Episode 6: Family Limitation (Part 4)

Jimmy, Torrio, and Capone have all just arrived at a meeting with Sheridan and his men to discuss the recent events and make a new deal. It is clear that Sheridan now thinks he has the upper hand in Greektown, and for a moment there I believed him. I really thought that Jimmy and the gang had truly lost this battle. But I should’ve known that Jimmy would never let these men get away with Pearl’s death and control of Greektown. The meeting comes to a close with a dramatic plan concocted by Jimmy himself. Even though they were frisked upon entrance, he manages to get Kitty, another prostitute, to bring them their guns to kill Sheridan and every single one of his men. I’m still reeling from how quickly it all happened! Casual small talk in one second, blood and murder the next!

As the new head gangster of Greektown, Torrio and his men celebrate, praising Jimmy for his smart strategy. Amongst the merriment sits Capone, clearly jealous of Jimmy’s quick rise in Torrio’s ranks while he remains Torrio’s “driver” by name. The mean look on his face is still resonating with me. I sense the beginnings of hostility between Jimmy and Capone.

The feelings of joy and celebration are soon subdued as the scene cuts to Margaret who is waiting to be picked up for a date with Nucky. He had planned to take her to a magic show and treat her to dinner afterwards. Clearly excited for the night, Margaret’s mood descends rapidly as she first receives a call from Nucky’s butler, Eddie, that Nucky must cancel the event due to “business” and then when a neighbor arrives to introduce herself as a fellow “mistress” on the street. “Us concubines always help each other out,” the woman says cheerily. To Margaret (and to me!), things are definitely no longer cheery as they were earlier that day. A new house, new clothes, and a new beau may change one’s life, but perhaps not for the better as Margaret once thought.

Watch a recap of the whole episode.

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Episode 6: Family Limitation (Part 3)

As if to confirm our confidence in Margaret and our disdain for Lucy, the next important scene takes place at Belle Femme where Margaret works. Like a character straight out of Mean Girls, Lucy orders Margaret to model some lingerie for her, knowing full well that Margaret does not have the same body type. As soon as she undresses, Lucy quickly points out her flaws, reminding her who Nucky is most physically attracted to. However, Margaret is cunning in her retorts, insulting Lucy and her lack of wits. Before Lucy can even respond, Margaret leaves the dressing room and promptly quits her job.

Watch a clip of the dramatic scene here!

It looks like Margaret won’t be needing her job at the store anymore anyway, as we just observed her and her two children walking into her beautiful new home! I still can’t believe that all Margaret had to do was sleep with Nucky a couple times to get him to buy her a house in a nice neighborhood. That’s quite the gesture if you ask me.

And meanwhile, Agent Van Alden arrives at Margaret’s old home only to find that she is no longer there from her next-door neighbor. The neighbor, Edith, tells him that the family was picked up in a Rolls Royce and moved out, adding that Margaret is a “whore” (which makes me pretty angry!) I can only imagine how confused Van Alden must be, especially since Margaret came directly to him in the last episode regarding Nucky’s alcohol business crimes. Plus, we know that he is secretly mesmerized with Margaret anyway. Poor guy.

Episode 6: Family Limitation (Part 2)

Back in Chicago, Torrio approached Jimmy and Capone with his decision to concede Greektown to Sheridan after the recent events, including the attack on Pearl and her suicide because of it. Despite his unemotional personality, I can still tell that Jimmy is affected by what happened. He doesn’t seem happy with Torrio’s news, and the scene ends with him clearly devising some sort of new plan with the mob boss. Perhaps revenge is in the near future?

And finally, we see Margaret! This time, she is lying happily in bed with Nucky. Nucky seems quite content as well, though it does make me slightly uncomfortable knowing that he was just with Lucy only hours before. When Margaret asks him about the scratches on his chest, he shrugs it off and blames it on a hunting injury. He then changes the subject and the two begin to discuss his offer to move her out of her poorer neighborhood into a nicer area with a bigger house. It’s interesting to see how quickly Margaret’s life has changed, and it will only continue to do so. At least she is smart enough not to expect marriage with Nucky, as she is, after all, reading a “family limitation” pamphlet to instruct her how to use birth control. Looks like she’s definitely not the angel we thought her to be!

Episode 6: Family Limitation (Part 1)

Hello all- I will be live-blogging this particular episode just to change it up a bit! Hopefully I’ll be able to capture more of my reactions as the events unfold and make things a little interesting!

First off, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Lucy is a psycho. Cuddling with Nucky in bed, she just pretended that she was a tiger and dug her nails into him with a playful yet aggressive “roar,” causing him to bleed! I must admit, I know that the writers of the series have purposely depicted Lucy as a sexy-yet-stupid type of girl (probably so that we root for Margaret), but they certainly haven’t done a great job of allowing us to understand how Nucky ended up with her as his girlfriend in the first place. Though we know that he enjoys beautiful women, we always observe him scolding Lucy in extreme annoyance. Plus, despite his crimes, Nucky has an intellectual head on his shoulders. Why is he still messing around with Lucy when we know perfectly well that Margaret is a much better match for him? Personally, I’m still wondering what happened to both of them after the big kiss in last episode’s final scene.

In another part of town, things are heating up in a different way. There’s definitely no anger here. Gillian and Lucky are clearly getting to know each other better physically. I’m personally still pretty shocked at this pairing, since the two had barely even met before they started their sexual escapades. However, Lucky just admitted to Gillian that she’s “the first broad in years” that put any “lead” in his “pencil.” I wonder how long this will be the case though, as the scene just ended with a call to Lucky from Rothstein in New York- he knows that Gillian is there and informs him that the woman is Jimmy’s mother and not his wife like Lucky had originally thought. So, there’s that…

Episode 5: Nights in Ballygran

The show’s creator, Terence Winter, refers to this episode as a “chess match” (in his “Inside the Episode” feature on HBO.com), and rightly so. In the opening scenes, we see Margaret awake to realize two important things. The first is that there are men (who work for Nucky, of course) loading hundreds of beer barrels into a garage behind her home. The second thing we see Margaret come to understand is her desire for Nucky Thompson. After their encounter in the previous episode, we are not surprised at this realization, but we know that she will have to play a few games in order for Nucky to take her seriously. What we don’t know, however, is whether Margaret really does have feelings for the man or whether she is simply enraptured with his way of life, and not to mention, luxury. After all, we left her last week stealing a piece of expensive lingerie from the Parisian boutique and her jealous eyes directed at Nucky’s girlfriend and his lavish birthday party guests.

Her first move is to make some soda bread and deliver it to Nucky’s residence at the Ritz Carlton herself. However, when Nucky meets her with haste and indifference, she becomes angry and realizes that she must take a different approach in order to gain his attention. Thus, she makes a big show of going to see him about the illegal activity behind her home, even bringing the Temperance League leader, Mrs. McGarry, along with her. Margaret knows perfectly well that Nucky is essentially responsible for all of that beer, and he knows that she’s probably aware of it too. After Margaret complains to him, he counteracts her protest by sarcastically saying she must have “shocked” by the alcohol that was present at his birthday party just days before. It seems as though two can play this game.

Despite Margaret’s game-playing, I was cheering for her at this point in the episode. It’s about time that she shed her holy Irishwoman image and bring out the liveliness she probably had to hide for so long from her late abusive husband. After all, it is St. Patrick’s Day in Atlantic City, a holiday known for its vivacity and Irish energy. You go girl!

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After she observes that the barrel-loading has ceased to stop behind her house even after her appeal to Nucky, Margaret resorts to drastic measures. She must make him see that she does have a backbone. In her frustration, she storms into Agent Van Alden’s office, confessing the information she knows about the illegal beer and even names the man in charge of it who works for Nucky: Ward Boss James Neary. Van Alden is clearly appreciative of this information, not only because he obviously has the hots for Margaret, but also because his federal boss has been disappointed in his lack of leads.

Springing to action, Van Alden is quick to raid the garage and even more excited to arrest Neary in front of Nucky and his peers (and fellow alcohol-businessmen) at an important St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Even better, our girl Margaret is standing outside with the Temperance League, singing and chanting with them about the evils of alcohol while staring Nucky straight in the eyes. We can’t be sure that Margaret even believes in the very lyrics leaving her lips, but we do know that she has won the match with Nucky. To confirm this, Nucky arrives at her house in the middle of the night and, for the first time, passionately kisses her in the hallway, telling her that he has no interest in playing such games anymore. Margaret smiles slyly and knows that things are certainly about to change for her.

We too, as the audience, understand that this is a major turning point in the first season’s events. Will these two completely opposite characters somehow turn out to be a match? Or do they both have secret agendas that we cannot quite grasp yet? Nucky is a calculating businessman and politician bent on having his way. Margaret is a headstrong woman with smart wit and who doesn’t take no for an answer. She’s also technically a feminist during this era, looking forward to the day that she can vote. Perhaps Nucky has finally met his match, this time in the form of a poor young woman. I sense an eventual clash between the two. One thing is for sure though: the plot just got a lot more complicated!

Episode 4: Anastasia

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While watching the array of events unfolding in this episode, I couldn’t help but think of modern-day politics. In 2013, it seems as though we are a lot closer to the 1920s then we probably think we are! Granted, of course, women have since been allowed to vote and many prejudiced barriers have since been broken down, but a handful of the same political and ethical issues still abound.

In “Anastasia”, we find Nucky stressing out over the two biggest guests of his birthday party: New Jersey Senator Edge and Jersey City Major Hague. He wants to treat the two politicians like royalty in order to convince them to set some funding aside for newly paved roads leading into Atlantic City. The deal would financially benefit Nucky, his various businesses, and the city itself tremendously, so he is sure to suck up to the two men. They openly all participate in the now-illegal practice of imbibing alcohol together(just like the rest of Nucky’s party guests) and discuss matters in the back room of Babette’s Club where the event is held. Of course, several bribes and dealings ensue (though with not much success), and Nucky blames their stagnant difficulty on their bipartisanship: he is a Republican and they are Democrats.

It is interesting to compare some aspects of contemporary politics to these scenes. Too often American citizens still complain about the deals made between politicians behind closed doors, and that is exactly how Nucky, Edge, and Hague went about their financial and political discussions. To take a little, Nucky was forced to give a little; a method that we find common between the Democrats and Republicans within the American government, especially Congress, today. Such complex deals are necessary for certain laws to be passed or amounts of dollars to be allotted. And, as we have learned from current news sources, today’s politicians are certainly no exception to the covert dealings that the characters of Boardwalk Empire have utilized so much. Scandal is not at all absent from politics quite yet, especially when it comes to money and illegal activity. It seems that every week we see a new congressman or senator in the news for involvement in prostitution or money laundering.

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 1.01.17 AMIn fact, a current hot topic of ethical debate right now is the film Zero Dark Thirty and the way in which it portrays the information-gathering tactics used on suspects by the American government, namely the C.I.A. and the U.S. Military. Though this practice is technically illegal, insiders have openly suggested its widespread use, much to the horror of the American public. I was no less horrified to watch as Chalky leaves Eli’s sheriff’s office with the severed finger of Ku Klux Klan member and “Grand Cyclops” Joseph Earl Dinler, after torturing him with carpentry tools in order to get information about his young driver’s lynching in the last episode. He realizes that Dinler must be telling the truth- since he stuck with his innocence during the entirety of the “interrogation,” even after the worst of the torture. I shudder to think that these types of questioning processes still happen, but according to popular culture it is extremely likely.

Lastly, the very issue of 1920s Prohibition itself brings to mind an ethical and political stuggle that our own country faces today: marijuana use. Just like illegal alcohol, it is widely known to be happening, yet is often condemned as damaging to society and relationships. People often use marijuana as a social activity, just as they would use alcohol in certain social settings. Legal woes have surrounded this substance for quite a long time, and its uses and misuses are heavily debated. Today, alcohol is nationally legal but marijuana is not, though it may well be on its way to federal approval as many individual states have opted for some leeway. In many places, you might find law enforcement looking the other way, just like boozing occasions in Boardwalk Empire. Perhaps the structure of the drug trade today is similar to the complexities and hierarchies of the alcohol business of the Prohibition Era, with many levels, layers, and changing hands before the final destination is reached.

A few scenes in this episode may give us insight into how far some people will go in order to be the reigning rulers of a booming illegal business. For example, Al Capone, Jimmy Doyle, and Johnny Torrio discuss alcohol supply and demand in Chicago with another mob group run by Sheridan and his men. Torrio’s men declare that they will be the leaders in the area’s industry and make a deal to split the profits with Sheridan, though unevenly. As a result of this takeover, Sheridan’s men maul a prostitute named Pearl that Jimmy has developed intimate feelings for. She is permanently scarred as yet another victim of such a risky industry.

Episode 3: Broadway Limited

The third episode is filled with conflicts and cultural crisscrossings, not only continuing to propel the story of Boardwalk Empire forward, but also providing even more insight into Atlantic City’s vibrant yet increasingly dangerous society. We observe several community struggles throughout this piece, in everything from religion to racism to social class.

The episode begins with Al and Jimmy’s accidental survivor of the shooting, Simon, being rushed to the hospital after being found alive in the woods. Nucky realizes that this man could potentially endanger his and Jimmy’s reputation since he could easily give away valuable information about the alcohol heist to the Feds. After a sly but failed attempt by Eli to end Simon’s life, Agent Van Alden steals the victim away from the hospital so he can extract the info before it is too late. However, while they drive to New York in order to get a statement, Simon begins to perish. We finally observe Van Alden’s ruthless side after Simon insults him in Yiddish and he responds by inflicting torturous pain in order to selfishly get his information. Simon concedes with a name – Jimmy – and then subsequently dies. Even more surprising, Van Alden recites serious Christian prayer and last rites over the body, blatantly disregarding the victim’s religious beliefs while at the same time showing us his devout religious side despite his constant hard heartedness.

Meanwhile, Nucky has pulled some strings in order to get Margaret a job at the Ritz Carlton’s fancy Parisian clothing shop, Belle Femme. During Margaret’s first day at work, Lucy (Nucky’s young, beautiful, yet bratty girlfriend) comes in to try on lingerie. She does nothing to hide the fact that she feels superior to Margaret, scolding her during the fitting process and making it clear that Nucky did this for Margaret out of pity. “He’s a soft touch for the charity cases,” she sneers. Margaret is taken aback at this insult, and seems to feel more destitute than ever. She returns to her small, humble house in the poorer area outside of town, while Lucy is treated to luxurious Ritz Carlton living, where Nucky has an entire hotel floor.

Chalky White

                          Chalky White

In addition to the religious and class issues we have observed in this episode, we have also learned more about race relations in Atlantic City during this 1920s time period. Nucky pays a visit to powerful gangster Chalky White in order to strike a whiskey-related deal with him. Chalky is a leader in the local African American community, and, though he is certainly as capable and as manipulating as Nucky Thompson, he does not able to have any political power. When his young driver and comrade is ruthlessly hanged in a hate crime, Nucky and Eli force Chalky into keeping the news of the murder quiet, since “it’s an election year, and the last thing we want is a race war.”

The episode has also given us a glimpse into Atlantic City’s Italian circle as well. The D’Alessio brothers, hailing from a large family of Italian mobsters and demanding repayment of their loan, bail Mickey Doyle out of jail, who was put there when the Feds discovered his secret whiskey distillery. He makes an off-handed joke about their heavy Italian culture, but they quickly reassert their authority with threats if he doesn’t return their money.

These cases provide us insight into the complex social circles that must constantly overlap within Atlantic City’s diverse society during the 1920s era. Whether necessary to the ever-growing illegal alcohol industry or not, we leave the episode with a better understanding of the cultural and social structures of the city. It will be interesting to see how much the interconnected relationships between races, religions, and classes change throughout the series and which barriers will eventually be broken down. Boardwalk Empire is simply a reflection of melting-pot America at this point, but since we ourselves are living in 2013, we know that American society has some big changes ahead soon.