Boardwalk Empire 2.11 – Under God’s Power She Flourishes

Sorry for the lack of photos throughout. I’ll try to get some images up later.

This week is all about the crazies. First we get some great backstory on Jimmy and Mommy Dearest. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of. (If you’re me.)

Then there’s Margaret who is still not handling Emily’s illness very well. Remember when she was the voice of reason on this show? Father Brennan’s got his claws in here and those days seem to be behind us.

And finally Van Alden who we always knew was a bit off (remember the self-flagellation in season one?). This week we learn a little about his childhood and then we get to see him —  not for the first time — lose all sense when in a bind.Previouslies – Nucky talking about Jimmy ditching Princeton for the Army; Van Alden drowning the other agent during an aggressive baptism (season 1); the heroin; Rose’s divorce petition; Emily’s polio; Margaret’s donation to the church; Angela asking why Jimmy married her; Esther asking Van Alden about Mr. Schroeder and then visiting Eli in jail; the proposal by Jimmy’s “associates” to sell the alcohol in other towns; and then Louise and Angela’s murders.

We open to the sound of Angela whispering “Jimmy. Jimmy, I have to leave. I’m sorry.” The lights comes up and Jimmy’s in bed and there’s Angela leaning over him with long hair again. Dream/delusion or simply flashback, we’re not sure yet. They’re in Princeton. Angela turns on the light and hands Jimmy a sketch she drew of him. There are other sounds in the background. A Mrs. Krakauer (the dorm mother). Jimmy says his mother’s coming to town and wants to meet her. Jimmy’s roommate comes in lets them know that Mrs. Krakauer heard something but he covered for them. “Next time we go back to using your car,” Angela says and Jimmy says it wasn’t his car. The roommate then sneaks her out the back.

In Nucky’s office, his new lawyer Fallon is there. He says Esther’s gunning hard for Nucky on a capital offense – the murder of Hans Schroeder. They’re going to say Nucky gave the order and let Halloran walk in exchange for his testimony. Fallon also says that if he pushes any harder with bribes they’ll both need a new lawyer. Apparently Esther is not buyable. (Yet. If this show has proven one thing, it’s that everybody has their price. And she’s sleeping with a subordinate, so…) Fallon says Eli’s not talking to them and Nucky once again insists he’s innocent. I’m starting to think he actually believes himself.

Fallon goes on to say that Van Alden will be testifying and Nucky argues that he’s “a bigamist” (Fallon points out that he’s only an adulterer). Throughout all of this, there’s a black man (Harlan) dusting in the background and finally Nucky calls him on still being there.

“How bad is this?” Nucky finally asks and Fallon tells him to get his finances in order. Harlan still hasn’t left the room and finally Nucky stops “hinting” and straight asks him what he’s waiting for. He comments that Nucky kept him working the last few weeks during the strike. Nucky says, “You don’t need to thank me,” but Harlan disagrees. He says that he belongs to the Shiloh Baptist Church and Nucky tries to dismiss him, clearly missing the old man’s got something to say. Fallon, however, is catching on and wants to know what Harlan has to say. He tells that he was at a baptism in the river last year when Van Alden showed up with “the other lawman and he drowned that fella, in front of us all.” Fallon is clearly pleased he let Harlan speak.

At Van Alden’s place, Sigrid (the nanny – I misheard her name before as Ingrid) is making breakfast while Abigail sleeps. Ingrid speaks to Van Alden in Dutch, asking how he is. He doesn’t understand her and she’s surprised. She asks after his parents and he says he’s not in contact with them. They don’t care for him. She’s flabbergasted, wondering how that could possibly be. And then we find out his past. His parents were followers of Reverend Edgerton Sterry who prophesied a second coming in 1892 and that his father gave away their farm in preparation (this prophet seems to be fictional – I can’t find mention of him anywhere). The elder Van Alden couldn’t get over what happened and his son’s continued existence made it worse. Our Van Alden seems just as religious as his parents, which I find interesting since he speaks of their devotion as though there was something wrong with (aside from the obvious financial issues). Sigrid tells him he’s a good man. He smiles at her and I wonder when he’s going to get her knocked up.

At the hospital, they’ve put Emily in leg braces. She says she feels rubbery, which I think is a delightful description. They get her standing then she tries to make one step and falls over. Father Brennan’s there for moral support. The doctor and Margaret step aside and he tells her that Emily will need to develop the muscles in her arms and upper torso for balance and support, that they cannot let her revert to crawling.

Father then comes over and tells Margaret a story about a man invited to visit both Heaven and Hell and talks about the souls in both places sitting around a table laden with food. In Hell everyone was starving, their torment was being unable to feed themselves because the spoons are too long to be able to hold for themselves (which makes no sense, just hold it farther up the handle, right?). In Heaven they were all well fed because they used the long spoons to feed each other. (My eyes just rolled so hard the left one fell out.) Father then tells her that her donation has been put toward the construction of the new parish hall. They’ve got the foundation and walls, now they’re praying for a roof. Margaret says she can do something more and Father says that’s not what he was asking for. Margaret seems uncertain about the point of his words and I can’t figure out if she honestly thinks that giving money to the church will get her prayers answered and her sins forgiven. It seems incredibly naïve for the Margaret we’ve come to know. I’m having a real hard time with the way she’s been written in recent weeks.

At the beach house a sheet-covered body is being loaded into an ambulance. Gillian’s watching from the window. The camera cuts to the interior of the house and a deputy asks where Jimmy was the night before. Instead of answering, Gillian asks why he’s here. He’s says it’s a double homicide, duh. She clarifies that she means why him and not Eli. He’ll need to talk to Eli; she’s not saying shit to this kid. The deputy says the sheriff is unavailable, but she’s not budging. Finally she says, “The facts are these. My son’s wife was being intimate with another woman. I highly doubt if it was the first time. An intruder broke in… and killed them both.” Then she walks to the next room. (It’s sometimes hard to believe this is the same actress from <I>Music From Another Room.</I>)

The deputy continues, following her and asking Richard if he’s an associate of Jimmy and does he know where Jimmy is. Richard hesitates – clearly grief stricken — and Gillian takes the opportunity to tell the deputy Richard’s a simpleton her son is charitable to. (My jaw dropped at that.) Richard plays along (in that he’s still speechless and she uses it), and the deputy takes his hesitation to speak as an inability to answer. I’m astounded by it as the deputy shows himself out.

With the deputy gone, Gillian asks Richard if he was able to reach Jimmy and he replies that Jimmy wouldn’t answer the phone (which I guess means he knows where he is at least). She says Jimmy needs to come home or people will get the wrong idea. Richard excuses himself and moves down the hall. He looks heartbroken. Oh Richard. He enters the bedroom and looks at the bloodstain on the floor then kneels down and touches it. It’s still wet.

Jimmy’s voice over… He’s reading a Daniel Webster passage in a small seminar group. As he reads and the other boys giggle at the words, it seems like Jimmy might not really understand what he’s reading. Perhaps Nucky was right about why Jimmy left for the army? Then the instructor asks what Webster was writing about and goes through a couple students, getting half-ass answers about corruption. Then Jimmy speaks up in more plain language that is dead on saying the characters “mother taught him things that aren’t of any use” and that the man is aware of all the men around him having money and he wants it, “he’s hungry, like he can taste it.” He gets it in a way his classmates don’t and he wasn’t laughing with them because maybe it hit too close to home. His instructor seems impressed and there’s a glint in his eye. You see that he sees something in Jimmy.

As class ends, a guy who is ROTC or already military (it’s not clear and I’m too lazy to find out how long ROTC’s been around) in the class and he says he won’t be there next week because they’ve got maneuvers. There’s some mocking on Jimmy’s part about him taking things too seriously that devolves into some strain. ROTC boy clearly thinks Jimmy is NOT a patriot. Another boy says his brother died on the Lusitania and Jimmy apologizes for any offense.

As the boys leave, Mr. Pearson (the instructor) holds Jimmy back. He tells Jimmy he won’t win that way with the other boys, but Jimmy says where he comes from people come out swinging. Mr. Pearson asks if he’s going back to AC after graduation and he says that’s what he’s supposed to do. That’s what his guardian — Mr. Thompson — and his mother expect of him. Pearson asks if Nucky’s a Princeton man, if he’s footing the bill. Jimmy says Nucky knows people and he’s paying as long as Jimmy doesn’t screw up. Pearson tells Jimmy that his father was a train conductor and guys like them have to be clever. There’s potential here for a good mentor relationship and I can already guess that it’s going to turn sour quickly.

In the liquor warehouse, Doyle, Capone, Meyer, and Lucky are talking about Jimmy being gone. They’re preparing to split up Jimmy’s share because they don’t think he’s coming back. Then Doyle steps in to say Jimmy “didn’t ice her” that Manny did. Everyone stops and turns to him. Lucky says then it’s still Jimmy’s problem. So the other guys figure they’ll still take Jimmy’s share and when Jimmy shows up he can take his share out of Doyle’s.  Capone’s an asshole (Lucky and Meyer aren’t much better) and Doyle’s left standing there with a look in his eye far different from his usual buffoonishness. He looks like he’s already plotting.

Margaret is telling Nucky the story about the people in Hell unable to feed themselves. “The spoons are too long,” she says and Nucky’s response is the same as mine: “Why couldn’t they just hold them up higher on the handle?” I crack up as Margaret comes out of the bathroom all upset and saying he’s missing the point (which I didn’t think she got either). Nucky says these parables make no sense. Margaret asks if he doesn’t believe in any higher power and he mentions the federal government. Ha! He says he knows what he doesn’t believe in — divine intervention. Emily calls from the other room that she needs to go potty and Margaret stomps off to take care of her, glaring at Nucky on her way.

At the jail, Eli gets a visitor. It’s his attorney who has Halloran’s deposition. Eli says he doesn’t need to read it, that Halloran is fingering him for a murder he didn’t commit; he was home recovering from a bullet wound. The attorney says he’s there to help and Eli says get him bail. His attorney says he’s a flight risk and Eli wonders where he’s supposed to run to. He’s encouraged to testify that he committed the murder at Nucky’s behest so Randolph will spare his life. Eli asks, “My life?” and his attorney explains that means Randolph won’t argue for the electric chair. Eli’s expression is grim, like he’s finally starting to get it.

Back at campus, Gillian’s visiting Jimmy and says Mrs. Krakauer told her he’s been up to all kinds of things: phone calls from women in the middle of the night (Gillian) and kissing “underfed waitresses” (Angela). Jimmy asks how her latest man is as he unpacks her suitcase for her. Apparently her latest is married and mortgaged and it’s over now. Jimmy pours her a drink and she says he can have one too, but he says he’s supposed to write an essay. He pours himself a bit anyway and sits next to her on the bed. I’m smiling as that old incest vibe is back.

At the post office, Van Alden looks on as Esther and her assistants talk about Mrs. Schroeder. They ask Van Alden about his impression and he says she left no impression on him. Then he signs Rose’s petition for divorce.

At Princeton, there’s a mixer in a big hall and Angela comes through the front door. Jimmy has a corsage for her. Angela asks if his mother left yet and there Gillian is… she greets Angela with a kiss and it’s awkward and she clearly doesn’t approve. “Simple, restrained, I like it,” she says about Angela’s frumpy dress (even Jimmy said she looked like she was “from Vermont” which is not a compliment). Gillian’s dress is a shiny, blue shift that fits perfectly. Upstairs in the dining room, Jimmy’s friend comes over and says he’s sticking to them because he’s anxious and socially inept. He’s kind of adorable in his admission. Angela says to stick with her and then they’ll both have someone to talk to. She’s such a sweetheart.

Across the room, Gillian is surrounded by college boys. Dear god, help them. She’s flirting shamelessly with Pearson and Jimmy’s caught up staring at them. Angela pulls his attention away to tell him that she’s pregnant. Well… She says she’s sorry but he says, “No. We’ll get a place.” He says they’ll be together and she asks if that’s a marriage proposal and he says it will make getting a lease easier. I guess romance was already dead in the 1920s. She says he barely knows her, but he replies that he knows she’s a good person.  (Because that’s all a marriage needs, right?)

Nucky’s at his desk at home. Margaret comes in and she seems upset. They move to sit before the fire when she reminds him that he’d wanted to talk. Nucky says he spoke to Fallon who said Eli will testify against him to save himself. Margaret asks what he’ll say and Nucky says enough to put him in jail, possibly enough to get him the chair. He then says before they seize his money, he can hide it so he can help her. She asks why that matters to him and he counters that Father Brennan’s putting nonsense in her head (hear hear!!) She insists the thoughts are her own. He says he’s got 60,000 acres of land in a company name and that he holds all the stock. He’s transferring it to her name so she’ll be taken care of. She stops listening as the scene fades out back to Princetown (and I want to smack her upside the head).

Jimmy’s outside getting some air and then Gillian comes around a corner, straightening her dress and looking upset. “I thought we were just flirting.” At the sound of footsteps, he looks down the hallway to see Pearson. He heads down there and confronts him. “What’d you do to my mother?” Pearson seems confused and Jimmy repeats himself.  “That was your mother?” Pearson asks. He says Jimmy’s life is pretty Jacobean (recalling the Webster reading from earlier).  Jimmy slugs him as Pearson offers to apologize; Pearson tells him to walk away and he’ll pretend it didn’t happen. Jimmy says, “It is happening” and proceeds to beat the crap out of him. I’m conflicted about his defense of his mother against a possible sexual assault attempt and the fact that Gillian hasn’t really needed protecting in a long damn time.

Van Alden has come to visit Doyle who says he’s put an entire situation together and now he’s getting a “poke up the ass.” Van Alden asks what he’s got and he proceeds to talk about the deal with Capone, Lucky, and Meyer. He says Jimmy’s gone for now.  “There’s gonna be a lot of green on the table” and that federal agents should intervene. $300,000. He wants half, the other $150k would go in Van Alden’s pocket. “So?” he asks, with his hand out. “I’d prefer not to,” Van Alden replies. He repeats himself and gets up, telling Doyle not to contact him again.  Doyle’s not okay with this.

Gillian and Jimmy get back to his room. It looks at first like she’s helping him after the fight, but he’s also holding her up because she’s drunk. “You’ve got blood on your shirt,” she says as she helps him unbutton it. He says he beat Pearson enough to get expelled and she says Nucky will fix it. She then says she’s “the loneliest person on earth” when he asks why she came to visit. Then she asks if he loves “that skinny girl” and he says no and then he doesn’t know and she tells him not to do anything stupid. (Too late for that, Jimmy.) He focuses on getting her shoes off and getting her into bed. She nearly falls off the bed and he catches her. He gets her standing and helps her out of her dress (and remember, he’s still shirtless). There’s fumbling around and she says she hates for him to see her like this; they fall back on the bed and he’s hovering above her and it’s all very intimate.

She says he knows how to take care of her and he’s says he’s “been doing it long enough.” She talks about when he was little, curling up with him in bed. She reaches her hand up to caress his jawline and I’m just waiting for things to get even more inappropriate than they already are. “There’s no one else in all the world,” is what she thought on those nights.

Jimmy says goodnight and moves to kiss her forehead and she tips her head back and pulls his face to kiss him on the mouth as a train goes by outside.  He pulls back some and she says “there’s nothing wrong with any of it” and they kiss again and he seems to drop his body down to hers and it’s frantic and my reaction is a mix of delight and freaked out (because I wanted to know, but I don’t know if I wanted to see). They’ve hinted about this since our very first introduction to her, but we lacked any confirmation until now.

The train keeps rumbling and the night table is vibrating and the camera moves away to focus on that. Next thing it’s morning and he’s alone in bed in nothing but his boxer shorts and her stuff is gone from the closet. Oh Jimmy. He sits on the side of the bed for a few minutes, then moves to the window looking out to see a group of ROTC guys marching across a field. And now we know what prompts him to enlist.

He’s with an enlistment officer and when the man asks why he hasn’t listed any next of kin he says “both my mother and father are gone.” Well. He gives them Angela’s name as a contact and refers to her as his fiancée. He’s clearly off and the man asks why he’s enlisting and he replies that he wants to stick “a bayonet in the Kaiser’s guts.” The officer asks why and he steals his classmate’s story, that he lost a brother on the Lusitania.

Margaret’s working on Emily’s braces; there’s a spot where they’re chafing her skin and she can’t feel it. Owen comes in and offers to help, taking the brace from her and seeing a rough grommet that he can smooth out for her. She accepts his help and he sits down and goes to work. It’s quiet and she’s clearly tense while he’s smiling. “Do you think about me?” he finally asks. “Because I think about you.” She tells him to stop, that she’ll pray for him to do so. He says that would mean she’s thinking about him. And then they see Katie in the shadows at the other end of the kitchen. She turns and hurries away. Oh no, here we go. As if Margaret hadn’t already looked wrecked, her expression is even worse now.

Jimmy’s in a room, trashed out of his mind, reaching for a bottle. He drains it and the scene goes dark then light again. We hear Gillian saying “James? James.” Then she’s reminding him he’s got a son and a business waiting for him. Finally, we’re in the present and I guess he was dreaming everything during his drunken stupor.  He finally says he understands. She says it’s been days and he “needs to come home and show the world he has nothing to hide.” He’s then on his knees on the floor snorting Lucky’s heroin. Oh Jimmy. Booze and H? My poor boy.

At the post office, Van Alden enters the office to find Randolph with Nucky’s attorney Mr. Fallon and Deacon Cuffey from Shiloh Baptist.  Mr. Fallon asks Van Alden how he’s doing as Lathrope steps in behind him. “Couple of things to show you,” Fallon says as he presents shoes and a gun from his former partner. Lathrope tells him to put his hands in front of him and reaches for Van Alden’s gun, but Van Alden is faster. They tussle and he shoots Lathrop in the foot and scrambles out the door.

Margaret’s having a drink in the parlor when Nucky comes in and comments about her drinking alone. She’s been subpoenaed. He tells her Fallon will take care of it and she mentions that the day before he was worried. He says now he’s not, that it turns out Van Alden isn’t a credible witness. “And your brother?” she asks to which he responds that “blood is thicker than water.” She brings up that they began in sin. Nucky’s practical and she’s … not. She’s freaked out but says she’s never been so sure of anything in her life. She’s caught up in the notion that Emily’s sick because of their sin and Nucky calmly says, “Emily was stricken with a disease.” Margaret insists that she’s culpable — she stole and cheated and deceived and she’s being punished. He asks who she stole from and she says her family, her employer, and him. He asks who she deceived and she says “anyone who thinks I’m good.” Finally he asks who she’s cheated on and he moves toward her, “Well? Say it.” He’s prepared for her to confess to something and yet I’m not sure he’d care because he loves her so much. She hesitates and finally says she’s living with the man who had her husband murdered. “Really? When did I do that?” he asks (and again I think he believes his own lies).

They argue over each other and finally she says she can’t pretend she’s not been called to account as she holds up the subpoena. He realizes she’s thinking about testifying and asks if she’s lost her mind. He tells her he won’t “permit” her to sacrifice him even if she thinks she’s being punished. “Will you strike me now?” she says to his face and he raises his hand … and takes the subpoena from her. “I have given you everything,” he says before leaving the room. I don’t know that I’ve ever loved him more than in this moment.

Gillian’s doing needlepoint and saying they’ll have to have a funeral, but there aren’t many people to invite because Angela didn’t have “a wide circle.” Jimmy’s sitting in a chair looking disconsolate. It looks like their in the Commodore’s house. Gillian just keeps talking despite Jimmy’s absence from everything. She says the other girl (Louise) wasn’t local, that they’ll have to consider Tommy, that she told him Mommy went away to paint. Gillian says they should tell him that “she went to live with her friends in Paris.” Jesus. Jimmy’s still quiet and glassy-eyed, staring at her. You start to wonder if he’s even hearing her. “A month from now, and I don’t mean to sound cold, but he won’t even remem–“ and then Jimmy flies from his chair and attacks her repeating “I’ll remember” over and over again as he chokes her.

The Commodore comes up behind him with a big spear and stabs at Jimmy’s shoulder, knocking him off of her. The two of them struggle as Gillian watches and screams “No.” They end up with Jimmy pinned to the wall and Jimmy pulls a knife and stabs the Commodore in the gut. He pulls it out and Gillian says, “Then finish it, goddamn you. Finish it.” And he does.  Fade to black.

There’s music box tinkling and a blurry screen and we see Jimmy with his shoulder bandaged, slumped in a chair and totally out of it. Richard’s in the other room over the Commodore’s body cleaning the knife. He comes over and closes the curtains so Jimmy can’t see.

“Jimmy?” We hear Angela’s voice again. “Jimmy I have to leave.” When next he looks over the curtains are open again and the body is gone. He’s still bandaged from the fight but there’s no other sign that anything happened. Gillian comes in with Tommy who says he had a bad dream. “Me too,” Jimmy replies. “But everything’s going to be fine.” Tommy asks where his mama is and Gillian says she’s there, that he doesn’t have to worry.

“What you did…” Gillian says, “You didn’t mean it.” She says it’ll all be better now. God she lives in a totally different world. She picks up Tommy and takes him upstairs, pausing to tell Jimmy that one day Tommy won’t be a little boy anymore. Then she says she’ll put him to bed and she’ll be upstairs. It almost sounds like an invitation.

Next week: Season finale. And the previews are awesome. “Know. Who’s. Behind You.” gets flashed between quickly changing images. Richard and Jimmy striding down a hallway. Margaret in a chair (testifying?); Chalky’s men; cars, cars, cars; Eli; and finally a gunshot followed by Jimmy saying, “Let me make things right” to an unseen person. I can’t wait!