TV: Boardwalk Empire 2.9 “Battle of the Century” (***)

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Reviews, Television
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Set against the backdrop of the “Battle of the Century” bout between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier, this episode of Boardwalk Empire features three separate sub-battles in itself. Nucky arrives in Ireland, fighting for an arms-for-whiskey deal only to find unexpected resistance. Emily battles against what the doctor says has all the symptoms of polio. And Dunn leads his black co-workers in a strike in the Ritz kitchen. But these fights only make up the undercard, the preliminary matches before the main event. The real “battle of the century” is the one that’s been simmering and in some ways, is already taking place. It’s the battle between Nucky and Jimmy.

Nucky is Jack Dempsey here — the reigning world champion with an aggressive fighting style. And Jimmy is George Carpentier — the lightweight newcomer known more for his speedy technique. The anticipation for the actual bout was tremendous, and even though experts knew Dempsey was clearly the better boxer, the odds were stacked against him due to Carpentier’s media hype. In fact, Carpentier landed a punch that wobbled Dempsey in the first round, and for the moment…quieted his critics.

Like a parallel universe, we’re starting to see the battle play out in a similar fashion. Nucky (in last week’s episode) relinquished his position as Treasurer in a concession to Jimmy and the Commodore. But if you’ve paid attention to Nucky in the first 1.5 seasons, you know about his ruthless, unrelenting hold to power. How far is he willing to go to hold onto said power? Ireland, apparently.

Back in the U.S., Jimmy is reaping the benefits of being on top. From meeting promiscuous women who “now know who’s in charge” to brushing off potential enemies, we’re starting to see Jimmy’s inexperience come into play. It seems only a matter of time before Nucky gets up from his first received punch and fights Jimmy back in dominating fashion. With three episodes left in the season, that knockout punch should come relatively soon.

Boardwalk Empire is full of deeper meanings and small advances in character development. But what is its problem? Plain and simple — it’s slow. Scenes cut to one another without a clear transition and music plays no role in quickening the pace. Boardwalk Empire makes no excuses though, requiring the viewing to discovery these layers by themselves. But just because a show requires a viewer to do extra work, will it mean the payoff to the discovery is worth it? I’m not so sure yet.

  1. […] where the two heavyweights never share the screen, the tension is perfectly excruciating. In last week’s episode, we saw Nucky as a man with the experience and more importantly, the discernment to grasp his hold […]

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