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In the Boardwalk Empire universe, the time has come for the characters to all take a good long look in the mirror. From Nucky, trying to balance seeing himself as a good man and the debaucherous life he leads, to Margaret imagining herself as Cinderella transforming from commoner to princess; to more minor characters such as Agent Van Alden with his strange obsession with Margaret and Lucky Luciano, who finally realizes it’s not Jimmy’s wife who he’s been sleeping with, but his mother. All around the show, everyone seems to be being forced to confront the lies they’ve been telling themselves so they can sleep at night.
First and foremost is Nucky, who confides, to a topless ukalele player no less, that he wants to be a good man, only the circumstances around him keep pulling him down. He sees Margaret, a kind woman from the old country, as an opportunity to be this good man, but in the end, his business life will always win out. This week that means he needs to stand her up in order to wine and dine a man who can help him politically. Nucky’s girlfriend Lucy, who has never seemed to be the most observant type, isn’t mistaken when she sees Margaret as a threat to her. This lead’s her to tell Margaret that Nucky has often made attempts to lead an upstanding life in the past, only to be drawn back to crime and to Lucy in the end. She’s not lying about this fact, but it still doesn’t deny Margaret the opportunity to (finally) tell Lucy off in spectacular fashion, comparing sex with her to a piano-playing chicken whom everyone tires of eventually.
Margaret is the character who has undergone the most radical transformation from the start of the series until now, going from a poor, abused housewife railing against the evils of liquor to a pampered mistress of a bootlegger. She tries to see herself as a central character in a fairytale, like princess Anastasia from a few episodes ago. But throughout the episode multiple characters, such as her former neighbor and her new neighbors at her apartment paid for by Nucky, all refer to her as a sort of prostitute. And in her current situation, she finds it impossible to argue with them.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Jimmy is making his way up the ladder of Torio’s crime family, but realizing that things between him and the hot-headed Al Capone are not destined to last forever. While it’s fits thematically, the Chicago plotline can’t help but feel like a part of a separate story. It was a curious decision the writers made when they had Jimmy head out of town so close to the beginning of the show. Instead of first taking the time to establish Jimmy’s relationship with Chucky and making it a bigger deal when he was forced to leave, we were left to infer all of that information. While I like Michael Pitt’s performance as Jimmy, I’m hoping he returns to Atlantic City and the rest of the cast soon. I’m not sure how much longer I can stay invested in a character so outside of the central plot of the show.
As much as I’ve been enjoying the slow build of Boardwalk Empire so far, I’m feeling ready for the different plot strands to start coming together. I’m hopeful that now that these characters are starting to see themselves as they truly are, and not as they wish they were, the conflicts that have been brewing between them will come to the surface. It’s been a fun ride watching these characters and plot strands be built up, but without some fireworks soon, my lack of patience might start to get the better of me.