Season Three is halfway over already. Time flies when Gyp Rosetti is out of his mind with rage, eh? The episode Ging Gang Goolie focuses on fire. Things are heating up, tempers smolder and blaze, flames erupt, and people get burned. This week showed us how an honest man can stick out like a sore thumb amid a crowd of crooks. We also learned how a five-dollar fine and a twenty-cent breakfast can turn into a forty-thousand dollar windfall for someone like Gaston Means. Inexplicably, we were also told that sometimes, compost can spontaneously combust.
The first fire of the week began in the Thompson’s greenhouse. Teddy, Margaret’s fire-obsessed son, sees it and wakes up his mother, who calls Owen Slater. Viewers are whisked away to a simpler time, when random men with buckets were all we had with which to fight fire. Drag. Teddy claimed that a gypsy set the fire, but Margaret was skeptical, as were we. As the previously clips reminded us, Teddy is a firebug.
Eli Thompson and Mickey Doyle take a meeting with the Sherriff of Tabor Heights. They’re still pretty sore about Rosetti’s massacre of their men. I don’t trust that Sherriff, and can’t imagine why Eli and Mickey would. But they seem to, believing that he’ll call them if Gyp shows his face in Tabor Heights. Confoundingly, Gyp Rosetti is conspicuously absent this week. We can only assume he’s shopping for a new dog collar.
Also missing this week were Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Chalky White, Agent Van Alden, and his lovely wife. I haven’t seen nearly as much of Eddie Kessler as I’d like either. For me though, all that is mitigated by the return of Esther Randolph. She’s a wonderful character played by a compelling actress. Julianne Nicholson has had a long career in modeling, TV, and film. I liked her as Logan’s partner on Law & Order CI, (even though I never watch those horrible D’onofrio eps) and in Kinsey. I love her as night-court prosecutor Esther Randolph, especially now that she’s looking shady. Why would any honest government worker agree to a meal with Nucky—especially when he’s not even eating? I’d guess because that judge was so incredibly condescending as he handed out five-dollar fines for violations of a federal statute.
Something is up with Remus. How do I know? He actually used the pronoun “I” when speaking to Nucky about Dougherty skipping their meeting. The Attorney General apparently stood up both of them before a Boy Scout meeting that left Jess Smith crying as if he had no choice but to be a thief.
More evidence mounts against Teddy the firebug. When neighbor Mrs. Praddock pops by with Teddy, matches, and kerosene, Margaret—well, she kind of loses her shit. Despite her own history of abuse, she gives Teddy a few smacks despite his protestations that he’s done nothing wrong.
A lot of what we see on Boardwalk Empire mirrors the same sociopolitical struggles we have today. Nucky tells us how he “delivered New Jersey” to secure the election for President Harding—days before US citizens learned that the United Nations is now supervising our next election.
Richard Harrow and his soldier friends lament how they laid their lives down for their country but can’t get medical attention, job assistance, or even a shot of legal whiskey when they come home. It’s frustrating to hear that things haven’t changed much for soldiers since the days of prohibition. The Margaret Sanger pamphlet Margaret reads also reminds us that every now and again, birth control becomes a huge social issue—even when it shouldn’t.
There’s a double-cross afoot this week. The senate subcommittee is insisting that somebody be arrested and convicted of bootlegging. Nucky and Dougherty have a strong disagreement over who’s the poor sap they’re going to feed to the wolves. The two men exchange threats, and then separate to take whatever measures they each deem necessary.
Dougherty strikes first, having Nucky arrested for a mere pint of booze. A couple of crooked cops sucker punch Nucky in the gut and throw him in the pokey. Moldy cheese and stale bread would be enough to put anyone in a mood. He also meets a small-time bootlegger. Judging by how much camera time this guy got, I imagine we’ll be seeing him again. That said, “Can you break a hundred?” is probably the most chuckle-worthy response to a five-dollar fine ever. Score one for Enoch Thompson.
It’s worth noting that Nucky called Margaret ostensibly to see how she and the kids were. He was so concerned, that when he actually did get back in town, he went to Billie Kent’s home rather than his own. Grumble.
Harrow spent some time at the VFW hall this week. I could tell you what went on, but I’d be breaking the First Rule of Fight Club. In the aftermath, Harrow meets a fetching young lady, the daughter of a sad veteran who lost his son just before the armistices. To my mind, no other adult character on the show deserves a little love and happiness more than Richard Harrow.
Speaking of love, Gillian Darmody is looking for some of her own. Her financial woes are no secret, even as she refuses to let Charlie Lucky peddle heroin in her brothel. Gillian goes out walking and meets a straight-up doppelganger for her dead son, Jimmy. Unfortunately named Roger, he and Gillian do the no-pants dance; and it’s clear that she’ll be keeping her new friend around for as long as she can—even as she insists on calling him James. As Roger has no money or prospects, I suspect that he may end up taking Harrow’s job.
Esther Randolph’s breakfast with Nucky leads to his pitch that Harry Dougherty is their mutual nemesis. To avenge the slight of being arrested and put below Remus in the pecking order—Nucky decides to take Dougherty down. Translation: a public shaming on par with Eli’s—only worse because Harry has farther to fall. Esther can help Thompson in that, lending Nucky the credibility he lacks. Gaston Means is the guy who can make this happen, and his inside information can be had for the low, low price of forty-thousand dollars.
Margaret hears a suspicious noise one night and wastes no time in grabbing a rifle and setting out to find the source. Horror movies weren’t really a thing yet, so she had no idea how dumb that was. She finds Owen guarding the greenhouse, where he reveals that there was a gypsy and he did set the fire. I presumed Teddy would hear Margaret’s apology right away, but apparently Margaret found another fire in the barn that needed tending to. Teddy is a good kid, and I loved the scene where he sat on the bed with his sister and talked about stabbing bad people in the face. Maybe Teddy will be the one who takes out Gyp Rosetti. Even as I know Margaret’s liason with Slater is morally wrong, I still dig it.
Our fun, period word for the week was Scuttlebutt, which it turns out, has nothing to do with having Patrick Duffy for a leg. It actually refers to rumors, as it’s a seaworthy expression similar to a water cooler. Asking, “What’s the Scuttlebutt,” essentially means “What’s the word on the street.”
“Ging Gang Goolie” was heavy on setup and light on action. It’s all important stuff, stuff we need to know for later in the season. Still, compared to other episodes, it was a bit of a snooze.
See you next week, kids!