Monday, October 20, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Five, Episode Seven "Friendless Child"

The penultimate episode of Boardwalk Empire was written by "Riccardo DiLoreto & Cristine Chambers and Howard Korder"--oh, WGA--and directed by Allen Coulter.

Old Man Duggan: With most of the secondary plot lines having resolved themselves or come back to the central arc, we get a pretty damn streamlined episode this week. Winter, Korder, & Co. made the efficacious move to advance the war between the Mustache Petes and the Young Turks--it's a goddamn shame they've not been using these names, by the way--by way of montage and press clippings to its conclusion. While the denouement for Nucky is still a week away, the war to overthrow Maranzano is reaching its own denouement this week, thankfully.

Wordy Ginters: Surprised Timmy Van Patton wasn't manning the helm this episode. Surely he'll get the call in next week's finale. You suffering from some Maranzano fatigue? That's been fixed. His character arc seemed a little tacked on. I find the role of Torrio much more interesting.

OMD: I'd like to think that Nucky's extinguished cigarette in a glass of Bacardi is a grander statement upon the standing of rum amongst other almost universally superior liquors. Fuck that bat. Fuck rum.

WG: Fuck that bat. Fuck rum. Also a goddamn shame that nomenclature hasn't crept its way into the script.

OMD: The actress they got to play young Gillian did a shockingly good job of channeling Gretchen Mol's take on Gillian. Their casting in the origins timeline is really quite breathtaking.

WG: Look, this show is a fucking gem. All facets. Casting has been outstanding all the way around, with the most counter-intuitive home run being Buscemi as the lead. Only one episode left. I don't know if there has been a prettier show to watch. The writing is top notch, too. It's not sexy, it's just fucking solid. Speaking of the origins actors, I just realized the lady who plays Young Nuck's wife, also plays a wife on The Knick. On that show, she is on the receiving end of some rather drastic cutting edge for the time psychological assistance via John Hodgman. It's deviant, brilliant, and shocking at the same time.

OMD: I've still got the entirety of The Knick sitting on the DVR unwatched for no good reason other than not really knowing what it is. I should rectify that.

Nucky is never served well by indulging in impatience. The move to grab Bennie Siegel seems at first to be a way in which Nucky might be able to swing some momentum his way. So much for that. Willie getting kidnapped erased that advantage. Of course, Nucky should have been playing chess and figuring Luciano and Lansky had a counter to his move.

WG: I couldn't fathom how the kidnapping was going to work out in Nuck's favor. When Siegel queered the hand-off and ultimately painted Nucky in the corner, it just underlined, for the millionth time, that Nuck is a stranger in a strange land. Not born of the silver spoon, and not tough enough to roll with the real gangsters, it appears his only remaining moves are murder for hire and insider trading.

OMD: The smoke ring settling in over Willie's crown while Lucky was on the phone arranging for the meet with Nucky was a nice touch.

WG: I'm glad you mentioned that. Was it not badass?

OMD: So what in the hell is going on with Mabel? Is it merely her fear of what dear Enoch is going to become, or is something more at play here? She's scared of something, according to Gillian, and her distractions and midnight pie-making seem to allude to her later suicide. Somehow I doubt it's merely manic-depression given the tenor of everything that has preceded this.

WG: The Big C? Depression? I'm telling you, the parallel's between Maya Kazan's character on The Knick and Boardwalk Empire are many. The two shows could share their psych ward sets.

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OMD: I guess Sheriff Lindsay drew the line at the umpteenth adolescent girl returned to her parents, services rendered/agreement terminated. Charitable acts. "Schooling them in the domestic arts." Jesus, Leandor could have represented Michael Jackson astonishingly well.

WG: That shit was grim. Terence Winter isn't painting a pretty picture of those in power, is he? Not too hard to read that as a grand point of the show: revealing the seamy underbelly of the "American Way." Not that pedophilia is the American Way, though it does seem to rear its head with disturbing frequency. Boardwalk Empire tends to make a mockery of the kind of down-home bromides that are plastered on the billboards behind Eli as he leaves his disheveled street meeting with Willie. In other words, hard work, honesty, free enterprise, and democracy are much easier to swallow in theory than in practice.

OMD: Indeed. Power corrupts and the most corrupt were probably sexual deviants from the get-go.

Mickey finally got what he wanted. Then I got what I wanted. He was always such an annoying shitheel. Unfortunately, the totally badass Arquimedes went down too. I'd have loved to see one last ear trophy.

WG: Archie was another in a long line of unfortunate deaths on the show. Spin off? Archie and Gillian open a restaurant specializing in Cuban sandwiches and erotic massage. Archie's catch phrase? Shut you fuck up! I get it though, Nucky is isolated down to the last drop. Mickey was a classic shitheel, he lived so much longer than I ever thought he would, I was kind of hoping he'd be the last man standing. We also haven't seen the last of that creepy young buck who may or may not be Darmody Jr., have we?

OMD: Can't imagine that we have.

I liked the fake out from D'Angelo meeting with the federal judge to the IRS agents coming into Maranzano's office. I totally thought Nucky was screwed until they started stabbing Maranzano. Glad Eli was the trigger man if for no other reason than that it means the brothers Thompson might be riding again, if for ever so brief a time.

WG: So much stabbing.

OMD: Torrio can't be too excited about being thanked for his help and then dismissed. Of course he's a eunuch at this point, but still.

WG: Another cool scene. When Lansky and Luciano rebuffed his idea to arrange the "one big family" mob meeting, Bugsy and a gaggle of party people came bubbling in ready to celebrate. A deep focus shot showed old man Torrio standing solo on one side of a pillar, and the new turks cutting a rug on the other side. The chasm between old and new couldn't have been any chasmier.

OMD: Joe's curiosity about watching someone die would seem to have a larger purpose. I don't think it's as easy as him being the person in whom Nucky sees his younger self. I still don't know what his endgame would be if he were Jimmy's son, but it seems like it has to bring the story full circle, doesn't it?

WG: Absolutely. He's cooking up something. Mustering. Pro tip: It's in the eyes. Mustering is always in the eyes.

OMD: Take note of that pearl, kiddos.

What gets lost in the shuffle of all this is that Nucky still has the Mayflower play in place. If we've learned anything during Boardwalk Empire's five seasons, it is that no scene is wasted. Clearly this angle must come into play in the finale. Can he parlay that into showing that he still has value to Lucky and Meyer? Is it enough to keep Nucky alive?

WG: I'll be astounded if he lives. If Winter had any balls, he'd end this one ambiguously just like he and Chase did on The Sopranos. MAYBE, a different Journey tune with an abrupt fade to black. "Feeling That Way/Anytime."

OMD: It should be noted that Meyer isn't exactly pumped to hand over Atlantic City to Pinky. Mightn't this play into Nucky getting a reprieve from them? After all, Meyer is the calm, measured one of the two. All that character work is unlikely to be for naught.

WG: They're telegraphing Pinky and wide-eyed virtuous milquetoast maybe Darmody Jr. pretty hard. I'd have to agree with you.

OMD: There were some surprises in Gillian's letter. I honestly thought that Nucky hand-delivered her to the Commodore, but it surely appears as though she made the decision on her own, though she shouldn't be held responsible for such decisions. Will helping Gillian be the redemptive salve for which he has been longing all season long?

WG: I'm eager to see how that connection gets made. Their was a montage scene that worked, so fuck off Trey Stone and Matt Parker. You fucking cowards. Bush takes us to war in Iraq for reasons still unclear to me, and you make a movie that picks on Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn? Goddamn it. Ummn. Where was I? Oh yeah, that montage was a great way to encapsulate Gillian's descent in the maelstrom - - which also happens to be a great Radio Birdman song.

OMD: While I hesitate to make predictions in general, this is the last Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire before the series finale. Do you have any?

WG: Nucky dies from a cleaver to the head. Eli shaves. Gillian seduces and kills her psychologist. Royals in 4.

OMD: All of that would be wodnerful. I'm thinking Meyer convinces Lucky to keep Nucky in place in Atlantic City only to have Joe off him as revenge for Jimmy's murder. Oh, and Dr. Giggles has gutted Gillian, who is a shell of her letter-writing self and basically a vegetable, because it's far too late for Nucky to have rescued her.

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