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Monday, November 28, 2011

"Boardwalk Empire," Season 2, Episode 10

MIRACLES DONT COME CHEAP, YOU KNOW: Father Brennan and Margaret Schroeder
  • Courtesy of HBO
  • MIRACLES DON'T COME CHEAP, YOU KNOW: Father Brennan and Margaret Schroeder
A crate marked "Feeny's Irish Oats" leads us back from Ireland to Atlantic City. The crate gets off-loaded at the Port of Hoboken, driven in trucks across New Jersey and carried by Owen Sleater across the Boardwalk. The jaunty ragtime strains of “Miss Lizzy Brown” mixes with a sermon from Deuteronomy as Owen approaches the picket line of African-American strikers. Dunn Purnsley nods to give Owen permission to cross the picket line and enter the Ritz Carlton. Owen meets the nasty manager from last week and reveals that the crate contains not oats but Irish whiskey. “That real?” asks the manager. “Straight from the old girl’s tit,” says Owen, who sells him 400 cases.

Speaking of nursing, Van Alden’s nanny Sigrid mentions that she had many siblings as a girl: “When I was six, I tried to feed my baby sister from my bosom.” Van Alden receives a Petition for Divorce from Rose and a terse note. Later he rehearses his testimony with Esther and expresses his certainty that Nucky ordered the murder of Hans Schroeder, which seems good enough for Esther.

The strike, by the way, is making things complicated for Jimmy, who gets bitched out by the city elders. Jimmy wants to negotiate and settle things, but the stroke-afflicted Commodore, after much effort, pronounces “Why don’t you just show ’em your cunt?” Then he stands and adds, “You heard me.” The Commodore’s back! Sort of. Instead, Jimmy and company opt to break the strike using a gang of roughnecks with bats, which later descend upon the strikers. Purnsley shouts “Hold the line!” like Braveheart as chaos ensues.

A couple of guys unexpectedly club Deputy Halloran. Or maybe not so unexpectedly — Eli had heard of Halloran’s meetings with Esther, and later shows up at Halloran’s sickbed, offering home-made peaches and veiled threats. “What did I do? Why do I deserve this?” Eli suggests Halloran ask himself. Later, Esther places Eli behind bars (having picked him up at his own home, although we didn’t see this scene).

Jimmy has a sit-down with Chalky White, and claims, of the angry mob, “It wasn’t my idea, Chalky.” Jimmy has a profoundly wishy-washy habit of trying to excuse his brutal orders (like the hit on Nucky) by blaming their concept on other people. At any rate, Chalky will only end the strike if Jimmy will hand the murderous Klansmen over to him, which Jimmy won’t do. Or will Jimmy just cave later on?

Nucky, back from Ireland, visits polio-stricken Emily for the first time. Dr. Holt informs Margaret that Emily’s condition doesn’t look good, but that he’s known children who have recovered from worse, and mentions that his nine year-old daughter prays for the children in his ward. After greeting Emily, young Teddy sits sullenly in the hall as the grown-ups try to comfort his sister.

That night, Margaret tucks Teddy in bed and they pray for Emily. Teddy declares that he can’t feel his legs — has he got polio? When the stricken Margaret inspects them, he giggles nastily. Margaret clouts him across the face and leaves the room weeping. “God help me, but he’s got his father’s cruelty.” Nucky offers to give the boy some attention by bringing him on an overnight trip to New York. (Teddy Takes Manhattan?)

The next day, Margaret prays in church and Father Brennan, gathering the collection plate cash, sidles up. Margaret wonders why God would allow Emily to be stricken with polio and Father Brennan throws the details of her confession back in her face. He suggests that if she wants a miracle for Emily, she should make an act of devotion. His advice seems to echo Eli’s “Blame yourself” philosophy from earlier.

So Margaret goes home, gathers up her jewelry and hidden nest egg and brings it to the priest. “It’s a weight on my soul, I want to be free of it,” she says. Let’s note that Father Brennan sits in his office listening to his extensive-seeming record collection on his Victrola and drinking wine (during Prohibition, mind you). The whole encounter feels like a Nucky-esque shakedown and bribe.

At least Nucky usually gets more value for his money. When the doctor reveals the results, we learn that Emily has spinal polio, which won't get much better, and will need to be fitted with a brace. “Your daughter, did she pray?” Margaret asks, as if looking for someone to blame. I love the shot of Nucky placing his bandaged hand over Margaret’s.

Earlier, Nucky had mentioned his wounded wing when his lawyer suggested he could get his trial moved from Camden to Atlantic City based on “medical hardship.” “This? This wouldn’t stop me from jacking off!” Nucky snaps, firing his attorney. His eyes fall to headlines that read “Black Sox Trial Begins.” Oh yeah — Arnold Rothstein’s trial. That’s why Nucky goes to New York, Teddy in tow. Rothstein’s lawyer gives Teddy a baseball autographed by Ty Cobb. “Ty Cobb is a bad man,” Teddy observes. Rothstein’s lawyer charges $80 an hour and apparently has talent at bribing judges, but Nucky doesn’t have the extra scratch.

At the hotel later, Nucky shows his paternal side, assuring Teddy that even though his sister was sick a lot, his mother still loved him very much. Teddy asks about Nucky’s father. Nucky gulps. “Sure.” Teddy asks if Nucky’s in trouble for burning down his father’s house — kids say the darndest things. Nucky claims that was an accident. Teddy: “Don’t worry, Dad. I won’t tell.” Aww, just a boy and he’s already an accomplice!

Meanwhile, Jimmy Darmody’s coming up lacking as a Prohibition-era kingpin, He can't sell the George Reemus alcohol thanks to Nucky’s cut-rate, high-quality Irish whiskey. He finally agrees to pay off Manny, while the New York gunsels show off a sample white powder: “It ain’t hop — it’s heroin.” They suggest selling heroin to artsy types — could Angela and/or her friend Louise get hooked on Jimmy’s new product?

With Atlantic City closed off, the young guns split up to sell the hooch in other cities. Micky Doyle goes to Philadelphia, trying to make nice with Manny. Manny, in overalls and wife-beater, seems to pick a bullet out of his shoulder with a matchstick and proceeds to throttle Micky by the neck brace, demanding Jimmy’s location.

Jimmy, on the verge of leaving for a bootlegging trip, has a pleasant, quiet chat with Angela, who arranges flowers. “I can be the man you want me to be,” Jimmy claims. Angela jokes around and asks “You’re sure you have to leave right away?”

That night, Manny shows up at Jimmy’s house, finding a post-coital Angela in bed with someone in the shower. Manny holds a hand over Angela’s mouth, hoists her out of bed, points his gun at the bathroom door and fires when it swings open…

… and down falls not Jimmy but Louise, wrapped in a towel! “Please, I have a child!” Angela cries to Manny. “Your husband did this to you,” Manny replies, shooting her, and then putting a bullet in each of them for good measure. And then we see Jimmy, on the road at night, entering his old college town of Princeton.

Who’s going to be more mad about Angela’s murder? Her husband Jimmy or Richard Harrow, who had a thing for her?

Who’ll take the blame for Angela’s murder? With Jimmy out of town, if Manny doesn’t claim credit, Jimmy might be the #1 suspect, given the incriminating position of the bodies. (Incidentally, Angela clearly didn’t waste any time in making a Sapphic booty call after Jimmy left town.)

Manny’s murder of two innocent women puts paid to the idea that he’s an “honorable” mobster. Criminals probably use “codes of honor” only to justify greedy and/or sociopathic actions

At any rate, Jimmy’s going to be very distraught — how will his mother comfort him? We should brace ourselves for something skeevy.

I hope Margaret takes some gangsta-style revenge on Father Brennan.

I would love to see the heavily-bandaged Halloran and Doyle have a fight.

Nucky’s phrase “little cat feet” quotes Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog,” which as published in 1916.

Did Halloran squeal on Eli, or was Ester bluffing which she implied that he did? The last time we see Halloran, he’s calling the post office, probably to talk to her — but to cooperate or tell her to kiss off?

I was half-expecting to see the “Pepper Spray Cop” amid the strike breakers.

The episode title, “Georgia Peach,” could refer to a shipment of peaches now rotting due to the Atlantic City strike. But it’s also Ty Cobb’s nickname, and it’s worth pointing out that the episode makes three references to baseball in a negative light: the Black Sox trial, the bat-wielding strike-breakers and the famously brutal Cobb himself. Near the end of the episode, Teddy puts the Cobb baseball in a cigarbox with a picture of his Dad, but whether he’s treasuring the icons of the cruel men, or rejecting them, remains to be seen.

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