Boardwalk Empire season 2 episode 10 review: Georgia Peaches

It's another brilliantly directed episode of Boardwalk Empire, with a stand-out performance from William Forsythe. Here’s Michael’s review of Georgia Peaches…

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

2.10 Georgia Peaches

Georgia Peaches opens with considerable verve. Nucky’s consignment of Irish whiskey has arrived via Hoboken, and we see a sample case ride Owen’s shoulders all the way to the Ritz Carlton on the boardwalk. It’s presented as a mini-montage to the strains of Strut, Miss Lizzie, eventually blending in with a preacher’s sermon to the striking black workers. Booze, religion, politics – that’s the show summed up in one go.

It isn’t just the opening either. The episode is brilliantly directed throughout, each scene exquisitely established, and opened and closed with a slow tracking shot. It creates the impression that the viewer is spying on these people, creeping in to hear them, and creeping out again, unseen. This style thrives on minimal set-pieces, and there’s an excellent selection this week. Margaret in the hospital, Dunn Pernsley meeting his new ally, Chalky White. The pick of the bunch, however, is the tender final moment between newlyweds Jimmy and Angela.

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Angela has been given far too little to do this season. Her late-blooming romance with Louise felt a little bit tacked on, something to remind the viewers that she even existed. It was the only feature of her storyline that concerned her alone. Her other appearances had been designed to say something about one of the male characters, either Jimmy or Richard. Seeing her find a measure of happiness on her own account was wonderful. More than that, it adds a great deal to her scene with her husband in this episode.

The scene is a great example of the attention given to direction and scene composition. The opening shot, following the slow tracking, is of Jimmy and Angela standing apart, framed in different windows. The lilting piano score adds poignancy to the moment. After they talk, and are reconciled to each other, they are framed within the same window. Notice how Angela joins Jimmy, it is she who makes the step to be with him, not he to her.

The beauty of this scene enhances the brutality of the one that follows. Not only is Angela killed, but she is also seen to still be with Louise. Her reconciliation with Jimmy was not as total was we may have been led to think. Her last ditch attempt at saving herself – “I can get money”, is a failure. Jimmy can’t even help her with that. Manny simply and callously kills her, the first of the top-billed characters to die. A shame for her, but totally appropriate given the trouble that Jimmy is bringing upon those close to him.

Despite the killing, I was nevertheless pleased to see Manny assume control of the plotline. He has been a great addition to the show, and not simply by adding Philadelphia to the story’s scope. It is a quietly brilliant performance by William Forsythe, every line considered, every move deliberate. However, it is his vocal delivery that particularly stands out. His lines are delivered in a low guttural growl that provides a blunt eloquence. The subtleties of his accent are exquisite, the mild vowel inflections of the North Eastern US Yiddish-speaking Jew. I could listen to him all day.

In fact, the accents of several of the performers bear further scrutiny. Listen carefully to the slight differences between Stephen Graham’s Brooklyn accent and Vincent Piazza’s. These aren’t the accents you will hear in the New York of today. They are artifacts, relic accents of the mid-20th century. If, as happens at times, Lucky sounds a little too Bugs Bunny, then we’ll have to go with it, for au-ten-ticity’s sake.

A discourse on accent and dialect is particularly appropriate for this episode because of the inclusion of the scene between Chalky White and Dunn Pernsley. We’ve already seen Michael K Williams switch personas, slipping, quite deliberately, into a slow, rhythmic drawl when he wanted to rub his blackness into his family’s faces. That particular episode was prompted by his first run in with Dunn Pernsley. Listen to the different cadences of their speech here. It is a fantastically understated detail that reveals the real distance between the characters, however they may walk in step for now.

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Sadly, walking is no longer an option for young Emily Schroeder. Her illness, confirmed as polio, had robbed her of the use of her legs. The situation provokes yet another quasi-religious crisis on the part of Margaret, who flails through the episode desperate for intercession. When prayer fails, she tries money –offering Nucky’s ‘means’ to both the doctor and the priests. Unfortunately for her, it won’t make the difference. Like the doomed Angela, it is no longer a question of money. It is a tragic juxtaposition. Of all the money-grubbing characters in the show, these two ladies have always been the least motivated by it. When they try to use it to pull free of their circumstances, it can’t help.

Contrast that with Nucky’s use of Rothstein’s expensive lawyer. He and Margaret, who have gone through so much together, couldn’t be more different. It’s in the eyes. Kelly MacDonald portrays Margaret like a deer in headlights, eyes frozen in bewildered horror. Steve Buscemi’s Nucky, on the other hand, runs the gamut of emotion – anger, desperation, loving concern – but when he is called upon to comfort Margaret’s son Teddy, he can lie with the eyes of a basilisk. It is just another skill in his repertoire, and just one of the reasons why he’s still hanging on in there, while Jimmy’s world slowly and violently collapses.

Read our review of the last episode here.