After two extremely impressive and gripping episodes, Boardwalk Empire slowed things down a bit with this week's "The Age of Reason." While there wasn't a lot of violence or emotional suspense, the episode really helped build the narrative toward the ultimate climax: a real showdown between Nucky and Jimmy. It's what we've all been waiting for, and I think Jimmy is finally becoming a more challenging opponent for Nucky.
Despite always seeming like a strong, independent character, Jimmy has usually been dependent on his connections, both familial and business-oriented, to maintain his position and to add a little muscle to his endeavors. However, now he is moving beyond the help of his mother and father, taking real advice on how to be a successful leader.
When Jimmy tells Horvitz, "Not every insult requires a response" (a lesson he learned from his run-in with Parkhurst), I thought he actually understood what it really took to reach Nucky's level. Until now, his actions have always been a result of his own feelings, from challenging Nucky's authority to scalping Mr. Parkhurst. Now he is being more strategic than reactionary.
Clearly, he could have let his displeasure with Luciano and frustration with Nucky spill out into a gunfight, but he made the wiser choice and withheld his aggression so he could build a stronger business with Lansky and Luciano. Nucky has always been the best at cultivating business relationships, but lately he has lost his touch. George and Remus find him a bit too tightfisted, and Senator Edge's displeasure might end up costing Nucky his freedom. Maybe Lansky is right: The time for Nucky and Rothstein has passed, and we'll get to see the rise of the new gangsters.
Other than Jimmy getting a handle on his leadership style, we also got to see Van Alden's strange little world begin to implode. His intense guilt over Agent Clarkson's condition made me think we would see a return of Van Alden's religious zealotry. When Van Alden made that phone call to his wife, he seemed ready to confess his sins to her and his boss.
However, once he realized that Clarkson's accusatory words were just the result of the poor man's delirium, Van Alden shied away from his impulse to come clean.
But his relationship with Lucy was still exposed when his wife came to check up on him. I was really impressed with her anger because Rose has always seemed like a very passive woman. It was satisfying to see her finally stand up for herself, smacking and biting the man who caused her so much pain. Van Alden has made some poor choices, like most of the characters, but his high moral standards seem to be setting him up for disaster, especially when it comes to Rose.
And, I can't wait to see how the whole Margaret-Owen relationship develops. She's been so irritated by his flirtatious and "cheeky" manner, even confronting Katie about her inappropriate behavior, that it really felt like she was just angered by her own attraction to Owen. Finally, she admits to not only herself but also a priest that she feels drawn to him. Margaret has never been an "innocent" character, although she can play the part really well. I wonder how far this attraction will go.
Mostly I'm curious about Nucky and Jimmy's future. Who's going to come out on top?