"Boardwalk Empire" – Episode 4 “Anastasia”

10/10/2010 Posted by Admin

"Boardwalk Empire" – Episode 4 “Anastasia”

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

“Where’s your sense of romanticism?”

“It left with my husband.”

“Anastasia” is an episode about truth and consequence. The fairytale life each character lived crashes down with the realization that nothing comes without a price, and in turn, corrupts the values of even the purest characters. Much like the faux-amnesiac princess of Russia, things rang false this week and it was a welcome change.

Episode four opens with the three main plotlines already underway--Jimmy is busy taking Chicago by storm with the help of Al Capone; Nucky Thompson readies himself for his extravagant birthday party; and Margret Schroder heads off to work at the French boutique drunk on the stories of the missing Russian princess.

As each character moves about their day under the assumption of control, discontent bubbles to the surface. For Nucky, his political support from New Jersey’s underprivileged is in jeopardy. Last week’s third act lynching did not sit well with the community’s black leaders, particularly Nucky’s bootlegging partner Chalky, who demands satisfaction.

Jimmy has similar problems in Chicago that he found in New Jersey. He moves too fast by challenging a rival mob leader and things turn sour quickly. Al and Jimmy think their mix of intimidation and negotiation scares the rival leaders, but the reprocutions Jimmy’s new girlfriend feels says otherwise.

Finally, Margaret is under the same pressure this week as last, but when her boss charges her with the job of delivering a dress to Nucky’s party, the taste of the good life proves too much for her values.

The problems everyone faces this week leads to distinct character shifts. Nucky, who thus far proved to be somewhat of a people’s man, showed some class resentment toward his servants, who cannot fulfill his every desire. Nucky’s aversion to class resentment made him so likable thus far, but the change creates more dimensions, making him a more dynamic and realistic character.

Similarly, Margret’s desires get the best of her this episode, a distinct change from the God-fearing women we've seen in the past three weeks. Her entrance at Nucky’s party welcomes her into a world that normally would have showed her resentment.  She wants the chance to live romantically and she ignores her ideals to get it, which is more shocking than the show’s violence.

Jimmy, on the other hand, is simply incorrigible. He is a bad gangster and, as Nucky warns him, he's moving too quickly. This week, this finally catches up to him in ways he hadn’t expected. The choices he makes have consequences for those surrounding him, putting not only those in Chicago at risk, but also his abandoned family.

The character shifts were a welcome change from the endless recaps of the last two weeks, and without a single mention of the first episode’s bootleg heist, it was great to see new lives and storylines get underway. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much action this week--one again, the show focused heavily on the characters’ evolution. This is advantageous in making the small amounts of violence count, but at this point, the show’s audience is dying for something a little more exciting. Nevertheless, the character instability keeps things interesting even when not much is happening.

Grade: B

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