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Monday, November 21, 2011

Boardwalk Empire 2.9: Ireland, Radio, Polio

Another powerful, wrenching, historically brilliant Boardwalk Empire last night - 2.9 - in which Nucky Thompson goes to Ireland to seek a booze supply in return for his Thompson guns (the name is pure coincidence, as Nucky says).

The Irish part of this story is straight-up fine and tough international intrigue. When John McGarrigle refuses to make the deal with Nucky - even after Nucky impresses the rest of the Irish rebellion leaders with the power of his guns - and McGarrigle tells Owen he must stay in Ireland, rather than return to America with Nucky (and return to Margaret, which Nucky doesn't yet know), the result is somewhat predictable but still satisfying.  Owen, also without Nucky's knowledge, arranges for McGarrigle's assassination.  His successor will make the deal.

But the most punch-in-gut development happens back in Atlantic City ("AC," as Jimmy at one point calls it).  Margaret's  daughter is striken with polio.  Like many of the historical touches in Boardwalk Empire, this shows us how very far we've come from that time, which is so much like ours in many other ways.  But imagine what it must have been like to live in a world, before polio vaccine rid us of this disease, where you get a little flu-like fever, but end up paralyzed for life.  Americans of all classes were hit by this virus, including Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, who mostly kept his paralysis from public view during his four terms as US President.

FDR addressed and unified the nation via his "fireside" chats on radio, a medium which again makes a major appearance on Boardwalk Empire, even bigger than a few weeks ago.  We now actually hear the radio broadcast of the Jack Dempsey fight.  Jimmy listens to and enjoys it - after Al Capone, no student of the media, says listening to radio is like "reading a book," and goes to the fight in person.   Radio also attracts the medical staff away from Margaret's daughter, which allows Margaret to cuddle in bed with her, against the doctor's strong orders.  Polio is highly contagious (but, fortunately, as the doctor didn't say or didn't know, more than 95% of the people who contract the illness suffer no debilitating consequences).  Margaret's action is both a commendable act of love and courage but a bit reckless in that she could be endangering her son.

The radio broadcast of the Dempsey fight also closes out the episode, a very nice touch.  And, apropos of Yiddish culture not radio, I was very glad to see that Manny Horvitz aka Munya survived the attempt to take him out in Philadelphia.  This will spell trouble for Jimmy, but Munya has the best pronunciation of "toochis" these days on television (kudos to actor William Forsythe).

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The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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