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"Boardwalk Empire" -- "Gimcrack and Bunkum": I Know It was You, Eli. You Broke My Heart

By Aggie Maguire | TV | October 26, 2011 |

By Aggie Maguire | TV | October 26, 2011 |

So we’ve skipped forward to Memorial Day. Everyone is wearing paper poppies at the War Memorial ceremony which is a teensy bit of an anachronism given that the practice wasn’t widespread in the US until 1922 when the VFW decided to sell poppies nationally. Nucky gives the usual speech about valor and loyalty (using it to needle Jimmy), but speeches about “the values we fought for” in World War I always kill me: more than 15 million people died because three cousins wanted to own more land. Also on the podium with Nucky are the five bewhiskered old Dick Cheney clones who finance Jimmy’s operations with The Commodore: your typical war profiteers who show up for the flag waving but privately describe the generation that died at the rate of 1000 a day in Meuse-Argonne as “ungrateful”. Was anyone upset to see Parkhurst get his, ahem, comeuppance in the end?

There were several scenes that were tough to watch in this very heavy, virtually humorless episode, but for me none more so than the innocent trust of Eli’s son as he stood outside the garage door unaware his dad had just bludgeoned a man to death. Poor Eli! He’s a Fredo through and through and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s difficult to see how he can stay alive much longer without any friends or even the wits to watch out for himself. He should at the very least turn down any invitations to go fishing.

Margaret, not surprisingly, is grating on my nerves in the past few episodes. If you throw your lot in with a violent crook who you know had your husband murdered, you don’t get to complain self-righteously when the rougher side of his business starts intruding on the home front. At least the maid (whose accent very annoyingly changes from episode to episode) is finally on to her and no longer trying to be her friend. Elsewhere, Gillian is still doing her full throttle Lady Macbeth and Angela is still practically in a fugue state. I realize she went through some rough stuff last season but when did she become a Stepford wife? I can’t figure out if she’s scared stiff of Jimmy, biding her time until she can leave, or just a very depressed housewife in the pre-Valium days. Did I see a quick glimpse of her and Jimmy having an intimate moment in the previews for next week? It’s difficult to see how they can recapture much because he seems to place her firmly in the betrayal camp still.

I have very mixed feelings about the Harrow story line this week. On the one hand, it was beautifully filmed and poignant: it makes sense that he would choose Memorial Day to do the deed. But it felt like a Twilight Zone episode to me where the lonely guy meets these kindly down-to-earth men with the sage old dog who save him from a desperate act. I was half expecting him to go back the next day and find no traces of their camp. But they didn’t give the guy a good reason to stay alive; and it’s difficult to take a man seriously who says “these woods are for living, not dying” when the skinned corpses of twenty squirrels are hanging behind him. Harrow didn’t return to Atlantic City any less miserable. It just didn’t fully work for me as a narrative.

Line of the week: “You killed Mary Pickford?” Who didn’t welcome the chance to laugh after 50 minutes of sadness and brutality?

Anvil of the week: Eli waist deep in the hole he’s digging.

Next week Van Alden’s story line is back which means that TV MA warning for nudity should be taken seriously.

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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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.