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Boardwalk Empire 1.12 - Life's a Funny Proposition After All

Welcome, my friends, to the season finale of "Boardwalk Empire." I really haven't a clue how many of you there actually are, but given how few comments I've been getting, I have to figure that it isn't a huge number. Still, I've been trudging ever onward, mostly because HBO has been kind enough to provide me with the episodes far enough in advance that I generally haven't had to stay awake into the wee hours of Sunday evenings to finish up my blogs. Tonight, however, all of America's TV critic stand on even footing, watching the finale at the same time as everyone else...or, in my case, slightly later. I was away on a brief vacation - except not really, since it was a trip that I'm going to end up writing about for Bullz-Eye, thereby making it a work-related excursion - and literally walked in the door just as the finale was kicking off, and it's taken me 'til now (10:50 PM EST) to finally get myself wound down from my flight, grab a snack and a drink, and settle in to write.

When we first see Agent Van Alden this evening, he's quoting St. Augustine. Moments later, he's smacking the living shit out of a potential new recruit and lying about Agent Sepso's cause of death, claiming it was a heart attack rather than, y'know, at Van Alden's own hand. Clearly, he's losing it...oh, who are we kidding? He lost it long ago. One presumes, however, that a certain part of him he's losing it, as he's decided to depart the bureau. I can't see him getting away with having murdered Sepso, however. Not with all of those witnesses.

Nucky's pretty pissed off about the current state of affairs in the mayoral race of Atlantic City, with the democratic candidate, Fletcher, poised to take home the victory. In asking his team - which includes Chalky White - to hunt up as many potential voters as possible for his candidate, Bader, Nucky's seething with anger over the goings-on his personal life is palpable, and it doesn't help that he's being constantly told that his decision to remove Eli was a wrong one. Chalky admits, however, that Fletcher's people have approached him in an attempt to get him to use his sway with his "people" and get them to vote for him. In truth, however, he says he's only doing it for the money, that he's really doing it for Nucky...particularly if he can get a little bit money out of the deal. In addition to the money, Chalky wants a new car and an invitation to the new mayor's victory party. Nucky said it's tough to promise the latter, but Chalky calmly suggests it's probably in both their best interests if he comes through.

Although she's evacuated from the love nest provided to her by Nucky, Margaret and her kids are still in the general area, hanging out with Nan, mother of Warren Harding's love child. Nan's still quite naive, the poor thing, expecting to hear from Harding any day now. (Yeah, right...) As such, she can only offer Margaret a place to stay for a few more days, focusing on her future as a resident of the White House. In the meantime, Margaret keeps her chin up as best she can, baking a barn brack but clearly worrying a bit about her new friend's state of mind.

Wow, so the person trying to kill the Commodore via arsenic poisoning was his maid? Not that I can't see why she'd do such a thing, given how he treated her, but in addition to feeling really predictable - shades of "the butler did it" - it was a real moment of deflation when it felt like we were going to be getting some fantastic payoff for this unexpected storyline. Instead, Nucky just paid her off (in fairness, it kind of funny when he sympathized with her decision) and, for his trouble, got a Bible with a particular passage noted. Oh, okay, I want to know what passage, so I guess they still managed to get me...

Cut to NYC, where Rothstein is giving his boys their final instructions before he hops a boat and heads for the UK. Personally, I thought the idea of visiting distilleries and learning to play the bagpipes sounded like a pretty good plan, but they weren't having it, instead offering to "get their hands dirty" and try someone between New York and Chicago who might be able to assist in keeping Rothstein on American soil. He seems resigned to his departure, but I'm thinking otherwise. They wouldn't have spent all damned season setting up this Black Sox storyline to have Edelstein just say, "Well, that's it, boys, I'm out of here!"

Jimmy comes home, and it's clear that he and Angela are still on frosty terms...which, frankly, is to be expected, given that she'd taken their son and hit the road, only to have to come back with her tail between her legs. As it turns out, she's scared for a different reason than we'd expect: apparently, he's been having war flashbacks while he's been asleep, screaming and grabbing Angela. It's scaring Tommy, and...well, given that she shares a bed with him, you can imagine Angela's a little worried, too. But why is this the first we're hearing of these sleepytime flashbacks? Seems pretty ham-handed to have them pop up in the season finale when they've never been mentioned before now, as it does for Jimmy and Angela to suddenly reconcile. Then again, Angela's expression gives us a pretty good idea that she's not entirely sure about Jimmy's interest to simply let bygones be bygones. Later, when she receives the postcard from Paris from the disappearing Mrs. Dietrich, her sadness is palpable. It's been a rough couple of days for poor Angela...

Into the graveyard we go, where Margaret finally learns that she and Nucky have something in common: the loss of a child. Once again, we're presented with a woman whose expression speaks volumes about her thoughts, and Margaret's reveals that she's taking this new information and wondering if she's been wrong about Nucky.

Speaking of the Nuckmeister, he's on the phone with Torrio, who's hopping the overnight train from Chicago to New York in order to meet with Rothstein, even if Nucky isn't exactly aware of this. (I laughed at Nucky's comment about already having bought the Brooklyn Bridge.) As he's preparing for the costume ball, Margaret appears at the door. The conversation between the two of them proves to be a dramatic highlight of the episode, if not the season, as Nucky finally breaks down and tells Margaret...and us...everything about his wife and son. It's a horrific tale, one which would inspire tears in anyone, but the telling is a watershed moment in the relationship between Nucky and Margaret, if not necessarily in the way we might have expected. No, she doesn't go back to him, but she does acknowledge that, for the first time ever, she's finally seen the real Nucky Thompson. She may not understand him, but at least she's seen him.

Van Alden tells his wife how he'd been offered a full-time assignment in Atlantic City but has declined it in favor of joining the family feed business in Schenectady. She's less than thrilled, but when she dares to suggest that she enjoys being the wife of a federal agent, he accuses her of undue vanity. She says he's doing God's work, he says that, if that's the case, God needs to send him a sign. I expect we'll be seeing that sign by episode's end.

The meeting between Nucky, Torrio, and Rothstein starts off tense, but Nucky begins to see reason, no doubt considering the possible benefits of a relationship with Rothstein. Jimmy, however, is less than thrilled at the prospect, though he's shut down the instant he dares to offer a dissenting opinion. Within moments, Nucky has made his offer, and after tacking on the information that he's pals with the state's attorney in Chicago, Rothstein decides it's a deal worth doing, even with the high pricetag. What Nucky does with the information he receives from Rothstein is a masterstroke of revenge: his boys, including Richard Harrow, take down the remaining D'Alessio brothers, and - neatly tying up a bow from earlier in the season - he holds a press conference to say that they were involved with Hans Schroeder in the massacre but, now that they've been identified, are being "sought for questioning." Boy, that barbershop scene was . Clearly, Jimmy's the most bloodthirsty "questioner" of the bunch. Imagine how much worse he'd be with Angela if he wasn't able to get some of his stress out via the occasional murder, eh? There's a lot of blood on Nucky's hands. I don't know how much more sin the man can stand...

The look on Jimmy's face when he sees Angela's newly-cut hair is one of betrayal, though I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because he no longer feels that she's even trying to put on a that she's still the woman he once fell in love with. But it doesn't matter: the Commodore has called and requested his presence, so out the door he goes...but not to see the Commodore.

Instead, he heads to Nucky's place, where the win looks to be in, both for the Atlantic City elections and for Rothstein in Chicago. Nucky's on cloud nine, but he's the only Thompson brother who is. Even getting a share of Rothstein's million-dollar payoff hasn't done anything to make Eli less pissed at Nucky for dumping him as the chief of police. Nucky tells Eli that he has to trust that blood is thicker than water, resulting in Eli's pointed response: "Yeah, well, why'd it have to be blood?" Ouch. But Nucky comes through for him: moments after Bader's election is confirmed, the new mayor kicks Halloran to the curb and gives Eli back his old position. Eli's expression is one of befuddlement, but he doesn't turn down the assignment. Shame about Halloran, but, hey, he stepped on Eli's head to get the gig, so it's only fair that he should get a kick in the balls on his way back down.

Jimmy's drunk off his ass and talking out of turn, leading to a confrontation between him and Nucky over the circumstances that led Nucky to help raise him. Interesting how Nucky sees no immediate difference between guilt and duty. Meanwhile, Eli's watching from the sidelines, seemingly bemused at the way his brother is being forced to deal with this awkward situation. In the end, Jimmy bolts, this time to visit the Commodore, closing by telling Nucky to stop pretending that he gives a shit.

Time for a bit of barn brack. Silly superstition though it may be, it nonetheless gives Margaret pause when she gets the rag and Nan, with her ridiculous belief that President Harding is going to invite her to live in the White House, gets the ring. We know from the historical record that Nan needn't start packing now nor ever, but we don't know what the future holds for Margaret...nor, obviously, does Margaret. Will her concern over this "silly superstition" worry her enough to send her back to Nucky?

Van Alden and Lucy are reunited, but as soon as Lucy said she was pregnant, the expression on Van Alden's face made me think there was a very good chance that she wouldn't be long for this world. I mean, he's killed once. There's no reason to believe that he won't kill again, especially if he convinces himself that she's a dirty whore who deserves to suffer God's wrath via his hands...and, given his feelings on matters of religion (not to mention the way he looks at his Bible), that's not likely to be hard to do. And yet when you consider that his wife isn't happy with his change in job she's unable to bear him a child, the fact that this gorgeous sex machine is able to do what his wife couldn't...well, you know, maybe is the sign he was asking for.

Given how much alcohol Jimmy's tossed back tonight, there's really nothing good that can come of him continuing to drink...or, I'm guessing, of the Commodore sharing a snort with him. I was expecting him to drop dead before the end of the scene, but, no, there's something about the possibility of revenge that proves to be a highly rejuvenating tonic. It's pretty sad to realize that this is the first time this father and son have ever shared a drink together, but their bond grows as the Commodore spins a story which reveals a heretofore-unrealized bond between the two of them: a mutual festering anger toward Nucky Thompson. Moments later, we learn that Eli makes three. Yikes. Talk about setting up a storyline for Season 2...

The post-election celebration is underway, with entertainment provided by Eddie Cantor, he of the big ears and rather googly eyes. I got a good laugh out of the sight of Baxter walking into the festivities with Annabelle on his arm. While looking around for Chalky White and his boys, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see Margaret walk in. I half expected Annabelle to swoop in and embarrass him before Margaret could make her way over to him, but, no, they successfully more ways than one, it appears. Guess the superstition enough to bring her back. Will there be a happy ending for her? Maybe, maybe not...which is ultimately the most you can say for Nucky, too, given all of the glimpses we get of the goings-on happening behind his back, the repercussions of which we won't see 'til next season.

So there you have it, folks: the conclusion of Season 1 of "Boardwalk Empire." What did think?

Boardwalk Empire 1.11 - Thou Hast Fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked

Boardwalk Empire 1.10 - "That's Mommy's kissing friend!"

At last, the spotlight is placed back onto Richard Harrow...and, wow, how utterly depressing it must be for him to go from a dreamworld where he's still the man he used to be back into a reality where his face frightens children. Nucky looked like he might've been as least slightly more sympathetic about the situation than Margaret was (which stands to reason, given that it was her daughter who had the bejeezus scared out of her), but he's right: after his assassination attempt last week, they already on edge. Hearing the shriek of her child no doubt stopped Margaret's heart cold.

Sepso's trying to look as utterly innocent as possible as he swears up and down that he had no choice but to kill Billy in self-defense, even going so far as to claim that the incident will haunt him for the rest of his days, but Van Alden's expression when Sepso's exonerated reveals that he doesn't even remotely believe him, and he only gets more exasperated and infuriated as he's accused of being a bungler. He's got one more chance before his career comes crumbling down around him...and, boy, does he know it. The later scene with him flipping through his paperwork, trying desperately to find a way to bring down Nucky, is pitiful.

Angela's painting a peaceful beach scene when Jimmy emerges from the bedroom for his first cigarette of the day and compliments her on her artwork. She seems mildly surprised that he's even been paying attention. When he first started groping on her, I thought she was getting annoyed, but instead she found herself titillated to the point of letting her canvas clatter to the floor and allowing Jimmy to have his way with her. Clearly, their relationship is getting at least back on track.

It's surely no coincidence that the shot of Nucky perusing the paper gives us a close up on the headline about the grand jury convening in the Black Sox scandal, but the topic of conversation quickly turns to the status of the Constitutional amendment ratifying women's suffrage. Richard's appearance in the doorway, however, causes it to change once more, this time to the state of affairs in the Thompson household now that Nucky is considered a target. Margaret is understandably nervous about the safety of her children, but Nucky - rather selfishly, I think you'd agree - dismisses her suggestion that she and the children take a trip 'til things cool down somewhat because he'd miss her too much. Poor baby.

Rothstein's having another talk with D'Alessio, Doyle, and the boys, but this time it's about their failure to take down Nucky. "Sheer and utter incompetence" is how Rothstein describes their actions on the boardwalk, and they swear they can take him down, but he refuses to accept their assurances outright, saying, "Nothing says 'I'm sorry' like money." Is he expecting them to knock over another one of Nucky's establishments?

Looks like the relationship between Torrio and Capone is as tense as it was when Jimmy was still in Chicago, and it's still because Capone's a loose cannon who doesn't know when to have fun and when to do business. That stunt with the loaded cigarette was downright, to the point where another mob boss would've shot Capone outright...and yet Capone looked pissed at Torrio's reaction. History tells us that these two worked together for quite a few years, but you'd never guess it from the way they're looking at each other right now. In the synagogue, however, Capone gets an education on the Jewish faith, and it's a surprisingly poignant scene which seemingly underlines to Capone that the time has come for him to set aside his boyish ways and become a man. The next time we see him, he's apologizing to Torrio.

Nucky and Jimmy are talking about Richard's effect on the children when Mickey Doyle unexpectedly drops by for a visit and apology? It doesn't exactly go swimmingly for him when he admits to having been working with the D'Alessios, but with a gun to his temple, he assures Nucky and Jimmy that he didn't have any idea what they were planning and that he'll tell him everything he knows...which he does, albeit with an attitude. Yep, we get a snide comment from Nucky about Rothstein's connection to the Black Sox, but at the end of the scene, we also get word that women have received the right to vote. Maybe I'm wrong, but the look on Nucky's face seemed to say, "Oh, . There'll be no living with Margaret ..."

Speaking of Margaret, she's reading L. Frank Baum to the kids...and, seriously, I'm going to have to order me some of those old books. I used to love them, and it's about time I started to get my daughter interested in them. Margaret makes a kind gesture to Richard, inviting him to sit with them while she reads to them and, even better, he gets the kids to laugh at his suggestion that he's the real Tin Woodsman.

Nucky offers Margaret a champagne toast to celebrate her gender's right to vote, and, of course, her toast is to say, "You've caught up with Ireland at last." She's a fiery one, that Margaret, so it's no surprise that when Nucky asks her to recommend to the League of Women Voters that they throw their support behind Edward Bader, she asks why they should. She scoffs at the suggestion that an owner of a construction business should be qualified to be the mayor of Atlantic City, and when she realizes that her opinions are only infuriating Nucky, she asks, "What am I to say?" Margaret's an intelligent woman, but methinks the lady doth protest too much for someone who's got the sweet setup that she does. She's clearly aware of this, but it equally obvious that she doesn't like what she's being asked to do, either.

Jimmy, Angela, and Tommy are strolling the boardwalk, but the second Tommy's put down on the ground, he immediately runs off. And even after Jimmy catches him, Tommy runs off again...this time at the mouth. "That's Mommy's kissing friend." Tommy may have meant Mary, but that never would've occurred to Jimmy, which is why, moments later, the good Mr. Dietrich is flying through the glass of his establishment's front door and, a few seconds after that, getting the living shit kicked out of him. And, then, of course, came the hitting. Ouch. I think the most horrifying part of the scene, however, was when you heard Tommy crying, "Daddy!" . The results of Angela's subsequent visit with Mary were somewhat unexpected, with Mary taking the blame for the incident, saying she should've left him long ago. Despite Mary's suggestion that Angela and Tommy run away with her, I just don't see it happening. But maybe I'm wrong. We'll see soon enough, I reckon.

Agent Van Alden pays a visit to Margaret, also getting a momentary meeting with Richard. I strongly suspect that they will cross paths again. After Richard steps out of the room, Van Alden breaks out a photo of Margaret from Ellis Island and starts laying a major guilt trip on her. His expressions range from anger to insanity, and when he finally realizes that his efforts to play to her common decency have failed, he snaps into religious threats...which, given that he's dealing with an Irishwoman, he really ought to have with.

'Bout time: Chalky White's in the house, having a sit-down with Nucky and finally getting the record set straight about this "Michael Lewis" character who came by his place awhile back. This was probably my favorite scene of the episode, with all of these disparate personalities - Nucky, Jimmy, Chalky, and Mickey - forced to interact to get things straightened out. When Chalky asks what's going to be done about Rothstein, Nucky indicates that he's not long for this world. History tells us that Nucky's a bit optimistic on this matter, however, so it was interesting to see what actually go down, with Chalky managing to put up a good front right up until he whipped around on Meyer Lansky and his boys, brandishing a pair of shiny guns.

Despite her uncertainty before stepping up to the podium, Margaret manages to offer a solid speech in favor of Bader. Having done so, however, she looks over at Nucky, sees that he's having conservations with his cohorts, and frowns. Clearly, she's second-guessing her decision to acquiesce to Nucky's request. How much longer can she last in this situation, where she's having to keep her own thoughts and opinions suppressed? Later, when she and Richard have their brief heart-to-heart chat, his comments about how he finds that he sometimes forgets the man he used to be clearly lead her to remember the person she was when she first arrived at Ellis Island. Or maybe not. But given that the next scene focuses on Agent Van Alden, I'm hard pressed to believe otherwise.

Watching Van Alden toss back a shot of liquor was somewhat surreal, and it got moreso when he opted for a second helping of the stuff. As soon as he laid eyes on Lucy, I remembered how he'd flipped by the program (or magazine) with her picture on the front earlier in the episode. At the time, I thought, "If they made a point of putting that shot in there, we'll be seeing her before the episode's out." Given her predilection for getting naked, it's no surprise that we saw of her. Well, in Van Alden's defense, the man did have quite a lot of stress that he needed to work through. For a moment, I thought he was actually going to choke her to death. Instead, he headed for the fetal position and started to weep. Uh, yeah, I'd say that guy's issues run decidedly deeper than his issues with Nucky Thompson.

Well, well, well, looks like Chalky's got things pretty well under control. Lansky keeps his cool remarkably well, given the pressure he's under, remaining completely in business mode and trying to work out a plan of action to get himself out of the situation he's found himself in. This tactic works far better than the one utilized by his compatriots, who get either a bullet through the forehead (thanks, Jimmy!) or get choked out (thanks, Chalky!) for their trouble. Meyer heads back to Rothstein with a heck of a message to deliver, while Nucky heads home to Margaret, who - in the last shot of the episode - looks at herself in the mirror and, based on her expression, no longer recognizes the woman staring back at her.

Am I wrong in thinking that this song could serve as the theme of next week's episode?

Boardwalk Empire 1.9 - The Road to Oz

Boardwalk Empire 1.8 - It's A New World

As Eli sits behind Nucky's desk, trying to make everything look just so, only one thought comes to mind: "This man could not possibly look less comfortable in a position of power." Clearly, everyone knows it, too. When Nucky's in town, there's always a line of people to see him, but with Eli in charge...? The place is a ghost town. As soon as Eli started mouthing off to his right-hand man about how easy it'd be for him to do what Nucky does, I knew that a major screw-up was destined to go down before the end of the episode. The only question was what it would be, and it didn't take long to figure out that it'd have some connection to Neary's replacement missing his route for a day to be with his polio-stricken daughter.

Similarly, it was inevitable that Nucky would cross paths with Jimmy at some point while he was in Chicago, but until that happened, we got to see him try to pull rank with a hotel concierge. I actually thought he might fail, given that he wasn't on his home turf, but never underestimate the power of a big wad of cash. Sitting down for dinner, he flips open his brochure for the Republican National Convention and finds an ad for Colosimo's, thereby securing a visit to that particular establishment in the near future, but before he can make any specific plans, Senator Edge swings by the table to invite Nucky to attend Harry Daugherty's shindig on his behalf. Obviously, it's funny in retrospect to hear them disparaging Warren G. Harding, but looking back at the race for the Republican candidate in 1920, . Even with all the bootlegging going on in the wake of prohibition, Harding's nomination may have been the biggest crime to be committed that year, and Harry Daugherty was the man behind it.

Margaret and her gal-pal Annabelle (a.k.a. Harry's woman) are gossiping it up over tea when a harried Madam Regina approaches, unexpectedly asking for assistance with...Lucy? Oh, God, this is going to be bad. Lucy's trying to get a few more things on Nucky's dime, but when Margaret tries to politely sway her into leaving calmly, it descends into namecalling that, somewhat surprisingly, leads Margaret to slap Lucy. Ouch!

Angela is just putting the final touches on a portrait of her new ladyfriend when Gillian pops by with the overdue grocery bill. Gillian suggests Angela might want to consider selling perfume or taking a stenography course, but Angela has dreams of making a living via her that's going to happen. Of course, times wouldn't be so tight if Jimmy's funds for the family weren't being swiped by Agent Van Alden. Nice guy, that Van Alden: he's so desperate to make a bust that he's allowing an innocent family to teeter on the brink of destitution.

We get another quick look into Rothstein's goings-on, practicing his testimony so that he might convince the world at large that he had nothing to do with the so-called "Black Sox Scandal," which even those who don't know their sports history are probably aware of, thanks to "."

Nucky arrives at Harry Daugherty's function, and...hey, what do you know? It's ! , I love that guy. I don't know if he actually looks anything like the real Harry Doherty, but he's the master of the kind of despicable vibe that Daugherty almost certainly had, so I applaud the casting either way. Daugherty muses on the possibility that the entire state of New Jersey does whatever Nucky Thompson wants it to do (which Nucky doesn't exactly deny), and he's quickly introduced to the man who will - after some dealings in a smoke-filled room - ultimately become the 29th President of the United States. Before that, though, there's an interesting moment when Nucky is distracted by the sound of a baby and its mother at the door...and if you listen closely, you can hear her say, "Please just tell Warren that I'm here." Interesting stuff, given that Mrs. Harding is standing right next to ol' Warren when the introductions to Nucky are being made, and it shows that someone on the "Boardwalk Empire" writing staff has been reading . Speaking of Mrs. Harding, I'm not sure I loved the bit where she mentioned that a fortune teller told her that her husband would die in office. It's true - - but it feels pretty heavy-handed for her to mention it to someone she's just met, and at a political function, no less.

It's dinnertime at the Van Aldens, and, wow, it's just as deathly dull as I would've imagined it to be. That all changes, however, when the topic of infertility rears its ugly head. As someone whose daughter came about via the wonderful process of invitro fertilization, I'm sure you'll understand why I was particularly sympathetic to Mrs. Van Alden's sobbing over her situation and her pleading with her husband about the possibility of having a doctor look into her situation. Like I didn't think Agent Van Alden was a dick already, but this sealed the deal. "Whatever makes you happy," my ass. I don't believe for a second that he's going to pay for the doctor's visit.

1920s porn...? Yeah, it's good to see that Eli's doing everything possible to fill Nucky's shoes to the best of his ability. Enjoy your fun while it lasts, pal...

Ah, here we go: Nucky's meeting up with Johnny Torrio. After a little bit of talk about the bootlegging business, Nucky brings up his encounter with Harry Daugherty and Warren Harding, which leads Johnny to call Judge Graves over to the table. The Judge gives Nucky just enough background to confirm that if anyone can put Harding into the White House, Daughtery can. The next thing you know, Jimmy comes roaring down the stairs, bouncing a customer out on his ear. Though the mood is momentarily lightened by Johnny's suggestion that Nucky was responsible for the Great Chicago Fire, it's a decidedly awkward encounter between Jimmy and Nucky, the worst of which comes when Nucky snaps that Jimmy ought to call his family and check in on them...which is kind of ironic, given that that's exactly what Nucky should've done himself.

Obviously, it wasn't a huge surprise to see that Eli let things go to hell in a handbasket in Nucky's absence, but it was still pretty shocking when he got shot. After getting the call about Eli's situation, Nucky calls Margaret to tell her what's happened. Now, I realize Nucky didn't have a lot of options, given the situation, but, wow, it's pretty desperate to ask a young widowed mother to sneak into his office and slip his compromising documents out of harm's way. It's no surprise that he'd need a drink after that, but while sitting at the bar, in an even more desperate move, he asks Jimmy to come back to New Jersey to assist him in the war against him that's beginning in earnest. Jimmy is understandably skeptical about Nucky's change in tone since their earlier encounter, but it pays off for him: he brokers himself a sweet deal. (He also manages to piss Nucky off again, too, by saying that he has to think about it.) While all of this is going on, Richard Harrow is lurking in the background, which leads me to suspect that he'll be heading to Jersey as well.

Margaret puts the kids to bed and heads into Nucky's office, where she foolishly answers the phone. Now they...whoever "they" may be...know she's there. This isn't good.

This is where the stories in Chicago start to tie together. Nucky meets up with Harry Daugherty before the convention begins (and don't tell me that shot of the ceiling wasn't green-screened), telling him that events back in Jersey are necessitating a hasty departure, but before he leaves, he tells him that he's willing to do his best to throw his state's votes into Harding's corner under one condition: that Senator Edge isn't on the ticket. One good backstabbing deserves another, eh? And to ensure that he's in position to get the road money he's been after, he offers to take custody (kinda) of the young lady and baby who'd been at the door of the party. Jimmy calls Gillian...not see what's going on back at home, but he's got an agenda, and it ain't to check on his family: he wants the skinny on Lucky Luciano, and, clearly, he knows his mother can provide it. I don't know if he knows that she's been seeing him or if he's just aware that she knows a little bit about everybody. Either way, the next time we see him, he's scoping out Torrio, Capone, and the boys, and you can see by the look on his face that he's made a decision.

Uh, wow. I wouldn't have thought I could dislike Van Alden more than I did after that dinner scene, but to pointedly send all of the money he'd accumulated to Jimmy's wife just so that he wouldn't be tempted to give it to his wife for her medical procedure...? See, this is why I hate uber-churchy types. That scene was heartbreaking, plain and simple.

The look on Nucky's face when he walked into Eli's room looked to me like an "I'm glad you're alive, 'cause now I'm gonna kill ya!" expression. I thought he'd just temporarily put on a sympathetic look when Eli's wife caught his eye, but I was sure he'd wipe it off once she and the doctor left. But, no, he actually said, "It's only money." I did not expect that.

And, so, we close in an approximation of the same shot that began the episode, except with a difference: the person sitting behind the desk - Margaret - has opened the ledger and, having done so, has now her own degree of power...and, unlike Eli, she's someone who's intelligent enough to know how to wield it.

Look for the silver lining

Boardwalk Empire 1.7 - Daddy Issues

Boardwalk Empire 1.6 - "I think you'd agree that Greektown belongs to us now."

If I was supposed to recognize the gentleman who was strolling the boardwalk at the beginning of the episode, picking up "donations" from the various business owners, I must admit that I didn't. (Did I mention how glad I am that this is my first Sunday night in many months where I haven't had to blog two shows? My retention of faces just isn't what it used to be.) It didn't really matter, though: by virtue of his actions, it was evident that he was part of operation. That punk kid had a set of brass balls on him, spitting in the face of a big bastard like that one. Let's hope the payday was worth it...especially since, as we soon found out, the big bastard in question turned out to be one of Nucky's boys. As far as who the kid belongs to, that's a mystery, but it's one that Nucky wants solved sooner than later. All things being equal, though, it might've been better to put someone other than Eli on the case, given that he comes across as more ignorant and belligerent than usual this episode. Is Lucky really responsible?

I'm not going to pretend that I'm not disconcerted by Lucy's insistence on calling Nucky "Daddy" - as the daughter of a 5-year-old, it really creeps me out - but I'd be lying if I said that I don't enjoy any opportunity to see Paz de la Huerta's naked body. Seriously, the woman is a full-fledged sex bomb. If Lucy isn't aware that Nucky and Margaret have officially made the move from idle flirtation to full-fledged ugly bumping, she's at least conscious that she's got to work to hold Nucky's interest, but while drawing blood definitely works as an attention-getter, Lucy's on the wrong HBO series if she thinks she's dating someone who gets off on bloodletting.

Margaret goes to visit Mrs. McGarry of the Women's Temperance League, providing a very carefully phrased statement which indicates that Nucky has offered to take care of her and her children. In return, she gets a frown from Mrs. McGarry, along with a copy of Margaret Sanger's now-famous "" pamphlet.

It's a miracle! Charles Luciano is once again capable of getting lucky! And to think: all it took was to hop into the sack with Jimmy Darmody's mom. Rothstein might've been pissed off for still not having a proper update on Jimmy's whereabouts, but don't tell me he didn't chuckle to himself immediately after getting off the phone. The look on Lucky's face was priceless.

Jimmy's playing a round of Five Finger Filet, a probable sign that he's still really depressed about Pearl's suicide, when Al comes up and tells him that Johnny Torrio is in the house. As soon as Johnny sits down, though, it's evident that he has little time for Al, dismissing him within moments as a poor businessman. Jimmy might have been pressing his lucky by calling Torrio by his first name, but he's got a sensible delivery that lends him a great deal of credibility.

Agent Van Alden gets a surprise inspection from his boss, but despite all of the information that he's accumulated, including details about Nucky's connection to the Hans Schroder case, it's all for naught. He claims he's thorough, but he's quickly reminded, "You're a prohibition agent, not Bulldog Drummond." Yeah, but he might be the Marquis de Sade, given all the whipping that goes on his place at night.

Margaret couldn't possibly have looked more lovely than she did lying in Nucky's arms, though just having her hair down for a change would be enough to make her look lovelier than usual. I hope I wasn't the only one who cringed at the thought of where that Lysol was about to go.

Jimmy goes for dinner at Al's place, where we find that Al's changed the story of Pearl's demise from suicide to having been hit by a streetcar. That's arguably a nice thing to have done, but we're quickly reminded that Al's not a nice guy when he kicks the kid to get his attention. Nice, Al. Real nice. I didn't even have to Google "Al Capone's son" to figure out that the kid was deaf, and Jimmy obviously figured it out pretty quickly, too, but the look on Al's face revealed that he wasn't exactly thrilled with Jimmy knowing.

Ah, that Lucy: she's a real class act. First she looks for crotchless panties, then she asks Margaret to model them, and then she offers the 1920's equivalent of Sharon Stone's famous "Basic Instinct" shot and tells Margaret that she can't compete. In turn, Margaret gets slightly more intellectual with her initial retort, then closes with that great line about Lucy's "cunnie" and tells her awful, awful boss that she quits. . Looks who's got the brass balls now! And, yet, she's clearly scared to death as well, uncertain about what she's gotten herself into with this new situation.

Nucky, meet Lucky. Lucky, meet Nucky. (It's "Uma, Oprah" all over again!) The conversation between the two of them starts off tensely and only grows worse when Lucky makes the mistake of admitting that he's been sleeping with Jimmy's mother, not realizing the personal connection that Nucky and Gillian have. It, uh, doesn't go well.

Jimmy clearly still feels responsible for his family, sending home cash for Angela to use as she sees fit, and I was wondering if he might not be on the verge of returning home, now that the only thing he has to keep him warm in Chicago is a copy of Sinclair Lewis's "Fresh Air." Obviously, I was wrong.

Margaret clearly hasn't made any friends in her old neighborhood, with Edith proving all too ready to bitch and moan to Van Alden about what a harlot she's being...and with her husband only just having died, too! Personally, I can't say as I blame her a bit for falling into bed with Nucky. She had a shit life with a rat bastard of a husband, and now she's with a man who, while perhaps not the most scrupulous government official, still seems to actually care for her. A whore? Hardly.

The meeting with Charlie Sheridan is a decidedly tense one, with Jimmy almost getting his ass handed to him for slipping a knife into the proceedings, but, once again, he manages to impress, keeping his cool and surviving the moment, thereby giving him the opportunity to take Sheridan down afterward. I think you can see why I chose this week's subject line. Pearl's death has turned Jimmy into a cold bastard, but what remains to be seen is if it's a temporary situation. Now that he's gotten his revenge, will we continue to see this side of him? At the very least, it looks like we're going to be seeing the Jimmy / Al rivalry intensify, based on the way things go down between them at the party. (Funny, I had no idea that "buddy" and "accomplice" were synonyms...)

Once again, another sweet scene with Nucky and Margaret. She's just so darned cute! And, hey, Chris Mulkey's back! Nucky and Frank Hague enjoy a business dinner. At first, it appears that all of them...Nucky, Frank, Margaret...are heading off to see a magical performance by Theodore Hardeen, whose official slogan was apparently, "He's Houdini's brother...but he's just as good!" Instead, however, Nucky and Frank end up enjoying a little ukulele serenade (it always sounds better when the player is naked, you know), and poor Margaret is left with a babysitter but no plans. This leaves her with plenty of time to absorb the revelation that she's considered to be just another one of the "concubines." At the very least, Nucky is , "I try to be good," but...well, I think Def Leppard said it best:

Boardwalk Empire 1.5 - Irish Blood, Jersey Heart

Boardwalk Empire 1.4 - "Well, I ain't buildin' no bookcase..."

Welcome back to Chicago! Yep, looks like my suspicion at the end of last episode was on the money: Jimmy's first stop in Chi-Town was to get back into Al Capone's good graces, although it's pretty evident from Al's idea of a prank that he's more than a little bit of a loose cannon. Firing a gun off at that range is likely to cause permanent hearing loss, wouldn't you think? Still, it's true: opium good for what ails you. Not that Jimmy's interested in pursuing that particular line of medication. His focus is more on his new female companion and nursemaid, Pearl, and after seeing how violently Al deals with his "clients," it was all too easy to imagine Jimmy following Pearl to California. Al reminds him that he's got some pretty big coattails that he's welcome to ride on, but Jimmy shrugs, tells him he's only passing through, and then offers the kind of advice which reveals that he could have his criminal empire if he'd just put his mind to it. The difference between their styles of business only becomes more evident during their meeting with Charlie Sheridan (not to mention when they're getting fitted for new suits), but I can't blame Jimmy for wanting to let Al be hoisted with his own petard: the dude asked for it with his boorish manner. I mean, I know how history ultimately turns out, but surely Al needs to learn when to be a thug and when to be a businessman. On a related note, though, as soon as Sheridan's boy came back into the whorehouse, I knew Pearl was in trouble, but I didn't know exactly what was going to go down. Rough stuff, that. Come to think of it, it probably couldn't hurt Jimmy to know when to be a businessman and when to be a thug.

Nucky's practicing to look surprised for an upcoming birthday party when the ever-gorgeous Lucy pops by to inform him that she's going shopping...which, of course, means that she needs money. After she departs, he chats further with Eddie about the guest list for the party, talking about how he's anticipating to pull in some funds from an upcoming road appropriations bill. The fact that he's pointedly underlined this fact leads me to believe that things aren't going to go quite how he's hoping they will. Nucky seems to be the only one in his camp who cares about finding out who Chalky's man last week, but as he loudly reminds them, "Chalky cares, so that means I cares, and you can bet your ass, come Election Day, you're gonna care, too." It looks like Nucky's chances at reelection are directly tied to whether or not he pulls in the African-American vote, but you'll notice that Nucky has no ego about his situation and makes the very important distinction that it's not that the populace in that community are doing what he tells them, it's that he tells Chalky, and they do what tells them. Eli's got a good point - Chalky's not going to want to give up what he's got - but better safe than sorry. Nucky's getting positively anal about making sure everything's right for the party and is stressed out to the Nth degree, leaving Eddie trying to maintain his good-cop persona and save face, but even seems a little nervous about how crazy Nucky's getting. It's clear that he won't be calming down until things have been smoothed over in Chalky's community.

I'm sure a lot of people laughed at Gillian's discomfort over being called Grandma ("not while the peaches are still in season"), but I mostly laughed because I know someone who feels the exact same way, and although it's been a decade since I first met her, unless something has changed dramatically in her personality, I'm pretty sure she doesn't allow her grandkids to call her "Grandma." But with that said, there's clearly still a lot of love in their relationship, which is the exact opposite of what exists between her and Leo D'Alessio. I wouldn't have imagined that charming encounter resulting in anything good happening, but I guess we'll see if it ultimately leads to something interesting.

Just when you think they can't make a guy in the KKK come off any worse than he would by wearing the traditional white robe and hood of the organization, they put the Grand Poobah in a purple robe give him a Hitler mustache. I'm not really sure that Eli's doing a whole lot for equality between the races by using the word "darkies," but at least he's making good on Nucky's request to seek out the individual responsible for murdering Chalky's man. I didn't know what he was planning to do when he pulled the hood over his face, but I figured it was so that he wouldn't see it coming when he got the shit beat out of him. Instead, it was used to surprise him before an encounter before Chalky himself. It's about time they gave Michael Kenneth Williams a chance at a menacing monologue, and he hit it out of the park long before he pulled out his tools and offered that killer scene-ending line which gives us our title this week. Even better, though, was his grin when he told Eli, "We passed that point about 10 minutes ago."

How lovely to see Gretchen Mol getting topless this week.

Before this week, I'd spent some time wondering about how clever a girl Lucy is. It seemed pretty clear that she wasn't a rocket scientist, but she certainly knows what to say and do to keep herself in Nucky's good graces. After her comments to Senator Edge and Mayor Hague, however, it's obvious that there's no acting involved: no matter how dedicated she may be to Nucky, she's definitely all looks and little or no brains. By the way, speaking of those two gentlemen of power, talk about your perfect casting: when it comes to character actors playing slimy politicians, you don't get much better than Geoff Pierson and Chris Mulkey. I enjoyed both the smile on Nucky's face when he spotted Margaret at the party and his reaction to Margaret's name for her boss (don't think he won't have something to say to her about ), along with her comments to Edge and Hague. The dance between Margaret and Nucky was divine. I hate to check into the history books for a spoiler to find out if they end up together, but either way, it's clearly an inevitability that Margaret and Lucy are destined to square off in a big way at some point. By the way, I have to admit that I already knew about Lucy's "surprise" before watching the episode, thanks to the promo photos on HBO's media website, but that didn't make me any less excited about seeing it actually come to fruition onscreen.

In the end, Nucky's meeting with the political bigwigs didn't go as well as he might've hoped - I can't imagine he was really happy about having to come right out and how much it was going to cost him - and the party ultimately cost him more that he probably would have liked on a of levels. Still, he flipped the situation around somewhat with that shipment of Pimm's Cup to the Senator. Nice note, eh? And given that Margaret and her neighbor were hanging out early in the episode, bonding over child-rearing and the news, I thought sure that, as Margaret's boss told her that she'd have to work late (bemoaning how her employee didn't have any incredibly inconvenient children), I figured her neighbor would have something to say about having to watch the kids that late into the evening. But, no, it never came up. What did come back around, however, was their conversation from early in the episode about the supposed Russian princess. For a moment, Margaret believed that fairytales really do some true sometimes, but with one headline, that belief came crashing down...and, hey, since it's down, why not go even deeper and start shoplifting from your employer, right? Makes sense.

Guess we'll find out more about Mickey Doyle's plans next week...

Boardwalk Empire 1.3 - Feet of Clay

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