If there’s one thing that defines this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire on a fundamental level, it’s sex, or perhaps more particularly, sex appeal. From the exchange between Gillian and Luciano, one-time lovers let’s not forget, the topic of sex immediately crops up when Charlie tries peddling heroin onto the very girls he just bedded despite them being his own employees. Gillian’s insistence on her establishment striving to remain a place of respect, modesty and a belief that a classier establishment is what men really is a somewhat laughable notion in the face of Luciano’s frank but accurate summation: it’s a whorehouse.
When the argument escalates into Charlie pointing out that the house is not Gillian’s, but Jimmy’s, Gillian is forced to confront a plain truth that she already knows but persists in ignoring. Just when we think she’s beginning to accept Jimmy’s death by collecting pictures of him and storing them in a safe, she strolls the Boardwalk, finds a dashing young man who bears a rather striking resemblance to her deceased son, and seduces him. As you do.
One can barely begin to unravel the many layers of screwedupness Gillian possesses, but suffice to say seeking out, seducing and then bedding a man who could be the doppelgänger of your dead son is not the recommended nor routine process for grief counselling. While Gillian and Jimmy’s relationship was never the run of the mill mother-son dynamic one expects, and we learned late in season two’s climax that Jimmy had indeed done the deed and fulfilled the Oedipus complex, this took things to a new level of messed up. She even rechristens poor Roger “James”. I’m predicting she finds him a job at the brothel – sorry, Pleasure House, to keep him close and in her bed.
Then there’s a chance encounter between Nucky and Esther Randolf, seasoned prosecutor from last season who tried to have our leading man sentenced to life imprisonment if not the death penalty. Rather than allow petty vengeance take him over, Nucky pursues an opportunity with Randolf to take the attorney general himself, now another obstacle in his way. Randolf’s buffer is transparent and it’s obvious in no time at all she’ll be pursuing this very line of inquiry with Nucky. What struck me most about this exchange though was just how much Nucky would benefit from a woman like Randolf in his life. He continually pursues women of a younger generation, and though fairer to the eye, it’s an intellectual equal Nucky really needs, not the belle of the ball or a trophy wife. Despite the irony of them playing on opposing sides of the law and Randolf’s clear conviction in her role, they’d make a far better couple than he and Margaret, and certainly he and Billie.
Last and not least is the rekindling of the flame between Margaret and Owen. This can obviously only end badly. There’s no way we’re going to endure another three or four seasons of an on going affair between Nucky’s most trusted ally and his wife while he remains ignorant, as he certainly wouldn’t be tolerant. Rumours are circulating that Nucky sends Owen to dispatch Margaret from this world at the season’s end when he comes upon knowledge of her having an affair with the good Doctor Mason. Given this episode’s closing moments, that seems somewhat unlikely, though it would make for an impressive finale, and last season’s is certainly going to be a tough act to follow.
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