Boardwalk Empire

Episode Report Card
Joe R: B- | 3 USERS: C
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Take Me to the River

A man hangs upside-down, his face red with anguish as he struggles against unseen restraints. We're supposed to be thinking this is perhaps the latest D'Alessio brother to be cut down on Nucky's slash-and-burn march to the sea, but no, it's merely The Great Hardeen, brother to Houdini, trying to escape from a straight jacket while hanging upside down. He's actually not very good at it, taking about seven minutes to do what Houdini could probably do in half that time. Margaret and Anabelle applaud him anyway, while a sour Nucky sits on his hands and Harry Price sweats over some unspoken turmoil.

At the Darmody What's-the-Opposite-of-Love Shack, Jimmy and Angela poke at their dinner in silence, before he gets a phone call from Gillian. "My father's dying," he explains to Angela. He's promised his mother he'll go visit him tomorrow.

Agents Van Alden and Sebso are dining out at the local Chinese restaurant (cue the appropriate Asian harp plucking). At this point, Van Alden is just throwing shade at everything Sebso does, from his proficiency with chopsticks to his claims of regret about the Winslow shooting -- it's all suspicious to Van Alden. He tries to go over the incident moment by moment, his eyes getting crazier and his vocab drifting closer to that faux-scripture cadence he favors ("under the pretext of his need to micturate"??). I just realized: replace Van Alden's Christianity with beets or arcane survivalist knowledge and Nelson Van Alden becomes Dwight Schrute. This doesn't help my increasing weariness with his antics. I can't say it's entirely due to my Michael Shannon ambivalence, either. I actually get a kick out of how it seems to both offend and obsess Van Alden to have to talk about Winslow whipping it out to take a roadside pee. As the character has gotten more manic, he's gotten miles less interesting, and this episode -- what's to come -- really takes him past a point of no return. And really, did we need another story about Christian repression manifesting itself in violence and perversion? Anyway, Sebso repeats his story once again, and Van Alden bluntly (predictably) refuses to eat the dirty, heathen Chinese soup.

Up in Nucky's apartment, Hardeen uses his dubious illusion skills to pull some sleight-of-hand on Margaret and Anabelle. The ladies eat it up, which perturbs Nucky all the more. Not that Hardeen isn't a puffed-up gasbag. When Nucky notes that Houdini managed to pull off the straight-jacket trick while hanging off the Garden Pier, Hardeen defensively smirks that the principle of the escape is the same whether hanging five feet or fifty. Which seems to sum up Hardeen just fine: smug in his conviction that he's just as clever as his brother, but he's not half the showman. So who gets remembered? Anyway, all this time, Harry's been sweating and fidgeting and very obviously anguished about something. When all that fishing doesn't elicit one bite, he finally blurts out in frustration and asks if anybody even reads the paper. Apparently he's in financial ruin, swindled by a New York money-making scheme run by one Charles Ponzi. Don't these people know anyone who isn't historically significant? Nucky doesn't so much empathize with his friend as he chides him for believing such a return on investment was possible. Anabelle, however, is more concerned. "You're completely broke?" she asks. At this, Harry's woe-is-me routine morphs into some very unconvincing "We'll be okay, baby!" bright-siding. She doesn't buy it, as she shouldn't. "You fat, worthless fool!" she shouts before storming out, Harry panting and waddling out behind her. These two are delightful, the Gold-Digger and the Fat One. I'm really glad they've arrived to brighten up the canvass. Remind me of these guys the next time someone compares this ensemble of characters to Deadwood.

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Boardwalk Empire

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