Boardwalk Empire

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Look Out, Nucky! They're Irish!

At the Celtic Dinner we've heard so much about, an Irish tenor sings of the song that gives this episode its title -- a gorgeously melodic tune about dying of alcohol poisoning. It's somewhat miraculous that he can be heard over the deaf bellowing of Nucky's father (who is played by Tom Aldredge, aka Uncle Pete on Damages and Carmela's father on The Sopranos), not to mention the commotion of Eli showing up late. Nucky looks to be anticipating the sweet relief of alcohol poisoning at this point. From the other side of the dais, the Commodore looks over at Nucky with a half-pitying, half-scornful expression. Nucky is introduced to speak, and at Eli's wheedling, Nucky presents his brother, the sheriff, for a few words. Both the Commodore (via a sidelong glance) and Pa Thompson (via a bellowed "...THIS one") express their incredulity at this. Eli's clearly nervous, and by all rights, his doozy of an opening line -- "Friends, Romans, Irishmen, lend me your beers" -- should make him even more nervous, but he manages to power through, and he even hits something of a stride when his speech quickly veers into firebrand invective against the English for their aggressions against the homeland.

But he gets one of the names of the martyrs wrong, causing one of the elders to correct him, and then another to scoff, "What does he know? He was born in the States!" This sets off a round of internecine squabbling between "native" Irishmen and watered-down Americans, totally drowning out whatever was left of Eli's speech and threatening to turn a gathering of Irishmen into a drunken brawl for the first time ever. Nucky has to act quickly before it gets to that point, so he stands up, tells a few self-deprecating Irish jokes, then quickly introduces the bagpipers. Classic. He then calls out the "leprechauns," in whose "pots of gold" they carry bottles of whiskey for the gathered revelers. It's notable, though not entirely surprising, to see that Nucky's glad-handing, make-em-happy school of politics trumps Eli's sincere (if clumsily rabble-rousing) attempt to talk of substance. Though it's not a complete triumph for Nucky, as he has to explain that the Feds found their stash, so no green beer this year. Like the Irish needed even more suffering.

Back at the brothel, Jimmy is telling Pearl to go easy on this latest laudanum screwdriver, while Pearl thinks they should head to Chinatown to smoke a bowl of it. These worldviews seem to be in conflict. She asks him to tell her a story -- something pretty. Just like all beautiful-but-damaged souls who are about to be put out of their misery want to hear. Jimmy tells her a story from his childhood, when a Mr. Lancaster, one of his mother's suitors, took both mother and son on a boat trip, to a secluded island where they ate lobster, where they planted the flag that Lancaster's father had run up at Gettysburg, and where it sure sounds like Jimmy felt the best he's felt in his whole life. And likely where his desire to serve in combat stemmed from. The story is so sweet and elegiac, Pearl sheds a tear. She asks Jimmy to tell her his mother married that man. Jimmy looks away, his reverie broken. Sure, Jimmy lies. "Happily ever after."

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Boardwalk Empire

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