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Boardwalk Empire Review: "You'd Be Surprised" (Episode 3.05)

October 15, 2012  |  10:40am
<i>Boardwalk Empire</i> Review: "You'd Be Surprised" (Episode 3.05)

The overhead shot of Rosetti, clambering down the hallway of human carcasses, belt-leash still tied, was his most graphic scene yet, in an episode just short of its coup de grace. As Owen reports to Nucky, “Four fatalities. None of them Gyp Rosetti.” Poor paperboy, you almost survived unscathed.

Last night the battle continued on, and we were reminded that in this business, friendship doesn’t exist. At the beginning Rothstein, angry that he’s even thinking of New Jersey, tells Nucky, “You think I entered into this arrangement because I value our companionship?” Then later, Nucky sends his own “friendly” overtures to Eddie Cantor in the form of Chalky and Dunn, making it clear that The Naughty Virgin is not an option. Nucky has a way of quietly “dampening” his relationships with those closest to him, and a recently betrayed Eddie reveals this to Billie at the end of the episode, asking her if he’s ever heard of Nucky’s pre-Margaret mistress, Lucy Danziger. And Nucky’s earlier stone-faced “apology” to Margaret after the awkward lingerie shop run-in reminds us just how quickly he can (and will) shut down on a person once he’s through with them. By the time Billie steps on the stage at the episode to sing “You’d Be Surprised,” it’s clear she’s aware of the bargain she’s made—and the type of person she’s become involved with.

I’ve increasingly liked Billie, specifically because she’s resisted Nucky’s “rescuing,” with her artistic whimsy and insistence on space. But this episode he finally shifted the power balance, and a tangible darkness seems to settle on Billie as she realizes that fact. Margaret and Billie are both shrewd and ambitious in their own right, yet powerless, and as Margaret points out, this is exactly the role Nucky’s most comfortable in. And so as it stands, everything they will accomplish, will be tinged by him. When and how these two finally wrangle out of his control, is I assume, going to get messy.

Boardwalk may not seem all that romantic of a show, but in a way it is, consistently unpacking why we rescue each other. I thought about this a lot last episode, in Nucky’s case, but also Sigrid, who just took her role as the supportive, confidence-inspiring wife to a whole new level. When she thinks a prohibition officer, or one of the “bad men,” is after her husband, she whacks him in the head, proving more than a prop in the case of George Mueller. (And further, had me wondering if assisted murder was not entirely new to the new Mrs. Van Alden). Her misguided rescue seemed to be an action inspired by true affection and loyalty, and I’m suddenly a lot more interested in watching their relationship unfold as things heat up in Chicago.

Stray Observations:
• Looking for a pick-up line this weekend? Try Means’ episode gem: “Your left shoelace is in a state of dishabille.”
• In retrospect, I sort of feel bad for Gyp during his meeting with Rothstein at the diner; between that and the asphyxiation thing, it seems like the guy really just wants to be loved in his own weird way.
• While Margaret and Billie still fight for their dreams, Gillian has given up on hers, sending the ladies to the porch. And, I wasn’t sure what she knew about Jimmy, but it appears she does believe her son is alive—or is clinging to the hope that he is.
• Margaret can’t write “vagina” on her flyer and her friend suggests to put a picture somewhere, like “kittens.” I would roll my eyes, except I’m at least 10 of the 16 million plus views on “Kittens inspired by kittens.”
• Whither Harrow???

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