Romance Under the Boardwalk Empire
The first season has just ended, and as fans of this wonderful new show from yet another successful and talented “The Sopranos” alum (Terrence Winter), boy, we are in for a treat.
Great writing, acting, production design and not to mention production values, there is only so much more to come to look forward to. Who knew that Steve Buscemi could not only carry a show as the lead, but kick ass and take names? Good times indeed.
Much has been written about its historical accuracy, or lack thereof. My opinion? Who cares? If you want facts, pick up a book. On television, where most of the good writing is done these days, we wish to be entertained. Yes, for those of us with just a little bit of knowledge of history, we know that certain characters are not going to die (Al Capone, anyone?).
But enough about that. Let’s talk about Nucky Thompson. And let’s focus on one aspect of his character that hasn’t been discussed all that often, and that is the conflict between power and romance, between protecting the woman you love and having to cross moral boundaries to do it.
Nucky is a man who has suffered the worst kind of pain a man in this world should never suffer; the loss of not only his child, but his wife. As this story begins, he is the most powerful man in Atlantic City, dealing with not only internal politics of the paradise by the sea (quite a difference from what AC is today) but external forces from without; the Chicago outfit and others who would dare cross him. And never mind the bible-thumping FBI agent (brilliantly played by Michael Shannon) hell-bent on bringing him down for reasons of misplaced and illogical morality. That’s another article onto itself.
Off all the compelling storylines of this season, the one I found most heartfelt and emotional was the one between Nucky and Margaret Schroeder. If you are reading this, most likely, then you know what happens. Long story short, a powerful man with a heart of gold saw a woman abused, and took the opportunity to destroy the dragon abusing her (her husband) all because of personal issues that he had long-since not been able to deal with.
In turn, she was attracted to his power, and his compassion, but ultimately could not decide what to do with him. He’s willing to kill for her, and that turns her on. But at the same time, he’s willing to kill, and that scares her. What should she do with him? Yes, they end up together on the boardwalk at season’s end, but what next?
And that is the issue many men have with women. We can’t help but want to save the princess from the dragon. What our reasons are, honestly, it shouldn’t matter. A good deed is often justice, never mind the motivation. But human beings are more complicated than that. To see Nucky stand there, and listen to her accuse him, accurately, of murdering her husband, well, he’s not sorry he did it.
But the pain in his eyes tells her, and us, that he wishes it never had to be that way. The pain tells us that he once lost something, and she loves him for that, but at the same time, she is torn internally for what that means. It means that he has a dark side, never mind that he is willing to use it for good. And what does she do about it? What will she do? We’ll see.
But isn’t that the conflict between men and women? Many men feel that women want us to protect them by any means necessary, but when we do, we are meant to be ashamed of turning to our dark sides in order to protect the women we love. I have no doubt that Nucky, even with the pain of losing his wife and child, loves Margaret with all of his heart and soul. Whether she can appreciate that, whether he can love her the way she deserves, that only remains to be seen in the upcoming seasons of the show, of which, as a fan, I’m grateful we are going to get. So grateful that someone of Terrance Winter and Martin Scorsese’s talents, we get to enjoy.
But in the final analysis, life is never so simple as black and white. Men, guys, all of us, if we truly love a woman, we will do anything to protect her, take care of her, and love her. But that love sometimes comes with a price, and hopefully, not at the price of our souls.
Or the love of a lovely woman.