In the latest episode of “Boardwalk Empire,” the women continue to shine on as the dirtiness of American Politics is artfully illustrated in a boys’ club backroom deal at the 1920 Republican convention.
The wretchedness of candidate-turned-president Warren Harding was cleverly written in to the teleplay as Nucky (Steve Buscemi) handles his local politics and pays a visit to his estranged Jimmy Darmody.
Nucky wields the power of the payola, as his massive tips secure the presidential suite, as his cagey strategy with oily Senator Edge and slick Harry Daugherty, the campaign manager for who Nucky describes as “that imbecile,” Warren G. Harding.
Nucky’s efforts yield what he wants most: Money for his roads to Atlantic City.
Nan, a young woman who has Harding’s baby girl is now a charge of Thompson, and by default, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), too. The embarrassing situation is skirted away out of the limelight so Harding is ensured a scandal-free victory, in the stone age of political news reporting.
But things are not going so swimmingly back in Atlantic City, as the jackals nip at Nucky’s empire.
His brother, sheriff Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) has been sitting in for Nucky while he was gone, and collects money for a ward boss he gave the day off, only to be ambushed by a gang from out of town. He survives, but the news unnerves Nucky in Chicago, and he immediately calls Margaret to secure his office and records at the Ritz.
He also calls upon Darmody (Michael Pitt) and makes him an offer, which Darmody takes after he realizes the truth of what Nucky tells him, he is Irish, Capone and Torio are Italian, and Darmody will never be fully part of their inner circle in Chicago.
The always classless Lucy Danziger (Paz de la Huerta) makes a drunken fool of herself in the lobby of the Ritz as Margaret is having tea with another side girl (and former pal of Danzinger).
It is not so much that Margaret loves Nucky, it is more that she holds a major grudge and real anger at Lucy for the humiliations she suffered when working in the shop. Margaret is well-read, smart, Lucy is ignorant, and Mrs. Shroeder’e ego is basking in the glow of being the preferred woman.
Federal agent Nelson Van Alden (Mike Shannon), in a fit of rage at his depressed wife who is nagging him for a fertility operation, and guilt for not being on the up and up, finally sends the intercepted cash from Darmody to his baby mama Angela (Aleksa Palladino) who is in the midst of a torrid lesbian affair. The Puritan lawman sends his wife an admonishing using scripture to deliver the blow, and his wife collapses in tears yet again.
The good news is the fascinating character of Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), Darmody’s new WWI war-torn pal and sharpshooter ace-in-the-hole, is coming to Atlantic City with Jimmy. Huston plays Harrow with an enigmatic charm and quiet force.
The episode ends with Margaret fully aware of who her man is, how he makes his money and how she will tailor herself to keep her lifestyle and favor with Nucky, and either accept or reject the truth.
I’m betting she sticks around.