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Boardwalk Empire - 5.03 What Jesus Said - Review - All Or Nothing?

Sentimentality verses ruthlessness seems very much in the drinks this week, as Boardwalk Empire's third final season episode explores love, proposals, and ultimatums. As I have said in the premiere episode's review (in the introduction section), and on many occasions in the comments sections, I always felt Boardwalk was only ever asking who Nucky Thompson really is, which this episode greatly points out that notion again with an extension to the question by having Joesph Patrick Kennedy Sr. ask him what it is he wants, when he has no real family to leave it all behind to.

Nucky refuses to really answer the question, only hinting at a vague notion of legacy, which beyond all the other opposing qualities of these two characters, is the ultimate deal breaker for Kennedy, whom quite frankly has done his homework in terms of Nucky's actual family situation, something that Kennedy (and future Kennedys) clearly care about.

We also catch up with Chalky White and his prison-break mate Buck, who have come to a specific house, allegedly not only to hold themselves up in, but Chalky's traveling companion is convinced this is a place where he wants to seek justice for being discriminated against. They come upon a two woman living in the house, the mother Maria and her daughter Fern, who become their captives, as they lie about Maria's husband coming home at anytime and as Buck expresses a beef with him. It's not really money or moving on to another place that Buck seeks...

For Chalky White, who seems to act mostly dismissive, despite the fact his fellow brother is proven to be irrational and nonsensical, stays mostly secondary until the situation escalates to a point of no return and where the truth has come out for these two woman with the father and husband who died in the war. Chalky kills his traveling companion with the back of the hammer, as it is clear that mothers and daughters, have clearly resonated with his choices from seven years ago...

But if Chalky is still meant to be one of the final reflections of Nucky Thompson, then his redemptive actions in this episode speak volumes, despite whatever happens to the character, unless we learn that it was Nucky behind Chalky's seven year prison sentence and not the more obvious Narcisse.

Elsewhere we also continue on with Margret's story in the wake of the suicide of her former boss, which leads to the awareness of the under-dealings of the presumed dead Arnold Rothstein. Margret has always been good at deceiving and behaving like an ignorant simpleton in financial situations, but when it comes to dealing with the widowed Mrs. Rothstein, Margret can not hide from her, whose another character much like Kennedy, whose done her homework on some of Margret's past, and forcing Margret to acknowledge her marriage with Nucky Thompson, but unlike Kennedy, who walks away from Nucky, Mrs Rothstein threatens to sue Margret after loosing almost everything, which is really suing Nucky Thompson.

We also catch up to Dr. Narcesse doing business in Harlem. If there is still a connection to being forced to do the bidding of the current FBI, the episode makes no awareness of it, but instead has Luciano and Siegel try to by drugs in exchange for protection, but Narcesse refuses seemingly not liking Luciano's manners or the implication of making threats. Later in the episode, like a scene out of a previous season's Chicago, the two refused men go into one of Narcesse's brothels and fire upon the prostitutes!

Other Musings and Observations

My Little Pony:
Ponies have been thematic to series starting with the season two finale, where Jimmy spends time with Tommy in preparation of their separation. He takes Tommy for a pony ride in which the Pony licks Tommy (or kisses him). In season three we revisit ponies in two ways. First it is used with a second definition or term relating to the theater/romantic role of Billie Kent and then other episodes feature a pony needed and expected for Emily's birthday party. Some characters in the series also refer to woman as "fillies" (very young female horses) and so it was quite fitting to have Nucky kiss the pony after meeting what will be the first real love of his life, Maybel, as the episode reminds us both how love can go wrong (prostitutes murdered, prostitute murdered at The Corner Hotel, and Billie Kent reminder), love isn't always what you want it to be (Distance felt with Sally Wheet), and how love can come back to you at unexpected times (Margret appearing when Nucky wakes up).

Note: Nucky's first wife was Mabel. Coincidentally Chalky's daughter was named Maybell.

Speaking of Prostitutes, there were some scenes that were reminiscent to other scenes in previous seasons, such as the scaring of Pearl's face (which also foreshadow's Al Capone's), season three featuring the murder of prostitutes in Gillian's establishment, and a scene in the flashback also had young Nucky peek through the door where a woman was position on a couch with a sheet just barley covering her lower half, which juxtaposes a scene with Tommy, also in season three.

More winks to Marilyn Monroe?
In the last episode review, I did make mention of how I feel Billie Kent is really a prelude to what will be the Marilyn Monroes of world, especially with the hair style and color change prior to her death and how this season is playing with a Kennedy and a connection to Cuba, along with a few noticeable characters wearing this style (Sally Wheet, Meyer's fake wife). When Kennedy comes to the Onyx club and attempts to take in the new dancer Kitty, I had noticed that the following act included a bunch of blonde dancers in a sailor dance outfits--something again that I think is easy to associate to Marilyn Monroe famous photos.

Kennedy is the "perfect" Rothstein
Matt Letscher's performance as Joesph Kennedy Sr. really has been a treat proving again what a great character actor he is. Part of it also has to do with the writers bringing lines that some  might find typical Kennedy-family jargon and rationality, but really Letscher sells it with super formality, grand composure, and with a kind of distant amusement, which in turn acts as a perfectionist squeaky-clean evolution of Arnold Rothstein, even ordering Rothstein's signature milk and sadly reaffirming Rothstein's absence. -But the episode also makes an interesting debate in introducing Kennedy philosophy: if having a family and wanting to create a legacy or a secure future for them, is really any less altruistic then just simply doing it for oneself? Although I still hope there is something more romantic behind all of Nucky's motivations and when one considers that viewers have not yet caught up to the almost young adult Tommy Darmody and his outcome, it does suggest that family should mean something more than it seems to to Nucky Thompson.

Innocent Childhood Romance in the Mist of Grown Up Love Story Gone Wrong
I loved the flashbacks in this episode for so many reasons. It not only showed us again the innocence of Nucky Thompson's youth and the introduction to one character that really might have been the love of his life, but it also connects to other adult truths that strings characters together in interesting ways. For instance, we know that Mabel eventually has Enoch jr, only to loose him and then have a nervous breakdown that seemed to result in death or suicide. Nucky in the episode was basically confronted by Kennedy about for whom he was working so hard to build his Empire for, as it was quite clear Kennedy believes deeply in family and family dynasties. We know through out the seasons James Darmody was the one chance for Nucky to be a [better] parental figure, especially because we also know that Gillian and James existence and stories relied on the actions of Nucky working for The Commodor and thus guilt really should of played a role. As I have mentioned probably too many times, the series always echos that choice to kill James, a choice that seems so senseless that can only be out spite and/or a metaphorical killing of Nucky himself. So many times characters that we though Nucky should care about, always die at the expense of him covering his own tracks and/or being only ever partially aware to his surroundings.

But the situation with Mabel and receiving the letter ties us directly to Gillian Darmody. The episode beautifully juxtaposes the letters Nucky receives, where one is about the promise and hope of great future and the other is surely about the outcome that awaits in Nucky's destiny, as I feel certain the Gillian is not going to let things go. Gillian herself, is a love story gone wrong--a stolen innocence that left her traumatized and in dreamy confusion.

The episode also allows other fates to be felt. Sally Wheet is a character that I worry about, since she brought up a need for money and a situation to be mended--and like always, Nucky isn't really there, but also because Margret is forced back into Nucky's life due to the actions of Mrs. Rothstein. I loved Nucky's crooked delirious smile when he awoke to find Margret at the end of episode after somehow thinking it would be Mabel--almost as though there is meant to be hope for the pair.

Enoch Walks With God-Wake Up and Smell the Roses...
Although I have to go with young Nucky here, that this Biblical saying almost seems riddle-ish and going in circles, there are few ways viewers can take it's meaning. In terms of the episode itself, the concept of immortality goes hand in hand with Legacy--a need to be remembered after one departs from the Earth, but more universally, looking to the series end, and thinking about the death of Richard Harrow, it could imply death as heaven. A place where everyone forever exists together, because "God Forgives". I still hope for a Jimmy is alive reveal in some way, even though I don't expect to get it, but this to me would be the justification for all of Nucky's flaws and a real revelation about his identity--a deception to save someone else's life and maybe where a son and father (Jimmy and Tommy) can be reunited under non criminal circumstances, but it just may be that I have to accept that Jimmy and Nucky will reunite in another form existence instead.

So what did you think of the episode? Was it one of your favorites too? Any feelings about the outcomes of characters with only 5 episodes left to go? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author - Darthlocke4
Laura Becker (Darthlocke 4) is a long time commentator, TV addict, and aspiring writer participating with other fans on SpoilerTV. She writes reviews and analytic type articles. Some of her other interests include philosophy, cultural anthropology, reading, drawing, and working with animals, as she grew up and continues to work on her family's horse farm.
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