Boardwalk Empire gave me the creeps several times over this week’s episode, “Ging Gang Goolie.” The show’s sixth episode in its season of gloom and doom, a lack of Al Capone and, strangely enough, Gyp Rosetti left things cold, but not in a necessarily entirely negative way. Good thing Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) was around to tug at our war-torn heartstrings. Gypsies, tramps, and thieves stole the show this week, and an ending I predicted would be suspenseful and shocking ended up being quite the opposite. No one died.
The episode opened this week with Margaret’s (Kelly Macdonald) greenhouse catching fire. “It was a gypsy!” cried probably pyromaniacal punk Teddy. “It was a púca a.k.a. a scary black rabbit from Ireland!” determined the seemingly not-so-supersticious Owen (Charlie Cox). “I’ve more than had it with everyone in my life,” sighed a defeated Margaret. I much prefer Margaret dealing with her family and love life as opposed to the sex-ed storyline she’s been given this season, though. I know she needs to create a legacy for herself beyond being a fantastic philanthropist using someone else’s dough, but to me, it’s getting old. I prefer her more so as a confidant.
We knew something was wrong when Nucky (Steve Buscemi) showed up at room 404 looking to drop off his pay, only to find an actual goldfish swimming in the fish bowl. Where was Means? Remus (Glenn Fleshler) arrived to drop off his money, too. This could only mean that something was up on Harry Daugherty’s (Christopher McDonald) side of things in Washington. Thus, Nucky headed off to D.C. in an attempt to sort matters out. Oh, and enough with the third person gig, Remus.
I have to admit, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) intrigues me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over what was revealed on last season’s finale, the revelation that essentially got Jimmy killed, but I enjoy her screen time if only because she never ceases to make me cringe. She’s entertaining, at least. Running a classy brothel isn’t working. Lucky (Vincent Piazza) attempted to get the hookers hooked on heroin to draw in some more money from clients. As he pointed out, no one is interested in Gillian’s whores when they’re dressed up like pilgrims. Unfortunately, staunch “businesswoman” Gillian wasn’t having any of it. She fired the prostitute and nixed Charlie’s plan to expand.
Mickey (Paul Sparks) and Eli (Shea Whigham) made a quick appearance this week. They made a stop in Tabor Heights to check in on Rosetti’s whereabouts. The worst police force New Jersey has ever seen played dumb, poorly enough, and Eli scared the top cop into compliance for future endeavors.
In Washington, an inspirational speech on moral fiber given by Daugherty to the Boy Scouts had his lackey in shambles. Blame it on a bad sausage and get out of there, men. The heat is on, and they need scapegoats fast. Nucky arrived just in time to crash an awkward meeting. Remus was there, as well. Who would take the fall for Daugherty. “Duh, Remus,” suggested Nucky matter-of-factly. “Not even,” responded the Attorney General. Remus is a close tie to his blubbering friend, and Harry wouldn’t sell out his own lackey. Nucky would have to do. Nucky wasn’t into that plan, though, and threatened to take Harry down with him.
Before leaving, Nucky bought a bottle of whiskey from the lobby concession stand and fell right into Harry’s first trap. He was arrested for buying the pint of liquor. Watching Nucky bored in a crowded cell was pretty damn funny, especially because we got to watch him interact with a guy who was arrested for selling a few crates of liquor and who clearly had no idea how big of a bootlegger Nucky was.
Richard Harrow ventured off to a veteran’s council meeting of sorts this episode. It was nice to see a little bit of that community this week, even if they were a bunch of angry bar brawlers. The government hasn’t been treating them right. An older fellow started taking jabs at the new younger crowd of vets, mocking them for fighting in France as opposed to Asia. Eventually, the bar tender had enough and challenged him to a fight. “The flagpole, 3pm sharp! Be there, be square!” Not really. In actuality “Veteran Fight Club” broke out the next evening, and good old Half Moon (Richard) was there to watch it all go down. Not that the old guy wasn’t a total jerk the night before and he was clearly not that old, but that young bartender was a little too excited to fist fight someone they called “old man.”
I love Richard Harrow’s compassion. He got made fun of the night prior but was right there to help out the old man who had been pretty banged up. Harrow clearly thought the man’s daughter was a babe when she came to pick up her dinged up and drunken father. They left in a huff, but the man dropped his war medal.
Teddy’s learning cursive now, and that was the scariest part of the episode for me. Cursive is Hell, I tell you. Flame fiend Teddy was found in Margaret’s friend’s garage with some kerosine. The friend was pretty nice about telling Margaret and not getting at all upset that the boy almost burned her house down. Couldn’t Margaret have given a simple, “hey, thanks”? Teddy got spanked. It wasn’t a real spanking. It was more like Margaret feeling like she had to give him something and getting it over with quickly. He barely felt the spanks, but she felt the guilt.
Gillian started clearing the house of Jimmy’s photos. It’s her tasteful brothel now, not his house. That night she wandered the boardwalk (we need a little more of the boardwalk this season, no?) and ended up stumbling across a Jimmy lookalike. This is where my creep-o-meter started to go a little wonky. I saw it coming, but the image of her sleeping with that guy was pretty damn gross. Still, I didn’t expect her to change his name from Roger to James. That little move broke my meter altogether. She offered to find him work, so we know he’s sticking around. This can’t end well.
Back in Washington, Nucky was surprised to find Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) handling the barrage of lame liquor cases. Five dollar fines thrown left and right left Randolph bored and embarrassed. Even the judge seemed to be in on it. Everyone’s corrupt! Having said that, I enjoy Esther so I was pleased when Nucky invited her to dinner. Nucky got off with a tiny slap on the wrist. I guess at the moment Harry just needs to keep things moving and, I don’t know, show that he actually goes to work? Nucky came up with a plan to team up with Esther, who is quite obviously interminably bored within her job. Nucky promised her a big fish, Remus and whoever is attached to him. She would have to stew it over, but it sounds like a plan. Why would she support a team of people who used her and then blamed her for it later? Nucky is up to his old tricks again!
Richard dropped off the “old man’s” medal and got to chat with his daughter again. The medal was actually her brother’s. This explains her father’s displaced anger. I’m thrilled to see a genuine love interest for Richard.
Did anyone else think the gypsy could have actually been Gyp Rosetti, as Margaret pondered? Gyp-sy? I don’t know, it just made sense that if Rosetti was on the loose, he’d have been toying with Margaret’s/ Nucky’s kids and starting fires. That was clever writing. I fell for it, well enough. As it turns out, Owen did catch a vagrant, and Teddy has been sleeping with a knife under his pillow for protection. He’s ready to kill… yikes.
Nucky ran back to Billie’s for a little comfort and ended up picking up a phone call from the sneaky Mr. Means. Were we supposed to think for a moment that Billie was working as an informant against Nucky? Nah, she was clueless. Apparently, he too will offer Nucky a deal of information, if the price is right. Can Nucky and Esther trust Means, or is this guy just looking to play them?
With all of the possible love interests being teased, it seems almost impossible for Nucky and Margaret to reconcile this season. Maybe that’s the point, but with Billie (Meg Steedle), the doctor, and Owen in the mix, it’s going to be tough. It does seem as though Margaret wants some consideration or closure from Nucky, as she exhibited in her phone conversation with him this week.
The episode ended with Margaret moving in a flash from brushing her hair, to calling Owen, to grabbing a gun. This was the scene heavily teased in the trailer for this episode. Would Margaret have to deal with Gyp Rosetti or another thug of his? No, it was just Owen meandering around her greenhouse in the middle of the night. Put a lock on that thing! Katie had told Margaret that Owen was out, presumably with her. I’m not sure Katie anticipated the garden sex Owen and Margaret would have, though. Maybe I would have felt a little more of a shock had I not anticipated a heavily advertised showdown between Margaret and a gangster instead of a sex scene that wasn’t very new to us, but I wasn’t too crazy about that ending.
Note: After letting things percolate, I’ve decided that I don’t think there will ever be an answer as to who really started the fires. I believe the fires to be more of an artistic liberty taken by the show as a physical interpretation of Margaret’s inner turmoils i.e. sexual frustration, managing a giant house, a crumbling family, finding purpose. A direct and literal answer would ruin that metaphor. In a show as realistic as this one is, sometimes a little nod to magic or religion or superstition is a nice touch, especially when it’s well written.
What did you think of the episode? Who do you want to see Margaret with? Will Nucky redeem himself by taking down Remus and the Washington team? How will Gillian outdo the move she pulled this week? Were you happy to see Esther Randolph return? Do you think we’ll finally get more Richard Harrow? Did seeing pictures of Jimmy Darmody remind you of what we’ve been missing?