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Gillian Darmody: Just the loneliest person on Earth

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I think one of the most fascinating characters on television deserves her own thread.  If you can think of an appropriate title, let me know.  For now, I just left it open.

 

Personal opinion: I can't help but feel for Gillian, despite the fact that she is a horrible person, in a lot of ways.  I can't help but think she could have been amazing if she had been loved and nurtured by the right people, instead of being handed over to the Commodore.  It's one of the saddest stories ever.

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Gillian Darmody:  I'm Feeling Murderous

Gillian Darmody: The Peaches Are Still In Season

Gillian Darmody: Pull My Trigger and See What Shoots Out

 

Definitely the best character on the show.  She's a survivor.  I think we'll be seeing a pretty brutal flashback related to that fateful day with the Commodore.

Edited by Drogo

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Definitely the best character on the show.  She's a survivor.  I think we'll be seeing a pretty brutal flashback related to that fateful day with the Commodore.

I agree.  That is going to be very hard to watch.

 

I am of the opinion that the Gillian character should have somehow become more powerful after Jimmy's death, if only to be a worthy adversary of Nucky, but if her downward spiral will result in seeking revenge on Nucky, I could be cool with that.  Nucky has never expressed a shred of remorse for ruining Gillian's life, so it would be interesting if the main story of the series ended up being Gillian's revenge.  Makes all the gangster-bootlegging stuff secondary, but I could live with that.

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Personal opinion: I can't help but feel for Gillian, despite the fact that she is a horrible person, in a lot of ways.  I can't help but think she could have been amazing if she had been loved and nurtured by the right people, instead of being handed over to the Commodore.  It's one of the saddest stories ever.

 

 

I have the opposite opinion.  Sure Gillian had it hard but others have had it worse and don't turn into murderous, incestuous creeps.  I think about the few black, female characters on this show who have the double hardship of being black AND female.  Nope, I don't give Gillian a pass at all, especially when she practically told Richard that he wasn't even a human being.  I mean what evil, horrible person does that.  Nope, she gets no pass from me.  I'm still pissed that she's still in the show while Richard isn't. 

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Gillian had a tough childhood and killed one person.

Richard had a tough adulthood and lost count after killing 63.

Nucky had a tough childhood and couldn't even be bothered to count his murder victims.

Louis had a charmed life and raped a 12-year old and ordered others killed.

 

Athough I think that killing 1 person in one's lifetime is too many, I find Gillian to be one of the least culpable of the murderers on this show.

Edited by jordanpond
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I think the incest makes Gillian irredeemable in some peoples' eyes.  Don't get me wrong, the feelings behind that are totally understandable, but I think part of the reason Richard and Nucky get a pass is because they never committed incest on top of their killings.  Of course, Nucky is guilty of aiding a grown man in the rape of a child, but that's another post for another day.

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I've vascillated between despising Gillian and rooting for her throughout this series. Currently I'm back to rooting for her.

Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm currently rooting for her for any other reason than besides the fact that I miss having an important female character or protagonist on this show. Kelly MacDonald still gets second billing on the intro, but Margaret really hasn't been a central character for a long time and I was annoyed that the writers didn't quite seem to know what to do with her after she married Nucky and what storyline she had (IMO) got tedious & somewhat ridiculous at times (in all honesty Margaret has annoyed the crap out of me ever since she got all religious when Emily had polio). With Angela dead, that kind of only left Gillian as the only female character left for me to root for. By the end of last season, I wanted her the hell away from Tommy but I also wanted her to end up in a relationship with a nice man (who ended up being the investigator).

We started the series with strong, interesting female characters like Margaret, Angela, and Gillian.....and Gillian is all we have left. I want the series to end with her in a good place, even though I doubt it will. Even if she killed Nucky, I think that would be a satisfying enough end to the series for me. I think that it would be fitting for Nucky and Gillian to be each other's end game.

Edited by MyPeopleAreNordic
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Gillian had a tough childhood and killed one person.

Richard had a tough adulthood and lost count after killing 63.

Nucky had a tough childhood and couldn't even be bothered to count his murder victims.

Louis had a charmed life and raped a 12-year old and ordered others killed.

Athough I think that killing 1 person in one's lifetime is too many, I find Gillian to be one of the least culpable of the murderers on this show.

I wholeheartedly agree.

The most obvious difference between Gillian and the other three on your list? She's a woman.

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Gillian is such a tragic character, the most tragic of them all I think. Raped as a kid, she obviously had a messed up sense of what is right and what is wrong, and while overall she seems to have raised her baby well enough, she still initiated the incest. We don't know how/if she has any remorse about it, for all I know she could either have been guilt-wrapped about it since or had no idea that was that big a deal - filming let if open, imho.

 

If as some expect she kills Nucky, I'd say well done, but it seems like an easy way out for this show.  

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I don't think it's right to give a man a pass, but I also don't think it's right to give someone a pass because she's a woman.  She does have less privilege than the men on the show, with the exception of Chalky maybe.  

 

I also don't watch a show to root for anybody, I watch for the story.  

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Neurochick, I don't think posters above were saying that Gilllian should get a pass because she's a woman. I think that they were saying that men are getting passes for doing worse things than Gillian because they are men. Although I didn't explicitly state this in my above post, I do agree with them. And my opinion is based on what one of the producers said.

 

When Gillian was caught last season, one of the producers said that GIllian needs to be punished because she has done terrible things. In all the other "Inside the Episode" interviews I've seen, I never heard him express any such need for punishment with respect to the dozens of men in this series who have done worse.

 

By the way, I thought your post from yesterday was quite interesting with respect to the black women on this show, and I held off responding to it until now because I really wanted to give some thought to the black women who had prominent roles on Boardwalk Empire. Although I agree with you that, generally, being part of more than one disadvantaged group can make it harder than being a member of one, I think it's a lot more complicated than that on this show, as it is in life. On paper, Maybelle White would seem to have more disadvantages than Gillian because she was black and female, whereas Gillian was "just" female. But I don't think anyone could argue that Maybelle, who lived in a big, nice home with both parents and her siblings, and had beautiful clothes and an advanced education, had a tougher youth than the orphaned and raped Gillian. 

 

And two of the other black women on this show, like Gillian, were capable of murder: Louanne tried to kill Louis with poison, and Daughter killed Dunn Purnsley, and was complicit in what was supposed to be Chalky's murder.

 

So I guess I'm saying there's really no black woman featured on the show who started out with a tougher life but ended up more of a law-abiding citizen than Gillian did.

Edited by jordanpond
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On paper, Maybelle White would seem to have more disadvantages than Gillian because she was black and female, whereas Gillian was "just" female. But I don't think anyone could argue that Maybelle, who lived in a big, nice home with both parents and her siblings, and had beautiful clothes and an advanced education, had a tougher youth than the orphaned and raped Gillian.

 

 

The key word is "on paper."  In reality that would not be true.  A white woman, even at that time, could always hide behind her whiteness.  Look at the prison or hospital where Gillian is, it looks more like a hospital than a jail.  Had a black woman committed the same crime, she would be in a real jail; I didn't see any black woman in the "baths" BTW.

 

As for Daughter killing Purnsley; I kind of sense that if she didn't, he might have killed/raped her.  Purnsley was a nasty piece of work.

Edited by Neurochick
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As for Daughter killing Purnsley; I kind of sense that if she didn't, he might have killed/raped her.  Purnsley was a nasty piece of work.

 

Daughter knew Purnsley was coming there for Chalky.  He wasn't there to hurt her and she knew it.  She just changed her mind about letting Chalky die. 

 

 

Had a black woman committed the same crime, she would be in a real jail; I didn't see any black woman in the "baths" BTW.

 

Gillian is in a sanitarium.  There wouldn't be any black patients there in 1933 due to the separate-but-equal segregation of the time. 

 

 

Nucky had a tough childhood and couldn't even be bothered to count his murder victims.

 

Nucky, though, had a loving mother and a little brother who admired and loved him.  There's an expression that a mother's love can right all the father's wrongs.  Who did Gillian have besides no one? 

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Gillian is in a sanitarium.  There wouldn't be any black patients there in 1933 due to the separate-but-equal segregation of the time.

 

 

Why is she in a sanitarium and not a prison?  

 

That place where Gillian was would certainly be better than the places black women would have been sent at that time.

 

As crappy as Gillian's early life certainly was, she did not have to face racism AND sexism, which black women had to face every day.  I just don't get the Gillian love.

Edited by Neurochick
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Nucky, though, had a loving mother and a little brother who admired and loved him.  There's an expression that a mother's love can right all the father's wrongs.  Who did Gillian have besides no one? 

Drogo, I think you and I actually agree on this point. Nucky at least had his mother, while Gillian had no one.

 

In fact, when adult Nucky was looking at the boys in the water in Havana, after just having the 1884 flashback of his mother's voice reading that inspirational poem, I wondered if he was regretting that he did not end up being that moral person his mother envisioned him becoming. She certainly provided love and encouragement and even age-appropriate reading material to guide him toward a life that was much more moral than the one he chose. Far more guidance than Gillian got, for sure.

Edited by jordanpond
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 I just don't get the Gillian love.

I don't love Gillian, but I have sympathy for her, just like I have sympathy for Nucky, Richard, and Chalky.  The only thing is, Gillian earns a *tiny* bit more sympathy because of the rape.  It warped her beyond repair, and no one is sorry for it.  Nucky, Richard, and Chalky have all felt loved at some point in their lives, but I'm not sure if Gillian ever has, and her pain runs pretty deep.  YMMV.

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I have to agree with the idea that Maybelle appears to have had a better life than Gillian prior of course to Maybelle's murder. Maybelle had a family that loved her, parents who stayed together, she had education, money, stability, she was engaged to a doctor, etc. I thought Maybelle came across as being rather sheltered almost like a person who was unfamiliar with hardship whereas with women like Gillian and Margaret I feel like they already had a cynical view of the world by the time they were teenagers due to their individual experiences. I don't think that Margaret and Gillian not having to experience something as horrible and evil as racism necessarily means that Maybelle couldn't have had a couple of advantages in other areas of her life. I'm not dismissing the difficulties that Maybelle would have faced back then I just don't know that I agree that based on what we've seen on the show that we should necessarily think that Gillian has had the better life simply because she's white. Obviously, I don't think this would normally have been the case, but it seems like Gillian has had an exceptionally shitty life and I think that's what makes me sympathetic to her character. What chance did Gillian really have in life when she was repeatedly raped and placed into prostitution and motherhood at such a young age?

Neurochick, for me personally it isn't about loving Gillian so much as it is about having sympathy for her character and finding her complexity fascinating to watch.

As far as the question for why Gillian is in a sanitarium, it may not be fair but it's not like Gillian is the only character who has gotten off lighter than what might have normally been the case. Loaunne tried to kill the Commodore but she was allowed to completely get away with it. Daughter didn't have to pay for killing Purnsley and it seems unlikely that she would have had to pay for being an accomplice to Chalky's murder had she not decided to change her mind.

As far as female characters being protected by their whiteness--that certainly wasn't the case for that horrible woman who tried to have Purnsley set up for rape. Again, these were exceptional circumstances and of course the character assumed that very thing would protect her only it didn't. Also, just to be clear, I understand that white women will *never* understand what it is like to be a person of color. I just don't know that I agree that if a person hasn't also experienced racism in addition to whatever other hardship, that this necessarily means that they've had a way better life than a person who has had to deal with racism. I would say the vast majority of the time that a woman like Gillian would have had it better but Gillian's circumstances happened to be exceptionally terrible (for a woman of any color) whereas Maybelle had many advantages that a lot of women wouldn't necessarily have had.

Maybelle seems to have had a better education than Gillian, marriage wasn't out of the cards for her as she wasn't viewed as damaged goods, she had a loving family, she had money, and she had the support of her parents so that she could more or less make her own choices.

Regarding the male characters seeming like they get more of a pass when it comes to murder--I definitely feel that this has been the case. Richard receives all kinds of sympathy and this is a guy who calmly suggested the murder of the mother and sisters of the D'lessio brothers just so that he might get the guys out of hiding. Not to mention stuff like murdering some guy who just wanted to give his kid a pair of rollerskates for their birthday or accidentally killing an innocent like Maybelle. Van Alden gets a lot of sympathy as well.

Gillian and Margaret both seem like they are held to a higher standard than many of the male characters. Interestingly, Sigrid doesn't seem to get a lot of flack for her participation in murder and other shady stuff.

 

Edited for clarification.

Edited by Avaleigh
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tumblr_n29a0b0MSu1rux8n3o7_r1_250.gif

 

 

I see Gillian's most terrible acts as those of self-preservation, so I have more sympathy.  She's not trying to get ahead, she's trying to keep what little she has.    

 

She killed Roger because she needed a body.  She needed proof that Jimmy was gone in order to keep the house, keep Tommy safe, keep the lights on with food on the table.  I can't say for sure what I would have done in her position.  

 

The incest is harder to cope with.  But then, Jimmy was all she knew, the only person who ever truly loved her, and she was losing him.  Losing him to his college friends and professor, losing him to his new girlfriend Angela... I don't approve of what she did, of course, but I'll never know how she felt to have only had one good thing her entire life and to see it slipping away.

 

"I'm just the loneliest person on Earth" should be the topic of this thread.  When she said it, it was heartbreaking, and it takes a lot to be even slightly sympathetic in a scene like that.  

 

 

ETA:  Love the thread title. 

Edited by Drogo
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When Gillian told Roy last season that her first kiss -- with the freckle-faced boy named James -- occurred the night before her rape, it gave me new perspective on Gillian that I never had before. Up to that point, it always seemed to me that her son Jimmy was the perfect man to whom all other men were compared. But when she said that she named Jimmy after freckle-faced James in memory of the last innocent experience she had, it suddenly seemed to me that this James -- not Jimmy -- was the perfect romantic partner she imagined for herself. So it wasn't that all men were compared to the ideal of Jimmy, but rather that Jimmy was the first "man" in the string of men whom she compared to ideal of freckle-faced James. An ideal that she could never succeed at recapturing, of course, because the rape destroyed any sense of the innocence and goodness of romance that she had held.

 

It doesn't excuse anything she did, but I thought it made everything about her relationship with Jimmy make a whole lot more sense.

Edited by jordanpond
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Gillian had a tough childhood and killed one person.

Richard had a tough adulthood and lost count after killing 63.

Nucky had a tough childhood and couldn't even be bothered to count his murder victims.

Louis had a charmed life and raped a 12-year old and ordered others killed.

Athough I think that killing 1 person in one's lifetime is too many, I find Gillian to be one of the least culpable of the murderers on this show.

.

If Richard or Nicky raped their own daughters, I'd put them in the same category as Gillian. For me, raping your own child is far worse than killing a gangster. Jmo.

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If Richard or Nicky raped their own daughters, I'd put them in the same category as Gillian. For me, raping your own child is far worse than killing a gangster. Jmo.

 

 

I agree with this; no matter what, Gillian raped her child.  And to me, no kind of spin can make that shit okay.

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I often wonder if Gillian fully understood what she was doing to Jimmy.  In her mind, she probably didn't think her actions were equal to that of the Commodore's, but they were.  The way molestation/rape affects a person's development is always very complex, and since people didn't talk about those things back then, Gillian would have had to have done some impressive mental gymnastics to convince herself that Jimmy was okay with it and that the two of them were "just two children, living for each other", in her words.  To me, it's chilling and horrifying and incredibly sad.

Edited by Billina
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If Richard or Nicky raped their own daughters, I'd put them in the same category as Gillian. For me, raping your own child is far worse than killing a gangster. Jmo.

 

I refuse to give Nucky a pass. He procured Gillian for the Commodore knowing full well what would happen to her. He may not have actually raped her but he was complicit and has never shown even a hint of remorse.  On the contrary, he still showed some respect for the Commodore while he treated Gillian with disdain.  Not to mention the fact that he then murdered her child.  Nucky, IMO, is much worse than Gillian.

 

What she did was awful, but she was continually raped over several years, beginning when she was 13 years old. Then, she had a child by said rapist.  What she did to Jimmy was awful, but she was psychologically damaged beyond repair.  Nucky, on the other hand, did what he did to get ahead.  He took an innocent child and handed her to a rapist.

Edited by CatMomma
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I find myself having a lot of sympathy for Gillian, largely for the reasons you mention.  There she was probably having the best night of all her twelve years' of life: she'd kissed her first boy just yesterday and was planning to meet him tonight, after she entered the local parade as one of "Neptune's Mermaids"- no doubt a great honor for a young orphan living on her own.  Next think you know, she's picked up by the sheriff, brought to the Commodore, drugged up until she passed out, then brutally raped and impregnated at age 12.  She was left to raise a son on her own with no guidance, simply because she was no longer "useful" to the richest man in town.  It's no wonder her sexuality came to define her, both in her choice of work (showgirl, mistress, et al) and her relationships with men including her own son.  Thinking over her story, her only two real sins were the sexual molestation of Jimmy, and her murder of Roger McAllister.  The first was basically inappropriate kissing as an infant, which is entirely excusable to me given her own young age (13) and lack of any support, and a single drunken encounter when he was in college.  The murder was vile, but done in desperation while her world crumbled around her; in the context of this show life has little value, and if we held murder against every character, we'd have no one left to root for.

 

Nucky himself was also screwed from the outset, with a horrible abusive father and living in abject poverty.  Then he stumbles into the Commodore's domain, and grows up understanding the Commodore is like the Pharaohs of old: he is the sun, the source of all prosperity and health and wisdom.  For years Nucky is trained to be an obedient servant of the Commodore's wishes, and Atlantic City under the Commodore becomes the only society he knows: to him this is the way a correct society functions, and he wouldn't refuse the Commodore almost anything.  In that century, as I painfully learned from the first season of "Copper", while not proper, it wouldn't seem all that scandalous a request for a grown man to sleep with a 12 year old.  To Nucky's small defense, once he appeared to realize the full impact of Gillian's rape and forced motherhood at a painfully young age, he felt guilt for his role in that event and provided financially for Gillian for years- some of that in the time before he was a bigshot who could toss money around so freely.  He also was actively involved as a surrogate father to Jimmy including sending him to Princeton and wanting him to take his place by his side in the "family business".

 

Of course he later shot Jimmy in cold blood, along with numerous other people, and arrange for countless other deaths or tortures or beatings... so he's not exactly Mr. Penitence I guess.

 

It's not a scale of justice, there's no feather on the other side against which we're weighing these character's sin and salvation.  That's what makes for a good, interesting drama, when characters aren't just paper-thin cliches of good and evil.  Gillian has done some terrible, hurtful things.  But she was engineered to be broken by forces outside of her control; she never stood a chance after that night with the Commodore.  While some people do endure similar events and still find a way to thrive, what she went through in her teenage years is the kind of hardship capable of destroying a person, leaving them in a constant state of panic and fear in a constantly shifting world.

 

I also think my opinion of Gretchen Mol has changed a lot over the course of the show.  I seem to recall not liking her acting choices in the first season, finding them overly mannered or even wooden.  Now however I enjoy (well, enjoy might not be the right word considering how brutal the content of some of her scenes are) every time she's on screen.  Her story lagged a bit in the middle seasons, but I'm continually drawn in by her presence even as I'm on edge waiting for the next inevitable cruel twist. 

 

On a shallower note, in a way she's more beautiful now than when the show started. I remember when season 1 aired thinking how much she'd aged since I last saw her, way back when she was being hyped in the late 90's as the "It Girl" and next big leading lady.  Now she looks almost regal in moments, even as she is suffering in some fresh new hell.

 

There's so much pathos with Gillian, her continued yearning to find some way to slip into a "normal" life, to be happy and settled and safe, especially in that heartbreaking fake relationship with the detective last season.  She's a character that's difficult but rewarding to watch unfold.  Gretchen Mol is acting Gillian in a way that's almost like a Hester Prynne, where her continued... steadfastness? hope?... in the face of seemingly non-stop failures and bad luck and cruel ironies and betrayals has transformed me from kind of hating her character initially to marveling at how extraordinary she is to still have some fight left in her, after all this time and all that she's been through.

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To Nucky's small defense, once he appeared to realize the full impact of Gillian's rape and forced motherhood at a painfully young age, he felt guilt for his role in that event and provided financially for Gillian for years- some of that in the time before he was a bigshot who could toss money around so freely.  He also was actively involved as a surrogate father to Jimmy including sending him to Princeton and wanting him to take his place by his side in the "family business".

 

 

Great post, hicandenza, the above is the only bit I disagree with.

 

I don't think that Nucky has ever fully realized or accepted his responsibility in ruining Gillian's life nor do I think he truly understands how horrifying it was for her to be repeatedly raped by the Commodore for years. IMO he has *never* seemed sorry for what he did to her and I don't think that he's ever acknowledged that he was wrong nor do I think he has ever apologized. Furthermore, I'm not even convinced that he did all that much to properly support Gillian and Jimmy during the time Jimmy was growing up. Numerous comments have been made over the course of the series but the indications are that the Darmodys struggled for years and years and this is another part of what created their unnaturally close bond. We hear about Gillian being used by the Commodore and later by some of his other cronies. We hear multiple indirect references to prostitution at an early age both from her and Jimmy's recollections. Jimmy recalls Gillian having to sell jewelry in order to make ends meet. Gillian was definitely a showgirl before Jimmy went to Princeton because they both recall how she'd get other showgirls to watch him while she was busy working. If Jimmy was at an age where he still needed to be watched it stands to reason that Gillian was still a teenager when she started being a showgirl.

 

As far as the whole kissing his winky thing--I thought the casual way she revealed that to Angela was proof positive that she didn't think something like that was weird or wrong. She thought it was something cute and loving and completely missed how understandably freaked out Angela was during the conversation. Jimmy for his part doesn't remember his mother molesting him so I always gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed this was a diaper ritual that stopped (hopefully) once he was out of diapers. We haven't been told anything else that would indicate that Jimmy saw his mom as a sexual predator towards him while he was growing up. All it would have taken is a line from him to get that idea across but all comments from him (and Nucky) about children being abused sexually are directed towards the Commodore over the Gillian situation. Jimmy seemed like he kept wanting to make Gillian feel better because of all the pain she'd been through in life and even after their sexual encounter and the war that has utterly changed and gutted him, almost the first thing he does when he returns to AC is to give her a necklace like one that he remembers her selling back when they were struggling. The times when Jimmy is angry with her are never about times when he feels he was molested or raped--very different than Gillian's anger towards Nucky and the Commodore which is primarily about having repeatedly been raped when she was a child. 

 

I think part of what's sad about Jimmy's reaction to what happened at Princeton was that he felt partially responsible and likely became further upset after acknowledging to himself that he probably was on some subconscious level attracted to his young and beautiful mother. (He comments on her beauty a few times including during that wistful conversation with Pearl.) It's an uncomfortable thing to think about but I did feel like hints were there in terms of seeing sexual jealousy on both sides of the relationship and not just Gillian's. Jimmy definitely had an interest in his mother's sex life and I thought it was most obvious in her relationship with Lucky. I thought the vibes were especially apparent in the scene where she's changing to meet Luciano and Jimmy is gazing at her while she's getting ready and she feels like she has to lie and say that she's meeting up with girlfriends instead of with Lucky. 

 

From Jimmy's POV I felt like a large part of him was wrongly blaming himself for what happened with Gillian and that this is a big reason for why he decided to join up and fight. For a long time it seemed like he started feeling like he needed to help protect his mother and it seemed like he knew very early on that the Commodore and other men were a source of his mother's unhappiness. After the incident at Princeton, I can see Jimmy suddenly thinking and fearing that he's little better than other men who have sexually taken advantage of his mother all her life. Obviously he'd be totally wrong to think that he's to blame for the situation but I absolutely do think that he felt some guilt over the fact that he ended up having sex with his mother and I think part of the reason he felt that guilt was because it had been something that he'd desired subconsciously. It wasn't until waking up the morning after that everything sort of crystallized for him about how crazy wrong and fucked up it all is. 

 

I think a huge difference between Jimmy and Gillian with regard to that night is that Jimmy learned from the experience, understood how wrong it was, and decided that he was going to make sure it didn't happen again. I don't think Gillian would have had any qualms about being Jimmy's wife in all but name and felt that she was basically hoping for their relationship to turn sexual once Angela was out of the picture. It really does highlight just how irreparably damaged and screwed up Gillian is when we consider that happiness for her at that point would basically have been living in the Commodore's mansion with Jimmy while pretending that Tommy is their child.

 

The moment where she admits that she's the loneliest person on earth is definitely sad but the moment for me that was heartbreaking was when she was writing the letter to a Jimmy that she knows is dead and she says "Life is nothing without you and there is no one who understands me." Emphasis mine. She really is the loneliest person on this show. It's so sad, I feel like I'd have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the circumstances that have brought her to that point. 

Edited by Avaleigh
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Thank you so much hincandenza and Avaleigh for these very insightful character analysis. It's not often that we have such a show as Boardwalk Empire that offers so many flawed and complex fictional characters, and I feel so lucky that the analysis can continue here. Gillian is one of the most fascinating to me, and I'm glad to have found like-minded people here.     

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I feel sorry for Gillian to. I think calling her a sexual predator is a little harsh... She didn't plan what happened at Princeton and while it was happening she kept pleading tis not wrong, it's not wrong.... It reminded me of a bad dream you might have where you're having sex with someone inappropriate and when you wake up you're sooooo glad it's just a dream (I've read that in those dreams btw brother boss etc is symbolic it does not mean you subconsciously want to have sex with family members of coworkers).

Gillian had zero guidance from anyone particularly from a female figure. She was making it all up and had been inappropriately sexualized while still a child. From all accounts people who have that done to them as children lack sexual boundaries as adults and Gillian seems to fit that bill, actually she did rather better than many in that she didn't habitually abuse jimmy or anyone else. I'm not saying she couldn't be nasty and do terrible things. But I feel pity for her. I really hoped the relationship last season was real.

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I've always wavered between disliking Gillian (take the way she treated Richard, for example) and feeling immense pity for her. She really is one of the saddest characters on this show. And now that she's stuck in the psyche facility, with no recourse and no way to get out, I only feel pity for her. Perhaps she would have been better at the hoosegow. 

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So Nucky and Gillian are both terrible people. Still doesn't make her any less of an incestuous rapist. We can agree to disagree on it because no amount of terrible childhood trauma or evilness of others negates the fact that she victimized her own son.

Edited by ridethemaverick

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I still maintain in season 1 there's just no way Winter and the writers knew at the time Jimmy and Gillian had already crossed the line and had slept with each other. You'd say "But they were uncomfortably close!" but that's just it. They're still close. Maybe they were leading towards Jimmy and Gillian going full Oedipus some day but it could not have been the backstory in the pilot. When Jimmy comes back after the war to see her, even though she jumps on him like a boyfriend, there's genuine affection between the both of them. There's no indication from him "Oh we did this horrific act of which I'm ashamed and which caused me to quit school and enlist hoping I would die in battle." The way Jimmy talks to Pearl about her telling her about that 4th of July as a kid with his mom, that she was and still beautiful. That he let her still be around Tommy, who(correct me if I'm wrong) she's not inappropriate with. She's the cool grandma. Then that all shifted with Season 2 starting right away with the first episode where she nonchalantly tells Angela when Jimmy he changed Jimmy's diaper she kissed him "there". That's when she became creepy Gillian.

 

Also the way Gillian and Nucky interacted with each other in S1. There didn't seem to be any venomous hatred on her part then(even though she had every right to). There was obvious resentment over the past but there was also a mutual understanding that Nucky would look after Jimmy and they both had his best interests at heart. It was a complex relationship and Nucky also seemed to respect Gillian. In the finale while the Commodore was talking Jimmy into betraying Nucky, Gillian is seen smoking in the other room apprehensive. 

 

Whether because of Dabney Coleman's cancer and/or Michael Pitt's rumored difficulty onset all this intriguing setup was lost by S2 and Jimmy was already ordained to be dead by the end of it with Gillian basically being Lady MacBeth along the way.

Edited by VCRTracking
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So Nucky and Gillian are both terrible people. Still doesn't make her any less of an incestuous rapist. We can agree to disagree on it because no amount of terrible childhood trauma or evilness of others negates the fact that she victimized her own son.

I don't think anyone is denying that what Gillian did was terrible, only trying to understand what could lead a person to behave as she did. She was raped continually through a large portion of her childhood.  It's not like there were therapists to help her deal with the trauma. I think there is a difference between being evil and being completely fucked up beyond repair.  What Nucky did was evil, because he knew what he was doing, yet did it anyway for his own purposes.  I don't think Gillian saw her actions as wrong. From a young age, her idea of affection was sexual.  It doesn't excuse her actions, it just explains them.

 

Nucky, well, he is a complete piece of shit for what he did to a young child.  Did he rape her? No. But he certainly led the lamb to slaughter, so to speak.  His hands are filthy.

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Good points, indeed. The show was retrofitted. It's something that happens with episodic drama-- they dont' even pretend they had it all planned out. I guess it would be unwieldy or take too long to do that, the way you would if you were writing a novel, but it certainly would hang together better. The backstory doesn't fit season one whatsoever. And in some wys, it was more interesting when there was an incestuous vibe without incest for real. You never see those relationships on TV, but they are real, and worth looking at.

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And in some wys, it was more interesting when there was an incestuous vibe without incest for real. You never see those relationships on TV, but they are real, and worth looking at.

I think Jax and Gemma from Sons of Anarchy fit the bill.  Gemma has always been weird about Jax being "hers", to the point where she killed his spouse.

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I'm surely the last person to realize this about the repeated Nellie Bly references (which was also made in season 2, when Nucky played a Nellie Bly boardgame with Margaret's kids) that are connected to Gillian, but... Nellie Bly gained her initial fame as a reporter by faking insanity and spending ten days in an asylum, a year before her famous 72-day trip around the world.

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The Nelly Bly stuff is killing me. She was a big hero of mine when I was a kid, too. I went  from feeling sorry for Gillian in a curmudgeonly sort of way to aching for her, all 'cause of that damn book.

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The actress they got to play young Gillian was amazing.  Another casting coup; she talked and sounded exactly like a young Gillian!

 

The dialogue they used in the most recent episode, especially when Maybel was talking to younger Nucky about what to do with Gillian after she's cleaned her up and put her in a dress, was at times heavy handed and tough to swallow, given the dramatic irony.  I think at varying points in this episode Maybel and others said innocent-yet-not things about Gillian including:

 

  • She can help around the house; and I'll ask at the school, I'm sure others can use her.
  • I will find her a situation; girls her age are always needed.

 

Talk about foreshadowing!  Although Nucky's involvement is now more confusing, if he's seen what the Commodore does to these girls.  The original story is that Gillian was noticed by the Commodore during the Neptune's Parade, and sent for her via Nucky; this would seem to remain an unforgivable sin if Nucky knew beforehand what Gillian was going to have done to her... unless they retcon it as more of the Commodore sees her, brings her back, and Nucky is only involved or aware later when asked to clean up the mess and realize who the Commodore has brutally raped- which means he can't unring the bell of the rape, can't depose the powerful Commodore, but he can at least try to help Gillian out a little.  We'll see how they wrap that all up, without making us hate the main character by crossing the "Moral Event Horizon" before the final credits role. 

 

It's interesting to me with how the last episode ended, that Gillian- and Nucky's guilt about her- is apparently going to play a very big role in the series finale.  She seemed to be a character ready to be written off a few seasons ago, and now she might become the emotional lynchpin of Nucky's world.  I'm worried, as some have speculated, that Nucky does show up at the asylum (and really, who doesn't open a letter for weeks?!?) only to find Gillian already lobotomized or worse.  But given his sacrifice for Will, maybe Nucky is thinking "I've lost my empire, I'll probably die soon anyway at the hands of Lucciano et al... at least I can help family in my last days, and redeem my life".  That, at least, was how I read his face at the end of the last episode while Gillian was doing the voice over, and his overall character arc the last few episodes.

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I'm worried, as some have speculated, that Nucky does show up at the asylum (and really, who doesn't open a letter for weeks?!?) only to find Gillian already lobotomized or worse.

 

 

I'm trying to be hopeful for her but I honestly think it's over. I don't think Nucky will make it in time. The way the scene was shot it was as though that was Gillian's final chance. I think she decided to make a run for it (after 7 years?) because she finally got wind that whatever the doctor was going to do to her would be happening soon maybe even the next day. The way she went into that locked door--to me it was like the scene was telling us that this is it, she's never getting out and her worst fears about living there for the rest of her life are about to be realized only she might be in a state of mind where it doesn't make much difference to her anymore. I feel like Nucky is going to get there and she's going to be a complete shell. She looked way too terrified like the worst possible person to find her in that situation ended up catching her. I bet the operation probably happened right then and there.

 

One of the many sad things about Gillian's letter (honestly, each time this character writes a letter my heart breaks for her) is the observation she made about Nucky being the last person who remembers who she was when she was still hopeful and innocent. Similarly, Gillian is the only person apart from Eli who remembers Nucky before he became the Nucky that we know now. She wasn't only thinking about herself and wanting to get out by writing that letter. When she was talking about forgiveness I felt like she was talking about both herself and Nucky. She wants forgiveness and she's willing to give forgiveness too. She opens the letter with "Dear Sheriff Enoch" as though she's trying to appeal to the man she remembered being good. "Innocent" is the word she actually uses. She thinks they were both innocent prior to that first night she's brought to the Commodore.

 

She really gives a such delicate description too wrt what happened to her with the Commodore and the birth of Jimmy. Everything about the situation is horrifying and it could be described in the most awful way possible but in the letter she boils it down to having the child of a man she didn't love. Just a small observation but I thought it sounded very true to Gillian's character.

 

Another moment in the letter that got to me as I'm sure it must have got to Nucky--when she tells him that she is begging him on her knees, begging him to help save her. Earlier that evening Nucky had just been in the position where he had to humble himself by literally going down on his knees to his enemies. He had to give away everything to save one of the few people who still mean something to him and now he's unexpectedly (considering that he's lost everything) in a position where a person is choosing to go down on their knees to him in order to beg for assistance. To Nucky her situation must seem extremely pathetic considering what a state he's currently in. 

 

I think he's going to hate himself for not reading the letter earlier. All the time he spent getting wasted and dreaming about the past he could have been trying to make amends. 

Edited by Avaleigh
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She really gives a such delicate description too wrt what happened to her with the Commodore and the birth of Jimmy. Everything about the situation is horrifying and it could be described in the most awful way possible but in the letter she boils it down to having the child of a man she didn't love. Just a small observation but I thought it sounded very true to Gillian's character.

 

What struck me was that she never names the man. Could Nucky be Jimmy's father?

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What struck me was that she never names the man. Could Nucky be Jimmy's father?

Nah. Both of them knew exactly what happened, Gillian was just being delicate and proper, as she always is, while in her desperation also reminding Nucky of how his early actions affected her whole life. Plus, the Commodore acknowledged Jimmy as his son and heir, as has everyone including Nucky, so that be a heck of a twist.

Gillian got pregnant with Jimmy just before her 13th birthday, the timeline is set in stone. For Nucky to be the actual father, then Nucky would have to have also slept with Gillian right around the same time, presumably after she'd been raped by the Commodore- remaking him instantly as a complete monster as well, which they wouldn't do to the main character in the series finale.

Or if they did, then somewhere the writers of the finale of "Dexter" would breathe a sigh of relief and exclaim "Off the hook!" :)

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Prior to seeing the relationship between Young Nucky and Young Gillian, I'd considered the possibility but I agree with hincandenza that Nucky wasn't Jimmy's father. 

 

I was thinking about how Gillian's hair is short in both the current scenes and the flashbacks. I remember thinking it was odd that Gilian didn't have long hair like most young girls would have had and then I remembered that she'd just come from the orphanage. It made me think of Jane Eyre. Gillian was talking about how the people in charge were always talking about sin and the implication is that she's an out of wedlock child who probably never knew either of her parents. Maybe they forced all of the girls to keep their hair short but I also wonder if it wasn't a punishment? Now of course she's back again to living in a place where she's forced to keep her hair short and it's one more thing that reminds her of life in the orphanage.

 

In her mind I think having that long hair really was a luxury back when she had it. Remember when Jimmy tells Pearl that his mother had him wear his hair long hair when he was a boy because she thought it made him "look aristocratic"? 

Edited by Avaleigh
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Or if they did, then somewhere the writers of the finale of "Dexter" would breathe a sigh of relief and exclaim "Off the hook!" :)

The Dexter writers should never be allowed that feeling.

 

Lumberjack Nucky actually makes more sense.

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I always found Gillian to be one of most interesting characters on television.  She is a definitely a monster at times, but you get to see how that monster was created.  That's a rare thing to witness on tv and in real life.  One of the things I always liked about BE is that it is (for the most part) character driven.  You get to see most of the character's motivations and complexities.  Except for daughter.  I never got her.

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I think Gillian wouldn't have been such a compelling character without Gretchen Mol's absolutely tremendous portrayal. Gillian could be a monster, but Mol always made us see the human under the monster. Whatever happens to Gillian, I hope this leads to more opportunities for Mol, who is so talented. 

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I think Gillian wouldn't have been such a compelling character without Gretchen Mol's absolutely tremendous portrayal. Gillian could be a monster, but Mol always made us see the human under the monster. Whatever happens to Gillian, I hope this leads to more opportunities for Mol, who is so talented. 

 

She is deserving of an Emmy.  She can make you hate Gillian and pity her at the same time.  My favorite scene was her slapping the snot out of the Commodore.  I  cheered for her.  

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This final episode raises a lot of questions, which I don't think are easily answered- in terms of continuity or explanation- but I hope it doesn't on some level negate the sympathy the Gillian character had built up. 

 

It seems impossible she could have been involved in getting revenge on Nucky for what he'd done to her- the rape, killing her son, basically abandoning her when her world was falling apart- from where she was imprisoned, much less the timeline... but the last scene makes almost no sense unless we believe Gillian had some active participation, which I don't want to believe given what it implies.

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My favorite scene was her slapping the snot out of the Commodore.

 

After this last episode, when thinking of rewatching, that's the scene I look forward to the most!

but the last scene makes almost no sense unless we believe Gillian had some active participation, which I don't want to believe given what it implies.

I think the last scene makes no sense. Or if it does it is as some kind of vague karma. As far as I remember, last time we saw Tommy and Gillian together was when she was giving him Jimmy's army plaques, and he had no idea who she was, so this idea that 1) she talked to him about Nucky so much (which we never once saw) and 2) that he remembered it enough to seek the guy out and ultimately kill him - makes absolutely no sense. I see it as a total retcon and the major flaw in the finale. 

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At the moment I'm fanwanking that Tommy felt uncomfortable talking to the grandmother that he knew Julia and Richard both disliked and disapproved of so maybe he did remember her he just didn't want to engage because he felt like it would cause complications or somehow imply that he'd want to go back with Gillian, which of course he didn't. He felt like he had to take sides then and he chose to be with Richard and Julia but maybe he didn't hate Gillian and in some way that maybe even he didn't understand until looking at it in retrospect that he actually felt kind of bad for her rather like his father did once upon a time. 

 

We don't know what his life on the farm was like. I thought Richard's sister seemed cold and hard and I know there was this hope that Tommy was going to have this super happy and wholesome life on the farm but it might not have turned out that way. Maybe Tommy doesn't have that many good memories of life on the farm. Maybe Richard's sister and Julia didn't get on. Maybe one of them died. Maybe one or both of them remarried and there was a man who changed the dynamic and made life difficult for Tommy in some way. Maybe Julia wasn't used to living on a farm and didn't take to it. How do we know for sure that she stayed with Tommy especially if Tommy started getting difficult? What if Tommy left because he disliked his life there? For all we know he could have had some information about his parents or Gillian or Nucky thrown back in his face during an argument.

 

I wonder too if there's anyway that Tommy could have gone to a library or something to see any old newspapers items about the deaths of either of his parents. We really shouldn't have to fill in all of the blanks. I think they should have given us a clearer motive for Tommy rather than leaving it up to the viewer since there are multiple possibilities to choose from. It feels lazy. JMO.

 

Edited for clarification.

Edited by Avaleigh
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Very good points about Tommy's life after we stopped seeing him and also, this

Tommy felt uncomfortable talking to the grandmother that he knew Julia and Richard both disliked and disapproved of so maybe he did remember her he just didn't want to engage because he felt like it would cause complications or somehow imply that he'd want to go back with Gillian, which of course he didn't

 

makes sense as a kid can be torn between loyalties, I had never considered it, but yes indeed - and that could explain A LOT.

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Now that we have more backstory on Gillian, her relationship with Jimmy is even more tragic than I realised. I especially remember her loving (and even being aroused by) him beating up his Princeton professor who had been manhandling her. Jimmy was literally the only person in her life who ever defended and protected her, and her emotional response to that was wildly inappropriate, but now more understandable.

 

I'm still unclear on the timeline of her association with the Commodore. Obviously we know about their first encounter, and they stayed in the same circle (to a limited extent) during Jimmy's childhood since Nucky was a presence in her life and providing financial support, and she became his companion and caretaker in his final years, but is it ever indicated how long he had her in his predatory clutches? I vaguely thought it was a one time thing, and that they unintentionally stayed connected due to her pregnancy, and feel that this is somewhat supported by the "revolving door" depiction of his victims and the fact that pregnancy and puberty would soon make her too womanly to catch his eye (gross). But several comments above suggest that he raped her for years afterwards. Is this ever explicitly clarified in the show?

 

Also, as much I will enjoy the slapping scene upon rewatch, I will be equally repelled by the scenes in which she tenderly nurses him and tries to seduce him in her Artemis costume. Although the silver lining of the latter scene is that it induces a stroke in him. I just can't imagine the levels of denial and disassociation it would take for her to initiate a "happy helpmate" relationship with him after everything she had been through. Heart-breaking. 

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