The Dames of Boardwalk Empire: 5 Ladies Who Heat Up The Boardwalk

Boardwalk Empire is the story of Jazz Age gangsters, but every gangster needs his moll...

Can’t wait for the Season 4 premier of Boardwalk Empire? Neither can we! Den of Geek takes a look back at the women who have managed to survive the flying bullets and dirty bombs of Boardwalk Empire.


Margaret ThompsonPlayed by: Kelly MacDonald (Seasons 1-4)

Nucky’s wayward wife, Margaret, has had a rough few years. Sure, being married to the mob looked great on paper (specifically large bills of green paper). Not being poor was nice. Getting to lord it over your former bitch of a boss was pretty awesome. Having a household full of people you could be a bitchy boss to took a minute to get used to, but once she hit her stride (and canned the maid who was banging her boyfriend), Margaret really settled into the good life. Yet for some reason, her role as a gold digger, er, supportive wife, was never as fulfilling as she thought it would be. Of course it was hard to turn a blind eye to the bloodshed, or act as a mouthpiece for larger political schemes that she found morally reprehensible; but she had her children to think of. How else was her son going to take his place as a chubby, entitled, fire starter? Who else was going to keep her daughter in top of the line porcelain dolls and French lace dresses?

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And Nucky was not all bad; he did have her abusive first husband murdered before he made his move on her. Really, Nucky was a gentleman. If only Margaret could learn to play the game and bury her head in the sand like a good little enabler. 

But if there was one thing we learned about Margaret Thompson in the first three seasons of Boardwalk, it was that she, like her husband, did not meekly take a backseat to anyone. She knew her mind and when she felt action was called for, she acted. Even if that act was ridiculously stupid.

Which is why it never quite felt plausible to this viewer when, wracked by guilt over her daughter’s illness, she lost her goddamn mind and deeded an enormous piece of Nucky’s valuable real estate to the local parish. Yes we could argue that it was a move fueled by mother guilt, or payback for Nucky lying to her about Jimmy’s death. Only Margaret was never emotionally invested in Nucky’s wayward protegee. And if nothing else, she was always practical, especially when it came to money. I am sorry Boardwalk writers; this dog just won’t hunt.

Which is why no one was surprised to find the Thompson marriage on the skids in the beginning of Season 3.

Season 3 was a train wreck for most of the characters, and Margaret was no exception. She gets rejected by her poor siblings, who had immigrated to New York City. She slams into gender inequality issues while trying to set up a women’s clinic at the hospital she pretty much paid for with her marriage. She had to nurse her philandering husband back to health after a bomb vaporizes his club and his mistress. Competing gangsters threatened the lives of her children. Her boyfriend, Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) was brutally murdered and then Fed-Ex’d to Nucky. And finally she left her husband (who tried to buy her back) and aborted Owen’s baby.

Yeah. That is a bad year.

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Which begs the question: where does Margaret go from here?

Hopefully, off the damn show. Sure, her character can still arc through feeble attempts to reconnect with estranged family (now that she has no one else to turn to), but who cares? The show is about Nucky, Altantic City, prohibition, and crime syndicates of the early 20th century. Not the continuing adventures of fledgling feminist and terrible investment planner, Margaret Thompson.


Gillian DarmodyPlayed by: Gretchen Mol (Season 1-4)

You can’t help but love this crazy, incestuous, elder abusing broad. Don’t be fooled into believing she died when Gyp injected her with that needle full of heroin! Oh no; it takes more than that to kill Gillian Darmody. The woman is like a cockroach. A really sexy cockroach.

Much like Margaret, Gillian has had a rough row to hoe these past three seasons. When we first met her in Season 1, she was still just a topless dancer who supplemented her income by seducing virile young bucks like Lucky Luciano (and somehow dodging a scathing case of VD). Sure, she had to compete with Angela for the affections of her grandson, Tommy, but deep down inside, Gillian knew she was not living the life she deserved. In order to do that, she would have to use her relationship with her son to undermine his marriage and manipulate him into shaking up the boardwalk’s power structure.

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All of which she accomplished by Season 2. Unfortunately, the Commodore was old and prone to strokes, Gillian was crazy, and Jimmy lacked the foresight to outmaneuver his old boss. When the dust cleared, only Gillian and Tommy were left standing; standing in the Commodore’s mansion that is. Despite the shenanigans, one of the absolute best scenes of the season took place in the Commodore’s bedroom, with Gillian spoon feeding him soup and reminiscing about the time he raped her when she was 14. And then she Rick James’d the ever-loving shit out of Dabney Coleman.

It was one of the finest moments on television.

I compared Gillian to a cockroach earlier, and I stick by the analogy. Not even a nuclear blast could take this ginger out. In Season 3 she survived an ill-conceived partnership with Luciano, the devastation of her brothel by Gyp, and as always, she survived Nucky (honestly those two were made for one another). I am not so sure she will survive a possible heroin addiction or Richard Harrow in Season 4, especially if she goes after Tommy, who he left in the safekeeping of his girlfriend and her PTSD riddled father.


Sigrid MuellerPlayed by: Christiane Seidel (Seasons 2-4)

Something inside of Agent Van Alden is seriously broken. More so than when we first met him in Season 1. The stern, self-flagellating hypocrite has shrunk down into a whipped dog. And who better to do the whipping than the new nanny/wife, Sigrid?

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A recent immigrant from Norway, Sigrid met Van Alden when she responded to his ad for a nanny. By the end of Season 2, Sigrid and her adopted family are on the lam. Why she agreed to pack up and flee to Cicero with Van Alden under an assumed name was a bit of a mystery. Then, in Season 3, we got to know Sigrid better and came to the realization that girlfriend has serious cojones.

As Mrs. Mueller, she gave birth to Van Alden’s son (one assumes the man finally has a “normal” sex life (missionary position only), and basically runs the home. And why not? She is the only one left who has faith in the man. Faith to the point of delusion; in her version of events they fled New Jersey to escape the “bad men” bent on persecuting her poor husband.

But we were speaking of Sigrid’s giant, brass, cajones. When the couple do encounter a federal agent, it isn’t long before Sigrid pulps the poor man’s noggin’ with a meat tenderizer in a misguided effort to protect her family from the law. Totally reasonable. What woman wouldn’t bludgeon a Fed for her family? Except, as Van Alden points out, she acted in error. But Sigrid is nothing if not cool under pressure, and her only response is to hold the Fed’s legs so her hubby could finish the job.

You get the feeling this might not be Sigrid’s first rodeo?

Later, it is Sigrid who supports Van Alden’s decision to quit (heh) his job as an iron salesman, and suggests that they make their living entirely from bootlegging. Sure, they have to sell whisky for O’Banion, but why not hawk a little Scandinavian liquor on the side? Sigrid has been making akvavit, and selling it to the Norwegians at the market. Because you know how Scandinavians love a good glass of dill flavored akvavit. Go ahead and laugh. I bought some in the airport during a layover in Iceland, and for some reason I cannot fathom, there is a stick of birch in the bottle. Oh those crazy kids from the northern climes!

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Sally WheetPlayed by: Patricia Arquette (Season 4)

A new addition to the cast, Wheet is a speakeasy owner from Florida. What brings her to the Boardwalk remains to be seen, but I bet she turns out to be someone with a head for business and a bod’ for sin. Wheet promises to be a better match for Nucky than his usual stable of whores, dancers, and a wife with the worst economic sense ever.

[related article: Boardwalk Empire Lineup: 20 Real-Life Gangsters Who Inspired the Show]

Rest in Peace: 

Billie KentPlayed by: Meg Chambers Steedle (Season 3)

Sure, Nucky was slowly smothering her career and running ramshod over her professional relationships, but when you love a gangster, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. One of those sacrifices being her life after Billie caught a bomb to the face meant for her sweetie.


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