Boardwalk Empire

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Many Happy Returns

Out with the Dramatic Catholics and their ceremonial hoo-hah, Margaret, Nan, and the kids join the congregation as they traipse through the cemetery, throwing holy water on all the stones. At least all the children got to dress up in their costumes. While Nan idly asks Margaret questions about what she prays for, Margaret spots one headstone that makes her stop short: It's for Mabel Thompson, and her son Nucky Thompson Jr. "So you have that in common," Nan says, telling Margaret (and reminding us) that Nucky told her about his dead child when they met in Chicago. This is all news to Margaret, of course, and she reacts to it like a giant piece of the Nucky puzzle has finally been put into place.

Nucky's on the phone with Torrio while Eddie clumsily shines his shoes. Torrio's asking for some trust as he tries to set up a meeting with Rothstein. Nucky, understandably, is reluctant to make this particular leap of faith. Though, honestly, I don't think Nucky mistrusts Torrio. I think he's just trying to play up what a wide gulf this is for him to cross. He's already negotiating. Torrio says he'll set up a meeting out Nucky's way. Eddie fumbles around Nucky's shoes, and Nucky yelps, "Ow, goddammit!" Torrio: "The train! How you think?" Ah, Terrence Winter. That was a Paulie Walnuts line if I ever heard one. Eddie goes to answer the door as Nucky dons his Lone-Ranger style mask for the Halloween party.

Of course, who else ever shows up at Nucky's door but Margaret, this time telling him she knows about his dead son. She's armed with sympathy and she's not afraid to use it! Even Nucky recognizes the pattern here: He pours his heart out, she "pretends to be sympathetic," and they wind up in bed. Margaret coolly assures him that's not going to happen this time. Now's the time for real talk. So Nucky tells her the story: Almost eight years ago, when he was brand new to the treasurer's job, Mabel gave birth to "tiny, frail" Nucky Jr. But Nucky was very busy with county stuff. One night, he came home and found Mabel rocking in her chair with the baby in her arms. Finally, Nucky found the strength to want to hold his own son, only to discover that the baby in Mabel's arms was dead and had been for several days. Margaret starts to cry at this, though Nucky continues, talking about Mabel's sad mental deterioration. She couldn't accept that their baby had died, even after they buried him. "She had broken with reality," Nucky says. "I saw it. I knew it. The doctor said time would heal her. And I was very, very busy." Nucky says this with the slow, clipped grimness of a man who hasn't forgiven himself for what happened next. A few weeks later, Mabel slashed her wrists with Nucky's razor. "The times with you and the children in the house," Nucky tells Margaret. "I've never been happier. Or more terrified." Margaret wipes tears from her eyes. "And you thought I needed saving," she muses. He asks if she's leaving Atlantic City, and she says she thinks it might be for the best. He goes to help her out, but she pulls back. Still choked up, she tells him, "There's a kindness in you. ...How can you do what you do?" That's the question, right? And Nucky gives the answer: "We all have to decide how much sin we can live with." And so "Mr. Thompson" and "Mrs. Schroeder" part ways with the same greetings as when they met. Margaret adds, "I'm pleased to have finally made your acquaintance."

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Boardwalk Empire

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