HBO: Boardwalk Empire Episode Review – 2.11 “Under God’s Power She Flourishes”

Another week, another Boardwalk Empire episode with a totally crazy finale. I’ll get to that, but I have to start at the beginning with the obvious elephant in the room (or this post; not exactly sure how to deploy that phrase in the digital ear); Jimmy and his Mom.

Give me a moment to puke.

Okay, like I said, I have seen only one episode from season 1, but it was pretty clear to me something was extremely dysfunctional in Jimmy and his mother’s relationship since the first episode I saw her in this year. I didn’t think that the high-water mark for that dysfunction had been incest. Just as a quick summary, most of Jimmy’s scenes in this episode were shown as flashbacks to his days in Princeton before the war (interestingly, these flashback scenes were placed back to back with scenes of the other characters from the current timeline; it was an interesting juxtaposition, and one I was sort of hoping would continue throughout the episode though sadly it did not); his mother comes to visit one weekend, and after an emotional night full of booze and maternal manipulation, Jimmy succumbs to his mother’s seduction and sleeps with her. Ugh. Despite the fact that I only have 13 episodes or so of background with these characters, the actual seduction scene was really well done, and just helped highlight how wrong the whole encounter was. Perhaps “well done” isn’t the right word now that I think of it, because “well” isn’t a word I’d like to associate with a scene that make my skin crawl. It was creepy, gross, disturbing, but very effective.

So it seems like all of Jimmy’s actions since that night, running off to join the military, marrying Angela, maybe even siding against Nucky, are the result of his feelings of shame and disgust over what happened. Near the end of the episode, after he’s returned to Atlantic City in a haze of grief over Angela’s death, he becomes overwhelmed by Gillian’s manipulations and starts to choke her, only to be stabbed in the back by the Commodore (looking surprisingly spry for a stroke victim). Jimmy in turn stabs the old man to death with his army issue bayonet, completing this 1920s reenactment of Oedipus Rex. At the end of the episode, Gillian uses Jimmy’s son as a shield to protect her from any further retaliation, and she makes it clear that she’s ready to take Angela’s place in every way. Despite her small frame, this final scene makes her look like the most frightening villain I’ve ever seen on this show.

Just a few other thoughts, as the show rushes toward its conclusion next week:

* Nucky’s position is looking extremely dangerous. Sure, Agent Van Alden can no longer testify against him, but Eli will, and it looks like Margaret might too. Her superstitious Catholic guilt is kicking into overdrive, and I guess she thinks she’s being punished with Emily’s polio for her various indiscretions. Testifying might be her way of atonement.

*Speaking of Agent Van Alden, he shot an agent and went on the lam once his boss found out that he drown a man in the river last season. I have a feeling that he will be dead or otherwise indisposed pretty soon, because it doesn’t seem like he serves much of a purpose anymore. Which makes me wonder why they spent so much time on him in this season anyway.

*I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more direct focus on the aftermath of Angela’s death. We did, however, get some really good, albeit brief reactions, from Richard, as he touched the congealed blood on the floor in a silent effort to make sense of the tragedy.

John is a TV blogger for Raked and an Entertainment and Sports contributor here at The TMR Zoo. You can follow him on Twitter at @raked_jc