Boardwalk Empire Recap: I’m Confessin’

Photo: Macall Polay/Macall Polay
Boardwalk Empire
Episode Title
The Age of Reason

Nothing too difficult to tease out about this particular episode’s thematic concern: The Highly Effective Confessional Habits of the Guilt-Ridden. We open with Agent Van Alden reading his holy book while Pregnant Lucy is moaning for lemons off-camera. Deep in her third trimester, she can’t get comfortable — not least of which because her suitor/jailor turns a consistently cool eye toward anything resembling empathy. (He shuts Lucy up with a juvenile, apples-to-oranges analogizing of her pain to that of Agent Clarkson and his third-degree burns.) “I will get lemons,” he says at the end of the scene — his face brightening momentarily, as though he’s done an official Good Work on behalf of the Lord.

Margaret’s still taking that part pretty seriously, though. “How Catholic are you?” Nucky asks her after a fairly limp round of bedroom pounding. (Isn’t this a question that they’d have already broached?) But in the same way that the episode toys with us in relation to Van Alden’s multiple potential confessions, so it does too with Margaret’s. We’re primed to think she may or may not spill consequential beans about Nucky’s various illegal activities once she goes in the booth, but what Nucky really ought to be worried about is the integrity of her carnal connection to him. As much as Margaret’s been sniping at Maid Katy of late, we come to understand it’s as much out of jealousy as anything else. Margaret wants Sleater, too — a fact that’s underlined when he grabs hold of a broom, and Mrs. Schroder’s hands, for a brief second, causing her to almost faint. During confession, the priest tries to steer the conversation about Margaret’s impure thoughts to the man who provides for her family. But nope: Margaret’s decided the biggest weight on her conscience that needs offloading has nothing at all to do with Nucky. The only question is how long it’ll take him to notice that this is the case. Since Senator Edge has since intervened with the attorney general to thwart Nucky’s traipsing toward the free and clear, it seems likely that he could go a few episodes without noticing the hot new guilt and expectation that Margaret’s consciously nursing.