TV Review: Boardwalk Empire 3.12 “Margate Sands”

Rating: There’s little in television more disappointing than predictability. Some might argue that audiences need to be allowed to predict…

Chris Morgan

Contributor

Rating: ★★★☆☆

There’s little in television more disappointing than predictability. Some might argue that audiences need to be allowed to predict the events that will unfold in front of them for their own personal satisfaction, to prove their theories are correct and to provide the sense of satisfaction that comes with such prophetic fulfilment. I call bullshit on this theory.

Audiences want to be challenged, surprised, constantly kept on their toes. So when you bring in a new antagonistic force in the third season of a largely successful crime drama in a period setting based around real life characters and actual historical events, the end result can only be one of very things. And sadly enough, Gyp Rosetti’s demise was disappointingly foreseeable. One might argue that there was no place left for his character to go after losing the backing of big time gangster Joe Massaria along with Atlantic City and everything else, but that would be a lazy justification.

I predicted almost at the beginning of the season that it would end with Gyp dead, but hoped it would be otherwise, so the season wouldn’t fall into the typical trap of introducing a new antagonist then resolving the problem and having the end result being much the same as when the season began. That’s precisely what happened in this season finale of Boardwalk Empire. It’s a pattern that Dexter that has been repeating mindlessly since season three and has only managed to break recently in season seven.

Which brings me another point about Boardwalk Empire’s structure, one almost explicitly referenced by Mickey Doyle. He wagers to Arnold Rothstein that Nucky would give up anything just to stop from going under a third time – and that’s essentially what’s happened every season. First, it was the D’Alessio brothers, then it was Jimmy, this time it was Gyp. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the basic need for an antagonist, but it would be nice to have an enemy or plotline that either extended beyond the simple season-long arc or the recycled formula of a gang war. It’d be nice, for once, if Nucky’s existence were not being threatened in the same way for the same reasons. Nucky the politician’s absence is duly noted.

When it comes to distinguishing this season from the its previous ones, Bobby Cannavale’s performance as Gyp Rosetti is the unquestionable distinction. At times bordering on caricature in his off the wall level of violence and bursts of temper, he’s a character that will be discussed for some time to come. He is a divisive character, a love or hate marvel, and whichever side of the fence you sit on, no one can say his performance was lacking. A knife in the back was a sad way for him to go out.

By far the best scene of this episode was Richard’s assault on Fort Gyp/Gillian. Gunning down fools with a sniper rifle without even using a scope, Mr Harrow is undoubtedly everyone’s favourite Atlantic City resident. I certainly hope we see him dispatching more from the face of the earth next season, as his kill count was a little on the light side this time with the exception of this episode. Tommy may be safe, but given Julia’s reaction to Richard’s blood covered features, one suspects this may be the end of their relationship. As much as I want a happy ending for him, I want to see him being a badass more.

It’s unclear if Gillian survives the overdose she intended for Gyp, but given the basic rule that unless you sit them die, they ain’t dead, it’s probably a fair bet that the redheaded black widow is still out there, though I hope it’s not the case. I love watching Gretchen Mol but Gillian’s character has nowhere left to go.

I’d love to believe Margaret won’t come back to Nucky, or the show in general, but it just won’t happen. Nucky’s forgiveness of her borders on hysterical, considering the number of times he’s cheated on her. She’ll be back.

After last week’s terrific episode that set up a climactic showdown so beautifully, I can’t help but feel the ball was dropped somewhat with this finale. However, news came recently that two of the best, most prolific writers of modern day crime fiction, both of whom worked on and produced the best material ever made on The Wire, will be joining Boardwalk Empire’s writing staff next season. That’s right, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos – yes, both of them – are on board. If that doesn’t make for a marked improvement, I’ll be mighty surprised.