Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jimmy in Babetts & Plot Lines

BOARDWALK EMPIRE 2.07 'Peg of Old'
Margaret attempts to reconnect with her family while Nucky gets the best of Van Alden.
By Hilary Rothing

November 07, 2011
Episode Title: 'Peg of Old'
Writers: Howard Korder & Steve Kornacki & Bathsheba Doran
Director: Allen Coulter
Previously on "Boardwalk Empire":
After getting a distressing phone call from her husband, Rose Van Alden arrived in Atlantic City, just in time to meet her husband's mistress and new baby. Owen Sleater made a pass at Margaret while Nucky faced a setback in his election fraud case with a new federal prosecutor taking him on. Elsewhere, Jimmy made a deal with Rothstein's men to undercut both their bosses.

Nucky (Steve Buscemi) stops by Jack Dempsey's training camp to ask him to promote a radio broadcast of his upcoming fight. Meanwhile, Van Alden (Michael Shannon) returns home to an angry Lucky Danzinger (Paz de la Huerta), demanding the money he promised her.

At the Commodore's, Jimmy (Michael Pitt) and Richard (Jack Huston) meet with Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks). The group decides that Nucky must be killed, at the unlikely urging of his brother, Eli (Shea Whigham). Jimmy is resistant to the idea, instead preferring to have Nucky jailed and replaced by a man of their choosing. However, the gangsters insist on offing him.

Van Alden returns to the office to find his desk overtaken by Assistant Attorney General, Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson), the new prosecutor on Nucky's case. Elsewhere, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) visits her brother and sisters in Brooklyn.

Nucky's lawyer tells him about Randolph taking on his case. However, the two are soon interrupted by Lucy, asking for money to help take care of her newborn daughter.

Jimmy tells Gillian (Gretchen Mol) he's conflicted about taking out Nucky, however she encourages him to follow through for fear of appearing weak to his new partners.

After getting a call, Van Alden meets with Nucky, who offers him financial support in exchange for info on Randolph's case. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Margaret and her brother, Eamonn have a frank discussion about the circumstances of her coming to America.

Van Alden returns home after his meeting with Nucky to find a neighbor taking care of his daughter and Lucy gone. The next day, he tells Randolph about his personal situation and hands over a massive file on Nucky's illegal activities.

Margaret meets with her younger sister, Aelish to give her a book. However, she's soon greeted by Eamonn who tells her not to come back.

Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) stops by a bar, where he encounters an acquaintance from Ireland. After offering to buy the man a drink, Owen follows him into the bathroom, where he strangles him to death, calling the dead man a traitor.

At Babette's, Jack Dempsey promotes his upcoming fight as Nucky and Eddie (Anthony Laciura) look on. Jimmy makes his way through the crowd and approaches Nucky, telling him "it doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, you just have to make a decision." Just then a man shoots Nucky in the hand before getting shot down himself by the agent Randolph assigned to tail Nucky.

Margaret comes home to find the house empty, except for Owen. After a tense conversation, the two go up to her bedroom and begin to make love, but not before Margaret warns him not to speak of the encounter ever again.

With so many great characters in its orbit, "Boardwalk Empire" sometimes feels like its never getting anywhere with any of them. Which is why this Margaret Schroeder-centric episode worked so well, on so many levels.

Not only did we delve deeper into Margaret/Peg's past but there was also some great movement on a number of fronts. Jimmy struggled with putting a hit on Nucky, while continuing to squirm under his mother's oppressive thumb, Van Alden, humiliated before Nucky, came clean to Assistant US Attorney Esther Randolph and Lucy apparently skipped town. Oh and Margaret and Owen finally got it on.

On that note, it was quite poignant when Owen called Margaret out on her coolness. After spending the day with her family, we learn more about what's hardened her heart. And with old wounds freshly salted by her brother, while her heart breaks for her younger sisters who barely know her, Margaret's coldness towards Owen is more than apropos. She tells Owen she is not at all how he sees her shortly after her bother Eamonn cruelly sends her off, saying "there's no one here who knows you here." As a third party privy to all Margaret's interactions, I'm not sure anyone truly knows her, but I do feel I understand her better after this hour.

Like Jimmy Darmody, Van Alden struggled with what to do about Nucky. There were some great scenes for Michael Shannon this week. Van Alden's probably the most rigid straight man on the boardwalk, which is why newcomer Esther Randolph's sarcastic barbs actually had me laughing, for once, at this show. And just the thought of Nucky offering Van Alden a drink because "if there was ever a time" was perhaps his finest moment. But in the end, the joke was on Nucky, as Van Alden came clean to Randolph and handed over a file on the bootlegger that rivals "War and Peace."
A few additional observations about 'Peg of Old:'

- Gillian's behavior around Jimmy is reaching new uncomfortable heights. The fact that people used to think they were brother and sister is actually a relief…
- Can't say I'm sad to see, or rather not see Lucy at Van Alden's when he returned home.
- As I mentioned earlier, Nucky had some great lines in this hour. Gotta love how he quoted the exact date he last saw Lucy the minute she walked in with a basket full of baby.
- Lucky and Gillian are at it again. I'm afraid this is only going to make things creepier between Jimmy and mom, when he finds out.

- Nucky gets shot again, don't really care.
- As little as I care about Nucky, I can't help hating Eli.
After a string of well paced and finely tuned episodes, I'm convinced "Boardwalk Empire" has hit its stride and I couldn't be happier I stuck with it. While I have given up caring about Nucky Thompson's character as much as I should, seeing as he's the main man here, the supporting characters more than live up to their title. And Nucky is best when he bounces off them. What are your thoughts on "Boardwalk Empire's" latest hour? Sound off in the comments!

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 19 'Peg of Old' Review
November 09, 2011

I have mentioned several times how much it impresses me that with so many characters on this show, that the writers ofBoardwalk Empire are able to cram so much character development into one episode, but this latest episode, 'Peg of Old,' takes the cake. Yes, there's still the graphic violence and even a very surprising sex scene for those simply looking for such things out of their TV watching enjoyment, but those who seek unbelievable storytelling came to the right place.
After a brief opening showing that boxer Jack Dempsey has indeed, at Nucky's suggestion a few episodes back, come to train in Atlantic City (which also puts him in Nucky's pocket, it seems), the story immediately shifts to Van Alden and the mess that his life has become. His wife will no longer converse with him by phone or by mail, and it seems the money he had promised Lucy for her trouble is now non-existent.

After a heated argument with Lucy, Van Alden heads into work only to find that his office has been overtook by the Assistant DA and her lackeys, moving Van Alden and his things to a tiny desk in the back of the room. The ADA is there working on the legal case against Nucky, making Nucky once again a thorn in Van Alden's side, even when he's not intending to be.

Margaret (finally!) makes the trek to Brooklyn to visit the family that she recently discovered are living in America. The show introduces several young ladies of varying ages, all of them her sisters, that only seem to know her as Margaret, but as her brother walks in he calls her Peg, thus proving Katie the maid's theory that Margaret was actually the "Peggy" that she had her call about earlier this season. What follows is an odd mix of sweet and awkward conversation between Margaret and her brother and sisters. For every moment of progress she makes with the girls, her brother takes her down a notch.

In the midst of a slightly heated discussion, Margaret reveals that she left behind her old life in Ireland because she had gotten pregnant, lied about the circumstances that lead to the pregnancy, and fled for fear of the persecution and life she had awaiting her if she were to stick around. It's some pretty emotional back and forth that brings out the best in Kelly Macdonald's portrayal of Margaret. There's a fire and defiance within that character that's been missing nearly all season, but even amidst her sadness over her brother's attitude towards her, you can sense that rebellious aspect of her coming back to the surface, and by episode's end it returns in a not-quite surprising fashion. I hope we have more of the strong, rebellious Margaret to look forward to.

After last week's shootout in the woods, Jimmy and the New York boys (Lucky and Lansky) had come to an agreement to start bringing in Heroin. This week they have all convened in Atlantic City, Al Capone in tow, to discuss their impending business venture, although it sounds like their still talking about booze to me. Eli shows up late to the meeting, only adding more fuel to the inferiority complex that character must have.

Jimmy continues to insist that Nucky is going to go down once the courts get a hold of him, but the other members of this younger group of gangsters insist that he should just be taken out. Jimmy seems to fend it off until Eli himself says to "just kill him, already." This puts Jimmy in an awkward place and gives actor Michael Pitt a chance to really show what a multi-layered character Jimmy really is. Although he's been on the Commodore's side since the end of Season 1, you can tell that it's Nucky that he truly admires and respects and the thought of not only harm coming to Nucky, but harm coming to him by his call, has him completely twisted up inside. Alas, he finds himself in a leadership position, makes a tough decision and informs Capone to call one of his guys to seal the deal.

Immediately after making this decision, it's evident that Jimmy is filled with regret. He discusses this with his mother, who insists that he can't look weak in front of the other fellows if he is to be their ringleader. What Jimmy is unaware of is that his mom has rekindled her affair with Lucky, leaving me to question if she has some ulterior motives herself.
There's not a whole lot of Nucky this week, but what we do get of him is great. Early on he is visited by Lucy, with baby in tow, who admits she initially was going to try and play him for some money, but then tells the truth about her situation with Van Alden, which Nucky feels he can use to his advantage. He calls Van Alden in and makes him an offer. If Van Alden will spy on the ADA, Nucky will take care of him, Lucy, and the baby. Before they can agree, Nucky mentions that he gave Lucy some money, and Van Alden takes off, knowing that it can't be a good thing.

Sure enough, Van Alden returns home to find a neighbor watching the baby and a dirty diaper on the spinning on the Victrola that Lucy had previously so desired. Van Alden has literally hit bottom. He's made a mess of his once devout life having a wife that won't speak to him, a baby with another woman, countless other sins, including murder, on his conscious and has now been propositioned by Nucky Thompson, the man he came to Atlantic City to take down in the first place. However, Van Alden's faith runs strong and as we see him, holding his newborn daughter that he has decided to name Abigail, there's a sense of rebirth in his eyes.

He immediately walks into his office and hands over an extensive file that he's built on Nucky Thompson over to the ADA and agrees to testify to all information contained within. Rather than being in Nucky's pocket, Van Alden has decided to go up against him once again, and I couldn't be more excited about it. After the explosion that took the life of one of his men, Van Alden has recognized how far he has strayed from his path and it appears that he is back on the road of the righteous, or at least as best as he can be.

Even Owen gets a little bit more back story this week, although it's not quite the clearest. After being a no-show to drive Nucky to a party at Babette's, it is revealed that he is staking out a long time acquaintance that, from what I could gather, used to serve with him in the Irish military but committed some form of treason, as Owen waits for the man to enter a bathroom and then, with a handy spoon trick and some wire, relieves the man of a couple of fingers, as well as his life. This gives a greater glimpse to the more vicious side of the Owen character and I'm curious to see how this aspect plays out.

There is that other side of Owen, though. The handsome heartbreaker side that Margaret herself confessed to thinking inappropriate thoughts about. As it turns out, she won't have to just imagine it any longer. As she arrives home from Brooklyn, properly informed by her brother that no one knows her or cares for her there, she finds an empty house, save for Owen the driver. The maids have taken the kids to the beach and Nucky is at Babette's, leaving the house completely to them. Owen begins with his instant flirtations, which Margaret shirks from initially, but then she makes it clear that Owen can come upstairs with her. Although she acts cold and uncaring about the two of them and what they are about to do, once they begin Margaret seems to enjoy herself much more than she expected, vastly more than she has ever with Nucky, and that leads me to believe this won't be the one time thing she insisted it would be. Little do Margaret and Owen know that while they are consummating their desires, that Nucky has been injured with no one by his side.
While at the party at Babette's and listening to Jack Dempsey give his speech, Nucky starts making eyes at a young lady but his glance is interrupted by an almost crazed looking Jimmy. He gives Nucky a sort of cryptic message and walks off, leaving Nucky more confused than ever. Just as Jimmy steps aside, the gunman he hired takes a shot at Nucky, who manages to get out of the way save for his hand that he held up to protect himself. The gunman is immediately shot by one of the government agents working with the ADA, revealing that the government has an even closer eye on Nucky now than was realized. It makes for a fairly grim scene with Nucky, lying on the floor shot through the hand, while his lady and bodyguard are giving in to their carnal sides with no idea what's become of him.

With only five episodes left this season, the story is definitely showing a picking up of the pace. Alliances and sides are being chosen, and everyone seems to be on the verge of making their next big play and I for one can't wait to see it all unfold.

- Matt Hardeman
• Margaret finally got some good story reminding me of why I loved her so much in Season 1
• Nucky offering Van Alden a drink is such a brazen move I can't help but applaud him for it
• The many layers of Van Alden and Jimmy and the amazing work that Michael Shannon and Michael Pitt are doing as those characters
• Even though it was fleeting, I love seeing Stephen Graham's turn as Al Capone any chance I can Jeers:
• No Chalky is always a bad thing. Give me more Chalky!
If you are tired after a long day of work and just want to watch a show with good performances and strong technical chops, etc. etc., Boardwalk Empire remains a totally valid choice. Even at its worst, it never makes the world an objectively poorer place. (Most hours of cable news can be described this way. We should all just stop watching those.) It’s a show! It can muddle through an hour with fighting and sex and guns and a well-hewn overall style, plus occasionally some snappy dialogue. So when we say an hour of Boardwalk Empire was “bad TV,” then, that’s not to suggest that the stakes of its relative goodness or badness were ever particularly high. But good Lord this episode was all over the place. And the more you think about it, the less impressive it becomes.

Remember the other week, in the woods, when Jimmy/Harrow/Manny and Meyer/Luciano, etc. had their midnight meeting of the guns? And they all decided to let Nucky have his booze so that they could start running heroin? The general idea being that they’d expand the field of play rather than go directly at their rival on his turf. Well, nobody who was there remembers it — because in what’s easily the most out-of-nowhere narrative device of the season, most of the aforementioned parties (with Capone subbing in for Manny) decide it’s time to off Nucky, after a helpful nudge in that direction from Sheriff Eli. As Capone helpfully explains, they’ll make more bread that way. Which is what it’s “all about,” this gangsterism. The moo-lah. Cash rules everything et al. Then Mickey (yeah, he’s back) does that laugh of his. Inexplicably, no one shoots him in his seat.
So there are a bunch of narrative strands that are hinted at in this scene, none of which are much developed. As in, no one is curious about why Eli’s so eager to kill his brother? That’s a speed bump that everyone just hops right over. It’s not like Eli’s ever been the go-to strategy guy or anything. Maybe it’s possible he’s being driven by some emotions that are irrelevant to everyone else? At any rate, Jimmy is maneuvered into deciding to do something only because other people are waiting for him to do it — a particular move that, because of how transparently Jimmy is given to making it, doesn’t connote strength nearly so much as he’d like it to. It’s painful to watch him in the decision-making chair. And disappointing, too, after we’d begun to see him get under Nucky’s skin by being minimally creative. He just forgot all that stuff from last week about being a subtle player of the game. So, we’re back to where we’ve been before, with a boring, confused, easily manipulated Jimmy. As a trope, it didn’t get more interesting while we were away, during the past few, very good episodes.

And listen: If Al Capone is gonna trouble himself to travel across the country, sit in the makeup chair, and get hauled out for a scene on this program, the least Jimmy could do is agree to kill somebody. And so, largely on this argumentation is the hit on Nucky born. For this vital and important task, the brain trust in the room elects to go with an anonymous “paisan” off a train to be named later. It’s really neither here nor there. Almost anyone will do, because all the characters in this scene would like to get out of it as soon as possible. (I like to imagine the Commodore, over in the next room, using that one good arm of his to throw some feces on the wall in protest, while listening to this scene play out.)

Would you believe that Nucky is not successfully murdered by the person tapped for this task? No, it looks the treasurer’s hand needs a bandage — but that’s about it. This happens near the end of the episode, but it’s worth dispensing with now, it’s such a predictable dead end. Jimmy tries to be tough right before the putative kill, approaching Nucky in Babette’s supper club. He says this line, full of feeling, about being decisive, and then turns away as the moron assassin gets off one shot (the one Nucky catches in his defensively raised hand), before being in turn plugged by one of the new federal investigators in town. After Nucky takes some pain medication, he may begin to wonder what that fed on his tail is all about. We see Jimmy limping out of the hall, wincing like “argh, why am I even doing any of this when my only true wish is to curl up in the fetal position and have my mom lick my face a bunch?”

Also, haphazardly spread in and among the scenes that make up this episode’s main arc, we had a bunch of other well-acted story strands that didn’t really get us anywhere. Margaret’s brother in Brooklyn? Still not very kindly disposed toward her, turns out. Perhaps you thought there was a little glimmer of something there when he was telling Maid Katy that the old Margaret was dead to him. If so, maybe you would have taken a car up to the borough, too, and spent the night even after getting the cold shoulder at a family dinner. But would you have come back the next day, for more of it? This whole thing takes for-ev-er. Are we ever going to see any of Margaret’s extended family members again? We can hope not, while also hoping that young girl gets all the books about horses she can bear to read. (Aw, reading!)

Let’s contrast Margaret’s family drama with that of Chalky White, who is nowhere to be found in this episode. (And was just window-dressing in the prior one.) I think a few recap readers found Chalky’s last big arc pretty hard to swallow — the whole bit where he got chased out of his own home at dinnertime after being spooked by the class difference between his childhood origins and his current status as a high roller who can afford the finer things. It was a stretch, sure — but also an interesting one. And it also pushed us into a more complex understanding of the character’s role in the community. Could Chalky be patient on Nucky’s timetable while the Klan’s murders went unanswered? And if he could stand to wait, what good was he as a minority power broker? And if he was no good at that, why even pretend to be able to read, or be interested in eating anything other than Hoppin’ John. Hey, I wonder what happened to that guy! Seemed like he was on the verge of doing some stuff we hadn’t seen on the show already.

Margaret’s trip to Brooklyn has got none of that going for it. The whole output of her journey, after suffering another round of family heartbreak, is that she’s ready to be a badass again — which manifests back in Atlantic City as a secret fuck with Owen. But like Jimmy, we’re just going 'round in circles with Margaret. She was already a badass well before Owen’s arrival. Then she got timid again, asking questions that we thought she’d dealt with in season one, when she was reading Henry James and being all upstanding.

Oh, and about Owen. You might not have known this, but there was a brief crossover sequence in this episode with the HBO Ireland program The Troubles. The first season of that show follows Owen as he goes on a frustrating five-month chase for some fellow Irishman, before he comes to theBoardwalk, where he then finds and kills him in this episode of this show. Anyway — go and watch that entire series and then come back and watch this part again. It’ll really pay off for you in a way that it never would have, had you just seen it in this episode, stripped of all context.

Okay, but seriously. What was good in this episode? Agent Van Alden was good. Esther, the sass-talking new U.S. Attorney who can’t be bought by Nucky, has inspired Van Alden to return to something resembling law enforcement, which is also a smart call. He hands her all his non-booze-related paperwork on Nucky and then holds his baby after Lucy splits (perhaps bound for the stage in Manhattan, if the piece of paper pinned to the diaper in the phonograph is any indication). Some scores were at least settled here: Lucy got her money, though from Nucky instead of Van Alden. Strangely, this may have freed Van Alden up in a way no one anticipated. But as Gillian tells Jimmy when he’s brooding over the Nucky hit, mere bookkeeping is beneath the aura of a great mover and shaker. Here’s hoping the show picks up again next week with more inspiration, instead of dutifully diversifying its attentions among an ever-thickening portfolio of narrative accounts.

'Boardwalk Empire' recap: 'Put a bullet in his head and get it over with'
Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 11:16 PM Updated: Monday, November 07, 2011, 12:48 AM

By Anthony Venuto


Directed by Allen Coulter and written by Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki and Bathsheba Doran, "Peg of Old" delved in the concept of family, isolation and secrecy.SEASON TWO, EPISODE SEVEN

THIS WEEK: Directed by Allen Coulter and written by Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki and Bathsheba Doran, "Peg of Old" delved in the concept of family, isolation and secrecy.
Some key moments:

• Nucky enlists heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey to promote the wireless broadcast of his upcoming Jersey City bout.
• Receiving pressure from his mini-syndicate, Jimmy Darmody faces a decision that could shape the future of Atlantic City. But is it the right one?

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