“How do you rest your spleen?”
— Eli Thompson
I feel like this was an important episode, although it did come off as a bit heavy-handed. While the image of Margaret’s dress (acquired by her newfound abilities to get what she needs) stained by blood is a powerful one, it also feels somewhat overdone (although no less compelling). What we see developed most explicitly in this episode is the theme of being a woman during this era.
First, we see Margaret’s foray into “politics” by the prodding of Madame Jeunet–initially this advance is entirely rebuked by Nucky, but once it is properly expressed (i.e. expressed in terms which Nucky seems to understand: self-interest) then it is also properly responded to and assimilated. As Nucky says, he could “never hold that against anyone.” The only way that Margaret is able to assert her agency is within traditional power structures–not by subverting them, but solely by conforming to them. Whether this is enough agency for her is something I am very curious to see in future episodes.
Second, we see Angela Darmody beginning to assert her agency, which involves not only a new sexual configuration, but also a new artistic license. This is cut short by two different men, first the husband of the woman she has been having an affair with, who attempts to manipulate her into a threesome, but also, just as much, by Jimmy Darmody, who upon his return rapes her. The scene was shot in an interesting way, where what is obviously rape is eventually acceded to by Angela–not, I would imagine, because she accepts it or “really wants it”–but because she has resigned herself to it and to her old (new, again) life.
Third, and final, the other assertion of female agency we see in this episode is also at the behest of a man, namely Jimmy’s mother, who until this point had been romancing Lukcy Luciano–we thought at the expression of her own sexuality and desires–but we learn now only at the behest of Jimmy. This one female who had been able to, in a sense, master someone as rough as Luciano (with Rothstein being the only other person able to do this thus far) is shown, ultimately, to have been acting as the extension of a man.
All of this proves to paint a somewhat dim picture of female possibilities…but as Nucky tells us–we should be concerned enough not to take anything for granted. It will be interesting to see what happens with these characters in light of the suffrage movement.
Excited to see what happens this week,