Boardwalk Empire Review: Mommie Dearest

at . Comments

I don't even know where to start.

"Under God's Power She Flourishes" was an amazingly powerful episode that managed to raise our expectations for the show... again. My only complaint would be that so much happened this week that it's difficult to imagine what could possibly come next.

I guess it's best to start with the most compelling and unsettling storyline from the episode. Boardwalk Empire used flashbacks to bring the Jimmy-Gillian relationship to new levels of ick here. The majority of Jimmy's onscreen time took place in the past, which made the contrast between his younger idealistic self and the broken (only slightly older) version all the more apparent and tragic. 

Agent Nelson Van Alden

It seemed like Jimmy was doing his best to remember Angela, who's haunting voice repeatedly says, "Jimmy, I have to leave." But the main focus on this flashback was Gillian. The Princeton-era Gillian, much like her present counterpart, always needs to be the center of her son's world. She upstages Angela at the party, being overly flirtatious with Jimmy's teacher so that he would notice and then transforming into the damsel-in-distress to get even more of his attention. But Jimmy's family drama isn't just Jacobean as Professor Pearson points out; it's also Oedipal.

In a scene I think we've all been anticipating for quite some time, Jimmy helps his drunken mother into bed... and then she kisses him. Despite her claims that there was "nothing wrong with any of it," Gillian abandons her son the morning after and he runs off to join the army, probably hoping to find some kind of oblivion overseas. And the drama doesn't end there. Listening to Gillian coldly write off Angela, blind to her son's obvious pain, was difficult to watch. It all became too much for Jimmy when Gillian suggested Tommy might just forget about his mother. His violent response (probably intended to just make her shut the Hell up) lead to the death of his father.

Jimmy's had his difficulties on this show and his somewhat self-destructive streak has never made much sense to me until now. He is suffering from some serious psychological issues and, as I'm sure we've suspected, Gillian is the cause of all of it. Whatever sympathy I felt for her, or the younger version who was raped by the Commodore, vanished when I watched her ruin any chance her son had to build a future for himself or have a successful and loving relationship with a woman. Gillian's made Jimmy into the man he is today, and that's not something to be proud of.

Will Jimmy ever finally stand up to his poisonous mother?

While Jimmy's relationship with his mother begins to degenerate, a similar process is underway with Nucky and Margaret. The growing chasm between them was perfectly represented by their discussion about the parable of heaven and Hell. Nucky's parables are all about self-preservation and helping yourself, like the "two boats and a lifeguard" story. But Margaret focuses on helping others, a clear sign of new religious streak.

However, we can't forget that all of Margaret's charitable donations and sudden desire to do the right thing are based on one thing: guilt. She sees all the terrible events around her as punishment for her lying, cheating and stealing, which is actually pretty self-centered. Not only that, she still can't bring herself to confess to the affair with Owen. Even though she's trying to make the moral choice about the subpoena, that doesn't mean she's making the right one. Her testimony won't get her the punishment and accountability she desires, it will only harm Nucky and her children in the long run.

I like Margaret; she's a complicated character and Kelly MacDonald does a brilliant job making her seem flawed yet likable. But I feel like this "religious" Margaret is more sanctimonious than anything else.

Do you think Margaret will answer her subpoena despite Nucky's threat? Should she? And Van Alden's on the loose! What's his next move?

We'll find out on next Sunday's season finale, which is previewed HERE.


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
  • 5.0 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (91 Votes)

You write very well!


I cant stand Marrrrrgret Schroooterrrrr any more.
She is a tick on the cute puppy of life, and we're all ticked off.
Id pay good coin to see her munch on a dynamite cigar.

Anna maria

I used to really like Margaret and think that she was really intelligent and a perfect match for Nucky, but this new season they brought her terrible storylines all of a sudden! The cheating, the connecting with lost family and the sick daughter and religious storylines suck!! Plus her scenes with Nucky are really boring! How could she become this person? I hope she'll find some way to redeem herself..and WON'T testify and screw over the man who was a saint to her and gave her everything. They should get married, then she won't be able to testify!


Sorry, worst episode of Boardwlk Empire ever - utter rubbish. From compelling to repelling in a single episode; my greatest disappointment of the series. Previous poster Justin Kees was right on the money. I'd like a refund.


i think this is a great show. i enjoy watching it. can't wait for the next episode. i think for once (after his wifes death) Nucky finally thought he could fall in love with someone. but, the circumstance under which they were brought together is a dark cloud over the relationship. in a movie i recall someone saying "from where we started we have no place to go". i didn't understand the gillian jimmy storyline, still don't, but that having sex with your own 19 year old son (make sure he is legal, less she be a incest loving pedofile) is just a plain nasty thing to do, are the writers perverts as well. what ever happened to Lucy, she was dumb, stupid, and i couldn't understand why Nucky was with her, but at least she stayed out of the family business just used the money proceeds. and margaret chased after Nucky whether he killed her husband or not, so what is she complaining about now. he tried to stay away but she was a boil on his butt, hard to ignore. like he said I gave you everything. she was sleeping in the bed with her kids and her dinner table was in the living room, now she is in a mansion with enough room for 10 more people. i just enjoy the soap opera atmosphere of the show. what is next is what i look forward too. i hope the show continues on it's better than those reality programs and serial tv shows. love it. i watch it because Nucky makes me just laugh. he is good with his one liners like when the kid was crying after his mother slapped him Nucky walks in says what happened you were just praying. that was funny.


This is what i think..richard is gonna do some serious work on manny ( I love manny though) jimmy is gonna become a smack head but still go crazy and maybe go back to his senses and be with nucky and Nelson Van alden is gonna become a gangster and team up with mickey who has had it with being used or a "mope" as capone put it


@Justin... Jimmy already knew his wife had relationships with women before they got married, and in the episode before this he said that he knew she was unhappy with him, so the lesbian angle probably wasn't that big of a surprise. I think his mother said plenty to the policeman at the beginning of the ep. I'm sure it'll be addressed again. In general this season dragged a bit. But this was a great episode.


Sorry to maybe piss off all the fans, but I absolutely hated this episode. I have been watching the painful demise of this show for quite some time now, but I thought this was really the worst episode so far. Chapter2184 is right: nothing happens in this show.
Let me explain: after last episode there was only one thing I was interested in and that is Jimmy going to react to the murder of his wife, the mother of his children!!! Secundarely: what will be his reaction to the fact that his wife was having an affair with a woman?
And what did we get? An entire episode filled with the most boring, dragging flashbacks I have ever seen on this show, varied with the never ending wining of Margaret, who's sad face seems to be the only expression she has had for the past two seasons, and I really had enough of it.
The incest storyline felt like yet another cheap stunt to shock the audience, or should I say distract them, because I still didn't know what Jimmy's reaction was to his wife's murder.
Then after 50 (!) minutes of waiting finally we see Jimmy's reaction and I witness the only two interesting minutes of this episode.
Not a word about the lesbian relationship though.
I really felt like I a was fooled around by the writers on this one.
To kill off an important character each episode is not enough for me to keep me interested. If it wasn't for the finale next week, this would have been the last episode I'd ever watched.


This ep. had all the makings of an explosive season finale as the review made apparent. I hope next week's actual finale isn't overshadowed by it. I know college mixers have led to some pretty bad "mornings after". Like the infamous Phi Sig Morning After, or the even worse Delta Zeta- (ahem). So, getting back to Boardwalk Empire... I think Jimmy had the worst "morning after" in history. His girlfriend is pregnant, he pummeled one of his professors which might get him expelled from Princeton, and he slept with his own mother. Any one of these events is a life changer, but to experience them all in one night..? I'm surprised Jimmy didn't follow in George Washington and the Continental Army's footsteps and proceed directly to the Delaware River to throw himself therein. There is sooo much going on right now in Boardwalk Empire. It's going to be impossible to touch upon all the storylines in the finale. I would like mostly to see what the black community's reaction is to the strike breakers' liberal use of billy clubs. I'm also eager to see how Angela's death effects Richard.


I had been losing interest, but Sunday's show got my attention. It's anyone's guess who will die next week. This show is loaded with interesting characters. Richard Harrow is my favorite. Margaret is really over the top obnoxious now. In the beginning, I thought she and Nucky could be a good deep love story, kinda like Tony and Carmela. What's the purpose of the daughter getting polio? That's just an uncomfortable distraction for me. Why are there no love stories? Come on, someone has to be in love. I think this show needs some happiness or humor or something. It has become way too dark. Don't let it be another "Carnivale".

Tags: ,

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 11 Quotes

Your life is pretty Jacobean all by itself.

Professor Pearson

I think there's no one else in the all the world; there's only you and me.

Gillian to Jimmy