to help: It’s Eli Thompson. Eli asks the Commodore if he’s filled Jimmy in already. Well, now!

At the election party at Babette’s, the stand-up comic from episode one (see what I meant about this being a reunion episode?) is on stage, joking about how, if he were president, he’d run his cabinet like a Broadway show and try them out in AC first. The string of jokes is lame, but the crowd eats it up before the band chimes in and everyone starts to make merry and Charleston their little hearts out. And here’s a return I wasn’t looking for—remember Baxter, the guy with the blonde chick who wouldn’t put out? Here he is, with none other than Annabelle on his arm. She works fast, doesn’t she? Nucky’s as surprised to see them both as I am. Thankfully, they quickly take their leave to go dance so Nucky can go back to the conversation he was having with a blonde woman at the bar. That’s quickly interrupted by the arrival of Margaret, all dolled up. Yeah, that rag clearly got to her. Also, I think the shot of her arriving was really similar to the shot of her arriving at Babette’s for the first time ever, so yet another callback, and a subtle one, too. Nucky’s shocked, but smiles when he sees her. She looks…well, not exactly delighted to see him, more resolute. Still, he approaches her and they chat awkwardly for a moment. She congratulates him on Bader’s victory, and he says he owes a lot of it to her. She flirtily tells him he can thank her by fetching her a drink. Well, she has come quite a way since episode one, hasn’t she? Looks like she’s flinging her old self right off, doesn’t it? Nucky offers her champagne, and they clink glasses. He asks after the kids, and she sincerely says that they miss their “Uncle Nucky.”

Thankfully, we can leave this fraught couple for a moment, because Babette’s shushing everyone so they can hear the radio announcement that Warren Harding’s won the presidency. The assorted Republicans cheer and confetti rains down from the ceiling. Baxter kisses Annabelle, and waiters start pouring more champagne. The announcer reads from Harding’s acceptance speech, which calls for a return to normalcy. Margaret returns to what she hopes will be her normalcy by turning to Nucky and kissing him.

The comedian retakes the stage and starts to sing Life’s a Funny Proposition as we get an episode-ending montage. Van Alden reads his bible and looks distressed. The Commodore, Jimmy, and Eli plot while Gillian smokes alone in a room nearby. Meyer Lansky inspects a shipment, smiles in satisfaction, and then Lucky shoots the delivery driver. Ok. Not sure what that was about. Nan tries on the ring she found in her cake. Rothstein works the phones with one of the cronies while Eddie counts up giant stacks of money in AC. Angela sits alone at the kitchen table, an untouched cup of tea in front of her. Jimmy strolls along the deserted shore. As dawn breaks, the revelers spill out of Babette’s. Nucky shakes hands and then he and Margaret stroll to the sore, arms around each other, and watch the sun rise over Nucky’s empire.

Well, that’s it. We’ll have to wait a few months to find out how this thing with Eli, the Commodore, and Jimmy will shake out, not to mention the business deal with Rothstein, and various relationships on the show. Good episode, good season, good show. I’ll definitely be back for a second helping. In the meantime, I’ll still be here, digging up some classic costume dramas to keep on recapping!


8 thoughts on “Boardwalk Empire: Truth and Consequences

    1. I can happily tell you that HBO has already commissioned a second season. Yay! As for the carnation: there might be some greater significance to it, but from what I know of Edwardian era fashion (that being the era Nucky came of age during), a red carnation was a very common buttonhole flower for a gentleman, and no well-dressed man would go out without a flower in his buttonhole (white carnations were only appropriate for evening wear). It was a fashion that was starting to fall out of favor (you’ll notice Jimmy and the other younger men on the show don’t wear flowers), but someone like Nucky certainly would, out of habit, if nothing else.

  1. I think that the guy that’s playing Luciano is very bad. Lucky was supposed to be a calm and crafty guy. I think even Cristian Slater played Lucky better than this guy. I was saying that one of the Corsian (sp) brothers that was shot through the door by the guy with the mask looked more like Lucky than the guy they picked, but nevertheless Buscemi doesn’t look like Nucky Johnson either.

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