Boardwalk Empire: Under God’s Power She Flourishes

Gretchen Mol refuses to let that Emmy go quietly into the night.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Under God’s Power She Flourishes

Season Two: Episode Eleven

Directed by:  Allen Coulter

Written by:  Howard Korder

The Spin:  Well, my friends, Angela (Aleksa Palladino) may have lived one episode longer through a flashback, but it was Gillian (Gretchen Mol) whose insidious ways haunted the hour.  Here we learn the back story of how/why Jimmy (Michael Pitt) left Princeton and joined the Army.  Korder and Coulter cinematically weaved the long flashback into the current proceedings where an air of melancholy hung over various characters in dire straits who made desperate plays to turn the tides.  What’s that, Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks)?  The Italians told you to go screw yourself?  So why not try to screw them by brokering a deal with Van Alden (Michael Shannon)?  Well, guess what, you moop, Van Alden is too busy getting ratted on concerning his 86-ing of his Number 2 — ahhh…remember that baptism by drowning last season?  Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) must’ve thought it was Christmas as just as she was tying the rope tighter around Nucky’s neck, in comes the surprise that Van Alden murdered a fella, too.  But that screwy Van Alden pulls a fast (and dumb) one before he can be brought in by shooting Esther’s Number 2 in the foot…and here we had just gotten some juicy back story to his childhood, too, that explained an awful lot.  And then there’s Margaret…coming to blows with Nucky after she receives a subpoena…but she stops short of telling him her most damning sin.  Still it was refreshing to see Nucky in the classiest of ways threaten his paramour.  “If you don’t know me by my Word, then you don’t know me at all,” he says to her.  Sounds an awful lot like her God.

Which brings us to another shocking moment at the end of another shocking hour. **COUGH COUGH SPOILER**  It seems Gillian is an old gal who is as familiar with Oedipus as she is Macbeth.  But while the Oedipal flashback was predictable and twee…her Lady Macbeth act at the end was nothing short of thrilling.  “Then finish it, god damn you!” she screeches at Jimmy while he wrestles with a surprisingly adept Commodore (Dabney Coleman).  And finish it he does.  If the Commodore’s fate is any indication…karma might not be instant…but Justice is a Bitch.

Things Learned This Evening:  The ladies are patient.  But when cunning, the greatest revenge can be theirs.

Wait Until Next Week:  Hot holy hell…where is Manny?  What the deuce is Van Alden going to do now that he is on the lam from the law?  Which lady (Margaret, Gillian or Esther…or Lucy?) will have her way in the finale?  All I know is…someone is going down.

Commentary by David H. Schleicher 

To my readers and Boardwalk strollers:  Thoughts, reactions, comments?


  1. Was looking forward to your take on last night’s episode. For my part, I was totally shocked. Sure, I’d always thought that was one creepy mother-son relationship but did not predict its origin story.

    Dan – I thought it had always been implied that Gillian/Jimmy’s relationship had been incestuous. I was still shocked how it all played out and defined his back story – and how ruthless Gillian was in those final scenes – going from scared to shocked to crying to “FINISH IT, GOD DAMN YOU!” A masterful performance by Mol. –DHS

    • I see your point! I’ll concede that I always thought she was disturbing in her affection for her son (and her simmering resentment towards Angela). But I never, never would have guessed that this affection had been consummated between them as drunk but seemingly consenting adults. It seems that incest is the last of the great taboos, and still has the power to shock and horrify (witness its recent appearance in Game of Thrones, Pillars of the Earth, etc.). Does enlistment count as passive suicide? If so, it tells you much of Jimmy’s regrets..
      Gretchen Moll has been fascinating to watch. She gives a masterful performance: blandly intimidating, flirtatious, vulnerable, whimsically appealing, and totally, brutally crazy. Finish it, indeed! Who could say no to a mother like that?

      Dan – yes, I’ve always been a fan of Mol, and she’s never really been allowed to show her range as she has been able to here. Such a fascinating, monstrous and compelling character her Gillian is. –DHS

  2. This has been a very good season. It has improved greatly from last year. The last two episodes have been top notch.

    Maurizio – I totally agree. Last season had its shining moments, but this second season has been more consistent, better paced and the writers and actors really seem to have found their grove. –DHS

  3. This penultimate episode, a setup for a proper denouement where some peeps gon’ die in the finale, felt just rich enough to have been a finale itself, and in fact I’d have preferred it that way. I’m dreading a Godfather redux, like they gave us in Season 1. Also seen in Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Elizabeth I … clean out the unwanted dinner guests in one clean montage of Machiavellian murder. Each time it’s done it becomes more precious. The simple fact that most Sopranos / Boardwalk / Rome / Deadwood / Oz / Wire seasons revolve around key characters dying in the finales makes me queasy. But enough whining, where’s the goddamn popcorn.

    It sure is entertaining! Can’t wait to see who bites the dust in the finale! –DHS

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