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"Boardwalk Empire" -- "Dirty Laundy": And the Dong Was Left on the Cruel Shore Gazing, Gazing for Evermore

By Aggie Maguire | TV | September 27, 2011 |

By Aggie Maguire | TV | September 27, 2011 |

As one would expect from a second season opener, much of last night’s “Boardwalk Empire” was occupied with catching us up on the characters and setting up the conflicts and relationships that will keep us watching in the coming weeks. It looks as if we have jumped at least several months from Halloween at the end of last season to maybe a February time frame (it’s cold and slushy and no festive decorations are evident) as this season begins. The Commodore is fully recovered from the poisoning and seriously channeling Dick Cheney this season. He’s using his new lackeys, Jimmy and Eli, to set up a race war to wrestle control of the bootlegging business from Nucky who has disappointed him by forgetting who is really in charge in Atlantic City.

The race aspect of this episode was very uncomfortable to watch: Chalky, a wealthy, well-connected man is automatically in the wrong because he shot a white man…..who attacked HIM….. in NEW JERSEY! It’s so easy for us to pretend it was all confined to the south, isn’t it? Once again Michael Kenneth Williams excelled with his portrayal of seething anger only barely under control when Nucky and Eli visited him. The funeral struck the one false note with me though: the Klan hated Catholics as much as they hated Blacks and Jews: no way would they stand around while Nucky made the sign of the cross over the coffin.

Elsewhere the Chicago mob is getting ready to drop Nucky as a supplier and shift their business to the Cincinnati outfit. I’m always amused by whorehouse scenes in Chicago in winter with the women apparently very comfortable sitting around in their best satin under garments. I live in Chicago in a house built in 1901: even with 2011 insulation you don’t lounge around in flimsy underwear if you want to survive until spring.

We also had a quick look at Nucky playing the patronage game like a Chicago native, arranging the contracts for the new roads he wants built to funnel business to the casinos. I hope John Keating is back for more than one episode. He is one of the few actors who have ever made me openly weep in a theatre: he’s that good.

But the real meat of this episode was in its exploration of marriages seen from inside and out.

The Van Aldens (who apparently met through are “celebrating” their wedding anniversary with an adult stroller push down the boardwalk averting their eyes from the smut, a glass of buttermilk and a raid. It seems Mrs. Van A is just another good Christian woman who is turned on by watching her husband beat someone up. Why is Van Alden paying Lucy weekly as well as living with her? To keep her around so he can kill her and steal the baby? And can we all agree we’ve seen enough naked Paz de la Huerta?

Jimmy and Angela have married since season one and their relationship is barely warmer than the Van Alden’s. Did they marry because neither of them could think of a better solution? Angela has lost all of her spark and is resigned to being a cook and a mother (when Gillian lets her: is she living with them now?) and Jimmy (in the first big anvilicious scene of the season) has no room for sentimentality or forgiveness anymore.

Nucky and Margaret are not technically married but have already moved into the roles of stressed husband who just wants to come home to a compliant spouse and worried wife who senses she’s lost that special place she used to have with him. Lovely scene between Nucky and young Teddy and how he softened when he saw the child unable to imagine anything other corporal punishment coming his way (although Teddy looks as if he would benefit from fewer trips to the sweet shop rather than more). Margaret also seems to have lost a lot of spark. Is it all about hanging on to the easy life now?

They all had a shot at happiness, and let it die. Richard Darrow sits alone at night pasting pictures of happy families into a book. He’ll never have his shot and he’ll die alone. Every scene with him breaks my heart.

Did all of this set me thinking about my own relationship? Absolutely, and I have decided that I shall consider my marriage a resounding success if I never ever have to witness my mother-in-law leaning toward me conspiratorially to tell me when my husband was a little boy she used to kiss his winkie!

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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