What a crazy episode. The tide has clearly turned in Nucky’s favour in Atlantic City: his lawyer has an ingenious plan, Owen Slater is good at blowing things up, Chalky is out of jail, and the conspirators are vulnerable as a result of the Commodore’s untimely stroke. By the episode’s completion, Nucky has exacted some costly vengeance against Jimmy, while Gillian violently slaps around a stroke victim…
Let’s begin with the Commodore’s stroke, brought on to some extent by the excitement of Gillian’s striptease. Gillian’s striptease was filled with violent metaphors (the story of the stag torn limb from limb by dogs, the arrow she shoots at the Commodore) and the Commodore goes into a stroke that leaves him in a vegetative state. Basically he’s only able to say the word: “cock.”
Gillian lies about what caused the Commodore’s stroke, “I found him like that”, she tells the doctor, while Eli worries about their plans. The Commodore’s cronies have loaned Eli, Jimmy and the Commodore a substantial sum of money, but without the Commodore’s steady hand on the throttle, the conspirators are vulnerable. They decide they better quickly off-load the booze they hijacked from Nucky.
It was only the last episode in which Gillian claimed that she has forgiven the man who raped her, and certainly the striptease would indicate that she’d meant that honestly. Once he’s vulnerable however, her trauma and resentment bubble up to the surface. In the episode’s final scene she recollects the night of the rape, and the memories are clearly still so traumatic that she repeatedly slaps the incontinent Commodore. The scene is all sorts of offensive and tough to watch, which, is in large part a credit to Gretchen Mol’s simmering acting performance leading up to Gillian’s violent outburst.
An interesting part of the episode’s structure is the competing deals that Nucky and Jimmy make to ship booze through/to Philadelphia. Nucky goes through Arnold Rothstein and Waxy Gordon and though the deal itself isn’t consummated by the end of the episode, it seems like Nucky has found a way around the Commodore’s embargo.
For Jimmy, Sleator’s bomb has destroyed Doyle’s warehouse and left him very much in the lurch. Jimmy was looking to ship booze to a Mr. Horowitz in Philadelphia. Mr. Horowitz is a scary fellow who runs a butcher shop and fancies himself a rival to Nucky’s Philadelphia counterpart Waxy Gordon. Anytime a character is introduced in a crime drama, and spends the entire introductory scene handling a knife – he’s not someone you want to mess with. Horowitz, remember, paid Jimmy upfront for the booze that was lost in the fire – so Jimmy will need to be pretty diplomatic in next weeks episode, or he may end up in pieces in Horowitz’s cooler.
At the Mayor’s birthday party, the showgirls (who Nucky, remember, originally didn’t want to have at the party) reveal themselves as being from Philadelphia initially. The over-heard conversation gives Nucky’s lawyer an idea, get the girls to sign sworn statements at the attorney generals office, and have the case moved to the federal court (where Nucky’s political connections can get the case dismissed). Looks like everything is coming up Nucky!
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Chalky was illiterate, and a comment left by one of our readers challenged my interpretation. Alan Sepinwall also seemed to disagree with me in his (much better) review of the episode. Based on this weeks episode, we can safely conclude that my “Chalky is illiterate” interpretation is the correct one. Chalky has clearly been released from prison, and as he joins his family for breakfast his youngest daughter asks if he can check his homework. Ostensibly he won’t because “he’s too strict,” but when he looks to his son to verify that claim, his son responds doubtfully. Pretty clear if you add that scene with the one in the prison cell two weeks ago, that Chalky White is, in fact, illiterate.
Chalky’s illiteracy and “country ways” are the focal point of his characters conflict in this episode. The poor guy has been in jail for a week and all he wants is some damn Hoppin John, but his wife and daughter are hoping to impress the girl’s suitor, so Chalky White’s table is instead set with duck, peas and a bunch of other good stuff. Chalky explodes, and nearly ruins the evening.
Chalky’s superficial refinement is all pretension, and it’s rather ill-fitting, which, is what is pointed out at the Chicken Bone Beach parliamentary session as well. Chalky is clearly responsible for handling some basic issues those in the black community of Atlantic City (labour issues, neighborhood issues) but he’s confronted by the wives and mothers of those who were killed in the KKK raid back in episode one. They’re skeptical of his “promises” and one is particularly obstinate – as she questions his very position within the community. That Chalky is an extremely simple man underneath his “unofficial” political clout and outward appearance is not something that was obvious to viewers last season; and it’s good to see Michael K. Williams given more to do this season.
Finally the explosion was a great visual, and the way Agent Clarkson burned following it was disturbing and gruesome. Clarkson is onto Van Alden’s personal corruption, which, is why the agents were at the warehouse in the first place. Van Alden’s wife is also onto her husband’s personal immorality – as she has checked and knows that he isn’t at the boarding house anymore. The fact that Van Alden’s co-workers and wife are beginning to suspect that something is amiss with the uncompromising zealot, is a sign that the weight of Nelson’s secret (that he has impregnated Lucy and paid her to carry the child to term) may be too much for him to bear. There is nothing more dangerous for the inhabitants of Nucky’s Atlantic City (and more potentially entertaining for the audience) than a desperate Van Alden – so lets hope this particular noose continues to tighten.
Owen Sleator is definitely impertinent, especially when he’s poking fun at Damien while constructing the time-bomb, but he’s more than just “cheeky,” he’s a full on bad-ass. When he shows up at the house at the beginning of the episode, Margaret is none to pleased with the courtesies paid to him by her maid Katie. It’s been suggested elsewhere that Margaret has something of a crush on Mr. Sleator – so it’s worth watching to see if this is addressed in a subsequent episode.