Boardwalk Empire Review: Mommie Dearest

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I don't even know where to start.

"Under God's Power She Flourishes" was an amazingly powerful episode that managed to raise our expectations for the show... again. My only complaint would be that so much happened this week that it's difficult to imagine what could possibly come next.

I guess it's best to start with the most compelling and unsettling storyline from the episode. Boardwalk Empire used flashbacks to bring the Jimmy-Gillian relationship to new levels of ick here. The majority of Jimmy's onscreen time took place in the past, which made the contrast between his younger idealistic self and the broken (only slightly older) version all the more apparent and tragic. 

Agent Nelson Van Alden

It seemed like Jimmy was doing his best to remember Angela, who's haunting voice repeatedly says, "Jimmy, I have to leave." But the main focus on this flashback was Gillian. The Princeton-era Gillian, much like her present counterpart, always needs to be the center of her son's world. She upstages Angela at the party, being overly flirtatious with Jimmy's teacher so that he would notice and then transforming into the damsel-in-distress to get even more of his attention. But Jimmy's family drama isn't just Jacobean as Professor Pearson points out; it's also Oedipal.

In a scene I think we've all been anticipating for quite some time, Jimmy helps his drunken mother into bed... and then she kisses him. Despite her claims that there was "nothing wrong with any of it," Gillian abandons her son the morning after and he runs off to join the army, probably hoping to find some kind of oblivion overseas. And the drama doesn't end there. Listening to Gillian coldly write off Angela, blind to her son's obvious pain, was difficult to watch. It all became too much for Jimmy when Gillian suggested Tommy might just forget about his mother. His violent response (probably intended to just make her shut the Hell up) lead to the death of his father.

Jimmy's had his difficulties on this show and his somewhat self-destructive streak has never made much sense to me until now. He is suffering from some serious psychological issues and, as I'm sure we've suspected, Gillian is the cause of all of it. Whatever sympathy I felt for her, or the younger version who was raped by the Commodore, vanished when I watched her ruin any chance her son had to build a future for himself or have a successful and loving relationship with a woman. Gillian's made Jimmy into the man he is today, and that's not something to be proud of.

Will Jimmy ever finally stand up to his poisonous mother?

While Jimmy's relationship with his mother begins to degenerate, a similar process is underway with Nucky and Margaret. The growing chasm between them was perfectly represented by their discussion about the parable of heaven and Hell. Nucky's parables are all about self-preservation and helping yourself, like the "two boats and a lifeguard" story. But Margaret focuses on helping others, a clear sign of new religious streak.

However, we can't forget that all of Margaret's charitable donations and sudden desire to do the right thing are based on one thing: guilt. She sees all the terrible events around her as punishment for her lying, cheating and stealing, which is actually pretty self-centered. Not only that, she still can't bring herself to confess to the affair with Owen. Even though she's trying to make the moral choice about the subpoena, that doesn't mean she's making the right one. Her testimony won't get her the punishment and accountability she desires, it will only harm Nucky and her children in the long run.

I like Margaret; she's a complicated character and Kelly MacDonald does a brilliant job making her seem flawed yet likable. But I feel like this "religious" Margaret is more sanctimonious than anything else.

Do you think Margaret will answer her subpoena despite Nucky's threat? Should she? And Van Alden's on the loose! What's his next move?

We'll find out on next Sunday's season finale, which is previewed HERE.


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (91 Votes)

I don't understand the rediculously possible reviews. I'm not here to bash anything I just can't find one like able charecter in the show besides Nucky. I think all other storylines are completely pointless and really... What happened this season, I mean sum up all the things that actually happened besides Nucky's shooting which ended up pointless anyway NOTHING EVER HAPPENS! sorry for the caps just don't get it.


Gillian felt powerless by being raped by the Commodore, and she understands that men have all the power in this world. Her son then became her surrogate in this male-dominated world. That's why I believe she kissed his penis when he was a baby - that was going to be the source of her own power. The fact that by using and manipulating Jimmy this way, she was destroying him doesn't seem to have registered with her. But, then, psychosis tends to be very self-centered.

Terrie lynn mcdonald coleman

While the episode centered around Jimmy and his f'd up past.....I'm surprised the reviewer did not mention Van Alden........I've read on another site that his baby dies in the season finale........and that it was said by the woman that plays Lucy.......may not happen now since he's on the run...... So Margaret has found religion convenient...........I think Nucky might kill her...... I do think Eli will testify against Nucky.... It's too bad the last episode is this coming Sunday and we have to wait till late next summer for the next season.............


Disturbing and creepy. The flashbacks dragged and could have been cut down.


Margaret is so sanctimonious, and as you say, it's all driven by guilt. What a great character, but it's becoming hard to like her.
This show just gets better and better!


Excellent show sorry next week will be the last show


Did anyone else notice that although Gillian claimed to be drunk, she was acting completely sober except for pretending to fall of that bench after taking off her stockings? Jimmy, on the other hand, did appear to be hammered. Gillian was cool and calculating the entire night. Trying to make Jimmy jealous by flirting with his teacher, and at the same time completely upstaging Angela. Remember the first episode when Jimmy comes home from the war and Gillian jumps on him and wraps her legs around him? The character development in this show is awesome!


Superb episode. Finally a peek into Jimmy's past. I was surprised to find so much character development this late in the season, but given how much those flashback showed us, I see why the show took this route. No wonder Jimmy is so TROUBLED . . . look what he's been holding inside of him all these years. Giliian is even more despicable than I ever imagined. And now she has Jimmy's son to raise; think about the horribleness to come in that little fellow's future. The scene of the Commodore's murder was so disturbing; the scene when Gillian tells Jimmy his son will soon not even remember his mother was equally as disturbing. It was like Jimmy gave the Commodore a knife to the gut and then Gillian turned about and knifed Jimmy in the gut too. She's a sick sick woman and a fascinating character. Looking forward to flashback's that explain her psychosis -- trust me there's more there than a rape at age 13 at the hands of the Commodore.


I wanted to amend my thoughts and say Harrow will not take out Gillian. She won't die next week.


The maid will tip Nucky off, and the priest will corroborate it.
I wasn't that keen on the flashback segments, they spent too much time on that.
Richard Harrow will be the angel of death next week, he may be the one to take out Horvitz, or Gillian, she called him a simpleton and he has been stewing all season fearing he was the object of derision from Jimmy.
Margaret will not die, she is going to go crazier with religious zealotry, we DO have next season, and Nucky's legal problems are not going to be solved next week.
There is going to be a lot of cliff hanging next week.

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Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 11 Quotes

Your life is pretty Jacobean all by itself.

Professor Pearson

I think there's no one else in the all the world; there's only you and me.

Gillian to Jimmy