TV Review: Boardwalk Empire 3.10, “A Man, A Plan”

Rating: I can’t believe it. Boardwalk Empire shocked the hell out of me in season two by killing off its...

Chris Morgan

Contributor

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I can’t believe it.

Boardwalk Empire shocked the hell out of me in season two by killing off its co-lead, and the show’s done it again. And just like when Jimmy snuffed it, with Owen’s death I’m once again seriously contemplating abandoning this show.

Is this an overereaction? Maybe so. After all, Boardwalk Empire has some of the best writing, acting, cinematography and directing in any television show currently on the air. But it consistently, continuously, doggedly seems to kill its darlings. Jimmy Darmody divided many a viewer. Some considered him a mopey, whiney bore of a character – your dear reviewer was decidedly not one of those. When Owen took over Jimmy’s job as Nucky’s right hand man in season two, I was delighted because Charlie Cox’s character has easily become one of the most appealing qualities about the show. He’s smart, charming, intelligent and capable. He’s rapidly become a favourite.

And now he’s dead. I had a terrible feeling as soon as Eddie began opening the box that held our Irish prince’s corpse inside that things were about to go horribly wrong. Last week I predicted either Margaret or Owen would end up snuffing it before the season was out, and much to my dismay, I was right, and it wasn’t the character I’d have wished an exit to, either.

People often criticise Boardwalk Empire for being boring and dull. I’ve always fought those criticisms, but recently, the writers seem set upon a course of murdering off the more interesting characters, or wasting their potential. The most compelling elements of Boardwalk Empire are and always have been its supporting characters – Jimmy, van Alden, Chalky White, Richard Harrow, Owen, Capone – but none of these characters are getting the screen time they deserve, with the possible exception of Rothstein. I have now long passed the point where I can believe Lucky and Meyer will ever become interesting. Even Gyp Rosetti has stumbled back into caricature after managing to crawl his way out mid way through the season.

Nucky may be the show’s centrepiece, but this season its undoubtedly been detrimental. Our leading man has become difficult to empathise with, unlikeable and worst of all, a bore. Television audiences can abide a great deal in a central character being despicable – just look at the success of Breaking Bad and The Sopranos – but what they can’t abide is a dullard, and Nucky is racing towards that label at alarming speed. He’s just not anywhere near as compelling as his co-stars. The only other character close to occupying Nucky’s share of screen time is Margaret, who is even more droll and uninteresting. Nothing would make me happier – honestly – than to see both of them killed off this season and for the show’s focus to shift entirely on a balanced ensemble the show already has at its disposal. The odds of that happening? Fuggetaboutit.

Owen’s always been a bit of a dark horse. When he first joined Nucky he quickly made it known that he could be doing a lot more than just driving him around, and proved he was more than just an accent with a pretty face. His supposed proposal to Katie at the start of the episode, given his plans to leave with Maragret, raises an interesting question. If he was lying to Katie, which he almost certainly was, could he not have just as easily been lying to Margaret? Did he ever truly intend to include her in his life once he’d escaped crime? We’ll never know. Margaret’s reaction to Owen’s death and her rage directed at Nucky pretty much mirrors my own feelings with the writers. When we saw Richard Harrow under the boardwalk with his sweetheart, I actually wished he’d get killed off there and then too, so I could just be done with the show. At this point, Mr Harrow is the only thing keeping me going, given how massively they’ve misused van Alden, yet again, after a season’s build up that has led almost nowhere. So disappointing.

Understand that the score I give this episode is not reflective of the show’s writing, acting, cinematography or directing quality, which are all, on the whole, undeniably stellar, but more on overall summation of my feelings towards the direction the show has taken and the course it seems set upon as compared to what it could have and arguably should have been.