Boardwalk Empire 2.01 — 21

Everyone knows Jesus likes to have a good time.

While my husband didn’t think the season two premier had enough T&A, I found it to be full of some very insightful relationship moments. And for an episode that covers only a couple days, a lot of important things happen. There’s racial conflict, power plays, all kinds of parent/child dynamics, and a brochure that cracked me up (see photo). Oh yeah, and some people get shot.

So come on in and found out everything that happened this week. I’ll try not to disappoint.

After a rapid recap of season one’s key points, we open with a close-up shot of a bottle lying on the beach and then pan out to a crowd collecting bottles washed up on the shore. From there we’ve got a montage of everything going on in Atlantic City now. Money on poker tables. People drinking and partying. Nucky having a grand time. Richard and Jimmy leading a convoy of trucks loaded up, presumably, with booze.

There’s a random topless woman in Nucky’s lap. And crates being unloaded for Chalky who tastes and nods at Jimmy. We see that Nucky’s brother Eli is alive, but he’s got a big scar on this stomach.

Next we see Mrs. Schroeder sitting alone on the side of her bed, looking over her shoulder at the empty space on the other side. Then back to the club where Nucky’s assistant taps his watch, pointing out the time.

[end montage]

At Chalky’s warehouse a truckload of Klansmen shows up and opens fire on the place. They’ve got a machine gun on a tripod in the back of the truck and they’re blasting people as well as crates of booze. Some of Chalky’s people are clearly dead. And then the casing of the gun jams and the shooting stop for a moment before two Klansmen enter the warehouse with rifles in hand and put one to Chalky’s face and says, “Purity, sobriety, and the white Christain’s Jesus.” (Not being a Christian myself, I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus was all about.) The Klansman is about to shoot Chalky when a woman shoots the Klansman in the arm. The second guy turns and shoots her in turn. Someone else inside is shooting at the KKK guys too and they hustle out of there. Chalky gets up and shoots one of them in the back as the truck pulls away.

Meanwhile at the Schroeder household, Nucky comes home to the sound of Teddy having a tantrum. He’s under the dining room table, it’s breakfast, and Nucky been gone all night long. Apparently Teddy doesn’t want to go to school. Nucky asks him if he wants to grow up to be a fishmonger and the kid says yes. Not the answer they were looking for. He’s got bruises on his hand from Sister Bernice but Teddy insists he did nothing.

Finally the kid comes out and goes off with the housekeeper. It’s nearly 8am and Mrs. S calls Nucky on it. He just says he’s amazed he made it home before nine. Then things gets sexual for a moment until the whining kids in the background ruin the moment and Nucky leaves to go the office to sleep.

Jimmy gets dropped off at a nice new house by the water. His hot mom, Gillian, is there along with Angela and Tommy. Gillian gets up from the table to make Jimmy some eggs because she knows how he likes them. If she’s living there now, I really feel bad for Angela.

Jimmy wants to take Tommy to shoot gulls but Angela worries he’s too young and that it’s not safe. Gillian, of course, undermines her, but after the boys leaves Angela calls her on it. Then to add to season one’s suggestion of a bit more mother/son intimacy than typical, Gillian tells Angela that when Jimmy was little and she’d change his diaper, she would “kiss his little winkie.”

Angela's not as comfortable with winkie kissing as Mommy Dearest.

At the Post Office back room two prohibition agents are wrestling on the floor. Agent Van Alden comes in and finds them. He’s got his wife, Rose, with him and introduces her (as Mrs. Van Alden) to agents Zewicky and Clarkson. Clarkson says there’s no shortage of “wholesome entertainment” in AC and gives her a tourist guide entitled “If Jesus Ever Came to Atlantic City.” Agent Van Alden says they’ll be staying at a hotel and then the agents watch with relief as they leave.

No one told me this was going to be "that kind of show." I'm delighted.

Over in the Windy City, it’s booze and half naked ladies as usual at the brothel. Capone’s at a table talking to somebody we haven’t met yet. Capone thinks he’s speaking with George Remus but he’s confused by the man’s references to Remus. (Capone does not come across as particularly smart in this scene). But it is Remus, he just likes to refer to himself in the third person. It’s a little confusing at first to the viewer too, but it soon gets annoying as well.

Johnny Torrio (the Chicago boss) joins them and Remus explains that Remus has lots of liquor to float Johnny’s speaks and more. Remus then says that Remus promises no bloodshed because Remus owns everything. (See? Annoying.) Also of note, Remus is in Cincinatti, which is much closer than AC and there’d be no dealing with Nucky.

Johnny tells Remus to go say hello to Odette; they can work out the details of their new business arrangement later. Then he tells Capone to go see Nucky when he goes to AC next month. Capone seems a little uncomfortable with the idea, but Johnny assures him that he will “think of something” to tell him. I’m not really sure about that, because (again) Al’s sharpness is limited to his clothes most days.

Back in AC…  In Nucky’s office a bunch of men (ward bosses and politicians, I presume) are standing around a table with a map and discussing plots of land and who will buy what. They speak of land barons of barren land. This is related to the road building plan from last season. One of the guys there is ready to sell gravel for the roads and Ward Boss O’Neill hands off some cash to secure his part in the deal.

Nucky goes to his shoe closet and reveals his secret compartment. He stashes the cash and enters into his ledger when his assistant Eddie shoes up with news about Chalky shooting a Klansman (and no other details). He’s already called Nucky’s brother, Eli.

Agent Van Alden and the little missus are riding a carriage on the boardwalk. Poor Rose looks slightly terrified by the sights. They pass by Nucky and Van Alden follows him with his eyes. When asked who the man is, however, he tells his wife he’s no one of any consequence. Then as Rose continues to look at the pamphlet she gets more upset a section of places “Jesus wouldn’t go” such as taverns and brothels. She’s disgusted by the world and says maybe it’s better they don’t have children. I have to agree with her, not because of the world but because Van Alden is creepy. Of course, it’s too late for him.

At Chalky’s place a young man we learn is Chalky’s son Lester is playing the piano. Nucky and Eli are there. We learn that Lester’s planning to attend Morehouse in two years before he and his mom leave the room so the men can discuss the situation with the Klan.

History lesson: Morehouse is an all-male, historically black college in Atlanta, Ga., established in 1867. It’s the alma mater of some of the United States’ most notable African American leaders and public figures, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, and Maynard Jackson. For Lester to be going there is definitely a point of pride for Chalky’s family.

Chalky sits down and Nucky asks “What the fuck happened?” Eli says he shot a schoolteacher. This is not good. Then Chalky points out that what’s not good is that he lost four boys and has half a dozen wounded including a woman. Nucky says Chalky knows he’ll take care of it, but Chalky asks how does he know that. He says they’re “supposed to be protected” as he glares at Eli and then declares that he’s “done with this shit.” I love his conviction here. He’s pissed and he’s not believing any of their placating comments. Eli, of course, is a dick. Chalky reminds Nucky that he’s got his people — “10,000 black people that will make this city their home.” He smiles and I love every bit of it. Chalky says Nucky needs to “school these crackers” and there’s a not so subtle intimation that race relations will change if he says the word.

Nucky calmy reminds him that he’s the only thing keeping Chalky from a lynch mob. Chalky doesn’t seem to care anymore. He asks if Nucky’s ready for what could happen. Nucky says Chalky’s people have more to lose than he does if Chalky dies. Will he be arrested or not? Nucky tells him to stay in the house, he’ll handle it. Chalky leaves them to see themselves out. After he walks out of the room Nucky says he thought Eli had “this Klan shit” under control. Eli is slow to respond and then only says, “That is one uppity shine.” Nice.

Mrs. Schroeder turns up at Teddy’s school. Sister Bernice is in the classroom after school. She’s grading papers. Margaret says Teddy has bruises and the Sister asks if he told her why she hit him with a ruler. It turns out he was playing with matches in a coat closet. Margaret is shocked. The Sister confirms that Margaret is a widow living with Teddy’s “uncle.” Father Brennan intervened and Teddy’s not being expelled, thanks to the Father’s relationship with Uncle Nucky.

Jimmy, Eli, and the Commodore are at the Commodore’s house. There’s clearly some kind of plotting going on behind Nucky’s back. “We agreed we were going to put him out of business,” Eli says. Jimmy points out “You had to shoot a woman.” Was Eli one of the Klansmen, then? I wouldn’t be surprised. The Commodore asks Jimmy if he would have mollycoddled the enemy in France and Jimmy looks at him like he’s smoking crack. He’s kind of like Teddy Roosevelt with Alzheimer’s at sundown.

Eli mentions “10,000 coloreds up in arms” and then the Commodore confirms that they are indeed aligned with the Klan. I’m not happy to see Jimmy involved in this. He’s so impressionable but he’s also silent and absorbing, so it’s hard to tell how fully involved he is or if he’s doing his own plotting. We get further confirmation of plotting against Nucky and that the Commodore is aligned with the governor and his people. Eli asks if they’re ready and the Commodore encourages him to worry about himself, that he’ll take care of Nucky. Eli leaves.

There’s a pretty lady arranging flowers off to the side, quietly watching everything and I have to wonder if she’s a throw-away or if she’ll figure into things at some point. Her glance at Jimmy seems too intentional to not be important.

The Commodore wants Jimmy to meet the governor and cultivate relationships with New York and Philly. “Chalky is out of game… that whole warehouse is there for the taking.” Commodore tells Jimmy not to worry about Nucky and Jimmy says he’s not. The camera pans around the room showing all the trophy animals including a 600+ pound grizzly bear and the Commodore relates how he met him in a ravine and shot him in the gut. The bear bled out staring up at him. That poor bear.

Commodore:  You’ll be judge by what you succeed at boy. Not what you attempt.

Nucky is speaking at black church about the boys who were murdered by men claiming to be Christians. He assures the congregation that as treasurer of Atlantic County and as a friend to “members of the colored community” that he and his sheriff brother and his men will not rest until the hooded men are brought to justice. He speaks to the crowd with great enthusiasm:

And the message is sent loud and clear that no one need fear for their safety, or the safety of their wives, children, or [scenery shift] property in the face of the ostreperous negro.

As he finishes we see he’s now speaking to a bunch of white folks. There are organ pipes behind him and the church is huge and all the pews are filled. “These coloreds need to learn a lesson,” he continues. “And we are going to teach it with, dare I say in these sacred confines, an iron fist.” Someone comes in and announces that the guy Chalky shot in the neck has died. People are outraged. Nucky sends Eli to arrest Chalky for his own safety then urges people to calm down. It doesn’t work.

The one thing about these two speeches and the way they are edited together is that it shows so blatantly how Nucky plays both sides to advance his own objectives. This isn’t something we don’t already know, but seeing it like this is still an eye opener. He essentially gives the same exact speech, only reversing the audience with the offender between the two. It’s pretty freaking brilliant.

Van Alden has taken his wife out for dinner. It’s their thirteenth wedding anniversary and the water says that’s lucky. They’re not familiar with lucky thirteen and it’s very awkward. The poor waiter doesn’t know how to relate to them (who would, really?). Van Alden orders for them both and the waiter asks if they are “imbibing” and subtly suggests they can get most anything if desired. Rose gets all upset again, even more so that her husband, an prohibition agent, isn’t going to do anything. But maybe he will? Over Rose’s shoulder Van Alden observes an employee carrying a case of something into a side room then he excuses himself to wash up.

The Klansman is being buried in his robe. This surprised my husband who’s never lived with such blatant and obvious racism in his life. There are also men in hoods in the funeral parlor, which is just tacky.

Nucky is there giving his condolences to the man’s wife — sorry for your loss, pillar of the community, blah, blah. He looks up and sees Jimmy is also there to pay his respects. The deceased was one of Jimmy’s teachers but Nucky’s clearly not buying it. He asks about the previous morning at the warehouse and Jimmy says he was already gone when it happened. Nucky suggests he should have noticed something. They go out to the porch where there are more Klansmen in robes.

"That’s an awful waste of a lot of good tablecloths." -- Jimmy

Jimmy asks how Chalky is and Nucky says he’s alive. We find out that Jimmy and Angela ran off and got married. Nucky asks about their new place and Jimmy says he took Tommy fishing and shooting. Like Nucky used to do with him. Nucky asks if there’s anything Jimmy wants to say and reminds him that his father is a “duplicitous man.”  Jimmy goes back inside to talk to other mourners, making connections that Nucky doesn’t miss.

Back at the restaurant, Van Alden has a gift for Rose (despite apparently not believing in gifts). It’s a cameo broach and I think it’s lovely. So does she. Van Alden then calls waiter over because this is, after all, a special occasion. He asks about getting some Champagne or whisky the waiter says they can do either and then Van Alden punches him in the face (which may have elicited a “holy crap!” from me), stands up, and announces a raid as other agents come in. They break down the door to the liquor room with over 200 cases of brandy, wine, and Champagne. They arrest the waiter for violation of the Volstead Act and empty the register. Rose looks disturbingly aroused by it all.

Back in their hotel room the headboard is banging against the wall. And then the camera pans out and Van Alden is bouncing the bed to identify where there’s a broken spring that is bothering his back. Rose says it was “thrilling” the way he acted in the raid. Then she leans in and kisses him. She’s previously been a bit of a cold fish, so this is huge. They fall back to the bed and things get more and more amorous until she pauses because she can’t do this with the light on. There’s no “fade” to black here, it’s immediate.

In Nucky and Margaret’s bedroom, she’s brushing her hair and comments that he’s awfully quiet. He says he saw Jimmy, which reminds her that they need to send something to the newlyweds. Nucky, however, has already taken care of it. She presses again that something is wrong and he confesses Jimmy’s holding something back, that he always used to confide in Nucky as a kid. That Jimmy’s dad wasn’t around then but now he is. Nucky admits he’s angry because he’d been father and mother to the kid — nursed him through malaria, took him camping. (And this is why I love his relationship to Margaret — she gets him to open up like this. He needs that in his life.) Margaret then reminds him that “there’s another boy down the hall” and explains what happened with the matches and Sister Bernice. She’s worried Teddy’s become fascinated with fire. I imagine watching a house burn down could do that to a young boy.

Van Alden and his wife are at the train station. She’s going home because she can’t live in “Soddom by the Sea.” But she had a nice time! (I think she had a really nice time last night.) He kisses her cheek and they caress fingertips. A porter takes her bag and she leaves to board the train. Van Alden turns and leaves the station. And the whole scene is like a forty-second synopsis of their entire relationship. Melancholy doesn’t even describe the moment.

Richard (the sniper with the face mask and perhaps my favorite character on the show) is at Jimmy’s house. Angela serves him breakfast and has a plate for Jimmy who has just gotten off the phone with his dad. He tells Angela that she and his mom are going to take Tommy to the carousel today…

There’s a gift from Nucky sitting on the dining table. Richard — who has been painfully shy in front of Angela — asks if the coloreds will give them any trouble. Jimmy says no one will be at the warehouse because they’ll be getting there early. He tells Richard not to be embarrassed to eat in front of them and encourages him to take some biscuits for later. He carefully wraps some biscuits in a napkin and my heart breaks for him when he asks Jimmy, “How’s it feel to have everything?” (My husband thinks Richard is going to end up having an affair with Angela. I think that would be great for both of them, but I’m not sure it’ll happen. And I worry about the other half of Richard’s face if it does.)

Nucky goes to talk to Teddy and I think “It’s about time.” Teddy’s playing with toy soldiers in his room. When Nucky says he’d like to talk to him, Teddy gets up and takes off his jacket and starts to unbutton his pants. I immediately know where this is going, but Nucky hasn’t a clue. When he asks the kid what he’s doing Teddy stops and looks at him, saying “getting ready for the belt.” Sigh.

Nucky assures him he’s not going to beat him, but then tells him he needs to mind his mother and the Sisters and no more playing with matches. Nucky is clearly uncomfortable with the kid so he does what he always does to solve a problem. He pulls some money out of his pocket and gives this kid a bill and sends him to the sweet shop. Yeah, that’s gonna fix it. I have to wonder what happened to those supposedly good parenting skills he had for Jimmy?

Jimmy and Richard open the doors at the warehouse.

Van Alden returns to his boarding house. He walks to his bedroom and counts a bank zipper pouch full of cash. In the mirror we see a woman in his bed. She’s been asleep and as soon as we hear her voice asking what time it is, I know that it’s Lucy. In case you forgot, Van Alden knocked her up last season. Her boobs are huge now and when she gets up from the bed we see that her belly is too. He’s brought her money “for the last two weeks.” She’s living with him but has a separate room and he reminds her she needs to sleep there, not in his bed where she was. Well… now we better understand why he got a hotel with his wife.

Back at the warehouse there’s some dealing going on. Jimmy and Richard are there along with a lot of guys picking up cases of booze.

At Nucky’s home, the phone rings. He looks around then finally answers it himself. It’s his assistant saying he’s got someone from the State’s Attorney’s office there to see him. The man is insisting that Nucky must come immediately, that it’s urgent. Margaret comes in and asks if everything is okay. Nucky says yes and that he’d told Teddy they’d all go to the movies for the new Chaplin film. He’ll meet them there because he needs to swing by office first.

Richard is in his room (possibly in Jimmy’s house?) clipping photos and making a scrapbook. They photos are of families. Looking at the pictures he’s got a wistful expression on his face. Have I mentioned that I love this guy and ache for him?

Nucky enters his office and Solomon Bishop, Deputy State’s Attorney is there with some other men. They arrest Nucky for election fraud and Bishop seems extraordinarily pleased with himself. It doesn’t take a genius to see the Commodore’s connection here.

At the pictures, Margaret and the kids are there with empty seat for Nucky. She checks her watch and turns to see someone enter but it’s not him. Then Teddy looks a moment later and seems sad Nucky’s not there with them.

Jimmy arrives home that night and finally opens the box from Nucky. Inside there’s an envelope of cash, no surprise. But there’s also a cast metal scene of a man and boy with guns by a tree — a reminder of their father/son relationship.

Jimmy puts the sculpture on the top shelf of the closet and turns out the light.

See you next week.

If you need a refresher on who people are or episode synopses from season one, check out the official website. There are some great video features there including previews for next week and inside looks at characters. If you’re an HBO subscriber you can even rewatch season one with HBO GO. Or better yet, buy the DVDs through the Amazon link on the sidebar and help our site. ;-)

Slowly but surely, I’ll also be adding recaps for season one here. Be patient with me please.

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  • Geeka

    Very good recap!! I was TOTALLY FREAKED OUT by the hoods. When they walked into the warehouse and you see them from Chalky’s perspective, I got creeped out. Horror movie creeped out!!

    When Van Alden socked that waiter, I know I said AW, SNAP!!

    I, too, love Richard. The whole scene in the previous season of Margaret reading to her kids and him watching from the door…*heartbreak* He does need to find some love that’s not from someone else’s woman or hooker. I really hope for that.

    Thanks again, and I look forward to season 1 recaps!!

    • Sally R

      Thank you! Richard really does need someone of his own. You can see that he could be capable of so much love. When it comes to quality of person, I think he’s the best man on the show. I fear that won’t serve him well in the end.