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"Boardwalk Empire" — "Ourselves Alone": "Beware the Day They Change Their Mind"

By Aggie Maguire | TV | October 4, 2011 |

By Aggie Maguire | TV | October 4, 2011 |

“Negroes - Sweet and docile, Meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day - They change their mind.” — Langston Hughes

In “Ourselves Alone,” the second episode of “Boardwalk Empire’s” second season, Nucky found out whom he could trust (Kessler, Fleming and Margaret) and whom he couldn’t (just about everybody else). This had to be an easy one for the writers. They could pretty much have just followed the Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago this past year to get all their plot points from the former political sponsor out for revenge (Dick Mel: the Commodore) to the hubris Nucky portrayed to the press on the steps of the jail. At least he didn’t do an embarrassing Celebrity Apprentice stint. Citizens of New Jersey circa 1921, we here in Illinois feel your pain.

The raid on Nucky’s hotel suite gives Margaret a chance to reprise how we met her so she can get the incriminating ledger and rainy day fund away from the States Attorneys, who really could do with a little more cynicism about random weepy fake-pregnant women who show up in the middle of a raid if they’re going to make a career out of this sort of thing. Didn’t they know about Margaret at all? Why was her house not raided? Surely the Commodore knows about her and would ensure her house would be searched when he arranged the tip off?

And in the house that remained oddly suspicion-free, Margaret hosted a dinner for Sinn Féin fundraisers. It’s February 1921 so the timing is wobbly, but I assume the character of McGarrigle is based on Éamon DeValera, whose 1919-1920 U.S. fundraising tour netted more than $5 million for The Cause. Dev’s nickname was “The Long Fella” due to his unusual height and he pretty much lived in mortal fear of “foreign influences” such as sex, fun, and women with opinions. Sidebar: one of my grandmother’s lifelong shames was that when my mother was a baby, Dev picked her out of a crowd for a photo-op and my mother promptly urinated on him.

Jimmy is in New York this week, giving us the first oh-so-brief tantalizing glimpse of Rothstein this season. People, I implore you, if you have not seen “A Serious Man,” rent it now to see just how talented Michael Stuhlbarg really is. It’s hard to believe it’s the same man playing both characters. The NY visit is just another sales pitch for the rival liquor business and to give us a quick look at the Rothstein-Graziano-Lansky triumvirate, but really, I have to believe the whole thing was written in so we could have our Giant Anvil of the Week in which two dead men lie bleeding into the fountain of Lady Temperance. We get it, Mr. Winter. Prohibition institutionalized organized crime and cost many lives. We’ve seen the companion series over on PBS. Now entertain us, for Christ’s sake!

The scenario in the jail cell was by far the best part and again belonged to Michael Kenneth Williams. It was like a brilliant one-act play to me. I would have loved to see it played out fully without breaking to other scenes. The battle of wills between Dunn Pursley and Chalky White was incredibly tense, even though there was never any doubt as to who would win. The direction was superb; the exchange between the two men was breath-taking, as Pursley pushed the insults further and further, waiting for Chalky to break. This was Emmy material from start to finish, but I’m guessing a scene that controversial will never make it to the Emmy stage.

So far, this season is sharper and more compelling than the first. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

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.

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.

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