Wednesday, December 14, 2011

 

Boardwalk Empire No. 24: To the Lost Part II

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.


By Edward Copeland
Picking up where Part I of the recap left off (and if you miss part I, click here), Leander Cephas Whitlock meets with James and Gillian about settling the Commodore's affairs. The death certificate rules his cause of death as "an accident" which Leander informs them "that cost a pretty penny." The Commodore also left a will, which surprises Gillian who didn't know he had one. Whitlock tells them the late Louis Kaestner had one drawn up in 1914. but he never revised it. In the finale's biggest laugh (for me anyway), it turns out the Commodore left the bulk of his estate to Louanne Hunt, his former maid who tried to poison him to death in the first season. (Dammit, we'll probably never learn what message she left Nucky in that Bible before she left town.) Jimmy asks what happens if they don't find a will. Leander says it would go to him as next of kin. Jimmy inquires if it would go to Tommy should something happen to him and Whitlock confirms it would. Jimmy tears up the copy of the will. Langston enters and informs Jimmy that his guests have arrived.


Gillian whispers to Jimmy, "Be firm in what you want. You need to make sure that they — " Jimmy cuts her off and says what he should have told her a long time ago. "Ma, no more advice." Gillian tells him that she's only tried to help him. "I never meant for any — " Gillian starts to say before Jimmy shuts her down again. "I know you did," he replies. His mother gets up to leave. "You're the man of the house." Arriving for the meeting are interim County Treasurer Jim Neary, Ward Boss Boyd and Senior County Clerk Paddy Ryan. As always, the most important presence has been there all along — the unnamed bear. "Obviously with my father's passing, things have changed quite a bit," Jimmy addresses the conspirators. "I'm talking to the mayor about naming a street for him," Neary says. "My condolences," Boyd offers. "On your wife as well, Jim," Ryan adds. "Thank you. I've rethought our position regarding Nucky," Jimmy informs them. "His ass in a sling sounds like the right position to me," Neary laughs. "We're going after Eli. You'll recant your testimony, all of you. Blame everything on him," Jimmy instructs them. "My reputation is on the line," Ryan declares. "And if Nucky beats the charges, where's your reputation then?" Jimmy poses the question. "He's on the ropes, kid. He's on the run," Neary emphasizes. "This is no time to lose confidence," Ryan insists. "What do you think, Leander?" Boyd asks. "My advice is to stay the course," Whitlock counsels. "You've been through the wringer, kid. Your wife — now your pop — that's a burden for any man," Neary says. In a very nice shot, the camera circles behind Jimmy and as the others keep telling him to stick to the plan, you can tell he's zoning out. Their words begin to be accompanied by a version of "Ave Maria" sung by Enrico Caruso. "Take a trip. Clear your mind. A week from now, this will all be over," Boyd advises. "We've come this far. Why turn back?" Ryan asks. "Besides, I like being the treasurer," Neary admits.

Margaret wakes up and looks out and sees Nucky and Teddy working with Emily in the yard. She smiles. Later, as Johan Svendsen's "Romance in G Major, Op. 26" (performed by Erica Morini plays), she comes down to the porch dressed where Nucky and the children are eating breakfast. "I would like you to come with me please," Margaret tells Nucky. "Where?" he asks. "Mr. Sleater will drive us to church where I intend to make a full and complete confession. Then after I've made my peace with God, Father Brennan will marry us," she informs Nucky. Nucky puts down his newspaper and stands. "Thank you. I don't know what — " Margaret interrupts Nucky's gratitude. "Children, we'll be back later. Say goodbye to your father," she tells them. Teddy says, "Goodbye" as does Emily, who adds "Daddy" on the end of her salutation. Nucky and Margaret go back inside the house and Margaret calls for Katy to come with them. She really loves to drive the knife in that girl's back, doesn't she? The music on the soundtrack switches to Schubert's "Moments Musicaux Op. 94 D780 No. 3" performed by Seymour Lipkin as the scene switches to Esther Randolph practicing her opening argument for Nucky's trial while getting dressed. It's the beginning of an intercut montage paying homage to the famous intercutting of the baptism and the murders in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. In the Boardwalk Empire version, we switch between three locales: Randolph in her apartment, the church and the Atlantic County Municipal Building that houses the county treasurer's office. For simplicity's sake, I will uppercase and bold the location before each part with APARTMENT, CHURCH and OFFICE. As I wrote in Part I of the recap, I can't complain about the assemblage of the episode itself. Tim Van Patten does his usual exceptional directing job. Terence Winter writes some great scenes. My criticisms take aim at the show overall, especially its future, which sounds more disconcerting when you read Winter's interview with EW.com hinting about Season 3. APARTMENT: "May it please the court, gentlemen of the jury, my name is Esther Randolph, assistant United States Attorney." CHURCH: "Bless me father for I have sinned," Margaret says in the confessional. APARTMENT: "During the course of this trial, you'll hear a great many charges brought against Enoch Thompson, first and foremost…." Randolph practices while buttoning her blouse. CHURCH: The visuals pan past Margaret confessing to Brennan, though the voice continues to belong to Randolph. "…that he ordered the murder of a Mr. Hans Schroeder, a romantic rival." APARTMENT: Esther rolls up her panty hose. "Using his influence as treasurer of Atlantic County, Mr. Thompson also engaged in other violations of the law…" OFFICE: Richard parks a car in from of the Atlantic County Municipal Building and he and Jimmy get out. Again, it's Esther's voice we hear. "…enlisting his underlings in graft, violations of the Volstead Act and extortion of local businesses." CHURCH: Margaret exits the confessional. She's wearing a white veil over the back of her head. Another nice pan as Nucky stands outside to greet her. The camera keeps going and we see first Katy, then Owen. "Enoch Thompson is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his ends." OFFICE: At this point, the musical piece switches to a different composition by Schubert, also performed by Lipkin. It's "Impromptu D.935 Op. 142 No. 1 Op 142." We follow Richard and Jimmy from behind and foot level as they march down the hall of the municipal building. "A man whose greed knows no boundaries." We see Richard and Jimmy from the front and above. CHURCH: A new voice joins Randolph's as Nucky and Margaret stand at the altar. "Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord for the husband is the hand…" Father Brennan says before his words get overlapped by Randolph's. "You'll hear how rather than minding the city's coffers…" APARTMENT: Esther fastens her skirt. "…he was instead lining his own pockets." CHURCH: "Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ so to let the wife be to her husband in all things," Brennan preaches. OFFICE: The phone rings in the county treasurer's office, but the secretary, Eunice Keltner, whom we met earlier this season when Nucky got evicted from his suite at the Ritz, can't answer it at the moment as Jim Neary is busy taking her from behind as she's bent over the desk. "Along with his various aldermen, he has plundered the citizens of Atlantic County…: CHURCH: "…using the spoils of his position to ensure his position by rigging last year's election." APARTMENT: Randolph has almost completed getting dressed as she's down to her shoes. "You will hear directly from some of these aldermen, including James Neary, now the interim treasurer." OFFICE: "What the fuck?" Neary shouts as Jimmy and Richard kick his office doors open. Jimmy brandishes his gun and addresses Eunice. "Look at me. Take a coffee break and don't come back," he tells her. CHURCH: "Marriage is an institution not to be taken lightly," Brennan says to Margaret and Nucky. APARTMENT: Her outfit fully in place, Randolph walks back and forth in her room. "Enoch Thompson is a man loyal only to himself." CHURCH: "…a sacred covenant before God." APARTMENT: Esther applies lipstick. "A man who orders up murder like you and I order coffee." CHURCH: "Knowing this, I ask you, dp you Margaret, choose to marry Enoch, to join with him as your husband for all the days of your life?" Brennan asks. "I do," she answers. OFFICE: Jimmy dictates while Neary types with Richard offering the encouragement of a gun leveled at his head. "…at which point Elias Thompson ordered me to falsify voting records…" CHURCH: "I, Enoch, take you Margaret, for my lawful wife." OFFICE: "Sign it," Jimmy orders. "Nice fellas. A fuckin' confession signed at gunpoint," Neary says. "It's not just a confession," Jimmy tells him. Richard pushes Neary back in the chair and shoves the gun in his mouth. "It's a suicide note," he informs him as he blows off the back of his head. CHURCH: "You may kiss the bride." They do. OFFICE: Jimmy and Richard take their leave as Randolph's voice returns. "Accordingly, there can only be one…" APARTMENT: "…just verdict — guilty," Esther spins and says. Lathrop applauds from bed where his leg remains bandaged from the gunshot wound Van Alden gave him during his escape.

Judge Hillcote (Ian Stuart), the man assigned to preside over Nucky's trial which I presume still is being held in Camden County, pounds his gavel and calls for order. A very unhappy Esther Randolph starts expressing her disbelief out loud at recent events. "A last-minute marriage, an alleged suicide, seven recantations of sworn testimony. In my eight years as a prosecutor, I've never seen a more blatant example of witness tampering," she seethes. This is the point in the episode where the cloud started to lift for me as well. Granted, I knew that Nucky would be escaping punishment somehow — he's the show lead. On the other hand, since I've read that EW.com interview with Terence Winter where he discusses the big time leap that they plan to take between the end of the finale and the beginning of season 3, if they were going to be gutsy enough to have its main character behave completely inconsistently, why couldn't they have given him a short prison term as Eli will be taking or that the Commodore once took yet still managed to hold on to people's respect? What bothered me is that they built a great, strong, smart character in Esther Randolph and had Julianne Nicholson play her well. I don't think she'd give up that easily and if she thought Nucky were capable of faking suicides and forcing people to recant, why didn't she have them in protective custody? It's a flaw that happens way too often in movies and through the entire run of The Sopranos — the Feds get portrayed as bumbling idiots that make it way too easy for the crooks to be criminals. I'll just summarize the big points of the courtroom scene, because it's too annoying to spell out in detail. In retrospect, it looks even worse because none of this would have happened (except getting Margaret to marry him) if Jimmy didn't kill Neary and strong-arm the other recantations. Yet, Nucky still decides of the people who plotted against him, Jimmy he has to kill. Will he get around to offing Paddy Ryan? How about Ward Boss Boyd? I've talked a lot about how by now Mickey Doyle has been so disloyal to so many people, I've decided what he really deserves is a Murder on the Orient Express death where everyone he's wronged comes in and stabs him once, and the investigating detective decides to let them get away with it. Nucky doesn't even consider killing Eli, who was the one who said, "Jesus Christ, just kill him.…Just put a bullet in his head and get it over with." That's what makes it ironic that they did an elaborate homage to Coppola's murder montages in the Godfather films — once Mama Corleone died in Part II then Michael went ahead and whacked his brother Fredo and could Eli be any more Fredo-like even if Nucky isn't exactly the Michael Corleone model? Now, the courtroom highlights: 1) The judge advises Randolph that she doesn't stand a chance for a murder conviction and she's lost her main witness on the other charges. He asks if she wants to proceed or "get her ducks in a row?" "I'll take the ducks," Randolph replies.; 2) The judge declares a mistrial; 3) The judge grants Douglas Wallbridge's request to release Eli on his own recognizance for a capital crime mind you; 4) Deputy Halloran's public defender (Ian Scott McGregor) makes the same request, but he confessed to killing Hans and his plea deal was contingent on Nucky's case going to a jury. The judge orders Halloran remanded to Leavenworth. The still injured deputy rises, yelling in a garbled voice, "I don't understand." 5) Fallon and Eddie try to shield Nucky from the throngs of reporters as he marches from the courtroom in triumph.

Gillian accompanies Jimmy and Tommy to the beach where a man name Finnerty (Roy Milton Davis) sells pony rides. Finnerty gives Tommy a choice of two hats. "Cowboy or soldier?" he asks. "Soldier," Tommy replies. Jimmy mentions the heat. A lot of characters in this episode have referred to the heat. Now I've tried all kinds of searches. If we assume that Nucky's trial date remained on the date it was set (Aug. 23, 1921), I've tried to find stories about a big East Coast heat wave, but had no luck.

Nucky comes home plastered to find Margaret awake and pulling down the bedspread. "You're awake — and I'm drunk. Not the most romantic greeting, is it?" Nucky says. "Honesty has its virtues," Margaret tells him. Nucky admits that he was celebrating with Fallon and Margaret congratulates him. "A stroke of luck," she comments. "I know what you're thinking. I had nothing to do with Neary's suicide, Margaret," he swears. "I believe you," she smiles. "Look, I'd be lying if I said it didn't benefit me because obviously it did, but he was a very troubled man involved in something he knew was wrong. I can't be responsible for all the misfortune in the world, can I?" Nucky asks. "I said I believe you," Margaret repeats, this time with her arms crossed. Nucky then shows her the evening paper which has a story about Congress set to approve the road appropriations. "That land will be worth a fortune, Mrs. Thompson," he tells her, adding that he'll need her to sign the deed back over when she gets a chance. "Of course, it was only for safekeeping," she says. Nucky asks if he'll be sleeping in their bed. "We are married," she replies. "Who knows? Maybe you are right. Maybe God is giving me another chance," he says as he sits down to take off his shoes.

The following morning, Nucky navigates the maze of Thompson children to find Eli sitting on his porch, already drinking early in the day. "A little early, isn't it?" Nucky comments. "My own recognizance. It means I make the rules," Eli says. "Hot enough for ya?" Eli asks. "Yes. And how about those Phillies and my brother trying to have me killed?" Nucky drops into the conversation as his idea of small talk. Eli cocks his head toward his brother. "Et tu, Eli?" Nucky says, though the Shakespeare reference flies past his head just as Mickey didn't recognize Manny's use of the Bard. "Shakespeare — Julius Caesar," Nucky elaborates. "There's a character named Eli?" his brother asks. Nucky looks away. Honestly — you choose to keep him alive and murder Jimmy? Right then if you had shot Eli, it would have been considered a mercy killing. John Steinbeck hadn't written Of Mice and Men yet, but it would be as if you were George, Nucky, and Eli was Lennie, wanting to hear about the fucking rabbits again. "I told you I had nothing to do with that. The shooting," Eli lies. "That's not what your partner said," Nucky responds. "My partner?" "Jimmy," Nucky says. "What do you expect? That fuckin' kid'll lie about anything," Eli claims. "After all this, will you at least do me the courtesy of being honest?" Nucky requests. "I am being honest. I tried to stop them — they threatened me — my life, my livelihood. I came to you, Nucky. Remember that? I came to you, hat in hand," Eli insists. "You'll plead guilty — to everything — all of it — before they bring new charges. I spoke to the attorney general. You'll do two years at the most, be out in half that time. Joan, the kids — they'll be well looked after. It's the best you're going to do, Eli. God knows it could be a lot worse," Nucky informs him. Eli lets out a deep sigh of acceptance.

Bach's "Oboe Concerto in G minor: II. Largo" performed by Christian Hommel, the Cologne Chamber Orchestra and Helmut Müller-Brühl can be heard as Rothstein looks at an envelope of heroin on his desk. "I'd understood it was brown," Rothstein says to Lansky and Luciana. "Some is. There's all different types," Lansky answers. "It should be gold you ask me," Luciano adds. "They try it once, you got a customer for life," Meyer tells A.R. Once again, for being in such a heroin-induced haze in last week's episode, Jimmy did clean up incredibly fast, but again that's another sign of the inconsistencies, some of which I've talked about and others I've ignored. From the fourth episode of the season, the Commodore couldn't speak and was paralyzed on his right side. Two episodes ago, his talking still wasn't great, but he shocked everyone by being able to use his right side to help himself stand up and walk a few steps. Last week, he was agile enough to rush into a room wielding a spear when he heard Gillian's scream as Jimmy was choking her and sparring well with his son more than 50 years younger than he was. When poor Agent Clarkson got severely burned in the bombing of Mickey's warehouse, it was two episodes (and a longer time period than two weeks) before we heard about it again and he was dying — presumably the state he'd been in the longer time. Before I saw the finale, I had started working on a season in review and was going to point out that except for one brief mention by Nucky that Ward Boss O'Neill was "in hiding," no one brings him up and I was going to predict that when those roads got built, given where Eli buried him, his body would be unearthed. Seeing where they had their celebration at the end of the show, it seems painfully obvious I had that one on the nose. On the plus side, I've said it before, they should just spin off Rothstein and give Stuhlbarg his own movie or miniseries. By the way, since Capone, Lansky and Luciano were all planning to divide that money and get out of Atlantic City whether Jimmy came back or not, why did that scene not happen? The heroin trade appeals to the businessman in Rothstein when he gets a phone call asking as a courtesy if he would have any problem should something happen to Manny Horvitz. Lansky and Luciano both shake their heads that they don't care. "If Mr. Horvitz were to go, I would have no opinion one way or the other," Rothstein tells Nucky. "It appears I have a decision to make," Nucky says. "Flip a coin. When it's in the air, you'll know which side you're hoping for," Rothstein advises. Even within the context of this episode at that moment, Nucky doesn't seem as if he feels Jimmy must die for his sins. It doesn't play logically. They may argue that Nucky had to get his hands dirty to show he made the full journey, but his trajectory takes him backward. The man he's speaking to has people killed, but he doesn't do it himself. As Paulie would tell Tony on The Sopranos, it's one of the perks that comes with being boss. Jimmy would do it because he's a hothead as Tony on the other show was. Nucky never has been played that way. He's a political animal, not a savage one. Since this is loosely based on a real person, Nucky Johnson, who was a political boss involved in bootlegging and other criminal activities but murder and out-and-out gangsterism wasn't part of it.

A landlady (Charlotte Booker) shows her new tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Mueller and their baby girl a.k.a. Nelson Van Alden, Sigrid and baby Abigail into their new apartment in Cicero, Ill. In many ways, this twist shocked me more than the Jimmy execution. They more or less ruined Van Alden's character as federal agent when he drowned Agent Sebso in Season One. With Mickey reaching out to him in the penultimate episode, I was sure he was going to pretend to still be a fed so he could bust up that meeting with Capone, Lansky, Luciano and Mickey just to try to get some of the cash and end up dying in the attempt so Michael Shannon could move on to movies. Now, when you read all the Terence Winter interviews and see that they placed Van Alden in Cicero because that's where Al Capone starts getting really active, it does not sound promising for the show's future. I guess it's not that bad since for most of the season, especially when it was the Lucy-Van Alden storyline, that seemed like an entirely different show since they had no contact with any of the other regulars or storylines. Shannon got to have one really great episode (which was the worst episode overall) when Nucky tried to blackmail him and he discovered the love of his child and tried to be good again. Other than that though, he got nada. While Stephen Graham is great as Capone, I actually counted: The stuffed bear did appear in more episodes than he did this season. With Jimmy gone, there's no plausible reason to keep Capone involved. This series supposedly focuses on Atlantic City, not Chicago and Cicero, Ill. Since Manny can come back, are they going to incorporate Philly stories as well? I'm sure New York will stay in the picture. Hell, maybe we can keep Esther Randolph. Eventually they can plant characters in every city and state in the union at the time. Make that world — don't want to slight the characters we met in Belfast.

The bear makes another appearance as Gillian plays with Tommy in one room and Jimmy and Richard get drunk in the adjacent room. Jimmmy tells him about a soldier named Radcliff who would change the words to "Over There." "Over there/fuck a bear/I'll fight any night in my underwear," an inebriated Jimmy sings. "You know, I'd be out days on end moving from blind to blind. Water, rations, rifle — never speak a word. I'd come back to camp and the boys joking…and I'd feel…this is where I'm meant to be," Richard says. "Nobody was meant to be there," Jimmy declares as he takes another drink. "But that's where we were. And we're still there, aren't we?" Richard states, looking up at Jimmy. "Time to come home, Richard," Jimmy tells him. "How?" Richard asks. "I don't know, but promise me you're gonna try," Jimmy requests as the phone rings. Jimmy answers it to find Nucky on the line. "It's me. I've located your friend, Mr. Horvitz," Nucky tells him. "How?" Jimmy asks. "Mickey Doyle. Horvitz is meeting me in one hour. The War Memorial," Nucky responds. "I'll be there," Jimmy replies before hanging up. "Who was that?" Richard inquires. "Nucky. He found Manny Horvitz," Jimmy says. "I'll come with you," Richard announces. Jimmy places his hand on Richard's shoulder. "It's OK," Jimmy tells him. "I could take care of this for you," Richard insists. "This is somethin' I gotta do myself," Jimmy replies. Jimmy leaves and Gillian hears the door close. Richard stands. "Did Jimmy go out?" she asks. "Yeah. Something he has to do," Richard replies, walking into the other room. Gillian notices that Tommy has something hanging around his neck she takes it out and Richard recognizes the significance first: The boy wears Jimmy's dog tags. "So you can always tell who you are," Tommy says. "Did Daddy give you those?" Gillian asks. Tommy nods yes. "You know what? You're going to be a big man in this city one day — just like your father," Gillian tells the boy as she leads him upstairs. Though Winter emphasizes in his interviews that there still will be a place on the show for the character of Richard Harrow, how exactly? Jack Huston's amazing performance has made him a fan favorite and contributed to one of this season's highlights. However, his character remains so emotionally fragile that on that episode set on Memorial Day he went out to the woods with the intention of killing himself. He truly connected with two characters — and they've both been murdered within the past three episodes. After Angela's killing, he had to go physically touch her blood. We're supposed to buy that the next season, which will be jumping ahead a year and half of so until 1923 will still find Richard in Atlantic City? He won't go back to Chicago the way Capone treated him. Honestly, when he finds out that Jimmy's dead and Nucky did it, how realistic would it be that he wouldn't try to take Nucky out afterward and either succeed or get killed in the attempt?

It is pouring down rain at the still-under construction War Memorial when Jimmy arrives in his car. Nucky and Owen get out of his and Owen removes Manny, who has his hands tied behind his back. Jimmy limps over to them. "So now you will have your revenge, boychik," Horvitz says. "Is that what this is?" Jimmy asks as if he knows it's a set up or can somehow see that Eli has taken his place behind him. He must have heard him, because Jimmy turns to see Eli aiming the rifle on him. When he turns back around, Manny whirls the ropes that supposedly tied his hands off and lets them fall to the ground. Owen comes over to frisk Jimmy. "His boot," Eli warns. "I'm not armed," Jimmy declares. "He isn't," Owen confirms. "This is the only way we could have ended, isn't it?" Jimmy says to Nucky. No, not when you're willing to let characters have no consistency whatsoever. Hell, then you can end any way you want. "This is your choice, James," NewNucky snarls. "I died in the trenches — years back. I thought you knew that. So who's going to do it? Manny? You Eli?" Jimmy asks. "I am," NuNucky replies, removing the revolver from his jacket. "My first time I vomited after — two days straight. Second time I didn't even think about it," Jimmy tells NuNucky about killing. "So fucking stupid," NuNucky says. "Just try to make yourself calm," Jimmy advises. "You had everything going," NuNucky declares. "Just breathe, Nuck," Jimmy tells him. "Your whole life," NuNucky reminds him. "You'll get through it. All you got to worry about is when you run out of booze and you run out of company and the only person left to judge you — " NuNucky fires and Jimmy falls to the ground. All the witnesses stare, somewhat in disbelief, at what just transpired. They get distracted by the coughing and gagging sounds that Jimmy continues to make. NuNucky's first try wasn't the charm. He walks up to Jimmy. "You don't know me, James. You never did. I am not seeking forgiveness," NuNucky informs young dying man and shoots him point blank in the head. There isn't any more coughing, gagging — or breathing — this time. Manny turns away, Eli gives NuNucky a nod as if to say that he did the right thing and NuNucky walks away. The soundtrack fills with The Hungarian State Opera Chorus conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi performs Verdi's "Quattro Pezzi Sacri: Ave Maria" as the life drains out of Jimmy's face. He's back in the trenches, somewhere in Europe again with other soldiers, waiting for the signal that tells them when to go over the top. The whistle blows and they all start climbing into light. Michael Pitt has grown so much in the role that I'd be sad to see him go even if I thoughT this were a wise storytelling decision and not a destructive one. I haven't put it anywhere before but Boardwalk Empire really wasted the talents of Dabney Coleman in the two seasons they had him. Both years, they incapacitated the Commodore early so that Coleman spent most of the seasons on the sidelines and just use him again toward the end. They never really gave him a chance to develop the Commodore more fully. With Coleman and Pitt gone now, I assume this means Dominic Chianese won't be returning as Leander either.

The next morning, NuNucky tells Margaret he's skipping breakfast because of an early meeting. She mentions that he was out awfully late the night before. "I ran into James Darmody. We cleared the air," NuNucky tells her. "I'm surprised," she says. "It turns out he's re-enlisting. Already left, actually," NuNucky lies to his wife and from her face you know she sees right through him. "Well, the rain broke the heat at least," NuNucky comments. "Yes, it did," she agrees though you can tell her thoughts remain on his lies. As NuNucky heads off, Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks perform an instrumental version of "Look for the Silver Lining" written in 1919 by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist B.G. DeSylva for the musical flop Zip, Goes a Million in 1919. Here is a 1921 version sung by Marion Harris. Margaret looks at the deed of land and traces her hand over the large tract of New Jersey it covers. Meanwhile, that blue Rolls-Royce pulls into some fields which, as I mentioned before, bear a striking resemblance to where Eli buried Ward Boss O'Neill by the side of the road. "What are you doing? You're in the middle of a highway!" Mayor Bader jokes. "Congratulations Nucky," Ernie Moran offers as he pours NuNucky some champagne. "Not a minute too soon — we're almost out," Bader shouts to Damian Flemming as he pulls up. "So this is it, eh? The road to riches," Moran declares. "I was thinking the Harding Highway," NuNucky suggests. "It never hurts to remember your friends, huh," Flemming interjects as he opens a bottle he brought with him. Back at the Margate estate, Margaret fills out the transfer of the land deed. At first, she accidentally starts to write Schroeder for her last name, but changes it to Thompson. Then, under transferee, instead of writing NuNucky's name she fills in St. Finbar's Church. Margaret then calls for Katy and asks her to deliver to the church at once. Back in the fields, NuNucky toasts, "To the future, gentlemen." Over the end credits, Henry Burr and the Peerless Quartet perform "Over There" which they recorded in 1917.

FINAL THOUGHTS

One thing that bothered me before the finale is how the town is being run? I never understood why the town suddenly accepted Jimmy as the new boss anyway. On whose say-so? At least Nucky and the Commodore before him held elected offices. At the same time, I have questioned before, with all the ward bosses but Flemming revolting, were collections still being made and if so, who were they being made to? After O'Neill "went into hiding," did anyone pick up his stops? Were the city businesses, despite the strike, actually enjoying a respite since the new boss spent some time out of town snorting heroin and reliving his past? Now, how is order restored? Does Bader suddenly restore Nucky as treasurer and he's the boss again? Hell, I say they make Eddie the boss of Atlantic City. It would be just as coherent as the rest of the show has become now when you stop to think about it.

I may still write a full-fledged season in review, but I've yet to decide. Most of my criticisms made it into this two-part recap, though it's skimpy on the positives, which I had many. If I do one, it will take a while to get to it. In case I don't, what it boils down to me is that its lack of consistency finally has proved too much to bear. I had written about how they had written characters into corners, but the ones they could conceivably get out they chose not to and the ones they shouldn't have, they didn't and I think it wasn't because of a master plan — I think it was purely because they thought it'd be fun to surprise the audience. In contrast, Breaking Bad likes to do the same thing, but they haven't made a misstep yet, Their slow burn at making the audience go from rooting for Walter White to hating him was done slowly and deliberately. Nucky's change didn't make sense even within the context of that episode. With as many other places that they are telling stories, they may as well knock him off and just make it a show about Rothstein. At least they would be forced by history to conform to real life to some extent.

I also must confess that I know that I'm in the small minority of fans who enjoy the political machinations especially within historical contexts. I haven't seen a lot of shows that cover that territory but if they are jettisoning that aspect just to become all-gangster, all-the-time, it may become like it was for me for many years after St. Elsewhere went off. After it, I didn't feel like wanting to watch a lesser medical show. I've seen a great gangster show and there still remains a great crime drama on the air. I don't know that I need a lesser gangster show, no matter how well acted and designed.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Comments:
Ed, I think you're on to something that most other critics missed. There have been rumors for months that Winter effectively had to write Michael Pitt off of the show because of his on-set behavior. Winter confirmed in one interview that he only finalized his decision to kill Jimmy while writing episode 9 this year. I do come away with the impression, like yours, that Jimmy's death was not a natural and organic storytelling choice, but instead something shoehorned in for non-storytelling reasons.

Overall I'm less positive about the show than you. It still doesn't really have anything coherent to say, the lack of consistency is glaring, and I find Buscemi's performance far less compelling than you do. Wonderful job on the recaps this year, though.
 
I'd heard those rumors as well, but didn't think it would be right to write about them just as I didn't think I should mention the talk that Lucy left town after she had the baby because Paz de la Huerta supposedly has alcohol problems. I did find it curious though that in the list of actors the show listed in its ensemble nomination for the SAG award today, her name was absent while others (admittedly deserving) who played smaller roles were named.
 
Am I the only one who noticed that the line "A man who orders up murder like you and I order coffee." is identical to the line used by the prosecutor in the Sopranos when talking about Junior Soprano?
 
It's been so long since that (was that second or third season?), but I wouldn't be surprised. Might try to check it out if I have time. It's funny because I've noticed that a lot of gags that Larry David uses on Curb Your Enthusiasm were on Seinfeld when I run across it in reruns and Terence Winter basically learned his craft on The Sopranos. He might have plagiarized himself and not realized it.
 
I'm not as harsh on this episode as you are, Edward. We are all privy to the information that it was Eli who wanted Nucky killed and Jimmy who wanted him prosecuted (and that Jimmy, who was right, was too weak to get his way). But Nucky doesn't know who suggested it and who resisted it. Both Eli and Jimmy are telling him the same story.

What Nucky does know is that Jimmy is the capable one and Eli is the weak one. Eli is blood and Jimmy isn't. Jimmy has potential (as Nucky has been saying) and Eli is a failure. Eli is somebody Nucky can control, Jimmy is somebody who can succeed independently. It is deciding between those two -- and not Manny H.'s fate -- that really requires a coin flip. And A.R.'s advice is probably accurate. Nucky probably sees Jimmy as more of a threat than Eli and that's why Jimmy was the one he killed. Since Nucky is now surrounded by characters who are threats to him, he would rather surround himself with people who are less capable. And we have information that Nucky doesn't -- namely, who it was who really wanted Nucky killed -- that suggests that Nucky made the wrong choice.

Daniel W.
 
When it comes to plagiarizing shows one used to work on, I'm glad that at least Nucky didn't say, before blowing Jimmy away, "Revenge is like serving cold cuts."

Never would have guessed that both Manny AND Van Alden would survive the finale!

Overall, I enjoyed the episode (mostly) as I watched it, in no small part because I WANT the show to work. But afterward, I start to ask many of the questions asked here. The Godfather montage-homage was well executed (no pun intended) at the end of Season 1, and I can't argue with its effectiveness in Season 2 -- it did condense several scenes very quickly -- but I wondered whether it felt repetitive this time around.
 
My problem extends beyond his decision to kill Jimmy. It's the inconsistency of characters across the board this season. On top of that, how Winter will be able to logically explain Richard's continued presence on the show. The same thing with Gillian, who obviously would strike out at Nucky as well before the 18 months in the future when the next season begins. Nucky was a boss, but he's downgraded himself by killing Jimmy himself. Also, a show which ostensibly is about Atlantic City is spreading itself too thin by trying to continue telling stories off in Illinois and elsewhere. They've basically detonated the whole show beyond narrative reason.
 
Anthony, can't argue about how the episode itself was made. It was superbly executed in terms of directing and writing. It's just what the story does overall to the show itself that's problematic.
 
Eddie, I'm still absorbing the finale and can't yet decide whether or not killing off Jimmy will work for the series. I guess I'll have to wait until next season.

That aside, was this the smart move for Nucky? I agree that the audience has more information than Nucky. So, it does add to the drama when we see him making what we think is a mistake regarding Eli. I know that it's unfair (but unavoidable) to dread up The Sopranos when talking Empire. But both constantly show characters working at cross purposes; often biting off their noses to spite their collective faces.

While I guess that the scene where Jimmy is killed worked, I would have staged it much differently.

First of all, just to get the nit-picking stuff out of the way, Eli and Nucky are literally standing in each other's line of fire. If Jimmy had decided to fight (and there's no way Nucky and company could have known that the bad-ass war vet wouldn't), Eli's shotgun blast would certainly have hit Nucky too. Likewise, Eli is directly behind Jimmy as Nucky takes aim. Given that everyone seems to know that this is Nucky's first killing (and he could certainly miss), would Eli really have stationed himself right there? In fairness, the positioning was clearly more about creating a dramatic composition rather than being accurate. But still, it did take me out of the moment.

Second, the rain, while consistent with the episode's motif of "heat" building up and needing release (Esther and Nucky both send underlings for ice, Margret's tea kettle whistles during a key bit of dialog, etc.), seemed too melodramatic. Yes, the pressure building up all season was finally let loose at the end. I get it.

Lastly, during their face-off, Nucky and Jimmy veer precariously close to "monologuing" as they chat on and on before the deed gets done. This was obviously a way to enhance the tension (will Nucky really shoot Jimmy or will he pull a double con and blast Eli and Manny instead). It also provided additional characterization: it establishes this as Nucky's first kill and gives more insight into Jimmy's troubled mental condition (he really did die in France). And I liked the way Jimmy had one last chance to chide Nucky on being only "half a gangster." But as the scene progressed, I kept having flashbacks to Star Wars Episode 3 where Obi Wan laments to a severely wounded Anakin that the youngster was supposed to be "the chosen one."

Here's what I would have done instead: Keep the rain (if you must). Have Nucky, Manny, Eli and Owen surround Jimmy (in a strategically correct manner) as they enter the war memorial. Cut to a quick shot of Jimmy who nods knowingly as the set up plays out. Then, without words, Nucky quickly takes out his gun and shoots Jimmy in the head. Jimmy falls and can be heard coughing. Nucky glances/glares over at Eli telling him "He didn't know me, he never did" (which, in that context, could easily apply to Eli). Maybe even throw in a line that about the decision to take out Jimmy coming down to a mental coin toss. Finish up with Nucky walking over and firing one last shot. Cut to a close up of Jimmy on the ground that fades out to the moment in France where he's about to leave the trench.

Just spit-balling.
 
I was worried about the finale heading this way. The show was interesting to me mostly because of Jimmy, Michael Pitt gave an emotionally wrenching performance in that role. His interactions with Richard and "ma" kept me riveted to the screen. Although I enjoy Nucky I find that a little Nucky goes a long way. I'm now worried that this is the inevitable direction the show has decided to take. Nucky Thompson in full gangster mode might not be that interesting to me furthermore I feel that they toy with his "nature" a little too much. Good or semi-good one moment and evil the next, there's duplicity and then there's duplicity in the extreme which is how Nucky has been portrayed. I see no room in the new season for Richard or Gillian. Richard is not going to hang around to make alliances with Nucky and since we know he doesn't relate well to most people who is going to be his anchor on the show now that the two people he cares for the most are dead. I'm totally disappointed with this finale. I agree that Mickey should have had a couple of bullets in his head a few episodes ago and yet the man is still around, ditto for Eli who's death I certainly wouldn't have mourned. I don't know what to feel or think and I'm not even sure I'll be watching season 3 especially if they start exploring the rise to power of Al Capone which has little interest for me.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Follow edcopeland on Twitter

 Subscribe in a reader