Boardwalk Empire 2.06 “The Age of Reason” Review

Kevin Fitzpatrick October 31, 2011 0

Boardwalk Empire - Michael ShannonBoardwalk Empire season 2 reaches its midway point with last night’s ‘The Age of Reason,’which sees Margaret Schroeder and Agent Van Alden struggling with their guilt as Nucky and Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) struggle with their power plays. “The Age of Reason” finally starts driving Boardwalk Empire season 2′s plot along, but begs a few questions of how the stories will be tied together by season’s end.

‘The Age of Reason’officially marks the halfway point of Boardwalk Empire‘s second season, and already the seeds have been sown for a violent and bloody end. A running undercurrent of ‘The Age of Reason’sees nearly all of the main players plans’falling into disarray, a symbol of the chaos and upheaval that pervades Boardwalk Empire on a weekly basis. Everything from Nucky’s simple plan to get the Attorney General (Christopher McDonald) to throw his case out to Van Alden’s plot to keep his child a secret falls apart, but a wise man* once told us that ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’

More to the point of ‘The Age of Reason’is that of confession, most poignantly in how Margaret (Kelly MacDonald, Nucky and Van Alden alike find themselves examining their own actions in light of almighty judgement. Considering all the sin and vice that floats around Boardwalk Empire it’d take more than a few gentle confessions and lucky reprieves to set the moral scales at even, but ‘The Age of Reason’reminds us that no one completely escapes their sins. More than simple confession, we covet that which we can’t have, something Margaret comes to grips with rebuking Katy (Heather Lind) over her own attraction to Mr. Slater (Charlie Cox). It’s the same token that drives Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazzo) to drive an outsider’s bargain with Jimmy Darmody, the feeling that there’s always another standing in the way of what we deserve. It’ll be interesting to see how far things progress with Margaret and Slater, given we already know Nucky faces enough enemies as is, without domestic troubles.

The standoff on the woods by episode’s end does a wonderful job of summing up the chaotic divergence escalating as the season goes on (as well as some much needed action), to the point where we barely know who’s betraying who anymore. Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Lucky Luciano just barely got back in bed with Nucky Thompson and Chalky White (Michael K. Williams), and already factions are splintering to pair with Jimmy, Richard and the Jewish Mafia (William Forsythe) for the heroin trade. As Meyer Lansky puts it, their meeting is ‘kismet.’In Boardwalk Empire, we are all of us destined to meet, and destined for chaos, lost in the woods.

Michael Pitt and William Forsythe in “The Age of Reason” -HBO

All that being said, ‘The Age of Reason’does a fine job of positioning us for the second half of the season, moving away from the quieter, character driven episodes of weeks past, ‘What Does the Bee Do,’or ‘Gimcrack and Bunkum.’No longer is Nucky’s freedom guaranteed, and Jimmy seems to almost be playing all sides against one another as part of a larger play. There’s an important lesson learned from Leander Cephas repeated toward episode’s end, in that ‘not every insult requires a response. ‘Some plots are left with a slow burn that melds together and takes its time in boiling over. Between Nucky’s charges, Van Alden’s baby, Margaret’s impure thoughts and Jimmy’s escalating schemes, we’ve got quite a storm brewing for the rest of season 2.

In the end it’s refreshing to watch the more plot-driven episodes of Boardwalk Empire (despite accusations that Van Alden has little to do with the main story anymore), but transition episodes tend to become marginialized in the grand scheme of things.

And Another Thing…

  • *John Lennon. Smart man! Shot in the back, very sad.
  • A lot of interesting transition shots this week, from Lucy and Van Alden to Jesus on the cross, Lucy’s water breaking to champagne uncorking, Lucy’s screams turning into music, before fading in and transitioning to baby cries, Margaret’s confession to Nucky’s ‘Don’t be upset?!’
  • Is there any cries Paz de la Huerta can make that don’t sound like her having sex?
  • Similarly, if I never had to watch Steve Buscemi mid-coitus again, that’d be great!

What did you think?