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Previously on Boardwalk Empire: murder, mayhem, lust, adultery, incest, duplicity, election rigging, prostitution, bootlegging, drug dealing, gun running, PTSD, police brutality, spousal abuse, dismemberment, self flagellation, pernicious baptism, bitter, seething resentment and generally anything else that goes bump in the night. And one skinny, bug-eyed dandy with an operatic flair for profanity ruled them all. For a lumbering, slow-paced show, Boardwalk Empire has gotten into some deep shit.
As the credits roll, I look at how many actors are physically featured, whether lead, tertiary or fictionalized versions of real people, and think “I should have seen it coming.” And the episode was another Winter/Van Patten collaboration so we know it’s going to be beautiful and brutal.
A car drives down a country lane and even though they’re wearing masks, Richard’s cap and Jimmy’s hair kind of give them away. They drive up to a Klan meeting in the middle of the woods. A Klan extra asks who those two jokers are and is met with a bullet in the chest from Jimmy. This gets their attention, sort of, but when Jimmy asks for the names and addresses of the three men who shot up Chalky’s warehouse, they all stand mute until Richard, his suit, cap and burlap mask over his real mask steps forward and shoots another Klan extra in the chest. Richard then rasps that they have five seconds and I guess the sound of his voice is far more frightening than watching two men get shot in the chest because the main Klan extra gives up two names, Herb Crocker and Dick Hetherton. Jimmy asks who else, but when one Klan extra tries to make a run for it, Jimmy figures he’s number three, cold cocks him and fades to black.
Manny rumbles over about Odessa. He’s hiding out in the basement of a synagogue in Philadelphia, telling tales about his childhood in Odessa, a city full of little crooks taking what they can to get by and a middle man taking from all of them. But the machers in Odessa do nothing. Everyone comes to them, tips them, and he’s not-at-all-symbolically talking to Nucky. Mickey’s there, too, in case we forgot that he’s a roach that will always find his way out of a jam by having zero loyalty to anyone but himself. I’ve really come to respect Mickey and his ways.
Manny continues about how sometimes he thinks he’s still in Odessa, twelve years old, but he’s in America and he has to make do. Nucky, who never saw a sentimental moment he didn’t want to crush under his fancy, pragmatic shoes just understates they’ve both had a tough time recently. Manny continues to Old World about his problems, being away from home, closing his shop, living like a beggar but when he blames Waxy Gordon, Nucky stops him to say that Waxy’s a business associate.
Manny wonders if Nucky’s sure about that, so Nucky asks if Manny knows something he doesn’t. Manny says “The question answers itself.” While Nucky flashes back on his frustratingly circular conversations with Rothstein, Mickey says Nucky’s busy and to get to the point. After a brief protestation, Manny just up and says Waxy’s working with Jimmy DAH-MA-DEE. This doesn’t sit well with Nucky, but he recovers. Manny says they have something in common and Nucky vagues that they might so Manny can make his proposition: Nucky gives Manny Waxy and Manny gives Nucky Jimmy. Nucky finds the idea of Manny “giving” him Jimmy amusing since he doesn’t think Manny’s in any condition to do anything. Then Manny creeps the hell out of everyone, including Nucky, when he says “If the boychick’s wife were still alive, she’d tell you otherwise.” Someone bumped himself up to series regular with that line.
Nucky doesn’t take kindly to oblique threats and says they don’t really have much in common. Manny thinks this means Nucky thinks he’s too big a crook to associate with a brute like him and Nucky confirms that yes, according to Randolph, he is too big a crook to waste his time with a Philly butcher. But Nucky never walked away from someone he didn’t love who could help him so he says he’ll consider the offer, and that Mickey knows how to get in touch. As Nucky and Owen leave, Mickey lingers behind so he and Manny can foreshadow about Nucky being on his way to jail but not being there, yet.
Two vehicles drive up to Chalky’s warehouse as Chalky and his men wait patiently while Dunn Pernsley done figures out how to cheese up a scene where he’s basically an extra. He even puts on his hat like a douchebag. They open the doors for the truck while the scene cuts to the second vehicle’s point of view, showing that it’s Jimmy and Richard bringing the Klansmen to Chalky.
Richard hangs back in the second truck with his gun drawn, because he’s always in sniper mode, and Jimmy drives in. He hands a bag with $20K to Chalky, telling him it’s for the dead men’s families, $5K per family. Chalky, used to working with Nucky, gets prickly, saying he only asked for $3K, because Nucky never gave ANYTHING away without getting something in return, but Jimmy just says he knows.
Jimmy goes to the back of the truck to remove the tarp and show Chalky that he brought the three Klansmen. Chalky asks if Jimmy’s sure so Jimmy tells him to ask himself but Dunn Pernsley done snatched the next line and says “Daaaat would be my PLEEEA-sure,” then opens his switchblade. Why can’t he just talk like everyone else on the show? Chalky ignores his gross overacting and exposits to Jimmy that the Governor dropped the murder case so he can tell “his daddy” (oops) that he’s calling off the strike. Jimmy asks Chalky to do him one more favor, to tell Nucky he wants to talk. Chalky agrees and then “welcomes back” the Klansmen. Dunn Pernsley and some extra drag the first two men out of the flatbed and as the extras beat the first two, Dunn Pernsley makes the most out of his last few seconds of screen time overacting the difficult stage direction of “menacingly crawl into flatbed.”
Chalky’s men close the door to finish the beating in private and Jimmy gets into Richard’s car. As Jimmy ponderously smokes his cigarette, Richard becomes the most likely voice of reason, telling Jimmy that no matter how much he tries to make things right, Nucky will never forgive him. With the heightened sounds of the beatings in the background, Jimmy monotones to Richard that they should go to Chow’s because he wants a steak.
Katie’s holding a doll and encouraging Emily to walk to her. Lillian’s holding the little girl’s shoulders and telling her she’s a good girl but Emily’s still weak and thinks she’s going to fall. The two servants gently encourage her…and where’s Margaret? Nucky comes home at that moment. Emily’s pleased to see Nucky and squeals out a happy “Daddy,” but Nucky wants to know where Margaret went, too. Katie says she left 20 minutes earlier, but Lillian says she didn’t say where. Nucky walks off unsatisfied with that answer then Owen proves what a prat he is by barely acknowledging the maid he used to bone who has a pretty good idea why they’re not doing it anymore.
Margaret’s down at the Post Office to meet with Randolph and she’s brought Father Brennan with her because she really has gone off the deep end with her Catholic guilt. One of Randolph’s assistants not named Clifford makes a vaguely anti-Catholic/Irish comment and Randolph dismisses him to get her a “shaved cherry ice” because she’s boiling, then sets out to interview Margaret.
Randolph introduces herself and Kelly Macdonald’s a wee, tiny woman because Esther towers over her. As Margaret begins to introduce Brennan he tells Randolph he’s there for “moral support” so she sasses that she won’t need it. He’s a humorless priest so he informs Randolph he meant for Margaret, so Margaret has to inform him that Esther was just being sassy. Brennan launches into a self-serving sermon about how saintly Margaret is, mentioning how she left her sickly child at home to be there, and Randolph drops her tough broad act for a moment to ask what’s wrong, and then feel like a right bitch when she finds out Emily has polio.
Brennan continues on his high horse saying Margaret’s innocent of all charges in this case until Randolph shoots him down with a well-timed “I didn’t know they taught law in the seminary.” I’d say “First of all, I didn’t know she was a bitch,” but I totally knew. Randolph then suggests Margaret speak for herself, but when Brennan continues to argue Margaret dismisses him to go buy some stamps.
Once alone, Margaret wonders if it’s easy to become a lawyer. Randolph patronizes her by saying not if you set your mind to it and don’t take no for an answer. Margaret’s not in the mood to be patronized, though, so she says she doubts that. Randolph backs off the bitchery and agrees that it wasn’t simple. That she had to start as a PD whose only clients were women. When Margaret kind of rhetorically asks “What kind of women?” Randolph treats her like any other witness and says “The kind that didn’t have any other choice.” Margaret takes this as the affront it is and asks Randolph if she thinks Margaret has a choice. Randolph puts it back on Margaret and reminds her that she’s the one who cleared the room.
Margaret goes on her canned spiel about what an awful husband Hans was but when Randolph finishes her thought saying Margaret’s moved up in the world, Margaret asks if she hates Nucky. That’s not how the law works, sweetie. Esther brightens up and says that she rather likes Nucky, but it’s irrelevant what she thinks of him. Then she asks Margaret if she hates Nucky. Margaret silently sits there so Randolph gives her an opening by saying Margaret’s feelings are complicated. When Margaret leads with the truth being complicated, Randolph goes into prosecutor mode and says she’s interested in hearing what Margaret has to say.
Before she says anything, though, Margaret wants to know if she’ll have to appear in court. Randolph lets her know that she will be compelled to appear, whether Margaret cooperates or not. But Margaret can choose how she’s portrayed: helpless widow seduced by her husband’s killer, or ruthless gold digger trading up. Margaret, under the false assumption that she holds any sway, asks if it matters that neither portrait is true and Randolph cracks that all that matters is Nucky goes to jail.
This rightly scares Margaret to inaction so Randolph goes in further for the kill asking what Nucky’s given Margaret besides money. No wonder her assistants all snap to attention when she barks. She’s scary, and not just because of that harsh lipstick. Margaret mewls that he’s never been cruel to her but Randolph doesn’t care because he’s plenty cruel to others and Margaret knows this. Then she mewls about her children and Randolph wonders if their well being trumps everyone else’s. Showing that the smug superiority of motherhood isn’t a modern phenomenon, Margaret says that if Randolph, godless unmarried and childless heathen that she is (I might had extrapolated there), had her own, she wouldn’t ask, so Randolph, the godless unmarried and childless heathen with stronger moral fiber than Margaret, says if she had her own she couldn’t bear knowing their comfort was bought with the blood of others, because the children will eventually learn and “it won’t be a happy day.” And honest or not, she’s so seriously pinging Margaret’s Catholic guilt she could be a nun.
Margaret smartly wonders what will become of her if she testifies, because she knows Nucky, but Randolph blue-skies it by saying she’ll never have to see Nucky again and she’ll be free. Then she puts a cherry on top saying she’ll be “amazed” at how good it feels. Yeah, Margaret. You’re basically screwed either way.
Nucky smarms about “How do you order someone to commit murder?” and Fallon pretends that it makes no sense. Fallon keeps playing sycophant but Nucky’s in a pissy mood and whines for Eddie. He wants to know why the bourbon is empty and Eddie’s now reached the point where every American worker realizes he’s working for a total dick and sasses “Some-vun, drrrank it.” Ha! Nucky doesn’t find it nearly as funny, so Eddie says he will refill it. But Eddie also learns that total dick bosses don’t have senses of humor when Nucky snots at him to bring ice because “it’s sweltering,” furthering the “crazy from the heat,” theme.
Fallon brings up talking to Eli, but Nucky has a good head of pissy steam from Eddie and he just shoots down Fallon’s idea by pointing out that Eli’s in protective custody. As Fallon considers how much easier it is to work with a freak like Rothstein he suggests making Eli’s attorney an offer but Nucky says Eli’s not the real problem. The newly Bible-thumping Irish Catholic woman who’s banished Nucky from his own bed is their real problem. Margaret’s testimony will sink Nucky, but he lies that Margaret doesn’t know anything. Fallon doesn’t think it matters, if the jury thinks she can corroborate Eli’s and Halloran’s testimony she can damage their case.
Nucky, showing that he occasionally has the comprehension skills of a cranky toddler, says that Eli and Halloran are collaborators and will say anything. So Fallon explains again, this time with finger puppets, that’s why Margaret’s testimony can be damaging, because it would be an independent, third-party corroboration of their story. The phone’s ringing so Fallon makes sure that he says it as plainly as possible to make sure Nucky isn’t distracted: If Margaret testifies, Nucky’s screwed. Eddie comes in to tell Nucky that Chalky’s on the line.
Jimmy’s sitting in his attic window, seemingly to enjoy the sea breeze and a cigarette but he looks deep in some kind of dark thought. When Nucky and Owen drive up in Nucky’s Rolls, Jimmy gets another dark look on his face as he cocks his gun. While Owen and Nucky walk into his home Jimmy comes down stairs with his gun in hand, but when he sees Nucky and Owen in the sun room he puts the gun down and tells Owen he can wait outside. Owen, not realizing just how messed up, complicated and deep this relationship is, sasses Jimmy but Nucky signals that it’s okay and he walks off.
Nucky apologizes about Angela and Jimmy says it was Manny Horvitz. Nucky lies that he never heard of Manny. So Jimmy explains that Manny used to work for Waxy, that he came for Jimmy but got Angela instead. Nucky continues lying with so much sincerity that I almost forget he met Manny at the top of the episode. Jimmy offers Nucky a drink but seeing how bleary-eyed Jimmy is, Nucky says no, opting to let Jimmy do all the work. Jimmy pours out some on the floor and then gives us the episode title when he quietly says “To the lost.” Foreshadowing or not, that was really a sad, honest little moment and the difference between the two men was never starker, as Jimmy numbs his pain and guilt while Nucky hawkishly watches.
Jimmy tells Nucky that the Commodore is dead and he should have killed him when he suggested betraying Nucky. Nucky briefly reacts but doesn’t give away much so Jimmy says he’s thought about killing the Commodore since he was a little kid, but doesn’t know what stopped him. Nucky knows this feeling so he comforts Jimmy by telling him that he was Jimmy’s father and nothing looms larger.
Jimmy continues his story about visiting the Commodore when he was sick last season and the Commodore was scared and trembling. Jimmy remembers reaching his hand out to touch the Commodore and the Commodore told him he was a good son. Nucky’s taken aback that there was some kind of genuine affection, however brief, between the Commodore and Jimmy, so Jimmy says it took the wind out of him. Jimmy further says he knows there’s nothing he can say, but maybe there’s something he can do. And here this young man who was broken by every adult who was supposed to protect him is still trying to make right with the people who treated him so poorly.
Nucky steels himself and says all he wants is the truth. Jimmy says he was angry. Nucky asks about what, never considering how very many ways Jimmy’s been screwed and by Nucky, and Jimmy says about who he was, who Nucky is, what he’s been through. Then Jimmy tells Nucky he never meant for the shooting to happen. Nucky wants to know why it did, then, and Jimmy clams up. Nucky tells him he was the one who wanted to talk, so Jimmy tells Nucky it was Eli’s idea. Rather than blanch at just how Old Testament he and Eli are, he gets mad with Jimmy saying “And you had nothing to do with it?” Jimmy asks how to make things right, or as right as they can be, but the look on Nucky’s face tells us whatever we need to know, and I just ignored it at the time.
Margaret’s knitting down in the servants’ quarters, her new favorite place in their big house, and Nucky comes down, asking about her knitting scarves in that heat. She blows him off that it will be winter soon enough, but Nucky needs to speak with her. He launches into his speech about them both being raised Catholic, but Margaret’s so full of the Holy Ghost that she slaps him down telling him he lost his faith. He fairly asks her if there were a God would he have given him Steve Buscemi’s face? Margaret has no answer for that, so Nucky patronizes her a little by saying that there may be a being in the sky who stands in judgment and they’ll all find out soon enough, but his relationship with whatever that is doesn’t need rules. So he’s Unitarian, sorta.
That brand of Unitarianism is about 40 years off so Margaret wonders about a God that expects nothing. Nucky blue-skies it that his God expects him to love and care for his family. He sweetly tells her that there’s more God in the love he feels for her and the children than all the churches in Rome. He tells her he knows it’s been difficult but it will get better if they stick together. She’s softening to him as he continues about how much he adores her and the children and that his universe is in those walls… Margaret wonder what if she believes all that and Nucky says he needs her to marry him.
That phrasing tweaks her and Nucky admits that he needs her not to testify and Randolph can’t compel a wife to testify against her husband. D’oh! The mood broken, Nucky admits that he wants to marry her, too, but Margaret’s stuck on the whole self-serving aspect and wants to know why he didn’t lead with wanting rather than needing to get married. Thinking he’s respecting her Nucky says he didn’t want to insult her by pretending she wouldn’t be saving his life. He really needs to work on his delivery.
He admits to having done horrible things in his life and that he can see how wrong he was, and that God or no God, he’s sorry and doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in jail. He continues on trying to convince her, and knowing what happens later, this scene is just that much more repellant. As the kettle whistles, Margaret and her blown mind turns it off, telling Nucky that he’s always surprising but not giving him an answer.
Over at the Commodore’s Uncle Jun tells Gillian and Jimmy that the death certificate has been approved. Jimmy reads the cause of death was “accident” and Uncle Jun side-eyes him when he says it cost a pretty penny. Then he brings up the Commodore’s will. Gillian’s face goes crazy-eyed when she realizes he had one. Uncle Jun says it was from 1914 and that it was never revised. He left the bulk of his estate to Louanne Pratt, the servant who tried to poison him. Hahahaha.
Gillian doesn’t find it as amusing as I do and as she bitch flips through the will, Jimmy asks what happens if there is no will. The estate goes to Jimmy since he’s the Commodore’s next of kin. Jimmy confirms that, if he dies (heaven forbid, per Gillian) the estate will go to Tommy. When it’s confirmed, Jimmy snatches the will from Gillian and tears it up as Uncle Jun pretends he didn’t see a thing.
Butler comes in to tell Jimmy his guests have arrived but when Gillian tries to give him advice he shuts her down. She tries to defend herself, but he shuts her down again. With that she takes her leave, telling him he’s “the man of the house,” in a way that reminds us of how little respect she has for men. Neary, Patrick Ryan and an unknown minion are there and Jimmy brings up that with the Commodore’s “passing” things have changed. Neary suggests a street named for the Commodore while unknown minion offers his condolences, and Ryan remembers Angela and adds her, too.
Jimmy powers on that he’s been rethinking their position on Nucky, but Neary’s a buffoon and says he likes the position of “Nucky’s ass in a sling.” Jimmy suggests that they all recant their testimony and blame everything on Eli. No one’s too keen on that idea since Nucky’s halfway to prison, but Jimmy’s insistent. They think he’s not thinking clearly and some time off will clear his head, but they don’t want to change tacks because, as Neary says he “likes being treasurer.”
Next morning Margaret awakens to Nucky’s encouraging voice asking Emily if she’s the toughest, strongest little girl and Teddy cheering her on. Margaret goes to the window to watch as Emily slowly lumbers toward her brother and Nucky, looking like she’s witnessing a miracle.
As the children eat their breakfast with Lillian on the porch, Margaret comes to Nucky telling him he will escort her to church, where she’ll give the priest a full confession and then they’ll marry. Nucky thanks her but before he can go further she tells the children to say goodbye to their “father” then they go into the house, so Margaret can round up Katie to be a witness.
This segues into a montage of several scenes. Randolph is practicing her opening and her speech punctuates all the way her case unravels, as she mentions the death of Hans Schroeder over Margaret giving her confession and that Nucky enlisted his underlings into a series of crimes as Richard and Jimmy go to the AC Municipal Building.
Her speech gets more insistent and we see Margaret and Nucky getting married by Brennan as Jimmy and Richard walk down the hallway with a purpose, looking rather fetching while doing so. As she continues, we hear the wedding vows and see Neary banging the Treasurer’s secretary. What?
Oh, yes. He was their most helpful witness, blaming everything on Nucky, even global warming which didn’t even exist. Richard and Jimmy bust into Neary’s office while he’s in flagrante delicto. Neary’s none too happy with the interruption but, with two guns pointing at them, Jimmy sends the secretary out on a coffee break and tells her not to come back.
Back at the wedding, Randolph’s voice over informs us that Nucky is a man with no conscience, who orders murder like the rest of us order coffee. And this was before Starbucks made ordering a coffee a dissertation, so it was no big deal back then. As Randolph cleans up her lipstick, Margaret takes her vows and Jimmy’s dictating Neary’s recantation. While Neary type-type-types away, we see the long barrel of Richard’s gun at his head. That’s one way to get someone to recant his testimony.
Nucky takes his vows and then we’re back with Neary who really is a fool because he sasses Jimmy with Richard’s gun at his head. He thinks all he’s doing is signing a confession at gunpoint, but Jimmy tells him it’s not a confession as Richard shoves his gun barrel in Neary’s mouth and tells him it’s a suicide note. Oh. This is followed up by Nucky kissing his bride and Richard putting the gun in Neary’s hand as they leave.
As Randolph sums up her speech to a smoking but lame Lathrop, a municipal worker is screaming at dead Neary. The judge calls the court to order and Randolph outlines all the ways her case had been tampered with in the time it took her to get dressed: quickie marriage, suicide confession, testimony recantation. Fallon objects, resenting the “insinuations” but she points out they’re “accusations.” He smarms about how she’s grasping at straws because her case is unraveling, and that until she can prove her accusations she shouldn’t make them.
The judge calls the attorneys to the bench and Nucky looks back at dim, loyal Fleming who’s not looking quite so dim anymore. The judge tells Randolph that she won’t ever get a murder conviction with the recantation and with her main witness on the other accusations, Van Alden, high-tailing it out of AC, she can either continue this farce or let them call a mistrial and refile once she’s rebuilt her case. Randolph’s more ambitious than righteous so she takes the mistrial.
Nucky stands, triumphant, and Eli’s attorney hot foots it to request that Eli be released on his own recognizance, since he’s now on the hook. Nucky gives Eli a look as Halloran’s attorney also requests that his client get released, but Halloran’s the only one who actually confessed so he’s screwed. As Halloran tries to protest through his wired jaw, Fallon rushes Nucky out of the courtroom.
Gillian’s having a cigarette by the beach as Jimmy takes Tommy for a pony ride. They find a pony Jimmy likes and as Jimmy tries to cheer Tommy up the trainer comes by with an apple slice. Jimmy talks Tommy through feeding the horse and tries to engage the boy, but Tommy’s still pretty sad. As the trainer prepares the pony for Tommy’s ride, Jimmy’s very sweet and patient with the little boy, trying to bond with him and draw him out. He tells Tommy a story about how when he was little and it was hot, he’d come out to the beach and play “Robinson Crusoe.” Tommy asks if he played it with Meemaw, but as Jimmy looks at Gillian he tells Tommy no, he did that all by himself, and manages to contain the resentment.
With that moment passed, Jimmy puts Tommy on the pony and tells him how to ride: hold on to the saddle horn and squeeze tight with his legs. When Tommy seems skittish Jimmy tells him it won’t bother the pony and we see the briefest of glimpses of who Jimmy could have been if his entire existence hadn’t been destroyed by those who raised him. The trainer comes around with two hats for Tommy to choose from: cowboy or soldier. When the little boy chooses soldier, a melancholy look quickly passes over Jimmy’s face as he looks away, but he regains his composure to help the little boy fix his hat before the trainer takes him for the ride.
Jimmy watches Tommy ride off then looks back at Gillian as she languidly smiles and waves because she lost what soul she had long, long ago. Jimmy turns back toward the beach and Michael Pitt’s painfully beautiful face once again gives away his fate as his eyes are glassy, red-rimmed and resolute.
Nucky’s home as Margaret’s turning the bed down for the night. He greets his new wife thusly: “You’re awake. And I’m drunk.” Classy. He realizes this but Margaret says “honesty has its virtues.” Nucky says he was out celebrating with Fallon and Margaret “congratulates” him on his stroke of good luck. She’s a lousy liar, though, so Nucky tells her he knows what she’s thinking but he had nothing to do with Neary’s suicide which is factually true but a complete lie, which is how Nucky’s always operated. Plausible deniability. Margaret lies that she believes him and Nucky takes umbrage that he’s not responsible for all the misfortune in the world. No, only the ones you cause or order.
Nucky decides to take a different approach and asks if she saw the evening paper. Congress approved the road appropriations, so New Jersey will receive $10 million. Nucky points out that the land they have voting rights over will be worth a fortune and Margaret continues to patronize him. She does know Nucky has his limits, right? Nucky tells her he’ll need her to sign back the deed to him and she, again, seems to patronize him that it was only in her name for safe keeping. But Nucky must really be drunk because he’s buying her good cheer when she tells him he’s sleeping in their bed since they’re married and he tells her maybe she’s right. Maybe God is giving him another chance. Margaret’s expression says “Yeah, not so much.”
Eli’s boozing and sweating on his front porch as several of his 642 children run around. Nucky pulls up and as his nephews greet him we learn that Eli has so many children that one of them is actually named “Kermit.” Nucky joins Eli on the porch as Eli offers Nucky a drink. Even though Nucky thinks it’s early he joins in. Eli grunts out some small talk about the heat and Nucky adds “How about those Phillies and my brother tried to have me killed.” Oops. Eli just stares at Nucky, slack-jawed, so Nucky foolishly paraphrases Shakespeare asking “Et tu, Eli?” Eli doesn’t know what he’s talking about so Nucky tells him it’s from Julius Caesar. Since these things mean nothing to Eli he just wonders if there’s a character named Eli. Derr.
Eli continues to deny trying to have Nucky killed, but Nucky tells him his “partner” says otherwise. Eli wonders who this partner is so Nucky tells him “Jimmy.” Eli stands by the lie that it was all Jimmy’s idea and that when Eli tried to stop it, they threatened Eli’s life and livelihood. But he does remember how he did try to make amends with Nucky and Nucky treated him like shit before they brawled in Nucky’s atrium and Margaret booted him from the house at gunpoint. Oh, yeah. That.
Nucky’s not one for self-reflection or self-blame, though, so he tells Eli to confess to everything before Randolph can refile. They’ve worked out an agreement with the AG and he’ll only get two years and be out in one. Nucky promises to take care of June and the kids while he’s in prison. He points out that Eli could do a lot worse so Eli reluctantly agrees.
Rothstein’s looking at one of Luciano’s tiny heroin packets and is confused. He thought it was brown. Yes, that would be my first question. Lansky tells him some is as Luciano smokes his cigarette like he’s a silent movie gigolo. Has he always been so…precious? Knowing that Charlie’s just a goon, Rothstein questions Lansky about their supplier. They have a direct supplier downtown and Rothstein positively glows as he says they could start an import operation, say it’s “Chinese lanterns.” Lansky agrees with a “cut out the middle man.”
Things are going swimmingly and Rothstein is so happy about this new revenue stream that he doesn’t even think to question Charlie when he says, out of the blue, that they brought this idea to him first in a way that says “We totally wanted to screw you out of this but Darmody’s a loose cannon,” and Lansky saves it with an “Out of respect.”
Their meeting’s interrupted when Nucky calls. Rothstein congratulates him and Nucky gets to his point which is to see if Rothstein would have any qualms should Manny join “the departed” since Manny has a connection to Waxy and Waxy has a connection to Arnold. Luciano says screw him so Rothstein tells Nucky he’d have no opinion either way. Nucky tells Arnold that he has a decision to make and realizing he’s been plain spoken this whole scene, Arnold gives Nucky the sage advice to “Flip a coin. When it’s in the air he’ll know what side he was hoping for.” Oh, Arnold. Never make sense.
A cheerful woman is walking a family up stairs to show them an apartment. When she asks if they’re “church going people” a familiar voice rumbles…”WE ARE.” And Nelson! He, Sigrid and baby Abigail are on the lam and posing as a family somewhere in the Midwest. Nelson’s traded in his G-man suit and hat for a folksier vest and newsboy. He still looks like a wooden statue but Sigrid is resplendent in her pink and white. Landlady tells Nelson it’s a quiet town for quiet people and Nelson agrees to take the apartment. He pays the landlady two months’ rent in advance and the landlady welcomes “Mr. & Mrs. Mueller” to Cicero. Illinois? Wasn’t that Capone’s base?
Gillian’s playing with Tommy in the Commodore’s creepy library as Jimmy’s pouring a drink for him and Richard, laughing and telling a story about a platoon mate who got drunk one night and changed the words to Over There making it into something nonsensical and profane. It’s hard to see and hear, but Richard smiles and laugh right before he takes the glass. I swear.
His moment of mirth passes, though, and he tells Jimmy his own war story as a sniper. He spent most of his time moving from blind to blind, alone with his water, rations and rifle and would feel isolated and separate from his platoon when he’d come back. He wonders if that was where he was meant to be. Jimmy tells him no one was meant to be there, but Richard says that’s where they were and thinks he’s still there. Jimmy tells him it’s time to come home, but Richard doesn’t know how. Jimmy doesn’t know, either, so he earnestly asks Richard to promise that he’ll try. These two have built such a solid, devoted bond that I’m sorry I questioned Richard’s loyalty. He may be a half-faced, ruthlessly efficient killer, but he has such a capacity for loyalty, devotion and even love that drunken, numb Jimmy can feel it.
Phone rings and Jimmy staggers over to answer it. He’s cheery if a little fuzzy until Nucky says it’s him. He’s found Manny through Mickey and they can meet up at the War Memorial. But that’s not foreshadowing. Jimmy seems grim but determined when he agrees to be there. He looks over to Tommy then goes back to Richard to tell him it was Nucky.
Richard’s first impulse, as always, is to strap on the gun to have Jimmy’s back but Jimmy grabs Richard’s shoulder and tells him he’s got this on his own. Confused, Richard says he can handle the situation for Jimmy but Jimmy tells him this is something he has to do himself. Jimmy’s determined while talking to Richard but becomes unsteady when he hears one of Tommy’s toys in the background. But with a quick look to Gillian and Tommy he’s off.
Gillian hears the door slam and wonders if Jimmy left. Richard, as is his wont, is nervous and awkward but tells her yes before he joins her and Tommy in the library, telling her it’s something Jimmy has to do. Gillian’s a lot of things but she is not stupid and seeing Richard stay behind while Jimmy rushed off worries her.
She recovers quickly enough and tells Tommy it’s time for bed. As the little boy gets up, Gillian sees he’s wearing something under his pajamas, Jimmy’s dog tags. She wonders why he’s wearing them and the little boy says “So they can always know who you were.” Gillian asks if Jimmy gave him the tags while Richard flashes back to his own dog tag moment. Realizing why Jimmy was so adamant, Richard looks crushed. To the last bullet, right?
Gillian comes as close to breaking as she ever will, but puts the tags back inside Tommy’s pajama shirt and walks the little boy upstairs (fore)telling (dooming?) him that he’ll “be a big man in [AC] some day,” and as she pushes past Richard, “Just like your father.” Because those words worked so well for her son.
It’s raining at the War Memorial as Jimmy drives up. Nucky and Owen are already there, waiting in the Rolls and get out when they see Jimmy. As Jimmy walks over to Nucky, Owen is standing behind with Manny. Manny flaps on about Jimmy getting his revenge, but as Jimmy non-responds we see Eli walk up behind him with a shotgun. As he loads the barrel, Jimmy looks back but barely registers what’s going on. Owen lets Manny go to pat down Jimmy and we see that Manny was never really tied up.
Eli remembers Jimmy’s knife and tells Owen to check his boot, but Jimmy says he’s not armed, and Owen confirms. It occurs to me that of all the men standing there with Nucky, Jimmy’s the only one who feels guilt and wants to make amends. Manny doesn’t know Nucky, Owen doesn’t care about Nucky and Eli is so full of bitter, seething resentment that he can’t see straight but Nucky would rather work with snakes to exact revenge than forgive Jimmy’s mistakes.
Jimmy tells Nucky this is the only way they could have ended. Jimmy accepting responsibility and his fate and Nucky blaming Jimmy to absolve his own sins. Jimmy says he died back in the trenches and thought Nucky knew that, too. Jimmy’s at peace with what’s going to happen, but he wants to know who will do it, Manny, “You” (Owen), and then smirks when he says Eli? Nucky says he is. And in this moment, they all look so weak, standing behind their guns, thinking they’re invincible because they’re going to kill an unarmed man and leave his son an orphan because he hurt Nucky’s feelings.
Nucky looks squeamish and shaky, so Jimmy tells him the first time he killed someone he vomited for two days. Nucky’s getting more agitated and seems more ridiculous as Jimmy’s getting calmer, telling Nucky he’ll get through it, all he has to worry about is when he runs out of the booze and company and the only person left to judge him is… Nucky shoots Jimmy rather than hear the truth.
Owen, Manny and even Eli seem to realize just how pathetic this all was, and they went there not to right a mistake but to help a scared and angry man kill the child he helped raise but could never forgive. But, Jimmy’s not dead. Nucky shot him under the eye, like Richard’s signature but without Richard’s precision, and left him choking on his own blood. As Jimmy continues to choke, Nucky walks over and tries to sound righteous but lands on squirrelly as he tells Jimmy he’s not seeking forgiveness. Jimmy doesn’t cry or beg or plead and Nucky shoots him again. As Nucky looks around, Manny and Owen avoid eye contact but Eli, bitter, resentful Eli who actually wanted Nucky dead, nods.
We see Jimmy’s face as he lays dying and flash back to him in the trenches. It’s loud and chaotic and filthy and Jimmy, who only enlisted to get away from the hell his life was back home, is scared and waiting his turn to climb out and fight while another soldier falls back, dead, into the trench.
As Jimmy climbs out the shot fades into Nucky’s house the next morning. Margaret explains to Emily that the thunder was just angels bowling and nothing to be afraid of. They’re eating breakfast and Nucky strolls in like nothing happened. He grabs a cup of coffee and Margaret asks if he’ll be having breakfast but he has an early meeting. Then she asks about him coming in so late and he says he was “out.” Margaret smells bullshit so he tells her he “ran into James Darmody.” Like it put him out. Margaret looks hopeful but bemused and asks how it went. Nucky says fine. When Margaret finds that surprising he lies through his teeth that they “cleared the air” and that, it turns out, he’s re-enlisting, and he already left.
Margaret may have gone off the Catholic guilt deep end recently but she’s always been a practical woman and is no doubt remembering her conversation with Randolph, and probably wondering just how much of Jimmy’s death is her fault since she’s the one who put the mistrial ball in motion by marrying Nucky in the first place. Margaret gets a look in her eye that could be dangerous, but Nucky doesn’t notice because he never notices trouble from within, kissing Emily on the forehead and tapping Teddy on the head before he leaves.
With Nucky gone, Margaret goes to his desk and pulls out the deed to the 160,000 acres that are still in her name, then looks at the map showing all that land. Look for the Silver Lining starts up, but it’s not the Chet Baker version I love since that wasn’t released until 1959. As Nucky’s Rolls pulls up into a grassy strip of land in the middle of a cornfield, he’s greeted by Bader and Ernie, the land partner who introduced Nucky to McGarrigle (nice continuity) toasting to the new highway that will be built there. Fleming drives up with his own bottle of champagne and I notice that Eddie, and not Owen, is driving Nucky. Curious.
As Fleming says “It never hurts to remember your friends,” Margaret is signing over the deed. She begins to sign “Schroeder” but corrects it to “Thompson”…then signs it over to “St. Finbar’s Church.” Oooh. Margaret asks Katie to drop the deed off with Father Brennan while we fade out on Nucky and the gang toasting to “the future.”
So, that’s it for the season. I’d been inadvertently spoiled and it still shocked me when Jimmy was killed. But like I said, just watch the opening credits to know exactly who is safe.
I do appreciate that through his gabbiness, Jack Huston buried that lead because he talked about Richard and Jimmy and their friendship and the big surprises in the finale, but none of them seemed to lead to Jimmy getting killed. He really had nowhere else to go, but I’m sad he’s gone. He was diffident and inscrutable and I constantly commented on him being “practically dead inside” but Michael Pitt was extraordinary in the role and he’ll be missed.
Thank you all for reading my recaps and especially for your kind words. I loved the show last season, but this one, for me at least, really hit its stride and knew who these characters were. Having the opportunity to write about it was more than I could hope for, and this has been my pleasure.