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The slow burn of Boardwalk Empire continues to spread through this episode. So far each episode in its first season feels like different steps being added to a ladder. For some, that dramatic pacing is great, but understandably, it can feel too tedious for others. Nights in Ballygran continues the parallel story arcs of Margaret being intrigued by Nucky, Jimmy in Chicago, Nucky being the king of Atlantic City, and Agent Van Alden slowly figuring out that detail. All of these storylines continue immediately where they left off last week.
Jimmy is nursing his prostitute/love interest’s disfiguring wound, while she spends most of the episode high on opium. It seems as if we’re supposed to think more of Jimmy than what we’ve been shown. He’s supposed to be a tough war veteran yet he seems soft; he’s supposed to be smart enough to get into Princeton but they still haven’t shown off his intellect. This episode does show that he has heart, since he’s still caring for Pearl in a situation where most men would go running. On the flipside of that, he hasn’t been away from home that long and he’s already sleeping with, and has strong feels for Pearl after just leaving his longtime girlfriend, who seemed like his unmarried wife. Of course, with the show still in its infancy, no character is fully developed, but so far Jimmy seems like a mix of being bland and hypocritical with his actions clashing with his supposed personality.
Nucky on the other hand is a somewhat complex character too, but his motivation and actions are much clearer. He’s a man that wants power and he’s smart enough to keep it and maintain it. However, in matters of romance he does act rather surprisingly. After seemingly being impressed with how aware and smart Margaret was last episode, Nucky acts surprisingly cold to her when she tries to give him one of her baked goods as a birthday gift. Since the response to his brother was about his life being complicated enough, it seems as if he’s trying to push her away since he’s starting to develop feelings. Margaret can tell she’s been given the cold shoulder and throws away her gift. What happens next almost seems like a chess match between the two, when Margaret notices a truck unloading alcohol near her house and she discovers it’s connected to Nucky.
Margaret’s intentions seem like a mixed bag; in one hand she does seem to have a sense of justice about alcohol, but she also seems upset that Nucky is ignoring her. For either reason, most likely both, she meets with Agent Van Alden and tells him about what she has found. He then proceeds to disrupt Nucky’s meeting, arresting the owner of the truck and factory of where the alcohol was being kept. Nucky then notices Margaret outside of the broken-up party and later goes to her home and kisses her… well, they’ll probably do more than that, but that’s where the episode ends. The resolution to Nucky and Jimmy’s arcs were somewhat surprising. It was obvious that Margaret and Nucky were eventually going to do something, but it happening so soon it wasn’t totally expected. Due to Nucky’s stance on women’s voting rights and his overall modern way of thinking, him wanting an actual partner as a love interest rather than a trophy definitely fits him. In a similar fashion, Pearl killing herself wasn’t too out of the blue, but again, it happening so quickly was shocking.
The episode was sprinkled with a few smaller plots, such as Nucky’s brother, Elis, wanting to give a speech at the prestigious dinner. It seems as if Elis wants to make the switch from just being muscle to having a public personality like his brother. There were some hints of animosity earlier in the series, especially when it came to how nice Nucky was to Jimmy, but Nucky, somewhat belittling his brother, forces him to the point of anger where he throws a drunken punch. The overall plot is definitely moving, but at this pace, it becoming a mainstream show seems unlikely. Heavily serialized shows can become huge, but Boardwalk Empire is lacking the dramatic tension and flair of shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Breaking Bad. It will be interesting to see how Jimmy losing his love interest and Nucky gaining one will affect the overall nature of the show.