Every episode of Boardwalk Empire this season has been like, well, a box of chocolates. There are some delicious morsels, sometimes small (say, a Gaston Means or a nearly naked Lucky Luciano), and a few huge jelly-filled stinkers (like any scene with Billie and Nucky), and “Ging Gang Goolie” had it all. It was a complex episode that delivered a number of character-driven tales (Teddy and the greenhouse fire, Harrow being Harrow, Margaret getting her groove back) against a political background that involved everyone from Nucky up to President Harding. The packed billing left no room for favorites like Van Alden and Chalky, but that’s been the crapshoot of Season Three in nutshell — you never know who might pop up, or who might be forgotten altogether. For more on the good, bad and pater familias of the episode, hit the jump. Oh, and that’ll be $5, please.
I still maintain that the show misses Jimmy something terrible, because without him to balance Nucky out, Nucky loses a lot of his raison d’etre. He stays busy scheming, trying to save his own hide, sleeping with Billie, being awkward with Margaret, and doing unexpectedly violent things, but, wash, rinse, repeat. The Nucky versus Jimmy battle ended with a Big Bang, scattering the other stories across the BoardwalkUniverse.
Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing. Richard Harrow’s story this week may have just been a diversion but who doesn’t like Harrow scenes? There’s something about his lovably tragic figure wallowing in all of his pain (behind his sawed-off, bless) that keeps a heart beating in Boardwalk. He grounds things in a way that no other character can (least of all Nucky).
Margaret’s journey has been a strange one to follow, but she too has so much depth and nuance that it’s fascinating to watch emotions play across her face as she longs for stability in a relationship and life where nothing can be predicted. She’s also a great representation of a woman caught in an age where so much is happening to set her free, but she shackles herself to the familiarity of the past. Harrow is on an opposite trajectory — he lives in the present thinking himself unworthy of the past (and reconnecting with his sister with whom he was once so close). It’s deep, rich character drama.
And then there’s Gillian. Poor, batshit Gillian. Realizing that she needs a man to run her business for her in Jimmy’s absence (and someone to go up against Lucky, since he cares for her but doesn’t respect her as a business person — and let’s be fair, she’s really not a very good one), she has found, well, another Jimmy. Gillian and Jimmy’s weird drunken sex scene flashback was gross enough the first time, but for her to find a replica of sorts (conveniently just down the street from her) so she can have sex with New Jimmy (a.k.a. Roger a.k.a. James) and, from the previews, looks to set him up as the new King of her palace … I just wrote and deleted an entire paragraph ranting about this but you know what, all I really need to say is: No. Just, no.
On to more intellectual fare, the political stuff began heating up this week (very, very slowly) with Nucky’s D.C. cronies. Let me break it down: Attorney General Dougherty is in trouble. His friend and lackey Jeff Smith is in trouble. Everyone is in business with George Remus and Nucky, but of the two, Nucky is more easily expendable to Dougherty, which means he will likely be the patsy the bulk of the shit will be thrown on in order to keep the others safe. The only way Nucky can think to get out of this is offer up Remus — the largest bootlegger in the country — and do so by getting President Harding to make Dougherty give him up. Nucky schemes with our old pal Esther Rudolph, former co-worker with Van Alden and former President of the I Hate Nucky Thompson Fan Club (lots of members, that one), all of which has been watched by one of my favorite bit characters Gaston Means, who lets Nucky know that for the right price, he can help him achieve his goals.
That’s a lot of politicking for once episode, but it looks like next week will be back to Rosetti’s Revenge on the New York and New Jersey gangsters. But the politics will continue to brew, and even though one assumes Nucky comes out ok, it’ll be interesting to see how his machinations protect him once again (likely, I am guessing, by the hair of his chinney chin chin).
“Ging Gang Goolie” was typical of most of this season of Boardwalk in that it gave us a few mostly-contained character vignettes while the show overall tries to figure out what exactly its trajectory is. Before, Nucky and Jimmy brought all of the factions together in one way or another. Now, everyone is spinning in their own orbit. So far, Nucky doesn’t seem to have any of his gravity from prior seasons to bring everyone back in line.
Episode Rating: A-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— So did Teddy start the fire? Or was it always burning since the world’s been turning? I actually believed that there was a tramp in the end, and Teddy was innocent (although Margaret’s “punishment” of some light pats on the bottom probably didn’t traumatize him much one way or the other).
— “Don’t take any wooden nickels!” which in the slang of the day means … don’t get cheated!
— So, SO happy to see Owen and Margaret doing the dirty again. I really like them together.
— What I wouldn’t give for Margaret’s hair … which is probably a wig … well for her wig, then!
— “I’m all lace and potpourri” – Esther
— Means coming out of the closet after Nucky left slayed me.
— The Irish Pooka sounds fairly terrifying.
— Thank God Teddy only pulled a knife out from under his pillow and not a gun, but it still concerns me …
— “Dreams are where we should live” — Gillian
— Seriously does anyone care about Billie? At all? Other than her being naked, because you know if it’s not her it’ll be someone else.