'Hold Me in Paradise' on 'Boardwalk Empire'
November 8th, 2010
01:50 PM ET

'Hold Me in Paradise' on 'Boardwalk Empire'

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:

  • Mrs. Harding? What the...? Did you just say he may not make it? Really?
  • As for Lucy, she's out of control, and if there's anything someone that's out of control MUST have, it’s a smack in the face. Thanks Margaret!
  • Angela Darmody's subplot is a remarkable wrinkle in the overall story. And as far as Gillian? OK, I think I'm beginning to get it now. Keep up the good (gulp)"work"?
  • When it comes to Mrs. Van Alden, her story was touching and extremely emotional. I think kudos are in order for the incredible editing as Agent Van Alden went into the drawer where he's been bleeding the Darmody household, and (seemingly) contemplated paying for his wife's surgery.

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.

Loved, kinda liked, or hated the show? Let us know!

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Lost Generation

    The only symbolism I was really impressed with was the topic of hair used between Jimmy, his father, girlfriend, and mother.

    December 31, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Donny Fink

    check this out, Four Loko Prohibition / Boardwalk empire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpa8kCYHzYU

    November 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim Robenalt

    Great Series, Bad History
    Robenalt, James David, The Harding Affair, Love and Espionage During The Great War (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2009).
    Cleveland, Ohio. While skillfully written and engaging, the new HBO series Boardwalk Empire creates a highly flawed view of our 29th President, Warren G. Harding, and his alleged relationship with Nan Britton. The caricature of Harding continues a long-series of smears that date back to the 1920s.
    Harding's relationship with Nan Britton is questionable. His relationship with a woman named Carrie Phillips is not. My book, The Harding Affair, discloses Harding's complex relationship with Mrs. Phillips through the use of over 900 pages of letters Harding wrote to Phillips from 1910 though 1920, when he was elected President of the United States. Phillips and Harding were caught in an age when divorce was unthinkable and there were multifaceted reasons for their long-term (15 year) affair. The affair was much too complicated to caulk it up sheer womanizing.
    The Britton allegations are subject to real doubt, as I point out in my book. Ms. Britton lived directly behind Carrie Phillips's home in Marion, and there is good reason to believe her book, The President's Daughter, came from her familiarity with the Harding/Phillips correspondence and not because of any real relationship between then-Senator Harding and Ms. Britton.
    The HBO series relies on biographies that falsely used the Phillips correspondence. Worse, letters Mr. Harding wrote to Mrs. Phillips are used to manufacture dialogue for Ms. Britton's character.
    But sadly for history, these smears of President Harding distort what he did as President and as a U. S. Senator. Harding was no "imbecile," as Nucky Thompson, the main character in the HBO series, calls him. As a Senator, Harding courageously stood against Woodrow Wilson's call for America to go to war to "make the world safe for democracy," though he did vote for war. In a lesson America never learned, Harding warned that it is not the business of the United States to engage in regime change through the violence of war.
    During his presidency, Harding pardoned Socialist Eugene Debs, who was rotting in an Atlanta prison, sent there by the Wilson Administration for violating the Espionage and Sedition Act.
    Debs' crime? He spoke out against the war—that is, he exercised his right of free speech. Wilson denied a pardon even after the war ended. Harding granted it.
    Who is the "imbecile"?
    Entertainment is entertainment. But playing fast and loose with serious historical figures only diminishes our true understanding of history's lessons.
    For a more, see http://thehardingaffair.com.
    Jim Robenalt
    Thanksgiving, November 25, 2010

    November 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dee Dee

    The episodes are magnifecent – but I miss your latest blogs on the most recent episodes of Boardwalk Empire (mid to late Novemeber). We are coming to the end of this series for the season and there have been some shocking things hapening (think – Van Alden!!!) Not to mention – Michael Pitt's incredible acting (the warehouse). We need the Marquee to comment on these things. You folks help put a framework and perspective on the episodes. Don't go away!!!! Hurry back with your blog!!!

    November 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lauren

    Where are the last two episodes' blogs???

    November 24, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. iBANKER

    The D'Allesio brother that tried to kill Nucky, Louis Vanaria, also stars in the new webseries iBanker. If you liked him in Boardwalk, then check him out here!

    November 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. loverofbrdwlk

    Love love love this show. I look forward to Sunday nights every week! The acting and story line is great!

    November 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SW

    So, are all the others who are posting comments done congratulating themselves for recognizing the symbolism? I really cannot imagine how one takes the leap from picking up on the foreshadowing to bashing the writer of this blog who brings to to the forefront; its kinda the job of the blog writer... This show is my favorite; I am sorry the season is flying by so quickly.

    November 9, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Peg

    "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?"

    Uh, duh. Of course we did. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together would, so don't put yourself up on that media-critique high horse so fast there.

    I'm with Rob. This whole blog reads like the teachers from Peanuts saying "wah wah wah wah."

    I'm with Rob.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      I agree. Yes the symbolism is a clever way of making points or establishing subplots, but saying that Lucy's watching of Jekyll and Hyde was a subtle establishment of her realization that she was alone is frankly insulting. What other purpose would Jimmy's watching of Capone and Torrio playing cards while speaking Italian serve other than to establish his realization that he will always be an outsider. It certainly did not contribute to any plot development otherwise. Don't get me wrong, effective...yes. But subtle? Good God.
      I agree with Rob. This is made for the masses (don't get me wrong, I tune in each week).

      November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. KIKI

    I don't really watch TV all that often, but this is one show I'm totally invested in. It's a quality program.

    November 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    Thanks for treating us like small mind idiots. Who are you? State the obvious guy. This is the last time I will every read this blog. What a waste of time ... I may as well kept working,

    November 8, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Courtney

    lOVE lOVE lOVE THIS SHOW! Can't get enough of it!

    November 8, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Me

    Thanks for bringing up all of the symbolism that has been infused into every episode. I am that viewer that gets so engrossed in the storyline that I rarely notice those things. I loved reading about that in this blog. The show has been very interesting with a smattering of history in places you least expect. I thought that the cuts from Van Alden going through the drawer were masterful, so much so that I found myself yelling at him through the TV. I put myself into this world every week and love every minute of it!

    November 8, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      You have got to be kidding me? This was the worst written blog ever ... and that says something. Symbolism that you missed, really?

      November 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Richard Blanks Jr.

    Carletta will slap anyone who disses her. She don't play. Her hands will have you in tears. UMF

    November 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |

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