Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Five, Episode Four

In this week's episode of Downton Abbey, Robert pitches fits while ignoring the value of the women around him. Sarah Bunting enrages Lord Grantham with her thorny persistence toward forwarding her agenda. Lady Mary rather unsuccessfully tries to refuse Lord Gillingham's proposal. Lord Merton asks for Isobel's hand in marriage. Shrimpy and Bricker play the part of house guests of the week. News of Gregson's presumed demise draws near.

Old Man Duggan: So Thomas looks like shit. That no one--other than Carson, whose wide-eyed silent registration of horrified indignation at Thomas's appearance undermining the decorum of lunch spoke volumes--was shocked at the ghastly pallor of his skin and the fiery bags 'neath his eyes speaks volumes to the degree to which everyone else in the house is indifferent at best to Barrow's well-being. There is of one thing that we can be sure: Thomas's attempts to rid himself of the burden of homosexuality through tinctures and elixirs will be about as successful as praying the gay away.

Wordy Ginters: Those colors don't run.

OMD: It's a damn shame that Thomas wasn't just a bit more sympathetic, so that this story line could resonate a bit more deeply. As it is, we feel bad for Thomas, but he's such a conniving prick 80% of the time that the modest steps made toward his redemption that Fellowes has taken from time to time probably won't be enough to draw the emotional blood from the viewer that it would have if, say, William or Alfred were the one who was gay in a time in which that was not an option. I guess Thomas would be little more than an evil caricature without the homosexuality as a partial explanation for his devious nature, and concocting a suitable alternative explanation that would conjure feelings of sympathy for such a bastard would be difficult, but still, it's a shame that the horrors of being gay in the early 20th Century couldn't have been explored with a character who doesn't simultaneously fit the bill of the classic heel.

WG: It's shitty that Fellowes makes Thomas the gay character. Look at The Wire. David Simon made the most interesting character (Omar) gay. Fellowes on the other hand, makes the gay guy a sneaky cheating back-stabber. The progressive female teacher is a thorny blowhard. He's working from his 1920s stereotype handbook. It's a dusty fucking tome. His politics suck. To be fair, he's been more enlightened with other choices, but he fumbles badly with Bunting and Thomas.

OMD: It seems like the theme of this episode lies in the evolving notion of the non-permanent nature of marriage in 20th Century society. Shrimpy wanting a divorce from his insufferable shrew of a wife, Susan. Widower Lord Merton proposing to widow Isobel. Mary thinking better of being wed to Lord Gillingham after having been dissatisfied with how they fit together (please, read that however you'd like). The traveling salesman trying to worm his way into Cora's heart/pants with adulation over her appreciation for art. The revelation that Kuragin begged Violet to abscond to some upper crust love nest on the shores of the Black Sea. Is Julian Fellowes having some marital woes?

WG: Apparently so. I need more Kuragin. I'd pay to hear that guy read the Austin phone book. Speaking of pro-fem pop culture, did you realize that Hall and Oates sizzling chart topper, "Adult Education," is written from a female point of view? I knew Daryl Hall had more facets than you'd guess from his choice in music, from his smash home renovation show Daryl's House, and from his bold hair style, but I didn't know he had more nuance than Julian Fellowes. Don't actually read the lyrics to that song.

OMD: I had no idea, but between the gender-bent perspective on "Adult Education" and the anti-anal dance anthem "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," Hall and Oates are nothing if not ready to venture into challenging territory for a songwriting team.

Violet's recounting of Kuragin's attempt to lure her away from the deceased Lord Grantham was quite nice. "Like all Englishmen of his type, he hid his qualities beneath a thick blanket of convention, so I didn't see who he really was at first."

WG: An elegant way to get that sentiment across. Fellowes, you complicated fucker.

OMD: I wanted to make a joke about how nothing gets me randier than [near] septuagenarian widow/widower courtship, but Lord Merton's proposal sincerely brought a tear to my eye. Damn you, Fellowes.

WG: I'm looking forward to the honeymoon montage, a la Bates and Anna. Tangled sheets. Tasteful cleavage. Meaty thighs. Merton cross-eyed. I was hoping when he left, his heart and head buzzing, that he would have put on Isobel's gardening hat.

Gregson's killers
OMD: Would've been perfect.

It surely looks like Gregson was killed in the Beer Hall Putsch of November of 1923 that landed Hitler in jail for treason after the Brown Shirts failed in their march to set up an oppositional government to the Weimar Republic in Munich. The ensuing trial of Hitler gave way to the rise to prominence of the Nazi Party as he was given a public platform from which to espouse the tenets of National Socialism, so Fellowes has done a fine job of incorporating the Crawleys into the periphery of the fabric of world history once again.

WG: I've got a twenty against your ten that Carson spouts some shit that shows him sympathetic to Hitler at some point.

OMD: As long as he can find a way to qualify Hitler's changes to Europe as attempting to honor the tired old class system, that could happen.

Robert's continued marginalization of his wife and her opinions cannot possibly be to his long-term benefit. His childish petulance in this episode is dialed up to eleven until the closing seconds of the installment. It does at times become tedious, though his protestations at Bricker's transparent attempts to sweet-talk Cora's Interwar undergarments to the floorboards are not without their merits.

WG: I laughed when he blew out dinner. I'd rather see him in pissing contest with Bricker than Bunting. What was with the public show of interrogating Daisy and Patmore? That was horseshit. He should have just asked them to flash their tits. Or maybe asked Daisy if she knew what 2+3 was.

OMD: To be fair, Daisy may not know the answer to that question, and I don't think it has any relation to Lord Grantham trying to keep the serfs in their place.

Lady Rose's assertion that she'll only marry a man to whom she's enamored can only be followed by one thing: enter Suitor Number One. At least her unhappily married father will not be the one to block her from a union borne of happiness.

WG: She's been significantly less horny and more prone to social services this season, she's do for a romp. I say pair her up with Tom.

OMD: Tony[!], Toni[!], Tone[!], whenever will you learn that women don't like being told that they love you and will come to their senses while disabusing them of the notion that they get to choose such feelings after having been jabbed about Liverpool by your dick? I just re-watched the episode of Black Mirror featuring Tom Cullen, and I'll admit to having had a bit of a hard time divorcing Tony Gillingham from the shitbird ("Jonas") he played in that episode. Perhaps there was a statue better suited to dumping? Could he have really challenged her assertion at Trafalgar Square in front of the raised, majestic visage of the virile Lord Nelson atop a phallic Corinthian column?

WG: How emasculating to flunk your fuck test with a potential fiance, get dumped in a garden. I think Gillingham's secret is that he's loud in bed. Lots of high-pitched squealing and wheezing. I've only seen one episode of Black Mirror, and it was sadly Cullen-less. Does he have a spit curl?

OMD: "Here, look at these plants growing in the fertile soil. You certainly won't be planting your seeds in mine." Keep going on Black Mirror. It's good shit.

Anna done gummed up the works with that trip to Piccadilly. Bad Mrs. Bates!

WG: So she is a suspect now? That would be hilarious and potentially interesting to me. And hot.

OMD: Some Caged Heat circa 1924 action would be cool and fitting. Of course, they'll probably just be walking in circles in the prison yard, doing calisthenics, and getting their letters withheld by the guards.

On a separate but related note, the green screen/soundstage work on a few of the London scenes looked pretty bad this week, though I understand that it's be damn near impossible to shoot at Piccadilly on a British TV budget and have everything look like it was March of 1924--Hitler's trial transpired between February 26th and April 1st of 1924.

Sarah Bunting strikes again, this time leading to Robert storming out and Branson looking the part of someone who sharted thrice in quick succession at the dinner table. Holy shit is she unable to bite down upon her tongue at opportune times. It must be exceedingly tedious to be her co-worker, as every sentence she utters is in the service of a cause.

WG: She's brutal.

OMD: Someone with more fine art chops than I possess could surely assign an importance to the shot framing of the painted maiden in the stairs outlined by the Jacobethan balusters of Highclere Castle as Mary ascends the stairs to console Tom before heading off to bed.

WG: Nice catch. Tis not I. I'm more at home with Rance Mulliniks.

OMD: Less than a month of proper book learnin' can't possibly make Daisy's letter on behalf of dear Archie a readable one. I'd be terrified to read it.

WG: Cuz fore he got his head rattled on a count of the horors of warz.

OMD: The Dowager Countess owes Princess Kuragin the debt of reuniting wife with husband? Do spill the lurid beans, Violet.

WG: Anything is possible. Speaking of historical guide posts, is the whole Russian/Kuragin story somehow related to the Anastasia story?

OMD: And the episode closes with Robert pledging to build his field of dreams. Or tasteful housing developments. Perhaps there will be a home for the fallen Shoeless Joe amongst the homes. He would surely be a fine ringer for the village cricket squad.

WG: Now there's a proper ending to Eight Men Out. Shoeless Joe smacking belters all over the pitch in Ripon. Molesley polishing silver in the stands, leaning over in a knowing whisper to the guy in front of him, that guy used to play for the White Sox.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Five, Episode Three

[This week's delay was the direct result of Comcast blowing goats and the abysmal internet connectivity at OMD's parents' home. Wordy Ginters took the reins this week, thankfully, and the delay, while painful, should not repeat itself this season.]

Lady Mary works on her post-coital glow, Spratt drops a dime on her sex filled romp in Liverpool to the Dowager, Bates looks to get measured for pinstripes, again, Edith wears out her welcome with the Drewes, Baxter gets an ultimatum, Thomas is lying about something, Cora considers the art consultation business, Bunting shits in the punch bowl, Daisy does her maths.

Wordy Ginters: I've never been to England, but I imagine it doesn't get more romantic than Liverpool. Did you see the abs on Gillingham? I'm guessing those abs aren't historically correct. Regardless of his marbled midsection and impossibly full-bodied hair, he's already coming on a little needy, with the creepy "I notice everything you do" shtick and the unannounced arrival at the Russian Tea Party. I don't blame Mary for having second thoughts, but the self-absorbed "who will she end up with?" cliffhanger BS left me cold the first time around, as will its redux.

Screw these dinks.
Old Man Duggan: One of the worst days of my life had Liverpool as its lowlight. Travel nightmare on the day they arrested the terrorists in London who had been planning hijackings leading to heading deaf, dumb, and blind to Liverpool in the hopes of catching a ferry to Dublin to be able to eventually catch our flight from Ireland back to the States. Screw Liverpool and all its 'pudlians who couldn't tell me where the goddamn ferry line was.

As for good ol' Gill's abs, put your goddamn shirt on, you're making me randy with your abs and your lats, Tony Hunkingham. The Ham's got a 21st Century bod in the Roaring 20s. Good on him. You'd think with that package he'd be a little less desperate for the cavalier and anemic Mary Crowley. I'm not looking forward to getting to suffer through Lady Mary's hemming and hawing betwixt two suitors who frankly lack the charisma and draw of Matthew.

WG: I don't know what was more humorous: the idea that Carson could be wheedled into allowing a soldier shot for cowardice to have his name on the Downton War Memorial, or how PUT OUT he was when Thomas asked to use the demon telephone?

OMD: The incredulity in his eyes at Thomas possibly needing to use that infernal contraption when writing a letter would surely have done the glacially paced trick was a look of which only Jim Carter may be capable. His look upon having his office door shut behind him was priceless.

Just Falking around
WG: I thoroughly enjoyed the Dowager's stone cold lady balls when she effortlessly deflated Spratt's potentially embarrassing news with an extemporaneous cover story. It's those grace under pressure moments that make her coming undone at memories of Prince Kuragin more meaningful. The only thing that seems to rattle her is naughty sexy dirty blood sugar sex magik. And hey, I just watched Maggie Smith as a younger women in Neil Simon's barely watchable Murder by Death a few weeks ago, she was a total dish. Speaking of movies, isn't the dude who plays Prince Kuragin the same guy who rented Cruise his costume in Eyes Wide Shut? Those scenes at the costume shop were fantastically creepy.

OMD: Yes, Rade Serbedzija, who was also in Snatch. As for the young Miss Smith, I've seen none of her earlier work, much to my own chagrin. There's not a good reason for not having seen The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The old dame was quick on the draw with the fabricated reason for Mary's having been seen red-assed and sexually exhausted on the curb in Liverpool with her illicit lover. Spratt's inability to spew out his gossip in a way other than stilted was tiresome. Is he supposed to be affecting a Liverpudlian accent?

WG: I always dig it when Fellowes takes the production off Downton and films in London or other locales. Bricker humping Cora's leg up and down the museum corridors and the twilight sidewalks of London was visually striking. Despite the hash, rehashing, and re-purposing of many plot threads, the visuals have always been top notch on Downton Abbey.

OMD: The show is definitely at its best when mixing up the locations and showing that they're not just beneficiaries of preying on a flagging real-life manor. I simply cannot divorce Richard E. Grant from his role in Hudson Hawk. It makes it really hard to watch his neutered faux courtship of the married Cora Crowley. Grant was born in Mbabane, Swaziland.

WG: Spotted dick reference? Fellowes throwing a bone to the millions of middle school Downton devotees. The tragedy is that it's a damn fine dessert.

OMD: Good old Jules. Never above dipping his pen in the gutter inkwell and dropping a cheeky lewd reference.

WG: Sympathy butters no parsnips.

OMD: Nor is it reserved solely for the holy. But Carson could stop being a dick and just put dear cowardly Archie's name on the memorial.

WG: As much as I'm not looking forward to the Battle Royale among Lady Mary's suitors, I'm even more not looking forward to the idea that Bates is going to end up back on the hook. It's like peeling off a scab. I know you have a hard-on for shot framing, did you notice as he walked forlornly down the hallway after speaking with Anna about their predicament towards episode's end that he was tightly framed in by woodwork and windows with lattices and such? I get the jailhouse blues just remembering on it.

OMD: If Bates ends up back in the clink, that may be the nail in the show's coffin. Good catch on the filmic representation of Bates's looming imprisonment.

WG: What jumped out at you?

OMD: Cora's fitting with Molyneux was with Edward Molyneux, whose last name was apparently pronounced much more similarly to Rance Mulliniks, not in the fashion that Cora employed while namedropping her hoity-toity French pronunciation. Despite blindness in one eye on account of a war wound, he ran the go-to fashion salon in Paris and later Monte Carlo, Cannes, and London for the upper crust women who wanted to look unpredictably fashionable, at least according to the internet and historian Caroline Milbank.

WG: Thank your for conjuring visions of Rance Mulliniks and fine French fashion in the same paragraph. Have they ever been in such proximity before? Doubtful.

OMD: I like that free will as applicable to the boudoir escapades of the rich, famous, and gentrified is nonexistent in the eyes of the Dowager Countess. No, Mary, you were seduced. There is no other explanation. Of course Violet doesn't know that her granddaughter is the possessor of a mercilessly bloodthirsty anus, a fact that would certainly color her beliefs on aristocractic sexual determinism.

WG: For being relatively pragmatic, the old old old fashioned views on sex from the Dowager are a tad surprising. The only way to know about the fatal anus is to cross the rubicon. To experience it is to perish. Gillingham used up 8 of his 9 lives and half a spit curl surviving that weekend. Little known fact: locking pliers, AKA "vice grips," were invented in 1924. This is obviously related to Mary's anus, I just don't know how to connect the dots properly.

OMD: You are definitely onto something here. Is Tony Gillingham the man to invent them? Guessing so.

Mrs. Drewe's freak out was dumb. Of course Edith got the old heave-ho. It didn't take long for the helicoptering fairy godmother to get the heave-ho.

WG: Speaking of fashion, I kind of dig Mr. Drewe's threads. The man knows his vests. What he doesn't have is any idea how to execute a plan to get Edith reunited with her daughter. Whatever "plan" he had going, which was essentially visit us into submission, gives half-baked a bad name.

OMD: Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man. Hell, I'm crazy about him. But mastermind schemer? That's not Mr. Drewe.

I really loved Tom and Mary's fireside confidante scene. "Are we talking about your so-called sketching trip? Because I never believed in that for a moment." It was nice that the two of them could speak freely with one another. Perhaps Branson's lower breeding makes for easier to cut to the chase rather than dance around whilst employing tedious high society conversational conventions that endlessly skirt saying what is actually happening.

WG: If history has taught us anything, it's that Irish firebrands know all about fucking.

OMD: That cannot be argued. It is historical fact.

How is it that dipshit Miss Bunting can never bite her tongue and always ends up offending company? Let these Russian dopes mourn their dear dead Tsar without bringing up the policies of the forcibly and violently dethroned.

WG: Fellowes portrays Bunting like a hysterically right-wing over-the-top version of Hillary Clinton.\

OMD: I was driven by her residence just yesterday.

Baxter's bad influence was Mr. Coyle. I wonder what this says about Brendan Coyle's relationship with Julian Fellowes. I'm assuming this is a tongue-in-cheek nod to back-scenes shenanigans. Brendan Coyle, ever the bad influence on set, mucking up the works with his pranks and smoking of cigarettes.

WG: Excellent catch. No doubt a reference to the seductive ornery manliness of the powerhouse behind Bates.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Five, Episode Two

Lord Grantham and Carson differ on where to place the war memorial. Violet and Isobel visit Lord Merton. Molesley is given details on Baxter's past. Mary makes Anna take a trip to the prophylactic dispensary. Edith becomes her bastard child's godmother. Murder police come to the Abbey.

Old Man Duggan: I'll be honest. Jimmy's farewell to Thomas got me a little choked up. You have to give Fellowes due credit for being able to gain audience sympathy for a character who should by all means be entirely unlikable. Of course it takes five minutes for him to turn heel again and poison Molesley's relationship with Baxter--at least temporarily.

Wordy Ginters: Fellowes is adroit with the emotional manipulation, making it easy to flip-flop from disgust to delight on characters. He's done that before with Thomas. I remember thinking he was almost human for a few scant seconds when he was slinking around the battlefields during WWI. In fact, Fellowes has complicated most of the cast. It's what makes Downton worthwhile. That scene revealed some pro acting chops from Rob James-Collier.

OMD: This whole war memorial subplot is thoroughly uninteresting this week. Shall we skip the nonsense?

WG: Death to the Cricket pitch.

OMD: Molesley is all the footmen.

WG: When Carson wants to bust balls, best keep your head down. Poor Molesley just asks for it time and again. Walking around with his dunce hat, his hair dye, and his heart on his sleeve. Footmens beats the shit out of asphalt tamper.

OMD: Back to uninteresting subplots, Robert's bristling at the concept of having a radio in the house despite Rose's protestations was pretty dull. The only good part of the whole sequence was Robert's assertion that the hadn't previously ruled on the matter. I suppose the reflexivity of people sitting around a box getting dumber is amusing, too.

WG: Fear and disdain for new technology is a go to knee-slapper for Downton Abbey. Carson confronting a toaster for the first time a few seasons back reminded me of the "dawn of man" scene from 2001.

OMD: Anna fetching the contraception for Lady Mary was awkward. Obviously, it serves a greater purpose--not unlike the wireless subplot which was helping to show the days of great change--as why should anyone get to judge another for what they do in their private sexy lives. That old bat in the apothecary--or wherever she went--can shove her abstinence up her prude ass.

WG: If abstinence is the answer, I don't want to know the question. And yes, fuck that nonsense. The old bat surely sees a river of dripping, oozing, pus-filled, and morally obtuse maladies every day. No sense in getting all churchy about contraception. Jesus Christ, she wasn't working at a pharma in Ireland.

OMD: Miss Bunting won't go away, will she? I suppose it's best to have Tom rediscover the revolutionary within, but Bunting is a bit tedious.

WG: Fellowes can't help himself, can he? The "progressives" have to be irritating shits in some way. At least she has the social skills to steer clear of Rose's ham-fisted dinner invite. Kind of looking forward to Tom and Grantham crossing swords. Sure seems like they're setting up a politically based fall-out.

OMD: Simon Bricker seemed inordinately interested in Cora. Will this be a mini-trial on their union, much like Robert's with the war widow maid, Jane? More importantly, how will Bricker's possible affection toward Cora affect his attempt to piece together da Vinci's machine making alchemy possible and his plan for world domination. But in the meantime, I guess he needs to stop flirting with Isis. What a dunce Robert is.

WG: Bricker is definitely running game on Cora. And why not? You remember Elizabeth McGovern from the Penn/Cage WWII nostalgia piece Racing With The Moon? She is still wholesome and fine. Robert is a dunce. His comfortable fat ass deserves a kick. Everyone got all horny about James Gandolfini parlaying his girth into a character trait for Tony Soprano; same props to Hugh Bonneville for his aristocratic flab.

OMD: I've not seen Racing With The Moon. I'm ashamed of myself. Hugh's aristoflab is spot on.

Baxter refusing to give anyone the whole story regarding her history in thievery is getting a bit ridiculous. Spill, woman.

WG: Care to speculate? I'll go first: she needed the jewels to pay for labiaplasty.

OMD: Maybe vaginal enlargement surgery? Too tight. Or she needed the dough for contact lenses that gave her cat eyes.

Fellowes does deserve credit for generating two suitors for Mary who seem genuinely interesting. Blake is an able foil for Mary, which she probably needs.

WG: That stuck me as presumptuous on Mary's part. I wish Blake would have shut her down. What happens if Gillingham perishes from F2FA? Best to keep a second teamer warmed up on the sidelines.

OMD: Anyone who watches the show must know that the chances of Gillingham dying after a few rounds of premarital sodomy are alarmingly high.

And in comes Sergeant Willis. The death of Mr. Green won't go away, and now there's a witness. I guess this plot line will never be over.

WG: I don't know if I want to go back there either. Two episodes in and the Bateses are apparently getting the Job treatment again.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Five, Episode One

Robert and Cora celebrate their anniversary. Carson is selected to chair the War Memorial Committee over Lord Grantham. Baxter's past comes to the fore. Molesley tries out a magical hair treatment. James's former employer comes clawing back into his life. Tony Gillingham makes advances in the umpteenth courtship of Lady Mary. Violet runs interference on Lord Merton and Isobel's burgeoning friendship. Edith carelessly disposes of a book in a tiff.

Old Man Duggan: So we pick up now in February of 1924. Six months have passed since last we glimpsed a new installment of Downton, and last year's Christmas Special marked a jump ahead of a year from where the proper fourth season left off. I'm no baby expert, but Marigold--bringing the percentage of female characters named after flowers to what seems like 75%--seems bigger than a child who should be around one year of age.

Wordy Ginters: Farm living will do that to a toddler. The chores. Fresh air.

OMD: Ramsay MacDonald's reign as Prime Minister does not last long, as I'd imagine we'll find out this season. While Lord Grantham is right to be concerned about the place of the title-holding elite in 20th Century England, MacDonald's Labour Party is ousted after a scant nine months, so his concerns about MacDonald will largely have to wait until the General Election of 1929. Given how eager Fellowes is to advance the time-line of the show--bearing in mind that we're now twelve years down the road from where the series started--that will probably be sooner than one would normally expect.

WG: A raging hard-on for class structure and libertarianism is certainly Fellowes milieu. Not surprising he's eager to flash forward to the uncertain upper crust terrain of pre-WWII.

OMD: Good ol' Donk. An apropos sobriquet given the not infrequent occasions in which he makes an ass of himself, though little Sybil could hardly know of his repeated bunglings of the fortunes of the estate or how much he drags his feet in childlike protestations against progress.

WG: I didn't know a nick-name could be big enough to expertly sum up Lord Grantham and Mike Moustakas at the same time.

OMD: Yet here we are.

How dense is Mrs. Drewe? Given the fact that Lady Edith visits with alarming frequency, it had to have occurred to her that the child is Edith's. I mean I'd let Mr. Drewe throw on his fire brigade gear and chase me around a burning barn, but I'm not gentryfolk. "Don't be daft" indeed.

WG: You raise an excellent point. Where the hell do they get that awesome fire brigade gear? You don't go running around trailing sand from your bucket unless those helmets are shined and the brigade jacket buttons are gleaming. Can't go putting out fires looking like a ruffian.

OMD: You need to impress the fire with your flashy attire. That's Fire Brigading 101.

"He just wants what all men want." "Oh, don't be ridiculous." The subtext there is F2FA, right? Given Fellowes's predilection for getting his characters' asses in trouble--non-figuratively speaking--I think Isobel's reading of the lay of the land is spot on. Lord Merton wants a "companion," and in Fellowes's world, we can only assume that going Turkish would be in Isobel's future, at least if Violet were not so meddlesome.

WG: Delicious. I sensed F2FA would be on the menu.

OMD: I have to say, I don't like the cut of Mrs. Wigan's jib. While I have no issue with the selection of Carson to chair the War Memorial Committee, she sure dealt with Carson in a less than desirable manner, as she was rather demanding, wasting nary a breath between committee business and instructing her hopeful committee chairman how to best prepare her tea.

WG: The commoners be getting uppity. We get it Fellowes.

OMD: Must Lord Grantham make so much of each incremental neutering? He gets butthurt over every perceived slight, as if not being the first choice for the chair of every committee is something at which to take umbrage. Has there ever been a character in anything so beset upon by the simple passing of time?

WG: He does seem spectacularly unable to exist outside of that world. Just when I feel the bitter bile towards Grantham rise in my throat, that bastard Fellowes will go and make him do something valorous, or failing that, decent. Watch. He'll go from pompous ass to sensible sympathetic like a boomerang.

OMD: Viscountess Gillingham. Stateside, we'd have no reason to know this, but Viscount is a step down from an Earl, which is obviously what Matthew was in line to be before his run-in with a lorry. He seems to be a fine chap, but it's probably safe to assume he's got a nasty secret. My guess is that he's a foot fetishist. Maybe he can only get off if balloons are popping.

WG: You're voting looner? I'll go with crushing. Hear me now, Mary will take him on top of a tamworth piglet before the curtain closes on the Christmas special.

OMD: Bold and precise, like everything nice.

Daisy can't do her maths. What with her fear of electricity, it's hard to imagine why she can't get a grasp on elementary mathematics. At least the dimness of Daisy gave Carson yet another reason to champion his classist beliefs in trying to keep the proles in their place.

WG: "Math is hard." - Barbie

OMD: When Molesley was applying that horrifying amalgamation of tar, caviar, and black oil from The X-Files and looked in the mirror, he was the spitting image of my archenemy Ray Milland.

WG: Why don't they just have poor old Molesley wander around in a dunce hat? Fuck Ray Milland.

OMD: Fuck Ray Milland, indeed. There was a freshfaced kid sitting at the servants' table beside Molesley. I'm assuming his position is errand boy. Maybe Thomas's errand boy.

WG: I've got big hopes for that kid.

OMD: Maybe he'll take on the role of Peanut in The Wire.

Mr. Spratt really is a piece of work. Shitbird won't serve a doctor and a Major?

WG: Spratt might be my favorite character. Doesn't say a word. Looks like he's got a plum in his mouth.

OMD: It can hardly be classified as surprising that Mary wants to buck tradition and get to know her suitor biblically. Hopefully for Gillingham's sake he's not so well endowed as to scare her off. It's also in his best interest that he doesn't have an urgent need to encroach upon Lady Mary's alternate entrance, as we all know how that ends up for the too adventurous. Where do you think they'll head on the illicit sexcapade? My guess is Germany, where they see Gregson's head on a pike.

WG: Gregson can't be dead. I fully expect to see him wearing a brownshirt and intimidating slavs and unionists, or perhaps submitting scripts to Leni Riefenstahl. I'd like to see Mary and Gillingham fucking the days away on a beach in Jamaica.

OMD: Baxter the jail bird. I'm surprised that she served time, though for the poor such property crimes as theft were enough to get them thrown in the clink. I'm curious as to what the circumstances behind Baxter's thieving were. Surely Fellowes will shine a light upon it in the next few episodes.

WG: Seemed like a pretty harsh penalty. Baxter ain't all bad.

OMD: That's how the poors got done, though. Thankfully Thomas is no longer able to lord the bit of her backstory over her, though he surely has another object upon whom to heap his scorn. I loved Thomas getting caught in his bullshit. What a dickhole.

WG: Still hoping that a blue-haired Molesley touches him up with a cricket bat. Of course he saved his crooked ass by hoisting Edith out of the flames. Like the fabled phoenix. Thomas is back in Lady Grantham's good graces.

OMD: Bates's inquisition on the subject of Tony's valet seems like he might have been opening himself up to a bit too much exposure. Obviously Tony knows, though I don't think Bates knows this.

WG: What the hell is he trying to accomplish? Asking questions seems reckless. When Bates threw that leg brace into the bog a few seasons back, he gave away a core part of himself. The part that smelled like beef jerky and authenticity and manliness. And common sense and wits. He ain't the same.

OMD: Let's pour one out for John Bates.

So Lady Anstruther is a randy bird. Glad to be rid of her dead husband, so as to give her cause to travel the countryside preying on the presumed slew of pretty-boy footmen that have dispersed amongst the servants' quarters of many a country estate. I'm sure this was not the first occasion in which she has been thrown to a state of coitus interruptus by the hands of a house fire. The pheromones that pour out of her surely turn everyone on their heads. Maybe James can screw his way out of a sacking.

WG: I'm certain that her ravenous red hot vagina had a significant role in the fire that took place at episode's end. The book carelessly tossed by a grieving Edith was merely tinder.

OMD: I'm glad Tom got to tell Robert that he'd not shtupped Miss Bunting. That bit of business between them passed for far too much time without clarification, at least for Branson's sake.

WG: Bunting was not shtuppped. Full stop. I never understood Branson's reluctance to reveal that fact to Grantham either. It bothers me that Fellowes has made Bunting more irritating than plucky.

OMD: Such is his want as his sympathies lie a bit to heavily in the camp of the aristocracy.

Jesus Christ, Edith. Get your shit pulled together. I know the lack of closure on Gregson has to be eating at you, but arson by way of carelessness is no good for anyone. To his Lordship's dressing room with you.

WG: Report to Dad's closet and think about what you've done.

OMD: Tom and Robert channeling their inner Backdraft was nice, but I'll be damned if that wasn't a weak-ass hose.

WG: I found the idea that there were only TWO loaded sand buckets equally galling.

OMD: The depression and social upheaval of the 20th Century didn't sap the gentry of their power. It was their poor preparation for fire prevention/fighting.

So this is a bit ridiculous, but I was wondering how everyone seemed to be walking around as though the weather were totally pleasant in February in the UK. My suspicion was validated when I decided to look up the weather across the UK in February of 1924. Aside from a warm first week--and this episode is meant to take place in the second week of February--it would have been on the cold side of things, despite the fact that no one was dressed for it. The weather on the night of the fire would have presumably been in the teens, as overnight lows on the 15th and 17th in Wales, southwest of Yorkshire, reached single-digits, Fahrenheit. No one looked nearly cold enough when Edith's dumb ass tried to burn down the Abbey.

WG: Awesome. Cue "Stone Cold" by Rainbow or "She's So Cold" by the Stones.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Five, Episode Eight "Eldorado"

"Eldorado," the series finale of the wonderful Boardwalk Empire was penned by creator Terence Winter and executive producer and Winter's right hand Howard Korder. The fantastic Tim Van Patten fittingly directed the last episode.

Old Man Duggan: With no benefit of the opening credits to which we have all become accustomed, we open on Nucky--stripped down, both figuratively and literally--wading into the ocean and swimming against the tide. The tide, of course, brought him his fortune. The oceanfront brought people and their money to Atlantic City, and to its shores came the booze to keep America drunk through the Prohibition. Obviously, the tide also represents the force of Nucky's past--his actions, their consequences--and as he later relates to Eli, he is unable to tell how far is far enough to never come back. The weight of a lifetime's worth of actions in pursuit of wealth and power cannot be counterbalanced. A quiet shot starting with the symbol of his material empire--clothing, shoes, cigarette case, lighter, and iconic hat from the credits, all clearly a nod to what we didn't get to start the episode--in the sand, stripped from his body just as his empire had just been wrested from his grip, and the man adrift attempts to head against the grand force of the ocean. Loaded, powerful opening shot, complete with underlying music that strangely made me think of the introductory measures of the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme, until it took its minor turn.

Wordy Ginters: Buscemi swimming naked against the tide. A nimble remix of the traditional opening credits, and a pretty apt coda for the series in general. Plus, Buscemi shirtless. Love it when Winter throws a bone to the ladies.

OMD: After Nucky's insistence that he could be of use to Commodore Kaestner, his palpable disgust at the Commodore's delight in having young girls recite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Secrets of the Sea" to him. "Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me / As I gaze upon the sea! / All the old romantic legends, / All my dream, come back to me." After some cursory re-education on the subject of Longfellow, his first wife died after a miscarriage when he was just 28 years old, and it came while they were travelling abroad in a year-long voyage through Europe all for the purpose of furthering his career, so there are cursory similarities between the two men. While I cannot speak with certainty, I do not know that Longfellow procured underage tail for Josiah Quincy III, the man who brought Longfellow to Harvard.

WG: Don't fret, historians and English scholars alike have wrestled with the dark rumors of Longfellow's role in 19th century sex trafficking for decades. The theory that dactylic hexameter is the metre of the sexually deviant becomes more accepted each day. Even here in stodgy old Nebraska.

OMD: Definitely perv meter.

Margaret turning stock-manipulating mastermind, outwitting and playing Kennedy in the process, was beautiful. She even managed to rebuff his advances while securing him as a client. Cagey.

WG: Winter didn't spend much time constructing the female characters on the show, but he rebounded nicely with the way he wrapped up Margaret's thread. I especially loved the line she stuck on Kennedy, "Imagine all that you want in life and then picture yourself in a dress." Rumor has it that Winter and Scorcese are developing a prequel to The Wolf of Wall Street based on Margaret's ability to get filthy rich on morally questionable German stock positions during WWII. Jonah Hill co-stars as a Young Sergeant Schultz.

OMD: While I'd absolutely pay hard-earned cash to see that, my real desire is still to see Nelson and Eli hold down the fort in Cicero during the seven years we missed. I'd also like to state that I really wish I had the time to make that Wolf o' Wall Street artwork happen, but that would take me forever.

The last time we see Mabel, she is unable to tell Nucky that he doesn't disappoint her immediately after having a miscarriage.

WG: Kind of a bad day for Nucky, wasn't it? Punched Father? Check. Father points shotgun at his head? Check. Wife has miscarriage? Check. Fired from job? Check. Asked to aid and abet pedophile in return for career advancement? Check. Flat tire? Check. Forgot to pay cable bill and service disconnected? Check. With the broad strokes on Nucky's backstory finally all filled in, is it enough to make Nucky a sympathetic character? I don't know.

OMD: Good question. I think he clearly wants to repent but doesn't have the mechanism by which to make that happen. As he eventually finds out in a very hard and final way, money is not the answer to every question, though it's the best answer he knows.

Capone's scene with his son does a nice job of re-humanizing him. It's been a long time, and Stephen Graham has been relegated to playing the brazen, larger-than-life caricature of Capone for the past couple seasons, but there has always been a striking dichotomous nature to Capone on the series, and with his contemplative last shot in the back of the car before he puts on his game face, it's nice to see Winter, Korder, and Van Patten bringing this part of Capone back to the fore.

WG: Loved it. These types of pro moves are why I loved the show so much. How tricky would it be to write a show based on these larger than life historical figures? The mobster genre has been done to death. Boardwalk Empire was able to bring a fresh angle to the genre by having the balls to meander a little, and show these criminal icons as human from time to time. Sure, they were badasses, and brash, and cartoonish many times too, but taken all together it made for a sweet little nut roll. Jesus, Capone on the courthouse steps aping John Barrymore? Beautiful.

OMD: Weird note that only I would care about: as Margaret is walking into the open apartment in the Eldorado (its name having obvious significance, of course), the radio broadcast is talking about the market roller coaster ride and then breaks into talking about Jim Weaver and the Yankees having beaten the Philadelphia A's 3 - 2. Weaver faced the A's once in a Yankees uniform and the Yankees lost 16 - 4.

WG: Christ, what a couple of degenerates. I immediately paused the show and spent 15 minutes on baseball-reference searching for said game. I was kind of bummed I didn't find one that matched that score from 1931. I wonder what the significance was? You think someone on the production team was related to Jim Weaver or something? You notice that Yankee line-up in 1931? Ruth (+218 OPS with a .495 OBP). Gehrig. Chapman. And they finished 13.5 games back in 2nd place. To think our beloved Kansas City Royals will soon be taking their rightful place alongside past World Series champions, a notch above has been teams like the '31 Yankees, seems just.

OMD: I sure fucking hope that happens. I'm concerned now. Zero wiggle room for the Royals (who were responsible for the delay in this post, of course).

The framing in the opening of that scene was nice. Nucky started on the opposite side of the divided floor, a gray area if you will. He steps across the line on the floor and to the checkered floor, presumably a world that's more black-and-white. Coming over to Margaret's world, meaning to leave his old life behind, they dance, but they're ripped from the momentary fantasy by a happy couple looking at the suite. Their past is obviously too complex to leave behind. He's left to look at the ground, the other world into which he is trying to make the transition, and cannot help but feel out of place. Their silence speaks volumes.

WG: Nice catch. I'm convinced repeated viewings will be rewarded, especially for things like this. Fundamentals guaranteed to make film buffs weak in the groin.

OMD: I liked that there was just enough vagueness surrounding who they were killing to lead one to believe that maybe Nucky was going to get offed. A sly misdirect from Van Patten with the shot over the shoulder of two men wearing hats, seemingly walking together. Then he meets The Future. Into the darkness he heads, and inside he finds the television, the device that would change the world forever, highlighting an amusing reflexivity in that his story is being told on a device that shows him that he's a misplaced relic an antique ready to be left in the past.

WG: Probably my favorite scene of the season.

OMD: Nucky's father puts the shotgun to Nucky's head in their kerfuffle. The past that he's trying to leave behind, of course, will not let that happen.

It's interesting that Nucky, in his quest to break good, goes farther than he ever had as a kid in swimming against the tide. The power of the life he yearned for was always greater than his will to do good. The goodbye between Nucky and Eli is bittersweet. Of course, Nucky doesn't know why this is actually their farewell. Both men are torn down, but at least Eli, whose actions, at least of late, were borne out of necessity, may have a shot at a future and a fresh shave. Brother speeders / Let's Rehearse / All together / "Good morning Nurse!" / Burma Shave.

WG: Ahem. I think I called my shot by predicting Eli would shave in our last recap.

OMD: Indeed you did.

Narcisse? Done.

WG: And a pretty spectacular death scene by Jeffrey Wright. That was gratifying. The extended ongoing sermon/rhetoric he was spinning prior to his demise fit just as nicely as the kids reciting Longfellow for the Commodore.

OMD: Nucky's visit to Gillian in the nut house is loaded with double-meanings and subtext. His insistence that "the past is past" shows that he still doesn't know that he can't outrun his. When she gets up after he tries in his own way to get her to absolve him for misdeeds for which absolution are not possible, the true horror of what she's undergone is obvious. Thankfully we don't get to see the butchery up close. Jesus, Dr. Cotton was a fucking lunatic. He should've been in the loony bin himself.


WG: That was a powerful scene for me. Jesus. So rare for Nucky to show emotion. And he should have. If he wouldn't have steered Gillian to the Commodore, maybe she wouldn't have been so looney tunes. Gillian was just as dangerous as the gangsters, maybe even more so. Does she ever get out? Doubtful.

OMD: She's surely missing the bulk of her innards if she does make it out. I think it would take a fire to spring her. It wouldn't be a release on account of her being a good girl.

Nucky gets into his old quarters at the club, sees the postcard young Mabel sent him, and gets another call requesting his presence at the Ritz. The past is going nowhere.

"Mrs. Thompson said you want to be good. But you don't know how." That's the key to this whole show, isn't it? As he leaves Gillian on the boardwalk to answer the Commodore's call, a call to relieve him of his duties, only really to tear him down and have him do his bidding and cater to his every depraved whim. To get the Sheriff gig, he has to deliver Gillian, and in delivering her, he promises to take care of her. A loathsome act. Vile. Wretched in his own eyes, yet in the pursuit of power and wealth, he swallows that bitter pill.

WG: Absolutely the foundation the show was built on. He was willing to debase himself and others for wealth and power. And he never stopped. Of course he had to die in the end.

OMD: Back in the present, Nucky sees Neptune on the billboard atop the boardwalk, and then Princeton college boys--serving both as symbols of the privilege he never had and the surrogate son that he murdered in cold blood--confront him and one begins reciting Robert Service's poem "The Spell of the Yukon." "I wanted the gold, and I sought it; / I scrabbled and mucked like a slave. / Was it famine or scurvy--I fought it. / I wanted the gold, and I got it-- / Came out with a fortune last fall,-- / Yet somehow life's not what I thought it, / And somehow the gold isn't all." Setting aside the extreme improbability of this happening in the real world, the poem is clearly on the nose.

WG: And I lapped it up nonetheless.

OMD: Same here.

Back to the past, he weighs his options. Present, Tommy reveals himself. Past, he assures Gillian he'll look after her. Present, he pays for his misdeeds. IRS agents nab Tommy after the damage is done. Young Nucky grabs the coin in the water. His symbolic fate was sealed from jump street.

WG: Loved that final shot. Young Nucky floating innocently in the sea, snatching the coin. Some Cormac McCarthy type shit going on there. The simple act of playing footsie with greed sets in motion all kinds of horrible dominoes we can barely comprehend. Also nice homage to Nirvana's Nevermind album cover.

OMD: Thankfully no baby dick.

It feels like there's a lot still to talk about. I think it makes sense (to me at least) to flip the controls over to you here. What are your overall feelings about this all coming to an end?

WG: For me, Boardwalk Empire is in a trinity of all-time great serial dramas along with The Wire and Deadwood. It didn't have the breathless mayhem and corkscrew plot action of Breaking Bad. It's not as sexy as Mad Men. Not as balls out fun as The Sopranos.

OMD: I don't know where I'd put it. I'd say the artistry is on a level that I don't know another show has ever reached. I'd still defer to someone championing The Wire or Deadwood. I say without hesitation that I prefer it to any of the others mentioned, though I'd certainly have to add a handful of hour-longs to the mix, namely Justified, Terriers, Carnivale, Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars, not to mention shows currently in production that have to be considered as potential contenders for such categorization like Broadchurch, HannibalMasters of Sex, and True Detective. Yes, I know I didn't list Game of Thrones, anyone lobbying for its inclusion in this list can start their own fucking blog.

WG: I don't think there has been a more cinematic show on television. Beautiful to look at. Lots of critics bag on Boardwalk for the multitude of threads and plots that moved too slow. To them I say: Bah. I hope there is always room for series that take their time. That allow productions to have a vision and follow it through, if nothing else for the entertainment derived from watching badass craftsmen do what they do.

OMD: I've seen every episode of the last three seasons at least twice, many of them more than that. The painstaking attention to detail, the incredible production design, the symbolism that runs rampant through each episode, hell, the fucking shot framing, all of it sets the show apart. I think nearly all of the criticism comes from people who either didn't find Nucky compelling enough or worse from people who were viewing each episode as its own thing, which a show like Boardwalk Empire was never going to be able to withstand as it is so serialized as to render such criticism pointless.

WG: I'll definitely be watching the series again. I think it's hard to grasp the towering scale and scope of what Winter created, especially fresh off a satisfying final episode that managed to finish some telegraphed final touches without being too hokey. Boardwalk Empire, it was good to know ye. I'll be seeing you again.

OMD: Indeed. We'll miss you, Nucky, Nelson, Margaret, Eli, Chalky, et al, but we'll probably rewatch you over and over.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Five, Episode Seven "Friendless Child"

The penultimate episode of Boardwalk Empire was written by "Riccardo DiLoreto & Cristine Chambers and Howard Korder"--oh, WGA--and directed by Allen Coulter.

Old Man Duggan: With most of the secondary plot lines having resolved themselves or come back to the central arc, we get a pretty damn streamlined episode this week. Winter, Korder, & Co. made the efficacious move to advance the war between the Mustache Petes and the Young Turks--it's a goddamn shame they've not been using these names, by the way--by way of montage and press clippings to its conclusion. While the denouement for Nucky is still a week away, the war to overthrow Maranzano is reaching its own denouement this week, thankfully.

Wordy Ginters: Surprised Timmy Van Patton wasn't manning the helm this episode. Surely he'll get the call in next week's finale. You suffering from some Maranzano fatigue? That's been fixed. His character arc seemed a little tacked on. I find the role of Torrio much more interesting.

OMD: I'd like to think that Nucky's extinguished cigarette in a glass of Bacardi is a grander statement upon the standing of rum amongst other almost universally superior liquors. Fuck that bat. Fuck rum.

WG: Fuck that bat. Fuck rum. Also a goddamn shame that nomenclature hasn't crept its way into the script.

OMD: The actress they got to play young Gillian did a shockingly good job of channeling Gretchen Mol's take on Gillian. Their casting in the origins timeline is really quite breathtaking.

WG: Look, this show is a fucking gem. All facets. Casting has been outstanding all the way around, with the most counter-intuitive home run being Buscemi as the lead. Only one episode left. I don't know if there has been a prettier show to watch. The writing is top notch, too. It's not sexy, it's just fucking solid. Speaking of the origins actors, I just realized the lady who plays Young Nuck's wife, also plays a wife on The Knick. On that show, she is on the receiving end of some rather drastic cutting edge for the time psychological assistance via John Hodgman. It's deviant, brilliant, and shocking at the same time.

OMD: I've still got the entirety of The Knick sitting on the DVR unwatched for no good reason other than not really knowing what it is. I should rectify that.

Nucky is never served well by indulging in impatience. The move to grab Bennie Siegel seems at first to be a way in which Nucky might be able to swing some momentum his way. So much for that. Willie getting kidnapped erased that advantage. Of course, Nucky should have been playing chess and figuring Luciano and Lansky had a counter to his move.

WG: I couldn't fathom how the kidnapping was going to work out in Nuck's favor. When Siegel queered the hand-off and ultimately painted Nucky in the corner, it just underlined, for the millionth time, that Nuck is a stranger in a strange land. Not born of the silver spoon, and not tough enough to roll with the real gangsters, it appears his only remaining moves are murder for hire and insider trading.

OMD: The smoke ring settling in over Willie's crown while Lucky was on the phone arranging for the meet with Nucky was a nice touch.

WG: I'm glad you mentioned that. Was it not badass?

OMD: So what in the hell is going on with Mabel? Is it merely her fear of what dear Enoch is going to become, or is something more at play here? She's scared of something, according to Gillian, and her distractions and midnight pie-making seem to allude to her later suicide. Somehow I doubt it's merely manic-depression given the tenor of everything that has preceded this.

WG: The Big C? Depression? I'm telling you, the parallel's between Maya Kazan's character on The Knick and Boardwalk Empire are many. The two shows could share their psych ward sets.

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OMD: I guess Sheriff Lindsay drew the line at the umpteenth adolescent girl returned to her parents, services rendered/agreement terminated. Charitable acts. "Schooling them in the domestic arts." Jesus, Leandor could have represented Michael Jackson astonishingly well.

WG: That shit was grim. Terence Winter isn't painting a pretty picture of those in power, is he? Not too hard to read that as a grand point of the show: revealing the seamy underbelly of the "American Way." Not that pedophilia is the American Way, though it does seem to rear its head with disturbing frequency. Boardwalk Empire tends to make a mockery of the kind of down-home bromides that are plastered on the billboards behind Eli as he leaves his disheveled street meeting with Willie. In other words, hard work, honesty, free enterprise, and democracy are much easier to swallow in theory than in practice.

OMD: Indeed. Power corrupts and the most corrupt were probably sexual deviants from the get-go.

Mickey finally got what he wanted. Then I got what I wanted. He was always such an annoying shitheel. Unfortunately, the totally badass Arquimedes went down too. I'd have loved to see one last ear trophy.

WG: Archie was another in a long line of unfortunate deaths on the show. Spin off? Archie and Gillian open a restaurant specializing in Cuban sandwiches and erotic massage. Archie's catch phrase? Shut you fuck up! I get it though, Nucky is isolated down to the last drop. Mickey was a classic shitheel, he lived so much longer than I ever thought he would, I was kind of hoping he'd be the last man standing. We also haven't seen the last of that creepy young buck who may or may not be Darmody Jr., have we?

OMD: Can't imagine that we have.

I liked the fake out from D'Angelo meeting with the federal judge to the IRS agents coming into Maranzano's office. I totally thought Nucky was screwed until they started stabbing Maranzano. Glad Eli was the trigger man if for no other reason than that it means the brothers Thompson might be riding again, if for ever so brief a time.

WG: So much stabbing.

OMD: Torrio can't be too excited about being thanked for his help and then dismissed. Of course he's a eunuch at this point, but still.

WG: Another cool scene. When Lansky and Luciano rebuffed his idea to arrange the "one big family" mob meeting, Bugsy and a gaggle of party people came bubbling in ready to celebrate. A deep focus shot showed old man Torrio standing solo on one side of a pillar, and the new turks cutting a rug on the other side. The chasm between old and new couldn't have been any chasmier.

OMD: Joe's curiosity about watching someone die would seem to have a larger purpose. I don't think it's as easy as him being the person in whom Nucky sees his younger self. I still don't know what his endgame would be if he were Jimmy's son, but it seems like it has to bring the story full circle, doesn't it?

WG: Absolutely. He's cooking up something. Mustering. Pro tip: It's in the eyes. Mustering is always in the eyes.

OMD: Take note of that pearl, kiddos.

What gets lost in the shuffle of all this is that Nucky still has the Mayflower play in place. If we've learned anything during Boardwalk Empire's five seasons, it is that no scene is wasted. Clearly this angle must come into play in the finale. Can he parlay that into showing that he still has value to Lucky and Meyer? Is it enough to keep Nucky alive?

WG: I'll be astounded if he lives. If Winter had any balls, he'd end this one ambiguously just like he and Chase did on The Sopranos. MAYBE, a different Journey tune with an abrupt fade to black. "Feeling That Way/Anytime."

OMD: It should be noted that Meyer isn't exactly pumped to hand over Atlantic City to Pinky. Mightn't this play into Nucky getting a reprieve from them? After all, Meyer is the calm, measured one of the two. All that character work is unlikely to be for naught.

WG: They're telegraphing Pinky and wide-eyed virtuous milquetoast maybe Darmody Jr. pretty hard. I'd have to agree with you.

OMD: There were some surprises in Gillian's letter. I honestly thought that Nucky hand-delivered her to the Commodore, but it surely appears as though she made the decision on her own, though she shouldn't be held responsible for such decisions. Will helping Gillian be the redemptive salve for which he has been longing all season long?

WG: I'm eager to see how that connection gets made. Their was a montage scene that worked, so fuck off Trey Stone and Matt Parker. You fucking cowards. Bush takes us to war in Iraq for reasons still unclear to me, and you make a movie that picks on Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn? Goddamn it. Ummn. Where was I? Oh yeah, that montage was a great way to encapsulate Gillian's descent in the maelstrom - - which also happens to be a great Radio Birdman song.

OMD: While I hesitate to make predictions in general, this is the last Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire before the series finale. Do you have any?

WG: Nucky dies from a cleaver to the head. Eli shaves. Gillian seduces and kills her psychologist. Royals in 4.

OMD: All of that would be wodnerful. I'm thinking Meyer convinces Lucky to keep Nucky in place in Atlantic City only to have Joe off him as revenge for Jimmy's murder. Oh, and Dr. Giggles has gutted Gillian, who is a shell of her letter-writing self and basically a vegetable, because it's far too late for Nucky to have rescued her.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Five, Episode Six "Devil You Know"

This week's antepenultimate episode penned by Howard Korder and directed by Jeremy Podeswa features a couple of conclusions to character arcs in a very Boardwalk Empire kind of way.

Old Man Duggan: Anyone wondering how so many storylines were going to get wrapped up in just six episodes got some answers tonight. And all this happened while Nucky was playing hooky and Chalky moved all of maybe four feet.

Wordy Ginters: It began on the gallop with Chalky at the Harlem Cathouse. Kind of unusual for Boardwalk to get rolling so quickly. I made a mental note that fucking around was apparently not going to be tolerated.

OMD: We pick back up with Daughter Maitland, Chalky, and Althea, right where last week left off. Clearly Althea is Chalky's. It must have been a rough seven years for Daughter, as her gift went without professional implementation thanks to being blackballed by Narcisse.

WG: Hey, I get the pushback against those who fetishize vinyl culture. The sound is warm. The cover art was integral to the experience. You have to listen to the whole damn album. I know, I know. But I'll be damned if Daughter's voice didn't sound fantastic coming out of that vintage turntable. Even better was seeing it saw Chalky in half.

OMD: Indeed. The look on his face was tragic.

In the flashback, we have perhaps the first inkling that Mabel may be a bit moody, as she's up in the middle of the night making pies. She seemed to have just a slight undercurrent of emotional fragility that she'd then underplay by speaking in that faux Southern accent.

WG: Homage to Crispin Glover in Wild at Heart. "I'm making sandwiches!"

OMD: While we're in pre-WWI Atlantic City, we may as well talk about Sheriff Lindsay delivering young girls to the Commodore with their mother's in reluctant tow. The look on that mother's face. What the fuck was she thinking? And how the hell does Sheriff Lindsay sleep at night?

WG: On piles of memory-numbing cash. You can't be a cog in the cynical wonderland that is Atlantic City without viewing those not in on the take as less than human.

OMD: As for Gillian, apparently she was always a fucking handful. Around the World in 72 Days. This is where Nellie Bly comes into Nucky and Gillian's story. Funny since she also did that expose on the treatment of the patients at the Women's Lunatics Asylum on Blackwell's Island.

WG: Nothing happens without a reason on this show. The details are on point.

OMD: I guess the Depression made hard, crass broads with a knack for rolling Missourians in the alley with the draw of dirty, back-alley threesomes. Those women also apparently enjoy making men recite Longfellow. I have to wonder if Irene, the near-King Neptune's consort, was one of the Commodore's pedophiliac casualties.

WG: Who didn't see that one coming? Interesting to hear Nucky finally put words to the sentiment he's been carrying around from jump street. He can't escape his prole roots. He can hang at the Ritz, but it doesn't suit him. Drunk on rot-gut whiskey, winning a fist fight, and fucking two women in an alley. Three-fiths of my bucket list. The remainders? Royals World Series Champs. Scott McKinney reinstated at Royals Review.

OMD: That old piece of shit should've apologized to the nice--er, breathing--ladies.

WG: Hey, Nucky may be a piney from the sticks, but he's no mouthbreather. A little respect for the ladies shouldn't be too much to ask.

OMD: Man, Van Alden and Eli's plan that was foisted upon them was a shit one. Ralph is boning in the count room. Agent D'Angelo is asked to take care of them only to have Al come back with Paul Muni and George Raft with him. Timing went wrong in nearly every possible way. "We're having trouble at home." "I can vouch for that." Even when their lives hang in the balance, Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham deliver the funny.

WG: Those two were magic when they found themselves in the same scenes. Too bad it didn't happen earlier and oftener.

OMD: In his final moments at least Van Alden got to be himself again. Crazy, invoking Jesus, insisting wrath would reign down on the man he was strangling.

WG: It was interesting for no other reason than I've always kind of wondered how Van Alden could stray so far from his extreme straight-edge religious vibe. Did he cotton to the dark side, or just get swept along in the tumult that was his story arc? I don't remember if it was this week, or last, but I was glad to see a pre-episode " previously on Boardwalk Empire" clip of Van Alden drowning the crooked prohee from way back in Season One. That batshit brutal baptism/drowning revealed to me how fucking awesome this show is. Shannon was fantastic in this series, it was good to see him going out in a blaze of biblical righteousness.

OMD: Yeah, if he's got to go out, it was nice to see him revisit his roots en route.

Eli says it's Ness gunning for him, and Al unwittingly hands the damning evidence to D'Angelo. Eli is released to return east, presumably to eventually help Nucky.

WG: A little too tidy. But what the hell. Sets up some interesting possibilities for the last two episodes. Shea Whigham was awesome as per usual. Right after Van Alden got popped, and Eli thought he was next, he began nervously mumbling and apologizing over and over to his wife? That was powerful.

OMD: I guess Narcisse's being neutered at least made him amenable to releasing Daughter Maitland. Chalky clearly knew what his fate would be, but he got to hear her voice again, and that was all that mattered. As he stepped into the light of day, he knew what fate awaited him. He still got to do right by his daughter and Daughter, who Althea confirmed did love her father.

WG: Chalky went out with some dignity. It was cool that he knew what was up. What a great character. I don't think that Winter quite new what to do with him. Tough episode when you have popular series icons like Chalky and Van Alden both get whacked.

OMD: "You think I don't know who you are?" I'm really starting to think that there has to be more to Joe Harper's story. If he is Tommy Darmody, though, I've got no idea what his endgame is, as revenge could have been taken in the alley.

WG: It's either a head feint to keep us guessing, or something is up with that dude. Towards the end of the episode there was a split second cut where they flashed to Joe Harper's face. Struck me as odd for a rando extra type guy. He's undoubtedly set up for a bigger role down the stretch.

OMD: Regardless, it looks like Nucky is getting his army ready for a war. Unfortunately his legion of allies seems to be dwindling. I can't imagine how he gets out from under this.

WG: With Mickey Doyle serving as his right-hand man? He's screwed.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Five, Episode Five "King of Norway"

This week's installment, courtesy of scribe Steve Kornacki and director Ed Bianchi, treats us to a time jump in the story of Young Enoch Thompson--1897, to be exact--where we find him courting Mabel while trying to work his way into the Commodore's inner circle. In the present day, Nucky and Chalky are reunited, June visits Eli in Chicago, dinner is had at the Van Alden/Muellers, and the Young Turks take a shot at the Mustache Petes.

Old Man Duggan: Let's focus on the Young Nucky stuff first. There seem to be some viewer complaints about this aspect of the show. I guess if you don't think the show is about Nucky and/or that he's a dull character then this part of the show would stand still. I don't understand either of those points of view, but it seemed like maybe they should be acknowledged. I, for one, am very interested to see from whence Nucky Thompson came. This bookending works for me.

Wordy Ginters: I've got a small issue with the novelty teeth used by the actor playing Young Man Nuck. The eerie physical resemblance was sufficient to hammer home the flashback vibe without that hornblast grill leaping of the screen. To those faint hearts wounded by the looks back, let's join together and say pshaw. For me, the examination of the boy who became the man is a fresh fucking twist.

OMD: Once again, this time in the flashbacks, we get a Ragged Dick reference for Nucky. This is not the first time that Nucky has been compared against Horatio Alger's protagonist. Of course, that middle-class respectability is something that is likely to elude Nucky, given the choices that he's made. Of course, there's an element of damned if you do, damned if you don't in his tale. He comes from such abject poverty that it's hard to fathom the future he desired without cutting some corners.

WG: Therein lies the rub. He wants it so bad, the ends always justify the means.

OMD: Adult Mabel is played by Maya Kazan, Zoe's sister. The courtship of Mabel Jeffries includes a scene at the table straight out of any classist father-suitor tale. This, of course, plays into the class issues endemic in Nucky's greater story. The life he wants, the woman he wants, all of these are things which the boot black Nucky Thompson is perhaps too bold to want.

WG: Is Buscemi the shit or what? How does he make Nucky a sympathetic character? The flashbacks help establish a patina of empathy, but ultimately he's a loathsome protagonist. Despite his wormy ways, I typically find myself pulling for him. He's got zero charisma. Physically, he's unlike 99% of what we see in male leads. His character is a schemer, a murderer, a womanizer, a liar, a cheat, a lawbreaker, and all of this is carried out with the low-grade menace of a high school principal. He operates with an offhand disdain that burns too cool to be openly hostile. You can feel his patronizing contempt for the majority of the characters around him, who are two beats too slow to keep up with his thinking. The look on his face is best described as lemon-wedge constipated. Yet, at almost every step along the way, I'm pulling for his schemes to succeed. Perhaps this says more about me than the necromancy Buscemi is able to beam through the character.

OMD: I definitely don't feel like I should be rooting for him, yet I am at every turn.

It seems likely that the Commodore wants Nucky's handling of the corpse of Mr. Halligan to be his trial. Though he seems to regard Nucky unfavorably--"mooncalf" is an abortive fetus of a cow but came to mean either a monstrous/grotesque thing (Shakespeare refers to Caliban as such in The Tempest) or later a dullard or fool; one must figure that the Commodore means to apply the latter usage in this situation, though it's hard to see how either really fits here--this must be the Commodore's means by which to evaluate Nucky's ability to do his dirty work.

WG: "Mooncalf" struck me as a little harsh. Nucky had already demonstrated veteran leadership skills by nonchalantly laying out strategy to keep rivals out of Atlantic City. And he showed plus-plus cigar-handling skills. Obviously, the Commodore wasn't hip to his charms. I think the corpse de Halligan is most certainly intended as an acid test.

OMD: I'd watch Stephen Graham clench the Tribune in hand while parked on the shitter any day. Judging by the fact that Agent D'Angelo is hep to Capone's plan to move the whole operation to Cicero posthaste, I'd posit that it's highly unlikely that his rash decision to enlist Eli and Nelson to nab Capone's ledger goes off without a hitch.

WG: Having Capone refer to his own stubborn shit as "fucker" was inspired.

OMD: Looks like Al is going to be taking Owney Madden and presumably George Raft (who was Madden's lifelong friend and actor in Scarface). Raft later made sex on Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West.

WG: Raft makes Derek Jeter look like an amateur. I'd love to see them go balls deep with the Hollywood angle. I want to see someone playing your boy Edward G. Robinson, slamming shots with Capone and pouring over a Daily Racing Form trying to suss out the feature at Hawthorne Park.

OMD: Joe Harper, that fresh-faced lad who Mickey Doyle grabbed from the hobo fire in the alley, looks like he'd make a great Mr. Bates. He's got the suit-coat-hold down pat.

WG: Bates! Great series cross over idea. Downton Abbey gets Nucky's Cuban muscle and Boardwalk Empire gets Bates and a footmen to be named later. Hilarity and ear loss ensues.

OMD: I saw someone hypothesize that Joe Harper could also by Jimmy's scion, which would make sense.

With Chalky White so hellbent on revenge against Narcisse, it's too bad that coming to Nucky's aid one last time probably isn't in the cards.

WG: I'm just glad he's around for another episodes. I felt a pang of doom when Chalky rashly showed up at the Harlem brothel.

OMD: Eli's drunken fever dreams are answered. The only man on the show who loves his wife fucked the bitter shrew Mrs. Van Alden Mueller in his seven-year drunken stupor and didn't even know he'd done it until the titular man showed his mustachioed face. Before the key to his nightmares was revealed, that dinner scene was a pretty great snapshot of the shit home life of George Nelson Van Alden Mueller. Their sex scene, whoa. The look on her face. Harpy.

WG: I'm not going to lie. I'm a sucker for the beautiful cruelty. I'm down with Mrs. Van Alden Mueller, for no other reason than her habit of barking out "Husband" to her man like she was trying to get the attention of a pet. That dinner scene was hilarious. How do you create a scene as cliched as the henpecked husband and marital strife without sinking into the threadbare depths of banality? You turn it up to 11.

OMD: "The event you're thinking about? That was an accident. Plain and simple." "You mean like a streetcar hitting a horse? A man getting his head crushed in a metal press? A gas explosion in which bystanders are literally torn limb from limb? That's what your having sexual relations with my wife was like?" "Look, I don't know about you, but my life is a fucking shipwreck." "Well, land ho." Honestly, I could just transcribe that scene and leave it at that. We need a fucking Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham series. It'd be great if it was Eli and Nelson these past few years, but anything. The scene while the waited for D'Angelo was transcendent.

WG: The Chicago scenes in general have stood out with a different type of electricity than the rest of the locales on the show. Looney Tunes. A joy to watch.

OMD: Gillian's future is looking bleak. Dr. Cotton seems quite the kook. Cutting the crazy out like a loony-bin Mengele. Not from the brain either. Jesus.

WG: I'm more worried for Dr. Cotton than I am for Gillian.

OMD: Daughter Maitland and daughter. Methinks Chalky's got another, younger Maybelle.

WG: I didn't even think about that! You might be onto something. I hope so.

OMD: Torrio makes it out of all this unscathed. So do Lansky, Luciano, and Siegel. In Maranzano, it looks like Nucky is betting on a losing horse. And by looks like, I mean he is. It's hard to imagine a peaceful resolution between Nucky and the Mustache Petes. Knowing the fates of the others, it's hard not to assume the worst for Nucky.

WG: I hope Winter has the courage to flout history, and the skills to end the series with the flair it deserves.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Five, Episode Four "Cuanto"

Nucky and Margaret share a wine-soaked afternoon, loaded with all the historical subtext one would expect. Luciano visits Capone making for an interesting run-in with Van Alden. Sally makes the rounds for Nucky in Cuba as unrest festers. Having been laid off at the end of the summer, Young Nucky shows Eli the life they're missing. This week's installment is brought to you by writers Howard Korder, Cristine Chambers, and Terence Winter and is directed by Jake Paltrow.

Wordy Ginters: Young Nuck in horny sway to lifestyles of the rich and famous. Reduced to wandering around the hotel fondling the plumbing with his brother. Mick Jagger said it best, “you’re just a poor girl in a rich man’s house. Oohew whoe who ew ew ew.” Flash forward, and Contemporary Nuck hasn’t changed. He’s wrapped himself in the lifestyle, but it doesn’t quite fit. He can’t run with Joe P and the Vanderbilts because he’s too dirty. He’s not as visceral and Mediterranean as Luciano and Capone. The existential angst. You could cut it with a statue of the Empire State Building. What does this motherfucker need to be happy? A real dad? Hang on Nuck, Sartre publishes Nausea in eight years.

Old Man Duggan: I wonder how many hours Robin Leach dedicated to pipe-and-fixture fondling. Big Pfister man. It was interesting to see Young Nucky see the life he wanted--and the dodgy pedo who could give it to him--blowing away in the breeze of the Indian Summer. It's clear at that early age that the nose-down grunt work of his father would not suffice. I don't think anyone knows what would have actually made Nucky happy, and that especially includes Nucky. For all of this desire for success, nothing is going to fill that hole that he dug up inside when he got in bed with the Commodore. It's strange, though. Nucky's real desire seems to have been for a proper family. He cries at the table at seeing a proper family, complete with recitations of Keats at the table. His choices rendered that impossible.

WG: Scotch and Rum don’t mix is the smuggest god damn line I’ve ever heard.

OMD: That's those County Wexford fucks for you.

WG: The reunion with Margaret hit me odd. Relegating her to second team plot status last season meant that we lost some of the punch, immediacy, and history of their relationship. At least I did. The apparent return to the varsity line-up didn’t mean as much to me as it should have.

OMD: I actually dug it. She cut loose a bit. Even she, at this point is at ease drinking. I mean it has certainly been a while, but they slipped back into familiarity pretty damn quickly, and with drink came a looser rapport with Nucky, freely calling him a bastard but without malice. Her "why does everyone assume?" bit when Nucky asked if she'd been sleeping with Rothstein was funny. The "Partners in crime" toast was a nice touch. I like that he saw in Margaret what he'd wanted in himself. Self-made success story, even if she got into a bit of trouble.

WG: Evidently the Kennedy’s have game? Straight up PUA. Only took a few minutes chit chatting in the sitting room for Joe P to work it. Did you see the way Margaret was suggestively bobbing her leg? They were swapping Irish landmarks and talking in Gaelic like long lost lovers. Could Nucky be any more on the outside looking in?

OMD: It's sort of where he lives, isn't it?

WG: If you haven’t figured it out yet, Capone is a goddamn loose cannon. Real loose. Watching his own press clippings. Big mistake, if I’m to believe everything I read in the sprots media. I love how the Capone scenes are a completely different world. Barnyard, Animal House, and abattoir.

OMD: Goddamn Italian Wallace Beery, who of course was Noah Beery Jr.'s similarly amiable uncle. I don't know if Capone--Stephen Graham or real-life Capone--could have pulled off being Jim Rockford's rig-obsessed pop. Obviously, Capone's game is for a different time than the one Luciano is ushering in. They're old friends, but clearly Capone's loyalties lie with Nucky, and why wouldn't they given their history?

WG: Thank God Van Alden Mueller escaped Capone’s impromptu execution. Isn’t it about time we get all slack-jawed and goofy about how awesome Michael Shannon is? Mumbling with Capone’s .45 in his mouth. Coolly finding the right words to defuse the situation. And then stiffly walking out, calm but somehow rattled--how can you tell when Van Alden Mueller is rattled? something in the eyes? the usual look on his face like he’s just taken a big swig of sour milk gets slightly more aggrieved?--admitting very politely that he may have soiled his sensible pants? How many series can pull off a scene like that?

OMD: "I get the feeling my boss doesn't like me." Using Al's vanity, even in a possible blackout, was pretty fucking brilliant. That scene was outstanding. I do wonder if Van Alden Mueller doesn't become the key for the case for the prosecution.

WG: Sally Wheet, what a bad ass. She may have been a good match for Joe P. I got tired on her behalf. The bank clown hitting on her with the purple prose. Doyle trying a similar shtick over the phone. I thought for sure she’d talk her way out of that situation with the soldiers. Of course she created a skirmish and ends up with one of the soldier’s guns. Remember when she ruffed up Nucky last season? I hated to see her dead along the roadside. She deserved a more glorious send off. Put her in a boat, point it towards the Florida Keys, and set it alight with Molotov cocktails lobbed from the dock.

OMD: Apparently Mickey Doyle is into Quaker poetry in the style of John Greenleaf Whittier. Wouldn't have pegged him for that. As for Sally, a drunk's Viking funeral would be the appropriate send-off according to Miss Manners. That banker was a putz. So the soldiers were putting down the Gibara Rebellion of 1931 where 40 revolutionaries thought that they could overthrow Machado from Holguin. It at least looked like the officer who stopped Sally may have been one of the three army guys outside of the bank president's office. With the Bacardi family having to go into exile roughly thirty years later on account of Castro nationalizing the company, the resentment amongst The People should probably come as no surprise. I guess all it takes is one dipshit with a twitch in his trigger finger. I would posit that since the officer only chided the dunce for shooting an American out in the open, not necessarily for shooting her, that it was probably in the cards to begin with, what with the Army in the wings at the bank. I don't know, however, how they would have known precisely where she'd have been at that hour. My guess is Don Maxime Ronis is pissing off the wrong people in Cuba.

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