There really isn’t any other way to describe the latest episode of HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ except to say that it was extremely messed up. If you want drama, real intense drama that is psychologically off the charts, than this show is your cup of tea.
This episode took us into a flashback from when Jimmy Darmody began his relationship with Angela. Watching the two of them kiss in bed at Princeton while knowing the eventual outcome of their lives was especially bitter sweet. Jimmy is a far cry from the heroin snorting mad men he becomes by the end of the episode.
Nucky meets with his new attorney and discusses his problems with his investigation. His hired help, a quiet African American decides to let him in on a crucial piece of information. Agent Van Alden straight up drowned his partner at the Baptist gathering by the river. I’m surprised Nucky didn’t give that man a well deserved kiss on the mouth.
Van Alden is a key witness in Nucky’s trial and now he is worthless in any prosecution. The moment they attempted to arrest him for this, Van Alden shot a man in the leg, dropped the mic and got out of that joint. Audiences learned even more screwed up history about Agent Van Alden. His father was also a religious freak who sold all of the family’s belongings to prepare for the end of the world. This however, doesn’t even light a candle to Jimmy’s Greek tragedy of a life.
Meanwhile, Margaret is feeling especially guilty about her crippled daughter. She is acting irrational in her archaic religious fear that she can buy her way out of this mess. Owen asks her if she thinks of him right as Katie the maid walks in the room. This only propels Margaret to feel even worse and when she is subpoenaed for Nucky’s trial she actually considers going. Nucky is enraged and threatens her seriously if she decides to comply.
Richard Harrow deals with Angela’s crime scene and assists Gillian with the police. Harrow was especially fond of Angela because she was one of the only people who truly saw him as a real person after his war injury. He touches the bloody floorboards and breaks down upon mourning her. If you felt bad for Harrow in this moment, you certainly forgot his small amount of sorrow once you’ve finished watching the episode.
Flashback to Princeton once again. Jimmy Darmody is a naive, chipper little ivy league student who is passionate about literature and adorable in a navy blue cardigan. He admires his professor because he gives him well deserved attention, something that hasn’t been given to him or forced upon him. Jimmy is earning his praise in college. His classmates are off to war and Jimmy comments that he thinks it’s pointless. Notice the Princeton University motto is the same title as the episode.
At the Princeton dinner, Angela informs him of her pregnancy. We assume they have only been dating for a matter of weeks when she becomes pregnant and Jimmy’s reaction is extremely guileless and innocent. He says that they should get ‘a place’ together and that all will be ‘swell’. However, he cannot take his eyes off of his mother who is flirting with all of his classmates. Where Angela is Jimmy’s companion, Gillian is his idol. She navigates situations with the greatest of ease and knows how to get what she wants. This is something his aspires to be but cannot understand.
We’ve already learned previously that Nucky encouraged Jimmy to attend Princeton and that he is disappointed in him for dropping out to go to war. But this episode we found out why Jimmy mentally had to join the military. Gillian comes to visit Jimmy and gets terribly drunk and flirts with his favorite professor. In an act of habit, Jimmy defends his mother’s honor and beats the man senseless. We get the feeling that Jimmy has felt the need to be his mother’s protector since he was a child.
However, that doesn’t even begin to explain his psyche. He helps Gillian back to her room and begins to aid her in undressing. This whole situation not only garners the most terribly awkward feeling in everyone witnessing it, but it also seems to be unreal. It’s not until Gillian grasps her own son into a sexual embrace, refusing to let him go and forcing him to be intimate with her that we realize the full extent of Gillian’s reign of terror.
Jimmy quotes John Webster’s 1612 revenge tragedy, ‘The White Devil’ which is about a woman who elicits sympathy from those around her in order to cope with an unjust society. Gillian was raped at age 13 by the Commodore and has been coping in a largely cunning and Machiavellian way.Jimmy wakes up the next morning to both his mother and all her belongings gone. His solution to this obviously traumatizing and confusing situation is to enlist in the military immediately and leave the country, something he has verbally opposed.
Flash to present day 1920′s and Jimmy’s hotel room. Gillian is attempting to persuade him to come home to his son and his business. Her solution is to forget about Angela and pretend that she doesn’t exist. In reality, Angela is the only visceral, real part of his life. She is the only thing he has ever chosen on his own. He has now locked himself up in this hotel room and has reverted to snorting the heroin Luciano gave him before he left Atlantic City.
Gillian finally gets Jimmy to come home and she begins planning Angela’s small and unimportant funeral. She continues to ramble about not telling Jimmy’s little boy Tommy about his mother’s death. Her plan is to tell the boy that she went away to Paris and hopefully in less than a month he will forget she was ever there. This causes Jimmy to attack her and begin to strangle her repeating the phrase, “I’ll remember. I’ll remember.”
The Commodore attempts to stop Jimmy and stabs him with some type of long weapon. They fight one another face to face, portraying their individual combat experience and relative determination. Think back to moments when the Commodore talked about shooting a bear, looking your enemy in the eye and held a massive elephant tusk over his head. All this has led up to Jimmy facing his biological father man to man, both men literally sexual competitors in Gillian’s life. The Oedipal complex here is just off the charts.
Gillian orders Jimmy to finish him off and in a final act of obedience to his mother he stabs the Commodore in the groin then in the heart, killing him. He then continues to trip all kinds of balls on heroin while Richard and Gillian clean up the old dude’s corpse. When he awakens Tommy is asking for him and Gillian is ignoring the boy’s pleas for his mother. While Jimmy may for the moment allow his depraved, sick, creepy mother to continue babysitting his son and attempt to replace his wife, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be doing her bidding much longer.
There is still another episode left this season and one can only hope that Jimmy manages to GTF away from ‘The White Devil’ that is his mother.