Daddy’s Home: Boardwalk Empire
The real name of Boardwalk Empire’s Season 1 Episode 7 was simply “Home,” but here we are retitling episodes again. And besides a distant memory of me own Irish da coming home soused to the gills at 2 a.m., waking up the whole neighborhood, yelling out ‘Daddy’s Home!’ obviously, this was not Nucky’s childhood home in any real sense of the word. It was his father’s kingdom and his father was a dictator.
When we first see Nucky’s father, Ethan (Tom Aldredge) in “Home,” he’s not all decked out for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration as he was in “Nights in Ballygran.” He’s living in squalor trying to keep the cats away from his burnt toast and the last of his hootch. Losing the battle, he falls and ‘can’t get up,’ and the next time we see him, Nucky’s brother, Eli, is on the scene getting the old man some medical assistance, when Nucky walks in, saying he came as soon as he heard. Eli said when he called Nucky’s office, they said he was with his lady friend. “What’s her name, Mabel? sneers Nucky’s father. That’s our first glimpse of Nucky’s abusive childhood.
Their father complains bitterly that he was lying there for 5 hours and might have lost his leg if Eli hadn’t shown up. After he’s taken to the hospital, Eli cryptically reminds Nucky that Margaret is a widow, a loaded statement since Nucky is behind her husband’s demise. Nucky says Margaret knows nothing and never will.
Nucky decides to give the house to ward boss, Fleming, whose wife just had another baby. His plan is to give it to a decent family who can fix it up so someone can get some use out of “this shitpile” he tells his brother, whose own idea was to sell it.
When Nucky is informing Fleming about the no-strings attached gift of the home, who should bust in but Lucy, who has clearly been dumped. She demands to know why Nucky isn’t returning her phone calls. “What’s she got that I haven’t got,” Lucy whines, “She just a f*cking shop girl.” Nucky placates the distraught castoff as best as he can, just to get rid of her, even saying he will take her to see “Dr. Jekyll and Hyde,” but he is cold and abrupt about it.
He then takes Margaret to see the home he has given Fleming, where he starts to tell her about his abusive childhood. But Margaret has been advised by fellow concubine, Annabelle (Megan Reinking), not to let her man confide his secrets to her. “If you let him bare his soul,” Annabelle cautions, “you’ll be a constant reminder of how weak he really is.” So, much to Nucky’s astonishment, his Irish molly cuts him off dead and tells him she’s “no stranger to a man’s cruelty,” but “it’s best to leave the past where it is.”
Later, at dinner with Annabelle and Harry (her sugar daddy), Nucky starts to tell a story about a baseball mitt he had signed by Hardy Richardson — his most prized possession — and when she tries to get him to tell the whole story, he refuses. Margaret thinks better of Annabelle’s advice (which also included running your lover’s pockets, although Margaret can’t ever see herself doing such a thing).
At dinner at her home to the delight of Margaret’s youngsters, Nucky recites part of Some Little Bug a.k.a. The Food Song:
Margaret apologizes for her selfishness in cutting Nucky off earlier, and he tells her about the catcher’s mitt. It was stolen and his father made him challenge the thieves to a fight, only it was 4 against one. Nucky was beaten unconscious and had to be hospitalized for 11 days.
He tells Margaret the house is all done and wants to take her to see it once more, but she wants to put Lucy down for a nap. Little Teddy asks if he can go and “Uncle Nucky” takes him to see it. (All mommy’s boyfriends in the old days were called “Uncle.”) Eli is there with their father and Nucky tells them to get out. As he is leaving, Ethan tells Nucky “You may think you’re king but you’re not worth a goddam.”
Nucky sees little Teddy holding a can of turpentine with the letters EDA on the label. He takes it away from Teddy and sends the little boy back to the car. Nucky pours the turpentine all over the place and lights a match. As he is standing outside, watching it burn, Fleming shows up and asks if the fire department has been called. Nucky hands him a wad of cash and tells him to find a better place to live.
Why did Nucky set the house on fire after letting it get all fixed up? We think it was an irresistible impulse brought on by the combination of his father’s very presence tainting the house after it had been restored coupled with the taunt and insult, with the clear solution appearing as if by divine providence — a child with a handy can of turpentine.
Highlights and Shockers:
Jimmy’s wife, Angela, likes girls — a lot. She’s not sleeping with the photographer, she’s sleeping with his wife, Mary! Angela frets that Nucky will find out and stop giving her money.
In Chicago, Jimmy Darmody meets Richard Harrow, another war veteran who lost his left eye. His new friend was a sniper during the war, has a problem with lying and has never made love to a woman. Jimmy is happy to offer his help with the lying and the woman, introducing Richard to Odette, one of the hookers at the brothel. Richard repays the favor by putting a bullet in the face of Liam, the guy who sliced up Pearl’s face. Jimmy meets Pearl’s mutilator in a diner and tells him to relax: “I’m not going to kill you.” Liam is scared out of his wits all the same. As Jimmy tells him a story about a German he killed in the war, a story involving choosing life over death no matter how badly one is injured, Liam’s fear is so palpable, you can feel it. When Jimmy leaves, Pearl’s butcher exhales in a very audible and long sigh of relief. Richard shoots him in the face from across the street. Jimmy could have killed him anywhere, but this ambush was not only poetic justice for the way Sheridan’s goon lured Pearl over before slashing her face — Jimmy was now the powerful man ordering up revenge and Richard was just doing what he was told. Jimmy planned this carefully, including the story about choosing life over death. The German soldier in his story chose life, but Pearl chose death.
Lucy did get to see “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” – alone. It was the 1920 silent version with John Barrymore. The Spencer Tracy one came later in 1931. You had to think it was a very appropriate choice with the Jekyll and Hyde sides showing of not only Nucky and Jimmy, but Nucky’s father as well, who obviously did not mistreat Eli. Richard Harrow’s mask is reminding everyone of the Phantom of the Opera, but he is a man with a murderous evil side too.