‘Boardwalk Empire’ Recap: Belle Femme

ALT TEXTOne of the things I really like about Boardwalk Empire is its ability to genuinely surprise the hell out of me. Yeah, sometimes the symbolism gets a little too cutesy and the sprawling story lines all come together a little too easily, but whatever, I’ll let it slide. Sometimes, the show is just too good that I’m just trying to nit pick.

Anyway, let’s talk about this week’s episode and let’s start with good ol’ Jimmy Darmody. He’s baaaaaaack. And little James has grown up. Take a look at the way he announced that he was back in Atlantic City. He just showed up in Nucky’s office. Yeah, he sent a telegram, but there’s definitely been an attitude change in Jimmy’s approach to the way he does business — an “I don’t give a f— about anyone” type attitude. Living in Chicago taught him that he needed to harden up a bit, and frankly, quit being such a push-over. And he did. While talking to Nucky, not only did he clearly establish his terms and conditions of their business deal, he made it obvious that he knew everything about the situation. And on top of all of that, and this might be the most important piece, he knows that Nucky needs him. That puts him in a position of power that he’s never had before. For so long, Jimmy had been pushed around by Nucky — always told what to do, how to live, even what to wear. But not anymore. Jimmy’s grown up, and now he’s the one doing the pushing around. Nucky needs Jimmy. He needs Jimmy to murder the men responsible for Nuck’s brother Eli’s current situation in the hospital. And this situation? Nucky needing Jimmy? That’s never been the case before. Jimmy understands this, and takes advantage of it.

I was happy to see Jimmy’s character growth, too. Even though he’s still in a bit over his head, he’s doing a lot better at not making it obvious that he has no clue what is happening. Before, Jimmy’s main weakness wasn’t that he didn’t know what was going on, but rather that he showed his ignorance. Now, he’s at least sure of himself.

But, now that I’ve kissed Jimmy’s butt for awhile, let’s address how much of a bastard he is. He shows up back home, and what’s the first thing he does? He pseudo-rapes his son’s mother. Yeah, she succumbs after initial resistance, but she only did that after he forced himself on her. Then, the next morning, after abandoning his family for months and returning home for a mere 12 hours, he decides that they should have another baby. Man, what a guy.

But, as you probably predicted, Jimmy’s new badass approach to life only lasted so long. He gets a hold of one of the men behind the murders, Lucky Luciano from New York City (who’s working for Arnold Rothstein), because Lucky is getting lucky with Jimmy’s Mom. (And speaking of Jimmy’s mom, this whole Oedipal situation always makes me feel weird, just saying.) But anyway, Jimmy finds Lucky with the help of his mother. But, while Jimmy’s holding a gun to Lucky, guess who shows up? None other than FBI Agent Van Alden himself. Turns out, the feds had interrupted a telegram from Jimmy to Nucky earlier in the week, so they took Jimmy under arrest.

Meanwhile, my favorite character, Margaret Schroader, had a pretty interesting episode too. She’s gaining confidence as well, slowly establishing herself as the Queen of Atlantic City. She learns that her former workplace, Belle Femme (also the name of this week’s episode), run by Mme. Jeunet is now required to pay double their rent, so they may get shut down. And this is the only place that Margaret likes because, even though she won’t admit it right away to Nucky because she’s afraid of being selfish, she feels feel beautiful there. So, she uses her power with Nucky to save Belle Femme. And through this, she not only is able to save what she wants, but she places herself on top of the Atlantic City women. Mme. Jeunet is so happy that Margaret saved the store that she offers her a dress for Margaret’s daughter. But, how does she reply? “My daughter didn’t help you, Mme. Jeunet.” And so, Mme. Jeunet gives her one of their most expensive dresses, and Margaret is happy.

I really do love Margaret and the growth her character has taken. Last week, she learned that Nucky was in charge of all the smuggling of booze into Atlantic City. But instead of questioning it, it’s almost as if she’s embraced it. Maybe she just doesn’t want to face the reality that Nucky is a criminal (in the same way that Nucky doesn’t want to face the reality of murder). And maybe, her and Nucky are more alike than we initially thought. When she used Nucky’s power to save the Belle Femme, she didn’t want to tell him initally why. “I didn’t want you to know how selfish I was.” And to which Nuck replies, “I would never hold that against anyone.”

So now, let’s talk about Nucky Thompson. As is the story of Boardwalk Empire, his control is slowly slipping out of his hands. But, I don’t think we completely know the extent of Nucky’s power. If this were a game of cards, I think Nucky has been holding onto an excellent hand throughout the entire season, with none of us really knowing exactly how powerful his hand is. He’s being challenged politically? No problem, just corrupt the government more. Trouble with his brother’s position as Sheriff? No problem, just corrupt the government more. Trouble with the FBI? No problem, just corrupt the government more.

Seriously. Who saw Agent Van Alden’s golden boy, Agent Sebso, totally backstabbing the FBI? Granted, there’s no hard evidence that he’s working for Nucky, but to me, it seems pretty obvious. He hid the Jimmy’s telegram to Nucky from Van Alden, after all. And honestly, I highly doubt he did it to “protect his job.” I’m sure it had more to do with him being on Nucky’s payroll.

But, the ending sequence makes me think that Nucky doesn’t have complete control. As he and Margaret are walking down the boardwalk, reigning King and Queen over Atlantic City, an assassination attempt is made on Nucky. It fails (credit to the ever-faithful Eddie), but now Margaret’s beautiful dress from Belle Femme is now bloodied and forever stained, much like the couple’s future life together.