Boardwalk Empire

Episode Report Card
Joe R: B+ | 1 USERS: A-
Check Your Lease, Man. You're Living in Nuck City

Nucky and Jimmy duck into Babette's Supper Club, a typically rollicking flapper joint where a tuxedo-clad Crazy Laura on a Hot Tin Roof takes Nucky's coat and hat and tells him his brother is waiting for him upstairs. In fact, it's not only Eli Thompson (county sheriff) waiting upstairs, but the entire Atlantic City ruling class, including the mayor, various local functionaries, even Jimmy. But with Nucky at the head of the table, the power structure is clear. He leads the men in a toast to "those beautiful ignorant bastards" in Congress, whose passing of the Volstead Act will make liquor illegal at midnight, and will make them all very rich men now that they can be bootleggers and profiteers. I have to admit, that does sound WAY more fun than "treasurer." What follows is a somewhat clumsy roundtable debate on just how profitable this new world order will be -- Nucky figures people want booze and will pay what they're told to -- but which doubles as a way to introduce the bureaucracy. For our purposes: Eli's the sheriff, the mayor seems largely impotent, and Nucky's the man. (I was amused by one councilmember's scoffing that "They might as well outlaw smoking." Naw, just tax the hell out of it to prop up the state budget, while simultaneously shaming and finger-wagging those very taxpayers into their inevitable designated smoking zone on a barge in the middle of the Hudson.)

The men are boisterous and jocular (and merrily dismissive of any kind of Federal impediment to their new arrangement), all but Jimmy, whose general glumness could be chalked up to the fact that the "war" he alluded to earlier ended barely two years ago. But there's also this: after Nucky takes a moment to acknowledge Jimmy and his heroism, he segues to the equally young Patty Ryan, who is taking over as chief clerk of the 4th ward. Jimmy will be his "man Friday," in Nucky's words. Jimmy's face clearly registers discontent, while Patty's registers the look of the college-boy type who will likely get his face bashed in by Episode 5.

Back in the main room, Babette's clientele count down the minutes to midnight, at which point the black balloons fall and they all raise a glass to ... temperance, I guess. Perhaps also irony. In any event, as the joint gets to jumping and Nucky bunny-hops alongside the woman who may well have inspired the term "floozy," I can say Prohibition looks like the party event of the season.

Jimmy's still grumpy, though, which a momentarily perturbed Nucky takes notice of. Jimmy makes an excuse about an upset stomach and trudges off. The next day, we see Jimmy at home with the wife and kid. If you haven't seen the episode, I bet you could still place everything in the kitchen right now, down to the dirty cabinetry, the toddler's ruddy cheeks, the wife's drab housecoat, and the pot of (porridge? gruel?) she's slaving over. Early 20th century working-class trappings, you're as enchanting as ever. Jimmy's grousing over a newspaper article about why Jack Dempsey wasn't really a draft-dodger; his wife, Angie, is credulous, but Jimmy says it's a "bill of goods." Nobody would give up that great an opportunity to go to war. Angie puts a hand on her hip and stares at Jimmy until he responds: "Princeton wasn't exactly the heavyweight championship." Again, this is the kind of narrative flat-footedness you forgive in a pilot, but we can hope here's where it'll stay. Angela still wants Jimmy to go to Princeton, but Jimmy knows they can't afford it. At the very least, she thinks he can learn a lot working for Ryan. Jimmy turns to his son and opines that "Ryan's a sap." The kid parrots it back, which elicits the first smile of the series for Jimmy. He says he's going to talk to Nucky about finding a better arrangement.

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Boardwalk Empire




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