Since confession played a big role in the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire, entitled “The Age of Reason”, let me get something off my chest: I liked this episode despite the presence of Paz de la Huerta’s Lucy. As a matter of fact, her plot was tied to Agent Van Alden’s (Michael Shannon), which fit with the theme in “Reason”. Usually that’s not the case when it comes to the character but somehow writer Bathsheba Doran (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) was able to make Lucy relevant to what is going on in the story. And I say to that: “Bravo!”
While Lucy is giving birth alone in her apartment, Van Alden visits the FBI agent who had half of his body burnt to a crisp during the explosion at Mickey Doyle’s warehouse. Van Alden puts on an air of religious superiority in front of the other officers when the agent turns to him and cryptically says “I know what you did.” Van Alden internally freaks out. Does that mean that the injured man is somehow connected to his god and now knows of the illegitimate child that is on its way? We freak out because the statement may be the man’s way to try to get Van Alden to confirm his suspicions that he’s a dirty agent. Either way, it’s ambiguous enough that Van Alden calls his wife Rose in the middle of the night, tells her he’s an “unfit man”, and threatens to quit the agency.
Van Alden soon realizes that the agent, due to being in a state of shock and possibly dying, has been telling everyone that he sees them. He doesn’t have a wireless radio that’s tuned into God’s wrath, he’s just delirious. So, he returns home after spending days in the hospital chapel — with the lemons that Lucy had requested — and finds that she has given birth to their baby daughter. He runs out to fetch a doctor and upon his second return he finds Rose sitting at Lucy’s bedside. Turns out, his weird late night phone call got her worried about her husband so she took the next train to Atlantic City to check up on him. Little did she know that there would be a baby their waiting for her.
Van Alden returns to his righteous religious state and forcefully tells Rose that the baby was for her. But Rose ain’t having that shit, so she bites his hand and runs away. Van Alden has been judged not by his lord but by his long suffering wife. Score one for Team Non-Hypocrites.
(Enough praise can’t be lavished on Shannon, who finally gets to do something this season after sitting on the sidelines for a couple of episodes.)
In the meantime, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) gets Teddy ready for his first communion and confession at the local Catholic Church. But in order for the boy to go through the rite, the stern priest tells her that she has to make confession herself. Nucky (Steve Buscemi) is worried that Margaret may admit to helping him smuggle his bribe ledger out of his office (he doesn’t trust that priests will keep their mouths shut) but he should be concerned with the other secret that Margaret has been keeping: she has the hots for the loveable Irish rogue Owen (Charlie Cox) who just happens to be sleeping with her maid. Maybe she’s a bit homesick or maybe she can image his lovemaking to be a tad better than Nucky’s but either way, she’s got it bad so she confesses that sin to the priest.
(Macdonald had some pretty intense moments in “The Age of Reason”. Just watch her try to contain herself in the scene where Owen tries to help Margaret sweep up the spilled Corn Flakes. Hotter than the most explicit sex scenes, like the one involving the goofy federal prosecutor and the two prostitutes, that Boardwalk Empire likes to indulge in.)
And there’s Jimmy (Michael Pitt). He’s taking his first steps into becoming his own man. (Hey, Jimmy sort of rejected his mother’s full-on-the-lips kiss, so that’s a good start.) With The Commodore (Dabney Coleman) still not functioning at a full 100%, Jimmy is now being mentored by Leander Whitlock (Dominic Chiansese). Whitlock isn’t angry about his crony’s scalping in the previous episode but he is worried that Jimmy may be acting too rash. He wants him to act more like Nucky; to have the patience to lead Atlantic City for the long haul.
That lesson is put to the test when Jimmy sees Herman, an associate of crazed mobster-butcher Manny (William Forsythe), walking the Boardwalk alongside Waxey Gordon and Nucky. Jimmy confronts Manny over the phone, thinking that he had struck a deal with his worst enemy and Nucky behind his back. Manny is confused and tells Jimmy that he’ll look into the matter. Not long after that conversation, Manny invites Jimmy down to his butcher shop in Philly and presents to him a hogtied and upside-down Herman. Manny has beaten a confession out of him: he is a double-agent working for Waxey Gordon and Gordon is helping Nucky smuggle booze into the country later that evening. Manny encourages Jimmy to bump off Herman to set an example to other would be betrayers. Jimmy is hesitant at first but he eventually gives in and slices the man’s throat.
Jimmy gathers up Richard Harrow (for only one scene, unfortunately), Manny, and Manny’s men to ambush the booze shipment. When they do, they discover that Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) are the lackey muscle and not a couple of faceless goons. Manny wants everyone dead but Jimmy — thanks to some prodding by Lansky — thinks everyone will be better off working together against Nucky, Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Waxey Gordon, and their various associates. So, he strikes a deal with the soon-to-be-famous gangsters to sell heroin in Atlantic City. (Whitlock should be proud of the cool head on Jimmy’s shoulders.)
Sure, other than that a couple of kills, “The Age of Reason” was pretty mellow compared to the last couple of episodes but it also wasn’t short on some pretty amusing stuff, mostly involving Nucky’s wheeling and dealings with both his mob associates (great to see Chalky White again, if only for one scene) and the Attorney General’s office. While criminal masterminds like Rothstein may be men of their word and George Remus likes to refer to themselves in the third person (“Remus can go f*ck himself,” Nucky tells him), politicos like Harry Daugherty (Christopher MacDonald), on the other hand, are selling Nucky — and his case — out to Sen. Walter Edge (Geoff Pierson) and his “constituents” as a way to cover his own ass regarding their own wheelings and dealings regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs. (It seems as though the national leadership of the Republican Party has been dipping into the department’s coffers.) Every man for himself in the world of politics.
And poor Nucky. He already sort of knows about Harry’s betrayal but he hasn’t yet learned of Lucky and Lansky’s betrayal nor of Mararget’s emotional one. Once he gets wind of those, his soul will be heavy. Too bad he doesn’t believe in confession because it might help him a bit.