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‘Boardwalk Empire’ Review: “Ging Gang Goolie”

HBO

This week’s ‘Boardwalk Empire‘ continues the theme of relationships and business and where the two meet, though it doesn’t quite match the intensity of last week’s proceedings or the thoughtfulness of the episode from two weeks back. It’s a lot of table-setting in “Ging Gang Goolie,” but damn fine silverware that is indeed.

While many viewers seem to take issue with Gillian Darmody — and rightfully, at times — I find her character to be one of the more psychologically intriguing. She’s a woman who wears refined clothes with falsity and tries to dress up the oldest profession in the world with fine perfumes and linens. Let’s face it — Gillian likes to cover the crap in sugar to make it more palatable, not only in her professional business, but in her personal life as well. Lucky Luciano pops in for a go with one of the house prostitutes and nearly succeeds in giving his heroin business a new market, until Gillian catches them and absconds with the drugs, sending Luciano out the door and firing the young lady. The heroin she places in her garter never resurfaces this week, though I was thinking we might see a lonely Gillian try to fill her void with drugs; instead, she fills her void with a young man who looks a little like her son Jimmy.

Yes, it’s a little jarring and gross to watch them have sex and hear her refer to the guy as “baby” before telling him she’ll call him James from now on, but I don’t think this is entirely a callback to the unfortunate sexual affair she had with her son that was revealed last season — rather, I think Gillian is a woman who is confused and lonely, and the love she has for Jimmy — while it is rather unnerving — is one that has her confused. Desperate to hold on to his memory and keep him alive she takes her denial and re-routes it in her brain. She doesn’t have to let him go if she can just replace him, you see, the way she’d replace a window treatment or the bad piping in the house.

But speaking of Gillian — what’s up with Richard Harrow, who’s been absent for two weeks now? He’s decided to attend a veterans’ meeting at the local American Legion, where an older vet by the name of Sagorsky is starting fights with the younger guys and totally getting his ass handed to him. Harrow looks kindly upon the weak old man and takes care of him until his daughter Julia arrives, at which point Harrow seems to have found his new love interest — and that’s really it for him this week, though I suppose any amount of Richard Harrow is better than none at all.

Nucky has popped over to DC to meet with Gaston Means, only to discover he’s not at their arranged meeting place, but good ol’ Remus has stopped by to meet with Means as well. With the trial underway, Nucky knows that someone will have to be the patsy, and he’s hoping he can get Harry Daugherty to throw Remus under the bus — but that would lead the feds right to Daugherty once they discover the obvious connection between Remus and the sweaty, fragile Jes Smith. When Nuck gets busted for a pint of liquor and taken before an evening court, he bumps into our old friend Esther Randolph (it’s about time she came back around) and attempts to use her to take out the troublesome trio — it would be a career-making case for Randolph, but it would also eliminate the trouble of Daugherty, Smith, and Remus, who is currently the biggest bootlegger in the states, giving Nucky a more profitable enterprise.

Randolph is a smart woman, but she’s also been punished with the job of prosecutor for the attorney general, working in the night court with an apathetic judge who isn’t interested in prosecuting criminals as severely as they should be — and as such, she’s desperate to get back in the game and do the job she set out to do back in Atlantic City, by taking the big guys down, even if it means she’ll have to tussle with her own boss. And if she isn’t fully convinced yet, she will be when Nucky gets the information he needs from Gaston Means — that is, if we’re to believe the phone call Means placed to Nuck over at Billie’s apartment was genuine. Means has shown in his brief time on the show that he’s a cunning guy with his fingers in every pot, but he is a man who, like anyone else on this show, needs to protect his secrets, and Jes Smith looks like he could crack at the touch of a whisper.

Back at the Thomspon house, someone has set fire to the greenhouse. Teddy claims it was the gypsy he’s seen milling around the neighborhood, but when the neighbor finds Teddy in her garage with kerosene and matches in his sack, Margaret believes it to be him and punishes him accordingly, with a few awkward spanks on the bottom. As small and insignificant as the act might seem in the scheme of the show, Kelly MacDonald’s wordless performance here as she slaps her child’s behind, tears welling in her eyes, is powerful stuff. It’s more embarrassing for her to give in to such a punishment as it is for Teddy to take it. Later, Owen reveals that they did indeed catch a vagrant — he set fire to the greenhouse inadvertently while trying to keep himself warm. This particular plot is the weakest of the batch this week, serving only to get Owen and Margaret around each other enough with the latter feeling fragile (from the break-in, from her unfaithful husband) so they can reignite their affair. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want them to continue to hook up, but given Owen’s position with Nucky, it’s a dangerous liaison and one that spells certain death for Owen should Nuck ever find out — and as these things go, he probably will.

Gyp Rosetti sits it out this week, but his presence is still largely felt in a meeting between Mickey Doyle, Eli, and the new Tabor Heights sheriff, who begs them to believe he and his officers had no idea Gyp would be killing Nuck’s guys in that robbery. Eli and Mickey (who proffers a signature Doyle chuckle at the idea of Gyp in a dog collar) leave the sheriff with a warning in the form of a request — let them know the moment that Gyp returns so they can take care of it. And I’m sure we’ll be seeing Mr. Rosetti again next week.

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