Boardwalk Empire – “A Dangerous Maid” & “What Does the Bee Do?”

Boardwalk Empire – “A Dangerous Maid

So I didn’t do any blogging last week so I’m kind of doing double-duty this week to catch up. So first I’m going over last week’s episode before moving on to this week’s. So apparently a little thing like pregnancy will not keep clothes on Lucy Danziger! Between this and her nude role in Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control (listed in the credits as “Nude”), I’m just thinking that Paz de la Huerta prefers to remain au naturale. Granted, Lucy has demonstrated herself to be a despicable and rather annoying person (though as mentioned before she does look nice naked) but even she doesn’t deserve the torment of being “looked after” by someone like Van Alden. The emotional abuse he heaps on her is staggering. Michael Shannon plays Van Alden with such an alien presence. He’s someone who just doesn’t get this whole humanity thing. But he buys her a Victrola, so I guess that makes up for it? (It doesn’t.)

The conspiracy against Nucky continues to develop. Johnny Torrio has stopped buying liquor from Atlantic City, which isn’t an actual part of the conspiracy but Capone isn’t exactly discreet about being friends with Jimmy. Furthermore, the Commodore has used his Coast Guard connections to block Nucky’s liquor from getting to shore. One of Nucky’s customers is about to defect to buying from the Commodore’s operation but Nucky’s new Irish henchman Owen Slater (Charlie Cox) manages to shut down the transaction. Richard seems impressed, or I think he does… it’s kind of hard to read that half-faced of his. His twisted mouth always looks kind of like it’s smiling… The war seems to be going in the Commodore’s favor, but then Nucky outright confronts him at a restaurant. He also reminds Jimmy that the father he’s allied himself with was the same man who had Jimmy’s then-13-year-old mother brought to him. The writing gets a little obvious when Jimmy’s wife asks him “how was dinner with your father?” and Jimmy replies “which one?” Then again Boardwalk Empire can be a little less than subtle at times but it still makes for damn compelling television.

What Does the Bee Do?

There’s a lot I don’t understand about racial politics. I’ll admit that. I’ve suffered some slight discrimination in my life, but overall I’m just a white dude so the intricacies of these things escape me. So to me it just seemed like Chalky was losing his shit this week. I get that he doesn’t want to ever forget where he came from. I get that he is uncomfortable when his more-cultured family speaks condescendingly about the food he grew up loving, but damn he just snapped. Between this and a couple weeks ago when a fellow inmate chided him for being “uppity,” I think this aspect of Chalky’s character is going to get explored a little more this year. I’m all for Michael Kenneth Williams getting more to do on this show, so I’m cool with that. After the attack in the season premiere and the angry families in this episode, I imagine some kind of open war with the Klan is coming. In the meantime we just get Chalky flipping out on his family. It’s probably more the release of rage as his inability to fight back against the Klan (made clear in his earlier town hall meeting).

Richard Harrow manages to be one of the most interesting characters on the show even though, or probably because, we know comparatively little about him. We know he was a soldier who came back with pretty serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after half his face was blown off. We know he is about the last person on Earth you want to fuck with. We know he is perfectly willing to murder children (the D’Alessio kid) but will not kill Nucky (as Capone suggested in “A Dangerous Maid”). Most all we know from this season that he envies Jimmy’s life. This week he and Angela share something of a connection (which after her Sapphic dalliance of the first season is probably more of a connection than Jimmy and Angela share). Aleksa Palladino doesn’t always have a lot to do as Angela. She’s barely been around this season but here she’s drawn to Richard wounded vulnerability. Richard seems to sense this and even removes his mask (once again showing off the pretty great CGI effects that mar Jack Huston’s otherwise handsome visage). We learn he has a twin sister who he used to be very close with and was perfectly willing to take care of him after the War, but he left her after he was unable to feel the love for her he always had. He’s a broken man, reaching out for any connection. In the first season, it was his friendship with Jimmy. Now, it’s with Jimmy’s wife. I’m interested to see where this goes.

The biggest plot thread of this episode consists of the apparent collapse of the Conspiracy. The Commodore had a stroke. I have to admit this is an unexpected development but does that mean all Dabney Coleman is going to get to do on the show is lie in bed shouting curse words and looking scared when Gillian slaps the shit out of him? (More on that later.) Actually I read something that pointed out the prevalent motif of half-faces in this episode. Half the Commodore’s face is saggy from his stroke. Richard’s half-face is uncovered for only the second time in the series as Angela sketches him. Thirdly (the one that drove it home for me) is that a warehouse explosion burns half the face and body of one of Van Alden’s underlings (who suspected Van Alden’s corruption). I’m not sure the metaphor here. The easy answer would be duplicity but neither the Prohibition agent nor Richard are particularly duplicitous. Maybe the writers just read a lot of Batman comics. Jimmy, Richard, and Mickey make a deal with a gangster in Philadelphia (William Forsythe!!!) so the Conspiracy is down but probably not out. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

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