Boardwalk Empire, Season 5, Episode 2, “The Good Listener”
Sunday, September 14, 2014, 10:00 p.m., HBO
The theme of today’s bleak episode is brought to you by bad parenting and failed fathers!
We catch up with more characters whose lives are miserable and tailspinning to a crash-land this episode. Eli, who splits his time between robbing Al Capone with his partner Van Alden, and sobbing to family radio shows, masochistically reminding himself of his failures. Van Alden, who is still working for Al Capone, but with his hands in the mobster’s honey pot with Eli, gets asked a question on homework from the son who is now old enough to verbally demand things of his father, is met with a golden comedy line when asking about clouds “is this a joke?” horrified that his son could even ask such a question. I’m convinced now, by the end of the series Van Alden will be dead, or will bail on his family to escape the responsibility he’s clearly not able, or willing to handle.
Nucky is back from Cuba, and on the prowl to discover the truth behind Lansky, and the assassination attempt. Cutting to scenes of Nucky’s childhood, we see more father failings, and learn even more as to why Nucky hates his father. We also learn that Nucky’s father hated the commodore and considers him a no good gangster. How funny these scenes are as the Commodore comes across as a mentor in substitute for Nucky, as the flashback ended, we see Eli’s son Will, meeting Nucky for dinner. Will has become little Nucky, looking up to the gangster and thief (did he forget that Nucky shot Eli?) and casting his own father away. Will has just interviewed for a job as a prosecutor. “I’m very proud of you”, Nucky says. It would be fantastic if the series ended with Will being part of the prosecution in Al Capone’s trial.
Speaking of, we catch up with him briefly this week, as he runs around, boisterous as ever, chased by his tailor, and the king of his castle. I just watched The Untouchables, and while DeNiro gave a great performance as Capone, nothing has beat Stephen Graham’s brilliant performance. We also ominously get a quick glance at a ledger along with piles of money the bookkeeper is marking for Capone. Will we see his downfall at the end of the series? The scenes seem to be setting it up for that.
Last but not least we catch up with the extremely sad and fallen Gillian. In an eerie scene in the institution she’s been locked in, Gillian and a ring of other women sit in bathtubs covered by straightjackets, a visual reminder that Gillian has lost all power she’s coveted as she sits calmly and says to the guard “I’m a good girl”. You can see her trying to win some of that power back, leveraging herself with a guard who gives her a precious gift of stationary and a pen. Is it to write Tommy?
With 6 episodes left, how much worse can it get for all our anti-heroes?
We catch up with more characters whose lives are miserable and tailspinning to a crash-land this episode.