Boardwalk Empire has a real knack for hanging on to characters and bringing them back for purposes beyond a simple flash of recognition by the audience. Of course, Jimmy’s been a specter hanging over much of season 3, and we’re once again reminded of that in ‘Ging Gang Goolie,’ but the late Mr. Darmody isn’t the only presence reminding people of their past. As it turns out, some actions that were perhaps forgotten are once more brought to the forefront.
No one seems more wistful of the past than Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol), who not only laments her son’s absence, but also the way things used to be. Amidst her flailing business enterprise with Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Gillian is given the painful reminder of just how far things have progressed and just how limited her options are without her son. So out she goes to the boardwalk to stumble upon Roger, an Indiana native who is looking for work, and also happens to be a pretty decent stand-in for her son.
Gillian wastes little time getting Roger into the sack and giving him the nickname “James” – which he doesn’t seem to question, because why would he? It’s unclear if Gillian has plans for Roger beyond satiating certain urges, but with the constant reminder that the house is still in Jimmy’s name until he’s declared dead, perhaps Roger will be sticking with that nickname for a whole lot longer.
Meanwhile, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) and George Remus (Glenn Fleshler) discover Gaston Bullock Means (Stephen Root) is a no-show to collect their payments, which prompts a visit to the offices of Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald). Turns out, Daugherty and his assistant Jess Smith (Ed Sewett) are under fire and they’re looking for a patsy to get the government off their backs. Nucky offers up Remus, but his connection to Smith would easily spiral out of control and make everyone look bad. As far as Daugherty sees it, despite his delivery of New Jersey so the “puppet can pretend to be president,” Nucky’s just the patsy Daugherty and Smith are looking for.
This is the part where Boardwalk Empire gets to interpret facts. History buffs will likely know how Smith’s story plays out, so it’ll be interesting to see how Terence Winter and the rest of his writers fold that into the larger narrative of Nucky and where he is headed this season.
In that regard, getting pinched by a couple of Daugherty’s men for buying some booze before the long train ride home probably wasn’t part of Nucky’s plan. Once again, however, the industrious Mr. Thompson manages to take a problem and turn it to his advantage. Processed with a bunch of low-level bootleggers and folks in violation of the Volstead Act, Nucky once more makes the acquaintance of Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson). Randolph wastes no time in reminding the judge just who stands before him, but the judge is not that interested in trying a case of that magnitude in night court. Like all the others, Nucky pays a simple five-dollar fine and is on his way.
Slipping away with an insignificant fine helps Nucky make his point to Ms. Randolph, after she accepts his invitation to breakfast. His pass is indicative of the corruption that has kept prohibition from being effectively enforced. Whether it’s the meager fine he was just asked to pay, or the $40k a month he was shelling out to have the government look the other way, an indictment against him will only appease people for so long – the real trick is getting at the crooks like Daugherty and Smith. For Randolph, it’d be a way out of prosecuting low-level offenders in the wee hours of the night, as well as some way of saving face after the debacle that was made of the case she brought against Nucky. Allying with Randolph would certainly help take the heat off him, but Nucky soon learns Gaston Bullock Means may also be in his corner – for a price, of course.
Back in Jersey, Teddy’s past interest in fire comes back to haunt him after the greenhouse catches fire, and he’s the only witness. The whole Thompson house is on edge with the ongoing problems caused by Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), so when Owen (Charlie Cox) questions him about what he saw, Teddy says a gypsy started the fire. It all seems so unlikely, given Teddy’s past, and the fact that he’s caught in a neighbor’s garage with matches and kerosene. Despite his punishment, Teddy maintains he’s just trying to protect the family from the gypsy. This leads to a fairly dark story told to his little sister about how the man used to be a rabbit, and if he ever comes by again, Teddy’s going to stab him with a knife.
All this talk of fire-starting prowlers and Púcas puts Margaret on edge, and – after venturing into the greenhouse with a loaded shotgun – back into the arms of Owen Slater. Although he placates her with a story about the fire-starting suspect he dealt with, it’s clear that something’s not entirely right in the Thompson household.
Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘Sunday Best’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview of the episode below: