Boardwalk Empire, Episode 3.6 Recap: “Ging Gang Goolie”

Gangster Gyp Rosetti may be on the run, but AG Harry Daugherty is reemerging as an equally dangerous adversary for Nucky.

Dealing with the real possibility of a mob in his own backyard is bad enough, Save Jerseyans.

Now Nucky Thompson is confronted by an adversary with whom all New Jersey taxpayers are acutely familiar: the federal government

Duh duh duuuuuummmm…

Will Nuck outwit his foes?

There’s really no other option; his alternatives to winning are (1) death or (2) jail. And they might not be mutually exclusive. 

Spoilers below the fold…

The dominant storyline from this season’s first five episodes took a bit of a break this week; Gyp Rosetti is presumably still on the run, and Nucky is focused elsewhere. With good reason! Not on his annoying lady friend (thank God). Nucky has desperately needed to get his head in the game for weeks now. Luckily, much like that other famous HBO gangster, he seems to find his A-game whenever his back is firmly pressed up against the wall.

And by “wall,” I mean the walls of an 8′ x ‘9 holding cell at the Justice Department. After confronting Attorney General Harry Daugherty in Washington, D.C. for a failed protection money drop off, it’s clear enough that Daugherty intends to frame Nucky for the unraveling protection racket scandal at the Justice Department. Nucky threatens to bring Daughtery down with him, and Daughtery seems to believe him or at least take it seriously. What’s less clear is where Daughtery’s cryptic underling, Gaston Bullock Means, fits into the puzzle. Is he loyal to Daughtery? Or willing to cut a deal with Nucky? The show’s writers leave it an open question for now. In the interim, Daughtery responds to Nucky by making a point and having the boardwalk emperor arrested en route to his train back to Atlantic City.

Then things get really interesting. Nucky’s surprisingly easy arraignment leads to a chance (or not?) encounter with Esther Randolph. Remember her? She’s the government attorney whose criminal case against Nucky in Season Two was derailed by Daugherty, after which time she was remanded to a demeaning low-level job prosecuting minor Volstead Act violators. Nuck convinces the jaded attorney into dinner and serves up a proposition for her to chew on: help him take down the corrupt Daugherty who ruined her career. Randolph doesn’t say yes, but she doesn’t say no either. To be continued…

Jimmy's Replacement... run, dude! Run!!!

Meanwhile, Margaret Thompson if yet again forced to deal with her psychologically damaged son, Teddy. It’s heavily inferred (but not spelled out) that the boy started a fire in their home’s greenhouse and at least tried to do the same in their neighbor’s garage. Teddy blames a “gypsy man” who appears to be a fictitious concoction of stories overheard from his mother and Owen (Note: Teddy later shows his sleeping sister a knife and promises to protect her from this “gypsy man” — somehow, the audience isn’t comforted… creepy!).

Speaking of Nucky’s #2, Owen investigates the suspected arson and tells Margaret that his men nabbed a drifter (was Teddy lying?). Later on, when a lonely and obviously unnerved Margaret hears a bump in the night and investigates with shotgun in hand, she discovers Owen lurking/standing watch in the greenhouse. One thing leads to another and… yup, everyone’s favorite Irish affair is back on! Good for her…

Yet the “most disturbing” award for this episode goes to Gillian Darmody. Hands down, no contest. After kicking Lucky Luciano out of her brothel for trying to peddle drugs through her girls, Gillian finally removes her dead son Jimmy’s photographs from the home (a positive step?) and heads out for the night… only to encounter a young man who looks an awful lot like Jimmy. Two steps back, folks, in this bizarre Oedipus tale. She naturally sleeps with the young man, offers him a job, and even playfully (or so he thinks) renames him “Jimmy.” This dude has absolutely no idea what he’s in for…

The only “happy” storyline of the night belongs to everyone’s favorite character Richard Harrow. He’s the closest thing this show has to a good guy, and he proves it yet again by assisting an old disgruntled veteran who loses a bare-knuckle boxing match at the local veterans organization hall. Richard meets this vet’s attractive daughter and is instantly smitten. We’ll see if this new love interest goes anywhere or, more likely, ends up being just the latest sad chapter of this man’s horror-plagued life story. I’m pulling for him!

All in all, Save Jerseyans, Boardwalk Empire, Episode 3.6 “Ging Gang Goolie” was pure set up. The episode’s title comes from one scene in particular when Harry Daugherty’s corrupt lieutenant is overcome by his guilty conscience at a meeting of meritorious boy scouts. The entire episode features characters — Owen, Margaret, Nucky, Gillian, and yes, the Justice Department — paying lip service to the things for which they allegedly stand. Even a scene where Richard’s veterans group discuss how their government failed to support them after WWI fits neatly into the episode’s arch.

Next week, it’s back to mob wars, extreme violence and men who make no pretense of virtuous living…