Boardwalk Empire Review: "Nights in Ballygran"
Despite the promising premise of St. Patrick’s Day in the era of Prohibition, "Nights in Ballygran" fell a little flat.
The momentum of the past few weeks was put on hold for a mostly uneventful episode. While some might argue that two of the night’s biggest developments, both involving Margaret, made for an exciting conclusion, I found them predictable and uninspiring.
Although not a big fan of the holiday (“I love being Irish, what I hate is the yearly display of crying, arguing, and public drunkenness that goes with it”), Nucky is responsible for making St. Patrick’s Day enjoyable in Atlantic City. Nucky’s plans for the Celtic Dinner and St. Patrick’s Day keep getting complicated by everyone from the hired “leprechauns” to his brother Eli.
The least of worries, at the start of the episode, is Margaret, who continually makes her presence known.
He does his best to ignore her, simply stating, “My life’s complicated enough.” He allows Eli his brief speech at the Celtic Dinner, which almost incites a riot between the recent Irish immigrants and those who were born in the U.S. But, as usual, Nucky is able to quell the storm of angry Irishmen. The smaller issues were no problem for Nucky, but Margaret definitely adds more complications to his life.
As excited as I was for the development of Margaret’s character last week, I have to say that I’m very disappointed with the turn she took this week. The sight of her “neighbor” Mr. Neary unloading barrels of beer into his storage warehouse causes her some anxiety, but she ignores it and makes a soda cake for Nucky. When her offering is rebuffed, she tries again by holding a meeting with Nucky about the beer.
Her actions early on suggest that she feels somewhat connected to Nucky after their brief moments together during his birthday party, and she expects to have some influence over him as well.
However, the unloading of more barrels concerns her and she waits patiently to meet with him again, while wearing the pilfered negligee under her new dress. However, he ignores her and this is finally the last straw for Margaret. As she tears up the stolen underwear, you can almost hear Glenn Close’s Fatal Attraction line, “I’m not gonna be ignored.” Like a petulant child desperate for attention, she visits Van Alden. She becomes a caricature of a woman scorned, hell-bent on revenge.
After reporting Mr. Neary’s actions, Margaret joins the Women’s Temperance League in a protest outside the assembly hall because this is the only way that Nucky will see her and realize her involvement in the raid. It might seem like her conscious and her concern for her children moved her to speak with Agent Van Alden, and that may be part of it, but it’s clear that she really wanted to express her own sense of empowerment. She tells Van Alden that she’s already had too many lectures from men who speak boldly, but do nothing.
Men treat her like she’s invisible and she’s had enough of it. By ruining Nucky’s night and impinging on his business, she will make herself visible to him again. And her little ploy works because Nucky immediately comes to her that evening. Why? Maybe it was just time to kill the sexual tension between the two. Or perhaps, contrary to his earlier statement, Nucky enjoys complications.
He seems to invite enough of them into his life, especially lately. He lets Jimmy leave town, after letting him get away with a crime that complicated his business, threatens Rothstein, and gets too personal with a woman whose husband he had framed and murdered. Regardless, it was inevitable that Van Alden would catch up with Nucky and his cohorts, just as it was assured that Nucky and Margaret would end up in a passionate embrace.
The other night’s developments seemed predictable, too. Of course Pearl killed herself. She was a prostitute who had lost the ability to attract men. Naturally, Angie was meeting her photographer “friend.” Things are getting a little stale in Chicago and Atlantic City, but perhaps the increased attention of Van Alden will add some excitement to future events.