The second season of Boardwalk Empire is winding down to its end. As evidenced with this past week’s episode, ‘Georgia Peaches’ however, it’s going down with a proverbial, and literal, bang. Four of them, to be exact.
Spoiler alert! If for some reason you haven’t watched this episode (what are you waiting for?!), I will be discussing a pretty major moment from the episode and the show as a whole. Ye hath been warned!
There’s a moment in ‘Georgia Peaches’ where Teddy, Margaret’s son, is given a baseball signed by Ty Cobb. Ty Cobb was a notorious racist and all around terrible guy, but once he got on the baseball diamond, he became a hero to just about anyone, as long as they weren’t on the other team.
This works as a pretty good metaphor for just about every character on Boardwalk Empire. Nearly everyone is guilty of their fair share of moral ambiguity. Is the benefit of someone’s good deeds worth all of the bad ones that come with them? That’s something Margaret asked herself often last season, and something that, as a viewer, is constantly being asked as they watch. We all have our favorite characters, and not one of them is squeaky clean. Not even close. Yet, we get behind the ones we connect with and, in my opinion, this makes the viewer even more connected to the show.
Nucky’s plan to obtain booze last episode now begins to make sense. He’s had it imported under the guise of boxes of Irish oats, so as to avoid the local Coast Guard that is currently in The Commodore’s pocket. He then begins flooding Atlantic City with his booze, even compelling the businesses that are currently shut down due to the strike to purchase and be prepared for when the strike ends. Now if Nucky can just manage to avoid jail, thanks to firing his current attorney and hiring on Arnold Rothstein’s, he may just be able to come out on top of it all.
Margaret’s guilt continues to grow as it looks like young Emily, although cured from the disease, has most likely lost the use of her legs due to damage caused by the sickness. She informs the head doctor that Nucky is a man of means and whatever money they need to pay can be, but the doctor informs her that they are beyond the point of money solving the problem and that what they really need is a miracle. Hearing this, Margaret does what most anyone, even non-believers, would do in a time of need and turns to the church. The priest informs her that an “act of devotion” is her best chance at a reversal of her daughter’s poor fortune. He does try to get her to come clean about the impure thoughts she recently confessed to him, but Margaret refuses and decides to handle this act the way most people on this show would, with money.
The true focus of this episode, though, was Jimmy as he gets run through the ringer. Not only is he beginning to seem way in over his head, but he’s also about to find out the cost that comes along with his life he’s chosen and the hasty decisions he’s made. He’s unable to sell any of the booze he and his partners have recently obtained from George Remus thanks to Nucky flooding the town with his booze and undercutting the price. Jimmy is also being pressured by the town’s upper crust to handle the strike that’s going on, and is not only reminded that he is indeed not Nucky Thompson, but is also thrown quite the insult from the Commodore himself. Eli suggests having some guys go down and beat up the strikers, but it ends up only strengthening the strikers resolve and increases their numbers.
After that fails, Jimmy has a sit down with Chalky, who surprisingly seems to be keeping Dunn Purnsley in much closer company than I would have expected. Jimmy wants to make things right and end the strike. Chalky asks for monetary compensation for the families that lost loved ones in the Klan shootout at the beginning of the season. He also, seeking more than just a payoff, asks Jimmy to deliver him the 3 other Klansmen so that he can personally obtain some justice. Jimmy obliges the money end, but refuses to deliver the Klansmen, and thus the strike remains.
The only truly good moment Jimmy has is a rare bit of happiness with Angela. They both joke about an overweight sunbather followed by Jimmy making her some promises about things changing. Angela tells him a joke and then they move to the bedroom before Jimmy heads out of town. This happiness is sadly not to last, as that night Manny Horvitz, having discovered where Jimmy lives by roughing up Mickey Doyle, comes to town and is seeking revenge.
Manny walks right into their home that night, seemingly unconcerned at the thought of being discovered. He awakens Angela from sleeping and shoots who he thinks is Jimmy emerging from the bathroom, but is instead Angela’s new friend and lover Louise. Angela cowers over Louise’s dying body, begging for her life. Manny, almost seeming somewhat reluctant, informs her that this is all Jimmy’s fault, and shoots. He then gives them one more bullet each, making sure the job is done and leaving them dead in each others arms.
Boardwalk Empire has never been one to shy away from violence. In fact, I’m sure it makes up a great deal of why some people watch the show. This season, though, the creators have managed to pull off some of the darkest moments of violence I’ve ever seen portrayed on screen, and this cold, haunting shooting of Angela is right at the top. It was filmed magnificently with no score distracting from the drama at hand, making the entire scene have so much more weight to it.
Most of my favorite shows make it a point to kill off major characters. It’s refreshing to a point when you know that no one is safe. As much as I appreciate the writers for making the tough decision, if it was, to kill off Angela, it still leaves me a bit bummed. As I’ve discussed several times this season, the strong female characters of last season have all taken a back seat to the men of the show, and Angela being the one that suffered the most. She barely popped up at all and when she did it usually wasn’t for anything more than to be handed some guff from Jimmy. Her character had so much potential, exploring her artistic or sexual orientation in that time period could make for some incredible storytelling. It feels like, with so many other characters and so much always going on within the show, there probably just wasn’t any room for any random tales that don’t fit the overall plot, which is also a bit of a downer. Farewell, Angela. You will be missed.
I believe that her death won’t be in vain, though. Despite her lack of involvement in much this season, she was Jimmy’s wife and mother to their child. Jimmy will no doubt be out of his mind with a blood lust for Manny. The way their bodies were and with Jimmy being out of town, it’s very possible that he might even become a suspect. Richard Harrow, who’s taken a backseat the past few weeks, had taken quite a liking to Angela, so I could see him wanting to seek some justice. Gillian, Jimmy’s mother, may see this as an opportune time to get back into some weird sort of relationship with Jimmy that’s been hinted at all season. Even Margaret, who has feared for herself, Nucky and the children, might become even more spooked seeing that no one is truly safe. Although it saddens me to see it happen, I’m very curious to see where it leads.
There’s also some little aside moments throughout the episode that look to pay off into bigger things. Luciano not only brings up heroin again, but gives Jimmy a sample, which I have a feeling he’ll be helping himself to once he finds out what happened to Angela. We also see Eli, upon thinking that Halloran spoke to the ADA, trying to be Nucky again and not only has Halloran beat up during the attack on the strikers, but then goes to his home to basically tell him that he did it. The rub is, this gets Halloran to talk and ends up with Eli in jail.
Every single moment of this episode felt perfect. The attack on the striking workers was beautifully shot and choreographed, as was Manny’s assassination of Angela. Even Jimmy’s solo ride back to Princeton, the school he turned his back on for the war, felt poetic and, as one would expect, depressing. The show, amidst all the seriousness, also manages to continue have some great funny moments, which is a true testament to the actors, the writers and the dialogue itself.
There are only two episodes remaining in this second season of Boardwalk Empire. I have no idea just what might lay in store for this cavalcade of characters, but I’m on the edge of my seat anxious to find out.
– Matt Hardeman