In what may be this year’s biggest TV shocker, Boardwalk Empire’s Angela Darmody was slaughtered as she begged for her life from her husband’s nemesis. Manny Horvitz, Philadelphia butcher by day and criminal mastermind by night, came gunning for Jimmy Darmody only to murder Louise, Angela’s new lover, by mistake. And as Angela pleaded, “I have a child,” Manny wavered, replying “Your husband did this to you,” and pulled the trigger, leaving her corpse draped over Louise’s body.
Great drama? Yes, in the sense that no one saw it coming. But what a horror show, and I don’t mean the blood. Boardwalk Empire has now lost an important emotional center and a civilian foil to the rampant criminal chess game played by the other characters.
There’s a huge sense of unfulfilled potential in Angela’s death. While I realize Boardwalk Empire is not a documentary, I’ll miss Angela’s role as the emerging New Woman of the 1920’s as she was last season. As an artist she brought a point of view to the show that was otherwise lacking, and with her clarity of mind she had the ability to ask the tough questions whose answers could define the other characters. Her artistic aspirations and her bisexuality marked her as an outsider, but a necessary one, and it came as no surprise that she shared a bond with that quintessential outsider, Richard Harrow.
While I enjoy Boardwalk Empire tremendously, I have to register a gripe–the female characters are so isolated. They have no friends, and if they do, they run off to Paris with manipulative husbands (hello there, Mary Dittrick!) or they’re the mother-in-law from hell (yes, Gillian, you’ll now get to raise that grandson you coveted, speaking of horror shows). The men are always interacting, whether forming or breaking alliances or throwing someone off the balcony at Babette’s or cutting off a bad guy’s finger or two. It’s a shame Angela and Margaret never had a chance to enjoy afternoon tea and compare notes–it would have made for a great scene.
This season’s Boardwalk Empire looks not to the outside world, but instead is becoming darker and more insular with every episode, more often than not literally so. It came as a shock during last night’s installment that we actually saw a man on the beach enjoying the sunlight, with Jimmy and Angela romancing each other at home as the breeze ruffled the curtains in a lovely scene. Angela’s murder robs the show of an opportunity for relief, and there have been precious few of those this season. The Powers That Be behind Boardwalk Empire have really piled on the grue and brutality this year–scalping, cleaver through the head, third degree burns, you name it. If the acting weren’t as stellar as it is, the show would be on the verge of becoming a cartoon of violence.
Aleksa Palladino did a wonderful job portraying Angela, and I think the show will be poorer for her absence as well as the character’s. At least we got that marvelous scene when Richard posed for her and removed his mask (which will no doubt make BE’s Top Ten Moments no matter how long the show runs), and the “Why did you marry me?” confrontation with Jimmy, not to mention her affair with Mary and her intense connection with Jimmy from the first season. I’m really sorry to see her go.