My faith in Boardwalk Empire has been restored. Last week I was on the verge of abandoning the show thanks to the writers deciding to kill off Owen. It flew in the face of expectation and the storylines they had been setting up for his character, but somehow Owen’s untimely demise was the last thing on my mind watching tonight’s episode.
Things kicked off with a bang in a shootout in Nucky’s hotel suite in a tense gun battle that sees him dispatching three of Gyp’s goons with a shotgun. Right from the word go the tension was high enough to cut and the momentum didn’t let up throughout.
With Owen dead and Margaret apparently fled, Nucky is well truly on the ropes without a single friend, except the one everybody always forgets. Eddie Kessler, what a champ. It was wonderfully brought home by Chalky White this week just how little we, and even Nucky, know about our leading man’s butler. When asked if his servant had a family, Nucky didn’t even know the answer, and his realisation that Eddie was the only person left in his corner, even refusing to leave despite instruction, was a surprisingly touching moment. It truly makes me curious what Nucky has ever done to earn such devotion from a man he frequently berates and insults without a second’s thought. I do hope it causes him to take a breath and realise just how valuable Eddie is to him. Props to the ever under-utilised Anthony Laciura for giving some much needed heart to Nucky’s increasing emotionless.
The retreat to Chalky’s neck of the woods was the only option left to Atlantic City’s biggest bootlegger, and thankfully it paid off. Along with Eddie, this week’s episode certainly seemed to be bringing home themes of finding help from those most often overlooked – specifically, the blacks. It cannot be said enough that Michael Kenneth Williams does not feature in this show nearly as much as he should, and his old enemy turned sergeant Mr Persnley is becoming almost as compelling to watch as his boss. It was also nice to get the pay off of introducing Samuel to us right at the start of the season, and it has to be said that the boy certainly held his own while operating on Eddie.
This week Gillian ascended beyond mere bitch to outright venomous c*** when she commented that Richard’s lady love did not appear to be blind in the photograph of her. Oooooh. I was willing him to knock ten types of snot out of her, but Mr Harrow is too class an act for that. The final short montage of him assembling his guns has me positively bouncing with excitement for next week’s finale. An all out assault on Fort Gyp / Gillian is undoubtedly coming, but somehow I can’t see it all ending in a perfect family-shaped heart for Richard. There was speculation a few weeks back that Richard’s assault would be a success but that Tommy would be killed in the crossfire between Richard and Gyp’s thugs, with Richard then turning a gun on himself. That’s a plausibly tragic ending, one totally in line with Boardwalk Empire’s calculating style. It would be a stroke of heart-breaking genius.
To be honest, I’d love to have a scenario where Gyp somehow outlasts the finale, but I just can’t see how its plausible. Either Richard will get him, or Gillian will through seduction and playing on his choking fetish. This might be a bit anti-climactic, but there’s a certain poetic justice to it that I think I can get behind. For him to survive would still make Nucky an outcast in his own town, and his alliance with Capone redundant. Speaking of Capone, the moment he arrived with Eli was the kind that brings a goofy “hell yes” grin to your face.
In other news, Luciano gets arrested for peddling heroin to a bunch of cops. Apart from being somewhat satisying and making me laugh, like the rest of Luciano and Meyer’s storyline, I can’t claim to care. The problem is all the interesting things that Luciano does come in the 1930s (Wikipedia it), making him little more than an overused support character with little to no progression. Compare Luciano now to Luciano in the pilot – no distinguishable differences. It’s a minor complaint, given the general quality this episode operated on, but not a single thing has happened with Lucky’s character in the entire series’ that has made me care either way what happens to him. Surely I’m not the only one that feels this way?
Finally, a week without Margaret is a good week. My God I hope she snuffs it next week. No disrespect to Kelly MacDonald, who is consistently great, but her character has just become a goshdarn boring drag, and her absence tonight only proved the show would be better off without her.
Oh, and Nucky finally got his cool back. Please, keep it.
This article was first posted on November 27, 2012