Boardwalk Empire 301: Resolution

Boardwalk Empire 301: Resolution

The ghosts of Jimmy and Angela Darmody live on in Gillian and Richard. Sweet Tommy Darmody is spoiled with attention from the woman in love with the dead man and the man in love with the dead man’s dead wife. Never mind that Jimmy was Gillian’s son or Angela a lesbian, these two characters hold proud incestuous, uninformed torches for their deceased loves, and their respective departed beloved lives on inside Tommy. The bond between Gillian and Richard is both beautiful and volatile; they both want to best prove their love for Tommy: Richard by keeping Angela’s memory alive, Gillian by replacing her. This intense overwhelming need to put their love on someone who will one day become a version of their lost love bonds them, so even while Gillian offers sweet voiced threats to Richard’s stability in her home if he refuses to live inside her story and carve out his own, Richard offers a sincere, “I understand” in response to Gillian’s objection at Richard schooling Tommy on Angela’s existence.

He does, too. If anyone understands a desire to disappear a past, it’s Richard, who left his twin sister while she was trying to nurse him after the war, but mentions her in a tantalizing memory when Tommy asks him if his father taught him how to shoot a gun, and Richard responds that it was his sister who created this sharp-shooting fiend. I am intrigued by Richard’s sister, and excited that he’s keeping her alive in his ghost stories with Tommy. In the season two episode “What Does the Bee Do” Richard tells Angela that the only woman he loved was his sister, Emma. Richard and Gillian may be at odds, but Richard understands what it is to desperately adore a relation, to feel as if there is no one you can cherish as much as you do the beautiful boy-doll you raised as a companion, or the twin who resembled you in all ways, who you spent every moment beside until the war separated both your physical resemblance and your shared experiences. There is profound symbolism in Richard walking past a carnival grotesquery (The Half Man!) with his young pinwheel clutching ward, considering confectionaries, sharing boyhood tales and tantalizing memories of war, this is a skewered, kaleidoscope view of Richard’s secreted away dreams; fantasies he thought died in the war.

If Richard is learning to anchor himself to the present, to resurrect himself from the trenches Jimmy died inside, will sister Harrow become real, tangible? Has allowing himself to trust Jimmy, to love Angela, to care for Tommy begun to rebuild Richard? Will he become whole again? In some respects, yes, Richard will become a part of the world, but the world Richard lives inside is corrupt and violent, Richard can still seek and receive bloody retribution for his losses, as seen when he, in his calm sniper-Richard way, removed Manny cruelly and quickly from this world as Manny’s loving wife looked on. In that moment, a serene joy overtook Richard, like a furtive masturbatory climax, like an unprovoked slap, for Richard, allowing Manny to see his macabre, bewitching face the moment before death was a satisfaction that could calm him for a time; he scratched an itch.

When I first watched the scene where Richard takes out Manny, I shouted triumphantly, “Revenge!” I imagined Richard had a people-to-kill list squirreled away in his room, tucked between the pages of his scrapbook filled with photos of domestication and his conflicting pre and post-war portraits. I thought Manny was first on the list and everyone else who took part in Jimmy’s demise best watch out! Then I realized it wasn’t revenge for Jimmy’s death, Jimmy effectively told Richard before he left the night he died that he was off to pay for his sins; Richard understands that Jimmy was a soldier on the losing side. No, Richard was avenging Angela. Richard saw Angela disappearing, not long after her death and already she’s a name that you have to squint to read, an unrecognizable figure in the distance, a generic title: “Mother” that has been replaced by a woman with a powerful devotion to “Father”.

I’m also entertaining the idea that Richard was hired to remove Manny; that Nucky or Owen via Nucky told Richard that Manny would be leaving his home that night and that he needed to be taken out. I’m not sure why Nucky would want Manny executed though and I’m still living inside my romantic notion that Richard was prompted by sadness and frustration to slam a whisky-through-a-straw and exact a vengeful New Year’s retribution on Manny. My romance with Richard continues as I imagine him walking home, purposeful and confident, able, for the moment, to breathe easy. Maybe he can’t keep Angela alive, but he sure as hell can see Manny dead.

Find me now on my new site Les Beehive!

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