And what of the law that creates the criminals?
“They can drown as far as I care…as long as they pay.”
Wow. What an amazing episode this past week. Aside from the absolutely stunning conclusion (which we all somehow suspected was coming), I see a definite trend emerging in the thematic engagement of the show. The theme, of course, is America. What struck me this week was how many different times and in differing ways, the American founding myth was invoked. We see it in Jimmy’s conversation with Pearl prior to her suicide, we see it invoked during the Celtic dinner, we see it in the vision of the Temperance League (particularly as they stand outside the Celtic dinner), and we see it in van Alden’s ministrations in the post office. What is striking about all of the scenes is how different the visions are, but how common the theme of America being un-achieved or perhaps even unachievable (so much so that I would see Pearl’s suicide as a clear illustration of the dawning of her realization of the impossibility of her America–an America that Jimmy sketches and that even in the story is fleeting: literally on an island paradise.)
We see, as well, how intimately the market is related to this vision of America. There are countless scenes in this week’s episode of the market intruding on various elements of life, most notably the family (with “market forces” literally waking Margaret up) and proper society. The scene where Pearl comes down to the marketplace of the saloon is particularly telling in this regard: no one wants to see the true fruits of their labors. No one wants to acknowledge the pain and misery that these varied market forces impose upon agents within the market’s domain. Pearl is unceremoniously marginalized, essentially ignored, and then drugged to prevent an even proper self-realization. Similarly, the social concerns of the midgets are easily brushed aside with the invocation of added value.
In this sense, what I found striking in this week’s episode was the lack of thematization of the very subject that the show is about: alcohol. I don’t know why, but it only struck me today that alcohol has barely been touched upon, as neither has Prohibition, really. I find this terribly impressive on the hand (the show is truly a historical piece without becoming a history piece), but on the other hand, I find it deeply puzzling. It seems that addiction and use is thematized in the drug use (which is brought to the fore in this episode), but not through the channel of alcohol, which is largely–the more I think about it–used to represent market forces and nothing more. This is a theme I hope to continue thinking on, but it strikes me as somehow terribly important.
Finally, of course, the kiss between Nucky and Margaret. What is interesting is that Nucky tells his brother that he has no time for Margaret because his life “is too complicated already.” Is the affair with Margaret a way of simplifying by leading her on? Is it meant for ulterior motives? I am anxious to see what happens of their relationship. After all, to speak with Eli, perhaps the whole thing is a game. On this note, I’d like to explore at some future time Margaret’s character. There is something deeply complex and but also surprisingly primitive about her. We see, foremost, that she is–as she said–a pragmatic woman. She is willing to go wherever she needs to to accomplish her goals. Nonetheless, she is also not entirely committed to her principles as she is willing to overlook them in the case of her affection (infatuation with? attraction?) towards Nucky. I am–as you all are–anxious to see how this plays out also and to see the full extent of Margaret’s character, who aside from Nucky and Jimmy, remains the focal point of the show for me.
Excited for tonight’s episode!