November 8th, 2010
01:50 PM ET
So after last week's "Going Nucky" Halloween celebration, I decided to take it easy this week, laying low around the office and sticking close to my cubicle.
While I was refraining from charging extra for cans of Sprite, I had a chance to reflect on the season thus far, and if there's been one common thread throughout each of the eight episodes to this point, it’s been the show's use of symbolism.
Some moments were cleverly covert, such as the muddy tracks in the pristine marble foyer of the Ritz Carlton at the conclusion of episode three, "Broadway Limited.” After Chalky's driver was hanged with the words "Liquor Kills" sprawled onto the car beneath him, Nucky's allegorical footprints seemed to signify the exact place in time when the filth of his illegal dealings began to invade his otherwise clean, docile existence.
Other moments have been more obvious. Remember Lucy sitting in a theater alone watching "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in last week's episode? That appeared to be the moment she realized that neither Enoch nor Nucky were just that into her anymore. Was I the only one who glimpsed a bit of thread as this woman begins to unravel?
If you have trouble recalling that scene, think back to the exact second we were jolted by the sniper's shot taken by Jimmy's disfigured friend Richard Harrow. Then, as we realized who the culprit was, E. Power Biggs' brilliantly placed "Toccata in D minor" began to play, an obvious bow to Harrow's "Phantom"-like masked, disfigured appearance. (By the way pop culture fans, "Toccata" was NOT used in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera," but the organ opening certainly makes you believe it.)
I'd be hard pressed to find a single episode that didn't give metaphoric hints such as these. Each time the writers take these shots, their punctuation of the moment makes us jot down the significance. It’s as if they ask, "are you paying attention?" in certain places to tattoo these events in our “Boardwalk” -watching brains. In either case, whether overt or covert, the symbolism never fails to be both poignant and prognostic.
True to form, this week's episode, "Hold me in Paradise," accomplished exactly that. It was a dramatic song and dance of rhythmic symbolism, all to the beat of another winning script. In short, it was delightful.
From the opening scene, we see Eli Thompson's "Nucky envy" rear its ugly head yet again. There's a certain kind of life Eli wishes to lead, and it’s got Nucky written all over it.
The seeds were planted at the Celtic dinner, as Eli appears hell-bent on "great orator" status, but to no avail. There's definitely a Cain and Abel thing brewing here, and this dynamic continued up to the moment Eli made the rounds to do some collecting, and ended up being shot at the hands of the D'Alessios. We all thought these guys would bring more trouble, and they have delivered in large swaths. For every episode they've appeared in (besides last week), crime has ensued. It appears as if Eli's going to pull through, but in the words of Nucky, "We're at war kid..."
I thought Nucky's trip to Chicago was a great moment in the show's progression, marking a big foray outside the insulation of the boardwalk. Nucky hit the road in attempts to actually GET the roads Atlantic County desperately needs to continue its path onward. The trip for the Republican National Convention was certainly a fruitful, insightful glimpse into his political world outside of Atlantic City. Nucky knows exactly what to say and exactly who to say it to, and when he was jolted by the news of Eli being shot, Nucky knew Jimmy was exactly the person who could get his dirty work done.
Their scenes were easily among the finest of the episode. Steve Buscemi effortlessly delivered Nucky's prideful struggle as he now knows, "I need Jimmy." The symbolism used as Jimmy mulled it all over? Torrio, Capone and the boys speak Italian playing cards as Jimmy (Irish) looks on. Yep, I caught that - did you?
Elsewhere, I can run through a few of the ladies' subjects rapid-fire:
In a few masterful cuts, we see Rose's heartbreak arrive in the form of a letter, and Jimmy's funds finally reach their destination.
That scene spoke volumes for the episode overall, but to overlook the final moments as Margaret sat at Nucky's desk would be a crime. She's a loyal, thoughtful figure in this story, but the plot thickened as soon as she opened the ledger and began reading. Things are certainly interesting, but the next few episodes promise to take "interesting" to even higher heights.
“Empire” fans, two thirds of the season is in the books, and the ride's going to get bumpy. Strap in and hang on.
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