Boardwalk Empire Review: "Family Limitation"
I try to be good. I really do.
Nucky’s final words in "Family Limitation" seemed to echo the sentiments of the show in general. Every week, Boardwalk Empire really, really tries to be good, but it rarely accomplishes that goal.
This week, the show’s progress in Chicago overshadowed the main plot in Atlantic City. With some interesting developments for Jimmy and Capone and some confusing thoughts on women’s liberation for Margaret, the episode was mostly enjoyable.
Margaret poses an interesting problem for Nucky. She attracts his attention at first by being a sweet, simple mother and wife. She keeps him engaged through her quiet dignity and outspoken intelligence.
But she finally nabs him by playing the manipulative female who disrupts his business when she’s not given enough attention (sort of like Lucy). She doesn’t seem to struggle much with the decision to be his “kept” woman.
A visit to Mrs. McGowery is much more positive that I would have expected. With women’s suffrage and all, it seems that each woman has the right to choose her lifestyle according to McGowery. But is her situation really a fair comparison to suffrage? Having to choose between being a poor widow or a comfortable concubine doesn’t seem like much of choice, and it hardly seems empowering that Margaret can make this decision without worrying about the scrutiny of her neighbors, especially since Edith does in fact label her a whore.
Is Margaret suppose to be a model of independence for her time? About the only thing I can be sure about when it comes to femininity in this period is that contraception seems really dangerous (Lysol?!?) despite being so “advanced.”
Van Alden seems to take on the suffering for Margaret’s decision to live in sin with Nucky. His obsession with Margaret is slightly exposed by his superiors when his decision to pull her immigration record is questioned, but that doesn’t compare to the creepiness of his final scene this episode.
After hearing from her neighbor that Margaret has moved out (in a fancy car, no less) and that she’s being labeled a whore, Van Alden whips his back with his own belt while gazing at her immigration photo. The scars on his back indicate that this self-flagellation is a long-term habit; however, this beating seems more for Margaret’s sake than his own.
This fixation on Margaret is beyond disturbing and seems dangerous, but to whom?
In Chicago, the rising tension between Jimmy and Capone made for the most interesting scenes of the night. Early on, it’s clear that Jimmy has his doubts about Capone’s military service, but he doesn’t question his fellow gangster until Capone’s teasing becomes a little too public.
Bitter over his failed attempt to keep Sheridan’s men in line, Capone is even more resentful that Jimmy’s plan worked, and that Torrio is so appreciative of Jimmy. In this quiet battle for supremacy, Capone shows his penchant for being in charge, whether it’s at work, at home, or in his elaborate lies. However, he knows when to back down and brings Jimmy some steaks to apologize for his boozy comments.
Capone is quick to point out that Jimmy shouldn’t make him look bad in front of his men because you don’t do that to buddies. Jimmy expresses some hesitancy over applying that term to their relationship and it leads to an interesting exchange:
“What did you think we were? - Al
"Accomplices". - Jimmy
"Well, it’s the same thing, right?” – Al
Indeed, the two are really stuck together, but mostly by choice. I will say that it's good to see that Jimmy didn’t forget about Pearl so easily and used his goodwill with Torrio to ensure that she would be avenged, while expanding Torrio’s territory. And he is still being a supportive father, sending money to Angela with a note reading “To use as you see fit.”
As for Nucky, does anyone still care about this road? This is supposed to be his “big plan” for the season, but most of the setup has been pretty dull.