Boardwalk Empire Recap: Diff’rent Strokes


On a show with so many boobs and so many murders, it was really only a matter of time before someone got murdered by boobs.

It’s Boardwalk Empire Season 2, Episode 4 entitled “What Does The Bee Do?” And if by “Bee” we mean Gretchen Mol’s “bee-oobs,” then the answer to that question is “they cause The Commodore to have a stroke.”

Waaaaaittttt aaaaaaaa minnuuuuttttteee… A high-ranking but generally mean-spirited antagonist suffered a crippling stroke in the middle of sexual passion? That seems awfully familiar…

So just how powerful is Naked Gretchen Mol? Here’s a handy diagram (NSFW):

Uhoh! The Commodore’s entire right side is paralyzed, and he’s unable to move, speak, or form thoughts that aren’t the elemental roots of swear words. So what does this mean for the Ocean City Mutineers (not the MLS team)? It means that Jimmy, Eli, and Gillian are in the middle of a hostile town-takeover involving like nine cities worth of famous gangsters and they’ve just lost all of their political and legal connections juuuuust after they all burned their bridges with Nucky.

As the 20s saying goes, they are “Up Chattanooga Creek without a paddleypoo!”

Over at the Thompson residence, Nucky is paid a visit by Owen Sleater, fresh off last week’s successful headbutting initiative. Margaret notices the obvious flirtation between Owen and the housekeeper Katy — it’s been three weeks and I can’t believe the show hasn’t cut to them having superloud sex just as your roommate walks in and asks what you’re watching and even when you tell the truth it sounds defensive — and this combination of housekeeper-informality and base jealousy (especially after Katy talked out of turn last week and figured out Margaret’s Don Draper secret) causes Margaret to crack down on the housekeeping staff and “reduce their wages.”

Even though Margaret chalks up their wallet-tightening to Nucky’s coming legal poopstorm, she’s clearly also trying to re-affirm her status over the housekeepers. Unfortunately, the wage-cutting goes exactly against what Nucky had already told the staff a week earlier when he stumbled home drunk and told them all he was raising their salaries:

Following the Commodore incident, Jimmy knows he needs to unload Mickey Doyle’s massive warehouse of liquor somewhere other than Atlantic City, and since there’s like five other cities in the country (and Deadwood and Dodge City are both too far away), he sets up a meeting with Herman Kaufman in Philadelphia to undercut the local boss Waxey Gordon (and in the process, Rothstein and Nucky).

Kaufman, a charismatic Jewish butcher, is the show’s latest ‘Super Smiley Character With Super Murderous Past’:

Just as Jimmy’s plan goes into action, Nucky strikes a deal with Rothstein and Waxey Gordon to also unload his cargo in Philadelphia. Uhoh! Anyone who’s seen the movie Philadelphia knows that their two shipments end up colliding and forming AIDS. Good one, Nucky.

Speaking of STDs, Nucky also rounds up six million prostitutes and Jack Dempsey (the only remaining 1920s personality who hasn’t been on the show yet – Margaret’s kid is Charlie Chaplin, BTW) for Mayor Bader’s birthday party, and when someone arrogantly explains how Nucky brought these prostitutes over from Philly to sway election votes with sexual favors, a lightbulb goes off over the head of some John Quincey Adams looking dude. The dude pulls Nucky into a side-room and explains that transporting hookers over a state line constitutes a federal crime, and therefore if they leak the charge to the local DA, the case can get rolled up into a federal case and end up right on the tee of Nucky’s Attorney General pal:

The episode also featured two sideplots: In one, Richard and Angela share some solace while Jimmy’s away in Philly, and Angela ends up sketching Richard with his mask off. Cute! And Chalky White, fresh off bail, starts internalizing the frustration of not being able to retaliate against the KKK or take care of the families of his murdered cohorts, so he takes it out on his daughter’s high class boyfriend by making a big stink at the dinner table for having to eat fancy smanshy duck.

Then, to really drive the ‘class’ point home, Chalky leaves his family to their fancy dinner and heads out to the shed to whittle a stick:

Agent Van Alden’s two new underlings begin to notice his strange behavior around money, and, sensing the opportunity to jump ahead in the thrilling Prohie community, they circumvent Van Alden’s authority and go out on their own to investigate Mickey Doyle’s warehouse with the giant neon “NOT BOOZE” sign out front. Unfortunately, one scene earlier, we get to see Owen fashioning a large bomb for Nucky and declaring “Someone’s going out of business,” and sure enough, the bomb goes off riiiiiight as the two agents are entering the warehouse, blowing the liquor to ye olde smithereens and putting half the agent’s face out of business.

If you’re doing a symbolism count at home, Richard has half a face, The Commodore had a stroke and can only move half his face, and now Van Alden’s overzealous underling had half his face singed off. Just as Richard’s violent past hides a secret tenderness and longing for a homely life, the darker two-facedness of the Commodore and the rogue agent result in both characters literally ending up with two faces. It’s just like that famous Batman villain, The Backstabbing Penguin!

The episode concludes with Gillian spoon-feeding the crippled Commodore in his bed. What an adorable scene that begins and will definitely remain adorable!!!

Ooop! Now Gillian’s vengefully telling the Commodore the story of the night they first met when he drunkenly raped her. WAAHHHHHH WOOWWWWWWW! He’s still despicable and she’s habored secret animosity towards him this whole time:

The episode fades out on Gillian furiously slapping the helpless Commodore, which begs the question: Was this seriously Gillian’s plan from the getgo? Was she only helping The Commodore to get close to him, or was she initially burying her hatred out of her desire to see Jimmy succeed then couldn’t take it anymore? And if she did plan this from the getgo, did she honestly bank on her sexual teasing of the Commodore to induce a stroke? Or was she actually going to sleep with him, and genuinely meant it when she said of their family “we’re all here now,” then 180’d later in the episode when she could no longer contain her hate for this now-crippled man and no longer faced repercussions if she unloaded on him?

Again, it’s been a very watchable season of Boardwalk Empire so far, though there’s been a distinct sense that the big “sh*t hitting the fan” confrontations are always on the horizon, with each week continuing to add to the tension — between Jimmy & Nucky and their corresponding Lansky & Rothstein allies — but delaying the explosion another week (besides the literal explosion that occurred this week). So what’ll happen? I’m guessing that Warren Harding will remian president for about 30 years and Al Capone is gonna get killed next episode, but beyond that, it’s all a mystery.

Boardwalk Empire episode 4 thoughts? Season thoughts so far? Things you like, things you hate, and predictions for the rest of the season? Leave ‘em all in the comments. Sorry this recap took so long, but as Cheech Marin said to the ghost Titanic, “Better late than never.”

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