BOARDWALK EMPIRE RECAP: Is This “I Love Money?”

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This is a Recap of Boardwalk Empire Episode 2, “The Ivory Tower”, originally airing September 26, 2010. If you thought the first episode was Olde Timey Gangstery, then hoo boy, you were correct in that evaluation.

Episode 2 of the ‘Walks picks up with Nucky getting a visit from the resident prohibition agent, the joyless, no-nonsense, no-sympathies, yes-hat Agent Van Alden:

Live-Action Rex Banner isn’t buying Nucky’s explanation that Hans Schroder, the baker’s assistant with one minor arrest 10 years ago, mastermined the previous week’s gangster mass-murder, and shrugs off Nucky’s shady offer to speak with the sheriff, Brother McIncahoots. We find out later that the agent isn’t just mad at Nucky but also generally joyless, evidenced when he writes this unromantic letter to his wife:

Van Alden returns to his supervisor with the series-establishing line that compared to Arnold Rothstein, Nucky Thompson is the “much bigger fish.” Congratulations – you watched the opening credits.

After the jump, Al Capone beats a reporter, then some not the most famous gangster ever gangsters do some other gangster stuff:

Meanwhile in Chicago, we open on the giant funeral procession for Big Jim Colosimo, the gangster who got shot in the face last episode for playing a record real loud. Press agents hound the pallbearers asking Johnny Torrio if he was involved in the murder, and I don’t know who he is because seriously this show has like ninety characters right now. But his companion, Al Capone — easy to remember! — shrugs the reporters off all Al-Caponelike.

Later, a reporter comes to Capone in a speakeasy asking him to give a statement about the murder, and Al gives him the statement “Hey I am hitting you with this bottle”:

Having Al Capone in the show really helps things, because he’s super famous and you never forget which character he is. Every character should be someone really famous. Jimmy? He should be Teddy Roosevelt. Rothstein should be Charlie Chaplin. And Margaret is Abe Lincoln. Not should be – she is Abe Lincoln. That’s the subtext I got from this episode. Just wait a few more weeks, it’ll be revealed.

Speaking of Rothstein, he’s surprisingly uncool with Nucky stealing his own liquor shipment and selling it to Chicago, and demands $100,000 to cover the damages, which in the 20s was literally 9 trillion dollars. Nucky’s like “Go buzz off like Ruth Buzzi!” That was the most vulgar insult back then.

Rothstein takes his frustration out by interrogating the guy who shot Big Jim with a really badass story about making a dude choke to death on a cue ball. But my guess is he’s gonna let the murder slide and let the 100 grand slide then go buy a slip n’ slide and slide down it.

Margaret is recovering in the hospital by reading Henry James’ The Ivory Tower — titular line! — and gets a visit from Nucky’s brother Eli, who shadily gives her money to ensure that she won’t deny her husband’s involvement in the gang shooting:

In other financial matters, Nucky demands that Jimmy pay him the $3,000 from his share that he was shorted. Sidenote: Gangsters are always shorting each other money, aren’t they? Here’s my impression of a gangster: “You shorted me, where’s my money, see? I’m a gangster!” That line was originally gonna be the title of this show.

Jimmy gets the money by selling his mother’s necklace that he was originally gonna give as a gift to a showgirl [Correction: That showgirl WAS his mother - thanks, commenters!] — seriously, so many humans filmed in this thing — and hands the cash to Nucky, who immediately loses the whole amount on one roulette spin. Burn! Gonna take Jimmy a lot of Fatty Arbuckle watching to get over that one.

Also, Jimmy and his wife are having sex and their kid is right next to them and wakes up. Zuh?

In general, pretty solid second episode of the ‘Walks (gonna keep calling it that because it sounds so uncool), even if it was basically a “react to stuff last week, set up stuff for coming weeks” transition episode, and not a traditional television “things happening” episode. I dealt with Lost for like 15 years, these things don’t bother me anymore; it’s like once you’ve been on a 14 hour flight, you no longer get restless on 5 hour flights. Especially if those flights crash and cause time mysteries.

Much has been made over Steve Buscemi’s role in this series — my colleague Alex Zalben called him the show’s central problem – but I’m still torn on the casting decision. On one hand, it’s a different role for Buscemi, and his alternately reserved and passionate demeanor is both unpredictable and interesting, if a bit uneven. On the other hand, though, part of me wishes HBO had gone with a semi-newcomer in the lead role, giving someone the chance to really inherit the role independently of their own notoriety, like James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Ian McShane in Deadwood, or Mrs. Blankenship in Mad Men. Or just straight up given the role to Mrs. Blankenship.

That about wraps up the recap for this week. Oh also, some boardwalk guy was trying to sleep with a 19-year-old and she finally was giving him an HJ in the car and  a dying guy stumbled onto the road and scared them. Also, Nucky is giving Mickey Doyle’s business to Chalky White, because his name is even more olde timey. Also the prohibition agent stole Margaret’s ribbon and was sniffing it.

…The f*ck?

Boardwalk Empire episode thoughts? Series thoughts? Evaluations/predictions? Favorite/least favorite parts? Buscemi feedback? Leave it in the comments.

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