Boardwalk Empire Watch: Paris Green

Literally, Paris Green is an as-yet unmatched brilliant green pigment discontinued today because of its deadly, poisonous properties associated with – you guessed it – arsenic. Considering the episode “Paris Green,” I’d say the title is apropos for a number of characters, most obviously the Commodore and Angela, but we also learn that Margaret’s star doesn’t shine quite so brightly for Nucky, and Nelson continues to stagger towards his end – poisoned by his own doctrine, to be all obvious with it.

Nucky and Margaret: Split City We begin the show with Hardeen – Houdini’s brother – performing for a small audience, including Nucky, Margaret, Harry, and Annabelle. They go back to Nucky’s parlor, where Hardeen continues entertaining and, after one illusion, Margaret is in disbelief, for she knew what he was doing yet he still managed to succeed. BWE pulls no punches and leaves little room for interpretation as Hardeen says, “Deception requires complicity…”

Hardeen’s living requires deception, just like Nucky’s, and he hits it squarely when he says, “Every shell game needs a mark.” Of course he was saying this about Harry’s financial troubles, as Harry has been swindled in Charles Ponzi’s now notorious financial schemes in 1920s New England. Annabelle – quite obviously in it for the money and perks – leaves him immediately.

Later, Annabelle comes to visit Nucky in his office. Harry took all “her” money, and she is begging Nucky to do something about it. As he gives her enough money to get through the summer, she tells him she’d do anything for him, including sex right then. Considering I’m a Nucky and Margaret fan, I was happy he declined, but when it’s revealed that Margaret was standing at the door, she is none-too-amused anyway. She came to tell Nucky that the Women’s League would be endorsing Edward Bader; as she storms out, she says, “I’m glad I could be of use to you.” Obviously, Margaret is having great concerns about her “arrangement” with Nucky.

When next we see Nucky and Margaret, she decides to let all her thoughts out. Nucky’s clueless where it’s coming from, and she says Agent Van Alden came to see her and told her that Nucky is capable of anything, that he’s not a good person. He lashes back, claiming she’s no better than he is, bringing out the Lysol she uses to self-abort any would-be babies of Nucky’s. She’s furious, and brings up her husband’s murder and Nucky’s alleged role in it. He never openly denies this, nor does he admit it. Both are obviously shaken, but the truth of the matter is that Nucky is right: she’s been complicit and knowing the whole time; she’s never said no until now.

By the episode’s end, Margaret has left Nucky altogether for now. What will happen to her, I have no idea. I can’t help but think that it doesn’t end well for Margaret, because Eli is right about her. When Nucky visits him, Eli flips out about “this woman” being a liability that Nucky created. While Nucky doesn’t admit that Eli’s right, he can’t deny it either. But then Eli takes it too far, blaming Nucky for all sorts of things and insulting his leadership. In what I thought was classic Nucky, he strikes back by saying, “It’s too bad you didn’t see Hardeen the other night…He’s an entertainer. If he wasn’t Houdini’s brother, nobody’d give a fuck.”

One cannot know for sure – whether it was the Commodore’s words last week or Eli’s behavior this week – Nucky’s next move will certainly have significant ramifications. Taking out some of his anxiety on his cronies, he then tells them that he has accepted Eli’s resignation and offering the position of sheriff to Deputy Halloran. Everyone obviously knows that Eli as done no such thing, but you don’t question Nucky Thompson. Regardless, I’m very intrigued to see the repercussions of this.

The Commodore In other news, the Commodore is dying. It’s no surprise when we find out that he is Jimmy’s father. As a favor to his mother, Jimmy pays him a visit, where we gain a little self-analysis from Jimmy when his dad calls him stone cold: “I am what time and circumstance have made me.” We find out that the Commodore was 54 and Gillian 13 when Jimmy was conceived. Jimmy’s never forgiven his father for his actions, but it appears that his mother has come a long way, for she and the Commodore are “close.”

When Jimmy goes to see his mother after this, he wants to know more about the beginning of things with the Commodore. It turns out Nucky played a large role – playing pimp, as Jimmy says – fixing the two up. While Jimmy seems genuinely bothered by this, it’s only momentary, as Gillian says that Nucky has taken good care of them all the while – that “he’s been kind – in his way – to you and me both.” Meanwhile, she’ll be spending some time with the Commodore – nobody should die alone.

As the doctor and Gillian are treating the Commodore, Jimmy walks in the room. He helps the doctor take a hair sample and tells his mother to go home for the night – he’ll stay with his dying father.

In the morning, Richard Harrow arrives on scene to talk to Jimmy about the D’Alessio brothers – it’s about time we get some fallout from last week. It turns out, they’ve gone into hiding. Richard wants to go to Philadelphia and kill the rest of their family to make the guilty brothers stick their heads up. Fortunately for the D’Alessios, the doctor appears at that moment to tell Jimmy that his father is being poisoned with arsenic. In his mind, there’s only one person that could be doing such a thing.

Jimmy confronts his mother about the doctor’s findings and the can of arsenic he found at the Commodore’s. We never see her admit to it, but we are definitely under the impression that she is the guilty party. Jimmy, however, has her back all the way, saying that he will support whatever course of action she chooses to take going forward.

Full Nelson Agent Van Alden is relentlessly interrogating Agent Sebso about the Billy Winslow incident, and rightfully so. Something doesn’t add up, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. When they stumble across a rural baptism ceremony in the woods, Van Alden seems to recover his righteousness that he lost last week. As he listens to the deacon adamantly say that “every road leads to a reckoning,” you can see the wheels turning in Van Alden’s head.

Eventually, Sebso and Van Alden exchange some fierce words with each other about why Van Alden doesn’t trust Sebso. Van Alden notices Sebso is wearing new shoes, and he indicates that temptation does not discriminate. To prove himself to Van Alden, Sebso accompanies him back to the baptism in the woods. Unfortunately for Sebso, Van Alden had other plans. In the funniest line of the episode, before getting into the water, Sebso takes his shoes off, hands them to a bystander, and says, “I just bought those.”

Once in the water, Van Alden proceeds to drown him in front of the entire church population. Once he’s dead, Van Alden even seems stunned at what has happened, but quickly erases any notion of remorse by screaming, “Thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked!” I think it’s safe to say that Nelson Van Alden has re-acquired his self-acknowledged superior moral code, but it appears that it’s going to be his undoing as well. I can only think that his time is nigh.

Other thoughts/takeaways

• Angela is stood up by Mary. After careful planning and packing for Paris, she leaves a note for Jimmy on the bed. However, when she arrives at the Dittinger’s store, she finds nothing left of the couple. I knew something was up during Mary and Robert’s exchange about the “wicked” games they play, so I wasn’t too surprised. How will Jimmy and Angela react to this? Will it get violent? Will she leave anyway? Too bad this continues to be the worst storyline and I don’t care if I never find out.

• Rothstein is called to Chicago. The heat surrounding the Black Sox Scandal is growing, and his lawyer tells him it would be smart for him to come to Chicago, make an appearance, and think of someone there who might do him a favor.

• We never really see Gillian admit to poisoning the Commodore. While Jimmy says at the end, “It turns out he’s going to live,” that doesn’t necessarily indicate that it was Gillian. For all we know, it could have been the housekeeper. That being said, I’m guessing that Gillian and Jimmy blame it on the housekeeper no matter what.

• What’s the deal with Lady Jean, the psychic. We’ve seen her and her shop make several appearances this show. Perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but I don’t seem to understand the significance.

• I have a hard time understanding how the last episode is going to wrap up so many different storylines – Eli’s “resignation,” Margaret leaving Nucky, Agent Van Alden’s crazy, Angela and Jimmy, the Commodore, the election, the war between Nucky and Rothstein.

• No Chalky. No Lucky. No Meyer Lansky. No D’Alessio brothers. What the hell happened this episode to further the looming war? Unfortunately, nothing.

I’m fairly disappointed in this episode. BWE has been building up to a war between Nucky and Rothstein all season, it seems. After last week’s killings, I thought for sure that some serious action awaited us this week between Rothstein and Nucky, but we got nothing. It’s damn frustrating on many different levels, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that this episode killed some of the momentum. It’s the 11th episode of a 12-episode season; I’m just confused by where they are taking this season finale.

Do I still think it’s the best show on television right now? Yes, but this episode leaves a lot to be desired. It wouldn’t have been so disappointing were it not the second to last episode of the season. But it is.