Nucky's Midsummer Night's Dream
The end of last season left us with shocking and somewhat unexpected events leading up to Nucky Thomson shooting James "Jimmy" Darmody. For many reasons, some of which I will explain, it never sat with me that both Nucky would kill Jimmy the way he does, or moreover that Jimmy would walk willingly into a lion's den.
One of Boardwalk's more predominate lines uttered by Jimmy back in season one is, "You can't be half a gangster anymore, Nucky." On a first glance the line implies the idea that Jimmy feels Nucky isn't a full fledged gangster, because Nucky isn't willing to do what it takes, which in Jimmy's opinion is getting his hand's dirty, be willing to kill. But really this is crux of the struggle between these two men, which is also reflected in several other character relationships, including Nucky's relationship with his brother, Eli and more importantly, Nucky's relationship with himself.
Ultimately Boardwalk shows us that a few of the big wigs in our show, don't really operate on brute force alone, but rather Nucky, Arnold Ronstein, and at times, Johnny Torrio seem to represent sophisticated well educated intellectuals who believe themselves to fundamentally understand the way people operate by being in touch with the human condition. They are politicians.
The end of last season let us take a look back to Princeton and Jimmy's time there. It becomes clearer in that episode that the reason Jimmy was there, was because Nucky believed it was in Jimmy's best interest and that Jimmy was capable of being a well educated intellectual with a bright future. That Jimmy was like Nucky, he could not only understand and relate to what he was reading, but could read between the lines. Additionally Jimmy's mother, although at times perverted was also seemingly philosophically in tune and believed in a more educated and classy approach in regards of her occupation and dealing with people in general, but it is she that ruined Jimmy's future by coming to visit him while in school and displayed a physical and romantic attraction.
Part of Boardwalk's over all aesthetic really plays to the whole culture of the likes of New Jersey and New York in the 1920's. People were generally enthralled and submersed in a revival of ancient and/or foreign culture being surrounded by the likes adult dancers performing tasteful scenes of Grecian mythology, tarot card and palm readers, fancy night time social clubs full of Jazz singers, French lingerie and clothes, plays and theater productions, loads of literature, the beginnings of electricity and Hollywood motion pictures, it was a time where people had pride for some kind of public formality. It was a world where The American Dream seemed possible if you worked hard at something or for somebody.
Nucky has been a character that is at times hard to read. He's been presented as person who can be fickle in his decision making. When it comes to his and Jimmy's relationship, which is very much like a father and son relationship, Nucly hasn't always done right by Jimmy, which is honestly, along with Gillian's manipulation, leads Jimmy to turn to his father, the Commodore, and turn his back on Nucky through out season 2. Nucky shows a darkness and a lack of understanding of why Jimmy had become the way Jimmy was, but I suspect "Jimmy" was just an excuse to take out things relating to his own family, rather than him not understanding and not seeing through Gillian.
For Nucky season two represented a lot of physiological challenges, as his brother is not only the one to conspire with the Commodore and James to take Atlantic City back from Nucky, but is the one who suggests that to do that, they kill him!
The title of my theory, "Nucky's Midsummer Night's Dream" is a reference to Shakespeare's play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The reason I chose this title was because I believe season 3 to be a dream, a dream that started right at the end of season two the moment Nucky hung up the phone with Arnold Ronstein, as he explained his dilemma to Arnold about what to do about James Darmody. Arnold told him to do what he deos, which is to toss a coin. ( a possible reference to "Merchants of Venice") -But Nucky seems to thought provoking for a simple game of chance and so I am willing to bet he slept on it.
Additionally I choose this title because Shakespeare references can be felt through out season 3, although the first goes back to the season 2 finale. Nucky sits on the porch with Eli and says, "Et Tu, Eli?", a parody to the famous "Et Tu, Brute'?" of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar", where Caesar's good friend, Brutus helps conspire being manipulated by the senate to help partake in killing Julius! Eli didn't understand what the phrase was relating to, pointing out again to the audience that Nucky is an intellectual where Eli is more literally a brute...and as we also know, a killer.
"Julius Caesar" and "Mark Anthony" are two of Shakespeare's plays that FICTIONALLY romanticize history that together dance around themes of two great nations (Rome/Italy and Ancient Egypt) , war, political hierarchy, and epic love stories.
There have been references to both these plays in particular with Billie Kent with a Cleopatra-esque wig and leopard coat (Queen Pharaoh of Egypt) during an Egyptian themed party in the episode "Resolution", the dog's name that Gyp killed the owner of, Mr. Johansen, and gave to Margaret is "Regina" (Regina is Latin, Romanian, and Italian for "Queen"), Gyp himself being an Italian immigrant who's persona is a larger than life emphasizing "legend and warrior" status "Pompey" (one of Caesar's conquests) is referenced in 5x08, and Billie Kent also calls Nucky "Gus", which is a shortened nick name referring to the more prestigious Augustine or Augustus. Augustus is the name of the first Roman Emperor. The nephew of and adopted to the senator Julius Caesar. He later wages war against Mark Anthony and spreads propaganda about his relationship with his love interest, the foreigner Cleopatra!
But the real line of thought of Shakespeare comes with what we might take as season 3 thesis: A parody to the GREAT and probably most well known soliloquy from Shakespeare's "Hamlet":
"To be [gypped], or not to be [gypped]? -That is the question.
Dreams are a way to explore one's conscience or sub conscience in terms of one's choices leading to one's ACTUAL identity in a very psychological and some what not coherent or literal way. Everything in season three is full of contradictory statements, contrasting scenes or ideas, double talk, argumentative often one on one narratives, and massive allusions to Jimmy and/or the idea of killing Jimmy. A lot of the dream IMO expresses the idea of the after math of a "what if" sanaro had Nucky killed Jimmy.
Starting with Gyp, he represents Nucky's ALTER SUPER ego! -The Dark side of Nucky that wants to make other's pay for their mistakes. -But in certain scenes, when Nucky is acting this way himself, it is then Gyp who challenges him and pushes him to make him understand that EVERYTHING in life is "personal". Gyp is mostly a Devil's Advocate, but also something that Nucky keeps trying to push away/get away from, but keeps "haunting" his dream by ghosting around in the dark or completely running rampant.
We could also dig a little deeper and realize that "Gypsy" too is a metaphor for Gyp as well, as everything relating to any version of the name Gyp, such as Gypsy, comes with instances of exp lotions and fire. -In season 1 Nucky ends up burning down his father's house after being exceptionally frustrated because Margaret coldly wouldn't listen to him when he wanted to tell her something rather personal about his childhood experience. One time after Nucky's father BURNED his hands with a poker iron from the fireplace! One could argue this is an act that deeply marked him and made him the man who he has become, the man who struggles to do the right thing, and a man who is trying to let go of his past, all without getting "too burned".
Gyp's last name, Rosetti may be a pun for "Rosette" which literally means: small rose, but is also used to describe stylized flowers culturally used on sculptured objects for decoration or times of commemoration, such as Ancient Grecian Mausoleums, or more modernly to decorate a military uniform. One may notice that Nucky often wears a little red flower (carnation) on his lapel. Carnations derive from the Mediterranean area (Italy, Greece, Egypt, ect) and red carnations are usually a symbol of deep love and compassion.
Everything kind of goes back to season one, where Jimmy leaves Atlantic City after his botch liquor shipment job, he tells Jimmy, "Good luck to you, James." -But eventually, after Nucky seeing a somewhat more successful Jimmy aligned with Johnny Torrio, asks Jimmy to come home, which lands Jimmy in jail.
In the meantime Gillian had formed a relationship with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, seemingly to protect Jimmy, but "Lucky" is one person I would say Nucky point blank doesn't like, and so it makes sense, especially after the episode, "Bone for Tuna" (Good luck to you, Gyp!), as Gyp (being a figure of Nucky's imagination and a monster) is in the image and dialect of a personified "Lucky" Luciano and has relationship parallels with Gillian with allusions expanding with Gyp and other red heads.
The commentary track on season 2 DVD or Blu-ray has the writers insist that it is "clear" that Jimmy was shot and killed, but first despite the fact that "in the dream" he might be so, there is still noting clear about killing a man in heavy rain in the pitch black. That's anything but clear. Let's also not forget Terrence Winter's involvement in The Sapranos!
"Dreams are where we should live, but we HAVE to live in life."
Fleshing out a bit again from Ancient Rome, we also have Ancient Greece. Gillian has really been the the source for that reference since she artistically dances and understands Grecian myths very well, as it is a part of her personal aesthetic being a tasteful exotic dancer. Ancient Rome really was intrigued and perhaps intimidated by Ancient Greece, as Rome becoming more and more self righteously Christian during certain Emperor's reins, sought to blend the Hellenistic and/or Pagan rituals and beliefs by incorporating it into their own, attempting to conquer all in their path. During season three Gillian is often the one to actually speak of dreams, which dreams are an important part of Ancient Culture and it's revivals in general. One line in particular sticks out when Gillian speaks to her landlord, Leander, about paying for rent. "This place, Leander, is meant to be a dream." -It's lines like these taken out of context where the writers are telling us the "truth" about this experience. Additionally, the name Leander is also a Hero of an Ancient Grecian Legend.
Gillian goes on and on one night to explain dreams, going to sleep in the "dark" (night) verses waking up in the "morning" (day) to a young man who looks and speaks much like Jimmy, Roger, who in the light of day is brutally murdered, and as impostor used as proof of Jimmy's dead body (which by the way the whole season never actually shows us Jimmy's dead body, or where he was taken).
In "Sunday's Best" one of Nucky's nieces plays a VERY haunting version of "Beautiful Dreamer" on the violin (The Saying: 'why don't you get out the violin' = winning and pinning over something)
The song at the end of "A Man, A Plan" is also about dreams. Additionally Margaret sings a song about dreams to her children to help them sleep while in the hotel.
Allusions to Jimmy and/or the death of Jimmy:
-Roger McAllister who is drug overdosed and drowned by Gillian.
-Rowland Smith, a second thief killed by Nucky's own hand
-A boy in the background that stands near the docks in almost silhouette near the pear
-Eli now trying to make shipments to New York that goes all wrong = Pilot episode with Jimmy and Al Capone screwing up
-Gyp himself being "turned down" by Nucky
-Gyp seeking to take out Nucky Thompson
-Gyp, coming from a poor family treasures his "one" nice expensive suit
-Eli in the Garage on Easter taking about the conspiracy itself and basically having Eli ask for forgiveness and except he is "there" because Nucky let him be there. (Similar lines uttered to Jimmy)
-Tommy's misadventures and links to "pony".
- Richard killing Manny at close range outside his house
-Ghost of young Jimmy
-Owen, taking the place of Jimmy starting last season (Became Nucky's Irish handy man), ends up brutally murdered by Gyp. Opposite to Jimmy, we do not see Owen's murder, but his body in the aftermath.
Note: "Roger" is both a civilian and military RADIO code word for "I Have Recieveced the Last Transmission." that generally implies the idea of receiving messages, which would be a point of going through heavy debates and strange events in a dream. Roger's name meaning is "famous with the spear" alluding then to a soldier and Jimmy's skull crusher sword.
Some of these allusions and episodes also play to Christian Theological themes, specifically dealing with "The Three In One" concept centered around Jesus' Resurrection The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (And allusions to past, present, and future) This isn't too surprising since we can gather that Nucky has perhaps always struggled with his beliefs in regards to the Christian faith.
"All of the World is a Stage." -William Shakespeare
Many of the scenes including, Jimmy's death scene, feel more like theater productions with perfect, but over acted lines, acute physical actions, and bizarre exaggerations, and or soliloquies have been felt in a lot of scenes. Also, as mentioned in other parts of this analysis characters are also constantly "shifting" roles, personalities, and/or beliefs.
The theater itself has always been apart of the show and becomes center stage when Nucky pursues a relationship with Billie Kent. Billie Kent is a "Muse" with out substance. I am sure for a lot of viewers it's perplexing that Nucky would choose miss Kent at all, because she initially comes off as untalented, as even Margaret had to earn her stripes to gain Nucky's attention and that it requires a good choreographer to make her a better performer, but going back to something the also theater orientated Lucy Danziger had once said, "Nucky is a soft touch for the charity cases." -But Billie too points out that we are in a dream.
In "Blue Bell Boy" Nucky dreams about Billie calling him and has hallucinations of seeing young James Darmody. The episode points out the idea of "a wake up call" as seeing a child version of James shot, walking around with bullet holes, but also with Nucky exceptionally fearful that he will loose Billie and end up alone, as at the end of the episode he sleeps alone in her apartment and awakes to her "frying bacon"...aka Wake up and smell the Bacon, Nucky. If you kill Jimmy, you're gonna be alone.
Another theatrical orientated episode that spells these things out is 'You'll be Surprised".
Some of the lyrics to the song of the same name are:
Don't judge a book by it's cover
He might not look like a very good lover
but, you'll be surprised!
These lyrics are talking about Nucky specifically, with the word "lover' being loose to convey 'a person who loves'. Billie Kent is then his own shadow, a person who loves people, is struggling and needs the help of others to succeed It also means we are not to take what we are seeing at "face value". The writers are singing, 'You'll be surprised, because Jimmy is still alive!' -Nucky won't kill Jimmy, because he made a promise and because he cares.
There is also use of audio MOTIF that plays to the idea of memory through echoes in space and time. During "Sunday's Best" Margaret sings and we see Nucky home in on her. The scene ends with the audio track of her voice becoming distant, echoing, and fading into the back ground. In some ways I believe the technique is both tying back to a few things and foreshadowing events within the dream itself.
By the time we get to the end of "The Pony" and into "The Milkmaid's Lot" we see that the nobody, now turned somebody, Billie Kent shinning like a star on Broadway was killed in a deadly explosion at the courtesy of Gyp Rosetti. Nucky, near the explosion survives, but spends the entirety of "The Milkmaid's Lot" near deaf with ringing in his ears, sever memory loss, and confusion. It again ties back to instances of this with Jimmy. Once with Al Capone pulling a gun on him while he sleeps (which is beyond ironic since Capone's own son is deaf), another in flashbacks showing Jimmy fighting during the first World War, which leads to the thought of the act of shooting Jimmy itself.
It also becomes a bit clearer for what Billie Kent actually stood for. With dark hair she almost resembles Nucky's former wife, Mable, who Nucky calls Margaret in the episode, but on stage with her hair now appearing in disguise, again, a sever night and day-like contrast, becomes "blonde", she represents both Gillian and James Darmody (light-haired) and ultimately innocence "lost" and dreams broken. (Note Mabel sounds like "able")
Going back to Margaret for a minute thinking about this whole deal with getting a dog from Gyp Rossetti (a queen for a queen as if it were-which Nucky mentions to Teddy that women can be politicians, as England has "queens"), "the gypsy" lighting their greenhouse on fire and then having Teddy speak to the actual Gyp, Margaret being the first voice to fade out even before Nucky is ever in the explosion, Margaret telling Teddy that there will not always be maid to clean up after him (which "maid" can be synonymous for "mother" and double back to Gillian giving Tommy mother's milk with Rum in it), and the parallels to ringing of the ears being an effect of close range"gun shot", all makes me think that Gyp Rosetti will kill Margaret during the last episode of the season!
Additionally "The Milkmaid's Lot" shows us Nucky's conscience thoughts expanding from two sets of characters experiencing different events. Nucky, recently noting that in theater Billie Kent is what is often referred to as 'the pony' is juxtaposition to getting Emily a pony for her birthday. (which also ties back to the season 2 finale, as Jimmy took Tommy for one last pony ride. So we have "3" ponies). Nucky, although confused, eventually realizes that the reason Emily didn't have a pony for her birthday was because obviously pony's wouldn't be aloud or suited in hotels. This is paralleled train of thought as Tommy draws a rhinoceros at the train station as in both cases those animals "don't belong" in those places.
Also Notably Gaston Means also offers a couple of metaphors such as the old saying of experiencing life through the world of a gold fish bowl, and by putting the fish and water into a glass we get back to that to be gypped or not to be gypped question, as this leads to one's perception to also ask one's self if the glass half empty or half full? His name also is a bit of a word play as Gaston is name derived from a place, the South of France, Gascony, which the people of Gascony are often portrayed as "hot-tempered" (like Gyp) and then Means is a pun for both 'a means to live' and/or the 'meaning' of something, or 'the meaning of life'. The character has been described as a swindler, murder suspect, detective, bootlegger, ect. All occupations (as Nucky used to be a sheriff and could be synonymous with detective) or descriptions relate to Nucky Thomson.
Gaston too, says it like it is,
"You're awaken at an UNSETTLED hour..."
"These are the FEVER DREAMS of an UNSETTLED imagination." (A Man, A Plan)
SPOILER: SEASON 3 FINALE EPISODE TITLE:
The last episode title of the season is also titled according to wikipedia, "Margate Sands". First Margate sounds a lot like Margaret, but more over Margate Sands is a famous place in England, where American turned British poet and playwright T. S. Elliot wrote one the most important poems "The Waste Land" that obscurely references MANY great literary works through out the history of humanity, including a line about Margate itself. It is a sea side resort on the east side of KENT that today serves as a shrine to T.S. Elliot. Sands themselves allude to beaches, such as the beaches of Atlantic City, including James Darmody's house, and beaches were men have fought for centuries in war.END SPOILER
Note: Shakespeare and Elliott considered British poets and playwrights since Elliot eventually acquired British citizenship.
Surely there are more instances to things I have not yet mentioned here, but I am sure you can get the idea. -But like the play Julius Caesar, I think the dream will also have elements to things that are almost prophetic in nature, should we end the season with Nucky waking up from his not so much Midsummer Night's Dream, but absolute night terror and learn that in some way James Darmody lives on.
Often Martin Scorsese presence as producer can be felt especially when some of his more recant bio-pics themes show up in Boardwalk Empire like "Gangs of New York" for instance, as the Thomson's, former Schroeder's, and Darmody's are all of Irish decant and Boardwalk occasionally shows us the struggles between American born Irish and immigrating Irish through those characters. The beginning of season 3 gave us some instances of "air planes" and I am instantly reminded of "The Aviator" and Howard Hughes We have one of the first women to fly and airplane across the Continent, we have a model airplane Eli opens that was a gift, and we have Billie Kent nick named 'Humming Bird'. I was doing a little research about planes being used during prohibition. What I found online was an old advertisement for one of the real life Al Capone's former pieces of property, a warehouse, that included a specially designed roof so planes could land and presumably drop off the booze. I think that might be where we venture next season.
"Which fiction do you prefer?" -Margaret
Ultimately going to the title of season 3's first episode title "Resolution" is not just about traditions of New Year's Eve, but more thematically about making promises to RESOLVE pending/unsettled problems. It is clear to me that the "Mad" General Wayne-wanna-be must be defeated, otherwise Nucky will loose the better part of himself, the part of him who wants a family and who wants to keep promises, but also find a way to stay alive.
"A Man, A Plan" not only poking fun at word puzzle and/or "games", but further emphasis that unresolved theme of hubris thinking of you can either "escape" or run away from your problems (Owen), or you can take everything head on. We have Gaston Means attempting to murder Jessie Smith, but he commits suicide, Owen being murdered with out the audience seeing the murder, just the aftermath (juxtaposition to Jimmy), and Rosetti brutally murdering a guy he was going to let drown with the tide for explaining "shifts and waves" to him, instead with a shovel, along with Richard nearly killing Julia's father (parallels to Eli murdering the guy in the garage and fighting with Nucky in Nucky's place last season). Basically in the speak of Gyp, he's got a plan, I got a plan, we all got plans! But who's will win out? Who's plans or dreams will get to see the light of day?
Means: How would you judge a man you could buy within five minutes of metering him?
Nucky: I wouldn't trust him for a second.
Means: Then we are face to face with a paradox.
UPDATE: "TWO IMPOSTORS":
This episode offered some more interesting bits of conversation. The most obvious being Gillian's conversation with Richard.
"You have to be careful...DREAMING of things you know will never come to pass. Things that will only hurt you."
Note: Gillian also referred to Richard's pursuits as "A Fantasy World".
Two Impostors implies the idea of people taking the place of other people, something we have seen through out the season, as every character is either an allusion to Jimmy, or a way for Nucky to voice his own debate with himself...Chalky plays a more significant role here, where Nucky reveals his Romanticism and affection of others, as this asking for help (and saving Eddy) is a mirror back to the day Nucky went over to Jimmy's house, assuming Jimmy was asking for forgiveness and/or to make a deal...This idea of taking back Atlantic City and REBUILDING Babette's for Chalky is also a metaphor for Nucky rebuilding his relationship with Jimmy.
Nucky: Where are you taking me?
Chalky: That is for you to decide
"We take care of each other, guys. That's how this thing works." -Chalky
This line parallel's Nucky's "This hand washes the other" conversation. Chalky also mentions the idea of coming around to "a new day", and Nucky replies, "Not yet." This implies the nightmare isn't over yet. He still has to come face to face with the biggest impostor ever, Gyp. (himself).
"Everything is connected, Charlie, whether you know it or not."
Gyp also has a conversation with Gillian about surprises. This may go back to 'you'll be surprised', as the writers are again telling the audience this isn't the truth, a surprise is coming...
Also Gyp again comes off as a personified Charlie "LUCKY" Luciano as his return and conquer of Gillian's place ties back to her partnership with Charlie at the beginning of the season.
"Let this one go." (Direct reference about killing Jimmy)
Additionally above I suspected that Rosetti was a pun to Rosette personifying a possible ruthless aspect of Nucky in the name of his red carnation (love, compassion) he wears on his lapel. Interestingly we see the carnation fall to the ground an indication that the gloves are off and the war with himself is on