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Footprints in the Sand: The Atlantic City Version

By Aggie Maguire | TV | October 5, 2010 |

By Aggie Maguire | TV | October 5, 2010 |

After a very slow second week, the third installment of “Boardwalk Empire” (Broadway Limited) didn’t exactly pick up the pace and unlike the premiere most of the brutality took place off camera, but it did give us plenty to speculate on and set multiple sub-plots in motion.

We got a tantalizing glimpse into the origins of Nucky’s relationship with Jimmy through a covert conversation between him and Jimmy’s mother (Gretchen Mol) that seems to suggest there’s a bigger obligation there. I don’t buy Nucky as Jimmy’s father given his obsessive concern with mothers and children, but there’s definitely a secret there that will probably explain the Yale background. In other unnecessary Jimmy news, he finds a sexy picture of his wife in the family album and immediately suspects an affair with the photographer, but that’s soon going to be the least of his worries.

Mickey Doyle, who continues to be the joke of the Boardwalk for changing his name from Cusick to Doyle, was apparently fronted by a new sub-group of gangsters who hilariously all appear to be named after Popes (Pius, Ignatius, etc). They’re a delightful bunch, lynching a young Black man to show their displeasure at the watered-down liquor business going to a Black guy, Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams, Omar from “The Wire”), and Nucky has to bargain with Chalky to let it go because it’s an election year and nobody wants a race war.

Nucky thinks Lucy is dumb. But Lucy shows up in the shop where he has arranged for Margaret Schroeder to work to make sure that Margaret doesn’t make the same mistake. Three episodes in I fail to see what’s so great about Mrs. Schroeder to make two men obsess on her and a hot flapper see her as a threat, but I’m hoping we’ll see something beyond the doe-eyed innocent little mother as the show progresses.

The main plot, however, is the really compelling story line this week. As we assumed, the guy who stumbled zombie-like into the road to interrupt the most unromantic lube job ever at the end of last week’s episode was the one Rothstein lackey who survived the ambush. Nucky’s idiot brother Eli finds it necessary to try to smother him instead of leveraging the gaping wound in his stomach to help the internal bleeding along. He’s “rescued” by the Feds. And here is where Van Alden reveals himself to be not so much the paragon of law and order we supposed, but some kind of religious zealot who will bend any number of laws to get the information he wants, and who seems to believe the Lord’s vengeance is far more important than the Constitution of the United States he is sworn to uphold: think Chris Cooper’s Robert Hanssen only more uptight (and if last week’s ribbon sniffing scene is anything to go on, perhaps just as sexually deviant also).
Which brings us to Arnold Rothstein. Michael Stuhlbarg is doing a fantastic job with this character. Once again, he had very little camera time but every time he’s in a scene he fills it with carefully controlled menace. His cool sangfroid is the perfect counterpoint to Lucky Luciano’s uncontrolled psychopathy. This is a guy to truly fear and Nucky is sadly mistaken to think that banishing Darmody is going to take care of the problem. Once again, the episode closed with a symbolic scene that would be a little too trite if it weren’t just ambiguous enough. Is it just that Nucky is realizing he can’t cover up the trail that leads to him so easily anymore? Or is he looking at the residue of the dirt he just sank into by covering up the lynching that he clearly believes was a disgusting crime?

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.