Why not try ADULTERY? Yes, make your cares and woes disappear the old-fashioned way!
Disclaimer: Benefits of ADULTERY may only last until the next morning. Side effects of ADULTERY include may include awkward silences, gnawing guilt, unplanned pregnancies and baby mama drama. Ask your doctor if ADULTERY is right for you!
Nelson Van Alden offers a case study of the long-term effects of ADULTERY, having spent a debauched night with Lucy, and now having a love child to show for it. Nelson hopes that his wife Rose will try to contact him, but she’s visiting an aunt in Minnesota.” He remarks that God is testing them and when Lucy asks what about me? He replies, “I’m sure you’re being tested too… in your fashion.” What Lucy really wants, though, is the rest of the money Nelson promised her, but he ain’t got it. The crying baby escalates the tension until Nelson leaves.
At the post office, Nelson discovers to his displeasure pleasure that his desk has been displaced by federal prosecutor team, lead by assistant attorney general Esther Randolph. She’s a pistol, Esther is. Nelson’s also irritated to discover a racist figurine on his desk.
Lucy is not the type to go away quietly, and seeks advice of her old boyfriend, Nucky, who’s taking a meeting with his increasingly ineffectual lawyer. Nucky sees Lucy and the baby and points out, “You and I haven’t seen each other since May 23 of last year.” Stay classy, Enoch! Lucy just wants help and talks about the joys of motherhood. Lucy Danzinger with self-reflection? It seems too good to be true!
Nucky and Lucy invite Nelson to Nucky’s suite. Nelson scowls at Nucky’s offer of a drink, and Nucky quips, “If there was ever a time…” He wants the Fed to be a mole in Esther Randolph’s office, in return Nelson’s money problems will vanish. Nelson returns to the apartment: “Lucy, I’m home!” he doesn’t say. He glimpses an older woman with the baby and for an instant, thinks Rose has returned to forgive him. But it’s just a neighbor lady. Lucy has fled the coop, leaving a dirty diaper with the cover page of A Dangerous Maid atop the gramophone. Snap!
Later, Nelson cradles the baby and a look of peace crosses his face — maybe the only time, in any medium, I’ve ever seen Michael Shannon at ease. And the next day he goes to Esther, admits that he’s a married man with an illegitimate child — to inoculate himself against a blackmail charge from Nucky and Lucy — and hands over the massive Nucky Thompson folder he compiled in the first half of Season One.
Margaret pays a visit to her relatives, who live in the clothesline district of Brooklyn. Are they all her siblings, or does her older brother Eamoinn have a wife in kids in there? I couldn’t follow it. Most are excited to see “Peg of Old” and accept her offer of salt-water taffy from the boardwalk, but Eamoinn’s pissy with her, and generally comes across as a self-righteous, grudge-holding reverse-snob.
When Margaret and Eamoinn have cigarettes, we get some of the back-story. Margaret had a child out of wedlock back in Ireland, and fled the country rather than bring a bastard to term there (while residing in an institution that sounded like a cross between a convent and an asylum). Eamoinn resents her abandonment of their family and generally her wicked city ways, while Margaret resents that Eamoinn never stood up for her. Margaret does strike up a friendship with her young sister Eilish, who reads a lot and is basically the Lisa Simpson of this particular family. Margaret gives her a book, A Girl, A Horse and a Dog, which sounds test-marketed to appeal to tweens. Eamoinn returns Margaret’s money, claims that no one knows her and all but kicks her to the curb.
Meanwhile, Owen Sleater walks into a bar and chats up a fellow Irishman. For a minute, I thought Owen had found Nucky’s would-be hit man, but instead he’s tracked down a traitor to the Irish Republican causes. Owen follows him to the men’s room and uses a spoon to jam the door. The guy has a fight, Owen has a wire garrote, and there’s lots of exciting tumbling around, with tension added by blurry glimpses of a bar customer trying enter the room, and the feet of street-level pedestrians passing above.
The garrote slices off the fingers, which land in a urinal (thanks for that, “Boardwalk Empire!”) and Owen finishes him off.
Eli arrives late and grumpy to the Young Turks club, where they plan about what to do with leaders of the old guard like Nucky. Jimmy says that the plan is for Nucky to go to jail, and Eli eventually blurts, “What’s he, King fuckin’ Neptune? Put a bullet in his head!” Jimmy ultimately gives the order to call in one of Al’s hit man friends, but he feels bad about it. So, you know, that makes it mostly okay.
Later, Gillian changes in front of Jimmy, but cautions, “Keep your eyes closed! This isn’t a flattering light!” The false modesty makes it even more pervy. Jimmy expresses misgivings about killing Nucky, but Gillian tells him that appearing decisive is more important than right or wrong.
Later, Nucky steps out to a party where Jack Dempsey talks up the upcoming, groundbreaking wireless broadcast of a big fight — like pay-per-view before the “view.” Nucky makes eyes at a young hottie but Jimmy strides up to him and leans in to say, echoing his mother, “"It doesn't make a difference if you're right or wrong, you just have to make a decision..." He strides away from Nucky, passing the hit man striding up to him and —
BLAMMO! Nucky’s shot in the hand! And then —
BLAMMO! One of Esther’s feds shoots the hit man! Nucky’s bleeding on the floor, but he’s got to be okay, because he’s in the opening credits.
Too bad Owen wasn’t around. Meanwhile, Margaret and Owen return home at roughly the same time, with no one else around. Owen mentions the “oddness” of living in a new country and Margaret chooses to bed down with him, just this once, maybe because he’s a fellow Irishman who wants her, but mostly because she’s depressed and angry about how it went with the family. See how ADULTERY can solve everything, at least until next week?
To me, this feels like one of the most emotionally rich episodes the show’s ever had. Maybe because so many long running plot threads payoff: Jimmy and Eli’s rivalry with Nucky, Lucy and Nelson’s baby, Margaret’s estrangement with her family. The violence is shocking and effective, but the quiet moments really payoff, too. “Peg of Old’s” palette feels as rich as “The Sopranos” in its heyday.
In the opening scene, was that one of the same little person performers from last season’s “leprechaun” episode?
Harrow quote of the week: “You would… kill your brother?”
Should we assume that Lucy’s gone-gone? She sounded sincere when she was talking about feeling a mother’s love.
Gillian says of the girls at the Beaux-Arts “They clock every wrinkle.” So “clock” as slang for “see” or “notice” dates back the 1920s.
Many recappers have pointed out that Ester is probably based on Mabel Walker Willebrandt, an assistant attorney general of the time known as "The First Lady of Law" and one of the stand-out characters from Ken Burns’ “Prohibition” documentary. Anyway, "Boardwalk Empire" has been overdue to include a strong career woman who's not a showgirl.
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