Season 1, Episode 5
With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Nucky and his cohorts are preparing for the annual Celtic dinner. Green beer is on the menu, and Margaret Schroeder witnesses the barrels being unloaded behind her house. When she and a fellow Temperance League member visit Nucky’s office to report the incident, he outs her for having been at his birthday party and makes it clear that any action he takes against the bootleggers is no personal favor to her. Of course, he takes no action at all: The next morning Margaret finds the men going about their business as usual, and when Nucky refuses to see her, she heads straight to Agent Van Alden. “I’ve been lectured to a great deal today by men who speak boldly and do nothing,” she tells him, before fingering Ward Boss Neary and implicating Nucky.
In Chicago, Jimmy Darmody is working out some of his mommy issues with Pearl, his favorite disfigured prostitute. Between feeding her generous doses of opium and fantasy, he advocates on her behalf to Johnny Torrio, who wants her gone by the end of the week. And go she does: With a self-inflicted bullet to the head.
An increasingly icy Jillian Darmody has comfortably set up camp in Jimmy’s apartment, where she serves his toddler whisky and offends Angela by offering to raise their son so that the latter can live out “her youthful adventures.” It turns out Angela is managing fine: Jimmy’s suspicions about her affair with the boardwalk photographer appear to be right on.
After Agent Van Alden & Co. raid the Celtic dinner and arrest Neary, Nucky comes face to face with Margaret, who is singing a prohibition song among a chorus of protesting Temperance Leaguers. Later that night, Nucky shows up at her door: “I have no time for games, Margaret; no interest in them.” And then they get it on. But has Margaret leveled the playing field? We know that Nucky’s aim, first and foremost, is to keep himself in a position of czar-like power; and that his power comes from keeping enough people (and the right people) happy. We also know that he is genuinely taken by Margaret, who has given him a taste of just how much damage she can do him if he rebuffs her. What happens when political objectives mingle with emotional desires? Does one subsume the other? Nucky and Margaret’s nocturnal embrace temporarily satisfies both of their carnal urges as well as their necessary political alliance. But in the light of day, Nucky has much more to lose.
Bored to Death
Season 2, Episode 4
It’s becoming more and more difficult to draw a story out from underneath the heap of literary references and distorted paeans to New York that is Bored to Death. Mercifully, Ted Danson’s George—the only lead on the show who’s playing it straight—has a developing arc that affords him a generous amount of screen time. This week, his stage-two prostate cancer also gets him out of rehab after he bombs his company drug test, and it gives us one of the episode’s best line deliveries, from Big Love’s Mary Kay Place: “I’m going to speak very slowly, because you’re probably stoned right now.”
Having made the mistake of reading a vaguely unflattering Jonathan Ames interview, I’m ever more suspicious that Bored to Death is an exercise in thwarted narcissism. At the center of the show is an existential struggle that has a particularly high prevalence among urban-dwelling creative types: Would you rather be happy or interesting? Which is really a question of where you find your identity—within yourself or in the eyes of others. This week, Jonathan is occupied with sizing himself up—against his cartoonish nemesis Louis Green, and his new client, a wheelchair-bound one-time novelist who teaches creative writing at the fictional Midwood College, where Green works as an adjunct. Schwartzman’s portrayal, too often reminiscent of Max Fisher on a high school stage, only adds to the farcical tone of his scenes, which may or may not be intentional. Once again, Jonathan escapes acute danger, and he successfully reclaims the professor’s valuable copy of On the Road.
Things are looking up for Ray, whose comic alter-ego Super Ray is a huge success. Surely his peripeteia (and bedding of Jonathan’s former client) will cause some tension within the trio, which could add some much needed dimension to the show—assuming the upcoming episodes showcase more writing than typewriting.