Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 23 'Under God's Power, She Flourishes' ReviewDecember 09, 2011
"There's nothing wrong with any of it."
Oh, Gillian Darmody. How oh so very wrong you are.
After last week's chilling conclusion that left Angela and her lover dead on her bedroom floor, it seemed only natural that this week's episode of Boardwalk Empire would show Jimmy's reaction and, in turn, his retaliation. In this week's episode, 'Under God's Power, She Flourishes,' the creators truly threw me for a loop by instead showing, via alcohol (and a little bit of heroin) induced flashbacks, Jimmy remembering his time at Princeton, he and Angela's beginnings, and ultimately how his mother would come to ruin everything.
These flashbacks begin and end with hearing Angela's voice gently telling Jimmy that she "has to leave," which, despite the tumultuous relationship the two shared, comes across as incredibly heartbreaking. Jimmy is shown in his earlier college days, where he seems to actually be doing quite well, despite some reading aloud issues. He's friends with his professor, the envy of his roommate, and has quite a sweet little romance budding with Angela. It's not long before we discover what really was to blame for all of it falling apart, and that would be his mother Gillian.
At a college formal, Angela confides to Jimmy that she is pregnant and, although they don't know each other all that well (and, sadly, never really will), Jimmy wants to do the right thing and doesn't so much propose to her as promises her a good life. This moment of happiness is rather fleeting, as Jimmy's life begins to be utterly and completely ruined.
Gillian, who can't ever stand to not be the center of attention, begins flirting it up with Jimmy's professor and, in my opinion, puts on a front of being "roughed up" by Jimmy's teacher. This leads a drunken Jimmy to absolutely pummel his teacher, which obviously isn't going to bode well with his continued education. Angela, showing disgust, gets her first taste of the anger that lives inside of Jimmy while Gillian, who is absolutely beaming watching her son defend her honor, couldn't be more proud. As for Jimmy, the downward spiral continues.
Since Gillian's introduction to the show in the first season, where she initially seemed to be a secret girlfriend of Jimmy's, their relationship has been anything but conventional. Odd glances, kisses on the mouth; there has been a wealth of instances that hint at a relationship that was far more than paternal. It wasn't until earlier this season, though, when Gillian confided to Angela that when he was little, she used to "kiss his winky," that there was far more to it than some simple over affection.
Well, all of those moments came to a shocking, if a bit foregone, conclusion, when it was revealed that Jimmy and his mother have indeed had sex before and it's every bit as creepy and repulsive as one would have guessed. Both drunk and seemingly out of sorts, Jimmy is helping his mother to bed when she grabs him and begins kissing him, assuring him that nothing is wrong with it. At first, it almost looks like Jimmy is trying to pull away, which makes the scene even more uncomfortable to watch. By the time that he wakes up the next morning, Gillian is long gone leaving the life he knew in shambles on top of the knowledge that he just had sex with his own mother. This leads Jimmy to leave Princeton, Angela and everything else he's known behind by joining the Army. I can't help but think Jimmy joined up with a death wish, hoping to never return.
In a show that's filled to the brim with unbelievable actors, it's easy for Michael Pitt's work as Jimmy to take a back seat, especially this season where he quickly shifted from hungry go-getter to pompous man-child where he hasn't had much to do besides loom around and be violent every so often. This episode, however, was Pitt's chance to shine and he definitely did. Seeing young Jimmy, so full of hope and wonder, was as refreshing as it was heartbreaking, knowing the cynical, all or nothing man with several chips on his shoulders that he'd become.
Yet, it's not simply young Jimmy where he shines. After several days of drinking and remembering the past, Jimmy finally returns to Atlantic City where his mother, the true root of all of his troubles, begins planning Angela's funeral as well as what to tell Jimmy's son, all the while making snide comments about his recently deceased wife. When Gillian mentions that Tommy, Jimmy's son, won't even remember Angela, something inside Jimmy snaps. He lunges for his mother, choking her with both hands with the most intense look we've seen from him yet, simply muttering "I'll remember" over and over again.
It looks like this could be the end for Gillian, but the Commodore runs in out of nowhere, piercing Jimmy in the shoulder with a spear. The two men, father and son, have a battle of strength which the Commodore was seemingly winning until Jimmy's trusty blade, that's gotten him out of many a jam, found the Commodore's gut. Then, at the demand of an exasperated Gillian, Jimmy plunges the knife into the Commodore's heart.
I'm personally in a weird place with the flashback. Not so much the material, as I love anyone getting some worthwhile back story, especially a primary character whose past has been sprinkled here and there. I personally just feel that this should have come sooner in the season. If it airs earlier, there's more awareness of how much Gillian has ruined Jimmy's life, but there's also that sweetness him and Angela have that, by the time of her death, was barely remaining. It is Angela's death that causes Jimmy to reminisce, so I suppose it couldn't have happened earlier, or at least wouldn't have had as elegant of a way to provide the flashback.
My other conclusion as to why it came at this point in the season is that the finale is going to be almost all Jimmy. This season has followed his ups and downs even more so than Nucky's. Seeing as how there's no way Nucky's trial could be wrapped up in one episode, it's definitely going to take a back seat and probably be much of what makes up Season 3. I have a strong feeling that the finale is going to be the Jimmy show, much like this episode was, and Gillian and Manny's times are running out.
Although Jimmy was the spotlight of this week's story, some of our other favorites got some good moments, Richard Harrow being one of them. I've discussed the impressiveness of Jack Huston, who portrays Richard, on numerous occasions, but I simply cannot say enough good things about man. What he is able to accomplish with half his face covered and barely any dialogue is staggering.
After a cutting insult from Gillian, Richard goes into the Darmody bedroom and sees the pool of blood where Angela died. Angela was one of the few people to have been truly nice to Richard, accepting him without his mask. It's also been established how everything Richard wants, Jimmy had and now that's all gone. This makes me think that Richard is going to not only have Manny in his sights, but possibly Jimmy. Manny did the deed so he's obviously got to pay, but I can also see Richard putting this on Jimmy for not taking care of his family and for letting this happen. I could be wrong on that.
When Jimmy wakes up after murdering the Commodore, Richard is seen cleaning up the blood and gives Jimmy a slight nod before shuttering the doors. Everything could be fine and possibly there bond be even stronger now that they both want to avenge Angela's death. I just feel that there's going to be some form of animosity there, and, if so, I'm excited to see how that will play out.
Van Alden gets a bit more screen time this week. He opens up to his new maid about why he's distant with his family. He also seems to genuinely be happy and, feeling like karma may be working itself out, turns down an offer from Mickey Doyle to raid a big meet between him, Capone, Luciano and Lansky.
Van Alden also does as Rose insists and signs the divorce papers she sent him. Unfortunately for Van Alden, though, he hasn't yet suffered for all of his past sins. Last season, while attending a baptism, Van Alden drowned his partner Agent Sebso, and now some witnesses have come forward, which not only will see Van Alden pay for his crimes, but also conveniently will ruin him as a witness in Nucky's trial.
As he is about to be arrested, Van Alden snatches the agent's gun, shooting him in the foot with it, and high tails it out of the building. It seemed that the Van Alden character, as much as I love him and the work being done by Michael Shannon, was beginning to run on fumes so this "on the run" storyline could play out quite interestingly. Only time shall tell.
And then we've got Nucky and Margaret. Nucky's court case is looming ever closer, and it's honestly not looking very good, at least until the break with discovering Van Alden murdered someone. Margaret is still at wits end over Emily and her own personal sins. Margaret seems to be becoming even more entrenched into her beliefs, which is in turn creating a rift between her and Nucky. Nucky, fearing the worst with his case, is trying to ensure that she and the children are taken care of, but Margaret seems intent on being punished for her sins, although she isn't entirely forthcoming about all of them. After a heated argument Margaret sassily asks Nucky if he will hit her, thus being no better than her husband that Nucky had killed. Nucky, being a better man than the deceased Hans Schroder, reminds Margaret that he has given her everything.
I do find it a bit odd that Margaret is now constantly questioning her lifestyle and choices. At the end of Season 1, she seemed to have made peace with being with Nucky, and at the beginning of this season even helping Nucky out.
Now that her child has been stricken ill, her self-loathing is driving her mad and, although she's become taken with this idea of helping others, her intent is actually quite selfish. She wants to be forgiven and wants her child to be better. I can't blame her, but it's that convenient sort of belief that people simply utilize when necessary.
On the good end of it all, though, it is causing some friction between her and Nucky. While I like them together and have a feeling that Nucky may pop the question very soon, it is nice to see them have some drama between them.
And with that, we've got one episode of Boardwalk Empire: Season 2 to go. Nucky is facing his biggest problem yet, and although he's caught a break, it's not going away. Van Alden is now a fugitive and on the run. Margaret's guilt may lead her to testify against Nucky, which will undoubtedly be the end of them, if that were to happen. Eli is in jail and being tasked with testifying against Nucky as well, but that would take some swallowing of pride that I don't know Eli is willing to do.
And then there's Jimmy. He's got a vicious score to settle with Manny Horvitz, and from the glare he gave her at episode's end, his mother. He's also now, unbeknownst to him, been cut out of the new gang he helped create. With the way things are going, I think it might be time for him and Nucky to try and work things out, possibly to the benefit of them both.
- Matt Hardeman