Boardwalk Empire Review: "Under God's Power She Flourishes" (2.11)

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<em>Boardwalk Empire</em> Review: "Under God's Power She Flourishes" (2.11)

One of the great things about The Sopranos’ episode “The Test Dream” was that The Sopranos was doing it. Here was a show that was particularly grounded in a certain type of “realistic” filmmaking technique which it had never broken away from. Then, all of a sudden, we’re inside a subjective dream where anything can happen. It wasn’t like in Twin Peaks where that sort of thing was normal; you knew that this was important because otherwise the show would go out of its way to make its style work with whatever story was being told.

“Under God’s Power She Flourishes” wasn’t as drastic a departure as that, but it was still largely about a story I thought we would never see filmed. This is the show’s first flashback and, liquor-induced though it may be, I couldn’t help but wonder about this choice. It further increases this season’s focus on Jimmy (at the expense of having the more interesting Nucky largely relegated to fretting about his legal problems for episode after episode) in a way that portends something big in the finale. This episode is essentially about Jimmy’s primal scenes, the moments that made him the character he is now rather than the man Nucky raised.

In extremely short order, Jimmy learns he has a child, beats up a teacher he respects for sleeping with his mother (I see how this could be read as rape, but that’s not how I saw it), and then himself drunkenly has sex with his mother. It’s no wonder he joined the army, since he’d at this point effectively gone from upstanding Princeton student to a person he couldn’t look in the eye overnight. What haunts Jimmy and makes him betray Nucky? It seems to largely be one 24-hour period in which everything went wrong for him.

While he’s busy drunkenly remembering all of this, Atlantic City keeps on turning, which includes his allies going against him. Not only does Doyle try to betray him to Van Alden, Capone and the rest are ill-content with the way he’s been running things, especially when they learn that it was Manny Horvitz who killed his wife. This is clearly a man unable to protect his own. When he kills off the Commodore at the end of the episode, this will also severe ties with the yacht club. Just a couple episodes he was on the top of the world. By the end of “God’s Power” he’s in charge of a city that’s out of control, striking, and with few left to turn to for help.

Outside of Jimmy’s circle, the big event is that a member of the congregation where Van Alden drowned his deputy tells Nucky and his lawyer about what happened. This not only puts into question the testimony Van Alden would give (which the case against Nucky hinges on), it makes him a wanted man. Van Alden shoots and runs when confronted with this at the police station, and this development makes Nucky no longer certain he’ll lose the upcoming trial.

Did the flashback structure work well? Well, yes and no. It did feel out of place and forced, not to mention slowing things down right before the season finale. That being said, these were some incredibly powerful moments. The shot of Angela and Gillian watching side-by-side while Jimmy pummels his professor was incredible, with the horror in one’s face juxtaposed against the glee in the other’s. Like a lot of this season, the best parts came from Gretchen Mol’s part as the Lady Macbeth driving Jimmy along his murderous path. It just doesn’t look like next week will be a happy one for Jimmy, either.

Stray obsevations:
•“They don’t enjoy my company.” – Van Alden’s life story in one quick sentence.
•“The mere fact of my ongoing existence is more than he can bear.”
•If his parable wasn’t for another bloodsucking donation, what was it for?
•Richard Harrow wanted to lick that blood so badly, yet he held himself back. A class act, all the way.
•Jimmy sure is awful at reading. As in barely literate.
•“He’s my guardian, and my mother.” – wow, this Mr. Thompson sure is a lot to Jimmy.
•Interesting chocie to have them reading Webster rather than his contemporary, Shakespeare. I for one have no idea what his plays are like.
•According to Jimmy’s mom, chimneys “draw”?
•“The Jew kid.” Wow, even his own conspiracy doesn’t give a damn about him.
•The train noise during Jimmy’s sex scene with his mom is just so headslappingly unsutble that I’m disappointed in the show.
•So is it fair to say that Jimmy had the worst morning after of all time here?
•Is there a reason why Nucky and Margaret don’t just get married?
•Also a good option: mommy went to live at a farm upstate.
•And so, Jimmy finally completed his cycle and became Oedipus.