Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 1 Recap: '21' Isn't So Lucky

Sep 26, 2011

SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t watched the episode yet, beware! I’m holding nothing back.
Episode 1 of Boardwalk Empire Season 2 did a great job of drawing up the battle lines, both clear and potential, for all of the show’s major characters. There are some you could see coming and others that were a bit more subtle in their potential. Check it out:

The season opens with the bootlegging business in full swing. Events pick up right were the last episode of season 1 left off with a few added changes. If you remember, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) decides that he wants to align with his daddy, Commodore Kaerstner (Dabney Coleman), who is fully recovered, or on his way to being fully recovered, from his former maid’s attempts at poisoning him.  Nucky’s brother, Eli (Shea Whigham) is chomping at the bit to take his brother Nucky out, but the Commodore sees fit to keep him a bit in the dark. Not a good look for Eli who jumped ship, I assume, because he was tired of being second fiddle to big brother. Eli, you will not find much luck with these guys either. I’m just saying.

We find out that the “Commodore and them” were behind the KKK attack on Chalky White‘s (Michael K. Williams) warehouse, filled with liquor of course. I was disappointed that Jimmy was in on this mess, but in a display of somewhat concern, Jimmy asks why they had to shoot a woman.   Jimmy, aren’t you a sweetie!  The hooded cowards shot up the place, killing several guys, and are about to body a very prone Chalky who took cover when shit got real, when a black woman with a shotgun shoots one of them in the arm. She gets shot, but Chalky’s people start defending themselves and the KKK–as is customary–take off running like punks. Chalky grabs a shotty and with cool, vengeful precision succeeds in shooting a Klansman in the neck. No more bullshit from you, bro! Unfortunately, this complicates things a bit for Chalky–a black man in the 1920s after all.

Nucky gets the news and heads over to Chalky’s house with Eli. Chalky reminds Nucky that he will take his people–the thousands of blacks who make the city “hum” with their hard work–and basically retreat from the shenanigans and do him. Nucky reminds Chalky that he’s black in so many words and killed a white man, a Klansman at that. This was hard to watch because we know that Chalky realizes this. I think we like Chalky because he’s a strong character with lots of wit and cunning. We almost forget that this man–even with his wealth–is still subject to the very real issue of race and racism. Damn, Chalky! Nucky and Eli opt not to arrest Chalky but tell him to stay his ass in the house. Nucky assures Chalky that he will fix things. As they leave, Eli–who obviously is not a fan of blacks but tolerates them when necessary–remarks that Chalky is one “uppity shine“. Oh, Eli! You have a way with words!

As usual Chalky had the sick one-liner: “Y’all gon’ school these crackers, lest you all find out” when asked by Nucky what he meant with his people. LOL

One character to watch is Richard Harrow, played masterfully by Jack Huston. He’s a very good assassin, don’t get me wrong. He’s got some cruel calculation under his mask, but I think that he’s a great example of the what happens when you send young men to fight a war and forget about them when they get home. Regardless, he’s a touching character, one that you can’t help but love. I have on good authority that several female viewers have a soft spot for him, so he might be a draw with the ladies. Which brings me to my next point.

In one scene, Jimmy and Harrow are being served breakfast by Jim’s wife Angela (Aleksa Palladino). She’s made this sumptuous breakfast, and Jimmy doesn’t seem appreciative. He feels entitled. Maybe he’s still pissed about Angie’s lesbian affairs last season. Who knows. They are married now, and living in a nice house on the beach, and she’s trying to be the good little housewife (we’ll see how long that lasts). As Jimmy consumes his breakfast, and Angela serves them more food, Jimmy’s indifferent. Harrow, however, thanks Angela for her efforts.

This is a subtle battle line. In one scene in the episode, we can see Harrow in his free time cutting and pasting together little collages of families eating together or having fun together. Harrow desperately wants a family. He wants to feel loved and he wants a family to love. Angela wants to feel loved as well, and her and Jimmy are just a horrible pairing. I’m sure the sex is on point, but these two people are just together out of convenience. Angela’s opportunity to indulge in her lesbian attraction is probably over for good. In the meantime, I think the right guy can ring her bells, and I think that Harrow might be the one. I think Angela is able to look past certain things because perhaps being bi-curious or bisexual makes her feel like an oddity in that time anyway. She might look past Harrow’s disfigurement. Either way, I hope Harrow gets someone to love him. I just want to give him a hug every time I see him. Shout outs to Jack Huston.

Oh, can we talk about Jimmy’s freak show mom? We all figured something wasn’t right with her last season. But after Angela confronts her for undercutting her as a mom with Jimmy, after Angela objects to Jimmy wanting to take their son out hunting (she relents and allows it), Jimmy’s mom Gillian (Gretchen Mol) gets on viper mode and tells her she was only trying to help. But in a STUNNING and creepy revelation, she admits to kissing Jimmy’s “winky” when he was a baby. What in the seven hells? I had to rewind because I thought I heard wrong. I did not. Wow… Either way, we can see that there will be drama between Angela and Gillian again. Gillian seems sweet but she’s not. She’ll screw you over big time. Watch those two.

Margaret Schroeder (Amy MacDonald) is still dealing with her moral dilemma in being with Nucky despite knowing he killed her abusive husband (he deserved it), but she’s still trying to find her voice. Even after she is slut-shamed by that annoying nun at her son’s school. Apparently her son likes playing with fire–thanks to seeing Nucky burn that house down last season–and was in deep trouble until a clergyman who is friends with Nucky saved his ass. Marge totally let that woman judge her. She needs to speak up. I think she will eventually though. Nucky is still having fun with the skanks at Babette’s, but he is playing more of the family man. Bribing Teddy to keep his mouth shut and not tell his mom why he likes fire be damned.

Agent Van Alden also got some time this episode. He and his wife even had sex. Wow! She was totally turned on after he raided the restaurant they dined at for serving bootleg booze. I want to see what’s going to happen with these two. They are both frigid, but I think his wife loves him and wants more affection. Wonder how she’ll handle the news–if she finds out–that he knocked up Lucy Danziger (Paz de la Huerta), Nucky’s old girlfriend? Lucy is still a mess. She’s shot down cruelly when she asks Van Alden to come lay with her and her gut full of human. He tells her to sleep in her own room after giving her some money most likely stolen from the raid.

I can see Lucy going to Nucky for help and giving Nucky plenty of ammo against Van Alden. We’ll see.

All in all, Nucky will have to grab the reins again. Things get hot for Nucky when he’s arrested for voter fraud. He obviously gets out, but I think Nucky knows things just got real. His feeling that Jimmy had something to do with the assault on the warehouse is nagging at him and he knows he’s losing Jim, especially after that tense exchange at the Klansman’s funeral. It’s funny that Nucky tells Jimmy that his father, Commodore Kaerstner, is a “duplicitous man“, but can be seen vowing allegiance and revenge at two different church events, one for the black community and one for the white/Klan community.

Is Nucky ready to take it there?