We are more than halfway through the season and Boardwalk Empire has given us a number of excellent twists and turns. However, "Peg of Old" was a lot less exciting than most of what we've seen so far.
Although there were some surprising and entertaining moments, for the most part, this evening's installment worked more to set up the coming events of the final half of the second season, moving us towards a bloodier gangster war.
Power can be a difficult burden, and here we were shown just how heavy that burden is for Jimmy. Over time, we've watched Jimmy deal with the strains of his position and the repercussions of his decision to side with his genetic father over his symbolic one. His "rebellion" against Nucky was supposed to be a bloodless one, but as Gillian pointed out, they were probably just lying to themselves if they thought it would never get physical.
Jimmy's struggle with the decision to assassinate Nucky was another one of those moments that reminds me why I like Jimmy so much. He's not a ruthless thug, a scheming businessman, or a borderline psychopath (like his newly acquired business associates). Jimmy assesses the situation carefully, weighing both the business end and the personal side of this choice. Ultimately, he doesn't care if his choices are right or wrong as long as he's the one making them, which leads him to warn Nuck with his seemingly cryptic message.
Jimmy's scenes were excellently played, displaying both the emotional turmoil of his decision along with his continuing composure. Jimmy almost never seems off-balance, even though we know he's battling some pretty tough inner and outer demons. When Jimmy quickly made his exit after Nucky was shot, we witnessed a very rare revealing moment.
Upon hearing that Nucky was still alive, his face registered a brief moment of relief. He knows he doesn't want Nucky dead, but I'm not sure he really knows how he wants to handle his former father figure.
This same sense of uncertainty was also a huge part of Margaret's reunion with her family. Her decision to visit Brooklyn following her confession about her lustful feelings for Owen might have seemed like an excuse for an escape; however, I think it had more to do with her latent guilt over her previous "sins." Margaret has never been a completely innocent woman and the story of her arrival in the U.S. tells us that she's always had a bit of a wild streak.
Margaret said she just wanted to be with "people who know me." However, I'm beginning to think that might be no one. She's probably one of the few characters who's motivations and future decisions can't really be determined because she hides so much. Later on, she's much more honest when she tells Owen, "I'm not how you see me at all." Indeed, I've had such trouble pinning down who Margaret really is and what she really wants that I don't doubt for a moment that most of what we see is only for show. What we can say definitively is that Margaret knows how to survive.
Margaret's a frustrating and entertaining mystery and will probably become even more of a draw now that she's started up a sexual relationship with Owen. Owen's own mystery is deepening also, as we witnessed him murder the man he spend the last five months tracking down. I'm sure we'll get more details about this murderous exchange in the future, but for now it made me very curious about Owen's past.
I felt that Jimmy and Margaret's storylines really gave us a good idea of the direction of the final half of the season. But, Van Alden's decision to pick the path of (judicial) righteousness will probably have serious repercussions for Nucky. Or maybe he's just making himself invaluable to Randolph so she'll share more information with him. Do you think Van Alden is back on the side of the law or not?