Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 18 ‘The Age of Reason’ Review

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 18 The Age of Reason ReviewWe’re at the halfway point of Boardwalk Empire: Season 2, and it’s been an absolutely stellar season so far. This past week’s episode, ‘The Age of Reason,’ is another exceptional addition to the overall story.

Yet again, Boardwalk Empire crams so much story and character development into an hour long show that it blows my mind. This week, secrets were discovered, backs are stabbed (as well as throats slit), various alliances are falling apart as new ones start up in their wake, and, in a show that is notorious for the ending of life, a new life begins, although not under the best of circumstances.

Van Alden returns to the forefront and it seems that all of his sins are beginning to catch up with him. He has a pregnant Lucy still basically imprisoned in their secret apartment, and she looks like she could give birth at any second. At the same time, Agent Clarkson is hanging on to a thread of life after the warehouse explosion two episode back left him burnt over almost his entire body. Van Alden is filled with remorse over this and knows that he is to blame. Even worse for him, Clarkson is beginning to speak and Van Alden fears that it’s just a matter of time before all of his shady dealings come to light.

A short time after Van Alden leaves, Lucy’s water breaks. Having no means to obtain help, one would think she’d be lost and helpless, but Lucy manages to pull herself together, and through an entire day of laboring, manages to have the baby all on her own. Birthing scenes in film and TV are often awkward or overacted, but this gradual progression Lucy goes through is presented in a quiet, almost slowed down form, giving the act a bit more beauty than the harshness with which it is often portrayed.

As she prepares her son Teddy for his first confession with apparently the toughest priest in all of Catholicism, Margaret learns that she must make a confession herself. This puts her in a seemingly awkward position, considering her relationship with Nucky, as well as whatever mysteries it is that she has in her past. She also finds Owen, Nucky’s new driver, making some casual passes at her, and by the end of the episode, it’s revealed that she may be wanting much more than the fleeting flirtations they’ve been sharing.

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 18 The Age of Reason Review

I’d like to discuss the Margaret character for a second. In the comments for last week’s recap, I caught some flak for listing her storyline in my “jeers” section. That was in no way me hating on the character, but more my sadness over what Margaret has become.

In Season 1, Margaret was one of the primaries and had a consistently intriguing narrative, on top of being acted to perfection by the wonderful Kelly Macdonald. This season, however, her character has been relegated to almost nothing more than Nucky’s lady and an uppity mother that is mean to the help. There have been hints that her past may not be what she’s made it out to be, but it’s been dragged out for so long that my comment of “jeer” was simply because my interest in this storyline of hers is waning. And I think we can all agree that this “love triangle” device that seems inevitable now comes across forced and unnecessary. I’m hoping the creators will throw us all for a loop and pull something awesome off with the character, but at this rate they’re drawing out of it is affecting my actual caring.

Nucky takes a bit of a backseat this week, but remains the driving force behind the goings-on. Thanks to a rivalry with Senator Edge stemming from last season, Nucky’s once easy way out of court has now been complicated again, leaving him feeling a bit left out in the cold. He does manage to get together his remaining cohorts (Chalky!) as well as new allies Arnold Rothstein and Waxy Gordon to finalize details for how Rothstein’s men will be obtaining and getting Nucky’s bootlegged booze from Philly to Atlantic City. As far as the alcohol is concerned, it looks like Nucky is about to be back in business.

After the impromptu scalping Jimmy gave one of the Atlantic City elders last week, he finds himself in a meeting with another elder, Leander Whitlock, who, although he is aligned with the Commodore, has much respect for Nucky Thompson. He informs Jimmy that he has indeed alienated many of the elders, but reminds him that they’re all pulling for him in the long run. He also reminds him that while the Commodore may be his father, Nucky is the one he should more closely emulate, as Nucky knew his smarts would get him much farther than strength ever could.

That night on the boardwalk, Jimmy happens to notice that one of Manny’s lieutenants, Herschel, is with Nucky and Manny’s rival, Waxy Gordon. Thinking Manny is playing him, Jimmy calls accusing Manny of such, only he’s actually cluing him in to the fact that Herschel has been double crossing him and spying on him for Waxy. Jimmy pays Manny a visit and discovers that he’s placed Herschel in a position where he has no choice but to talk. But even after spilling all the beans on Nucky’s plans to get the booze through Philadelphia, Herschel still receives the blade from Jimmy’s hand.

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 18 The Age of Reason Review

Armed with the knowledge of Nucky’s booze trafficking, Jimmy and his crew (Richard, Manny, etc) get the drop on Lucky and Meyer as they are transporting the contraband through the woods at night. A pretty tense gunfight breaks out until Lucky recognizes Jimmy’s voice. Once all parties realize who they all are, the young up-and-comers decide to finally form a truce. It appears they are going to let the old fellas (Nucky, Rothstein, the Commodore) continue on with their alcohol business while they get themselves involved in the Heroin trade, with the intentions of taking over the power of the older ones as soon as possible.

Just as the episode began with him, the episode concludes with Van Alden. He’s returned home from being by Agent Clarkson’s bedside and, after realizing Clarkson was no longer a threat, decides to keep his sins to himself. Unfortunately, the call that he made to his wife earlier freaked her out so badly that she rushed to see him, only to discover his biggest sin of all.

As Van Alden makes his way to the bedroom where Lucy and their newborn child are, he realizes that his wife is by Lucy’s side, and you can see his entire world come crumbling down. He tries to explain that the baby was for her, but Mrs. Van Alden isn’t having it and leaves Nelson with a slap, a bite on his hand and his secret infidelity now out in the open for him to dwell in.

As I said earlier, this was another excellent episode that leaves the viewer with several questions and places to go from here. The younger guys making their power play, Margaret being haunted by her past and tempted by her present, Van Alden’s demons being discovered and how he reacts to this, and Nucky’s business and freedom are still at stake. That, and several other side stories, are a lot to wrap up within six more episodes, but with as good as this first half has been, I can only imagine the second being that much more impressive.

– Matt Hardeman

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