The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture


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“You can’t be a half a gangster.”

— Jimmy Darmody

Well, we have that…but not much of an empire…yet. How thrilling was it to see Capone? Luciano? Rothstein? These American legends (whether justifiably or not) brought to the screen with Martin Scorsese’s flair for detail and subtlety was a work of wonder to behold. In the same vein, I particularly enjoyed the claustrophobic way that he shot the FBI hiring scenes.

So what’s going? First, we are introduced to Enoch “Nucky” Thompson. Buscemi really nails this one as a peculiar mix of action, ideals, ambition, indolence, and care. What will be most interesting to see in the episode coming up in a few hours is how his relationship to Margaret Schroeder unfolds. We don’t know, as of yet, how much of what he said about his wife is true, but we do seem to notice that a certain level of care seems to exist on his part for Margaret–whether it originates in guilt (for her losing her child) or in genuine care (or perhaps there is not much difference) remains to be determined.

Also, obviously, we want to see how the Jimmy Darmody plot line unfolds. Darmody, incidentally, is the perfect counterpart to Buscemi, acting-wise. Carrying the same interesting mixture of power and fragility, ambition and indolence, he presents–as of now it seems–an younger version of Nucky. We don’t, of course, know whether he is working with the government, to what extent he is loyal to Nucky, and what his ultimate goals are.

I want to focus on his claim that: “You can’t be a half a gangster.” Certainly that doesn’t seem to be the case with our present day politicians, but maybe this will provide an added level of interest to the show: was being half a gangster harder during the 1920s? If so, why? The implication presumably is that somehow pretenses have to be maintained (whereas so much of modern politics seems to do away with premise)…yet the premise of much of classical political philosophy (think, e.g., Machiavelli) has been precisely that one can be half a gangster. Or is the argument, perhaps, not that Nucki can’t be half a gangster in the sense that he can have one foot in the criminal world and one foot in the normal (perhaps even moral one), as the quote seems to first imply, but rather that one can’t properly inhabit the normal (or, again, perhaps moral, or here: world of care) if one inhabits the criminal world. Hence, Jimmy’s point that he is a murderer: not that you can’t fake being a normal person to others, but that you can’t fake it to yourself–and so, Jimmy is presenting a sort of spiritual dilemma to Nucky. If so, then it will be interesting to see where this goes…

Excited for the upcoming episode,


Written by Martin

September 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm

One Response

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  1. Loved this series so far. A great surprise.

    Rod of Alexandria

    September 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm

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