It’s a Wisdom Born of Pain
I was wondering how a show that readily and frequently embraces the use of THE BIG MEANINGFUL SCENE would manage to top last week’s murder-by-baptism as a shocker to end the season. Happily, Sunday’s episode was a beautiful exercise in restraint that for me, worked much better than some of the over-the-top visual drama we’ve been treated to all season long. There were so many little bits that tied up and advanced storylines despite, or perhaps because, of their brevity. Al Capone’s emerging maturity versus Luciano’s snide jokes; Meyer Lansky’s transition in Rothstein’s eyes from messenger boy to advisor; the resolution of the poisoning story (it was the maid, in the drawing room with the garden variety rat poison); and finally, the explanation of Nucky’s obsession with pregnant women and preemie babies which turned out to be a lot more heartbreaking than your generic consumption story. It was interesting how Buscemi’s voice changed completely as he explained his story to Margaret. It lost all of its usual whine and sounded much more masculine than usual: most actors would have chosen a cracked, husky voice to do this but I liked how he approached it because it sounded like he was actually saying it out loud for the first time and need to articulate it clearly.
There were a lot of great touches this week. I loved the blind alley letting us think Angela and Jimmy had made up and then the perfect sad little look they shared as they both knew it was never going to be the same (thank you Tim van Patten for resisting the urge to give us a dramatic hair-cutting scene). I loved the fact that the maid got away with trying to kill her boss and was able to return the favor by tipping Nucky off as to the Commodore’s plans (any chance Nucky was in on the poisoning with her, do we think?). And, I really loved, in an uncomfortable way, the dispatching of the youngest D’Alessio brother. It was so brutal and it was horrific looking into the eyes of a child, villain though he may be, pleading for his life and then being shot without a thought. That was done really well and it could only have been done by Harrow who has had to kill so many men, women and boys pleading for their lives that he’s only half human at this stage.
Then there were the plot developments that set us up well for the next season. The Eli-Commodore-Jimmy triumvirate is just what was needed to intensify the plot more on Atlantic City than New York and Chicago. Although with Nucky, Torrio and Rothstein now in an uneasy alliance I assume we will see more of those players. Nice job from the writers on the bait and switch on Van Alden leaving only to drop Lucy’s pregnancy on us in one short sentence. It’s an absolutely brilliant move. I’m assuming Van Alden is of the “every sperm is sacred” persuasion and therefore can’t just invite Lucy for a convenient stroll over to Lake Meet Your Maker. It sets Lucy up as a vulnerable pregnant woman which is exactly what Nucky can’t resist getting involved with. And let’s face it: who isn’t going to follow this storyline in horror wondering exactly what kind of monster these two lunatics are going to produce?
Lastly: Nucky and Margaret. I became a little tired of Margaret in the last few episodes wavering endlessly back and forth between her principles and her comfort and never really giving us more than a frown, but this week she was pitch perfect. She had a real air of happiness about her to be finally out from the entanglement; she was suitably grieved by Nucky’s story ;and perfectly shocked into reality by finding the rag in the barm brack (editorial note: my mother used to wrap the ring in the rag so that whoever got destitution also got love to keep them warm). The closing was also perfect. We started the episode with the festival-like excitement of the first vote for US women and we closed with a beautiful musical sequence showing each woman still excluded from so much: Gillian sits alone while her men plot; Nan Britton sits alone playing with the wedding ring Warren G. Harding will never give her; and Margaret in the middle of the party with Nucky’s arm around her knows herself to be completely alone, abandoned even by her own sense of right and wrong because her fear of poverty has driven her back to a life she despises.
Aggie Maguire lives in a fly-over state where she enjoys waving at the people flying over and wondering if anybody ever waves back. She is a member of the Jane Austen society and a life-long supporter of the Home for Abused Apostrophes.
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