Occasionally, intelligent television comes along that is heads and tails above the rest and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire fits the bill. Last season we watched as Terence Winter sacrificed one of his greatest characters and it wasn’t easy to stomach. Now with the start of season three, Winter is introducing us to an entirely different Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a much darker version since we last saw him.
A new character was also introduced, Gyp Rosetti. He is as hot headed as Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and as brutal as Hugo Stiglitz in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. He ruthlessly beats a good samaritan on the road to Atlantic City after the poor guy helps him change a flat tire. Then he steals his dog. All this because the man corrected his Sicilian. And that’s not the half of it.
Nucky is not only darker in demeanor, but in dress as well. His suits have gone from bright and cheesy to dark and sleazy. He has Manny Horvitz, the Polish fellow who shot Angela Darmody, kill a man named Nate who broke into Micky Doyle’s warehouse and stole booze. Then he orders Horvitz to kill Nate’s accomplice in exchange for his own cut of the operation.
Owen Slater (Charlie Cox)is Nucky’s right hand man and attempts to connect with Margaret Shroader Thompson (Kelly Macdonald) at an Egyptian party she throws for New Years 1923. She ignores him, but has other things on her mind. After signing the deed to Nucky’s land over to the local Catholic parish and having a wing in the hospital named after her, she finds out that women are miscarrying due to lack of prenatal education. She brings this up with a doctor at the party and it backfires. Nucky is appalled and obviously hasn’t been happy with her since she took most of his land holdings so he sleeps elsewhere, in the Ritz hotel sweet with new girlfriend Billie.
Margaret is seen at episode’s end watching a female pilot fly past named Connie Duncan, who is similar to Amelia Earhart. While she told her children about the amazing feat of a woman in aviation, Nucky told his colleagues that Ms. Duncan should “spread her legs and let the men spread their wings”. Always keeping it classy Nuck. Margaret is a strong character who insists on independence in a primitive society. She is ahead of the game and because of her ingenuity, will most likely get what she wants. She is the yin to Gillian’s yang.
During the party, Nucky is in the basement with a full house of mob royalty. Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, George Remus and Meyer Lansky are all there, as well as our new friend Gyp Rosetti. Because Nucky is paying the feds $40,000 a month to ward off any criminal investigation and no longer holds a public office as county treasurer, he agrees to only sell booze to Rothstein in NYC. Rosetti is angry that he has to pay more from Rothstein or get his booze from Brooklyn. He threatens Nucky, who attempts to make good with him and then storms out. This relationship could prove ugly for both parties.
Speaking of Gillian (Gretchen Mol), another independent woman in her own right, she now runs a high class escort brothel named the ‘Artemis Club’. Jimmy’s best friend and loyal bodyguard Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) now cares for his little boy while Gillian directs women to give up their virtue to men with money. Ironic, because Artemis is not only the goddess of the hunt, but a protector of virgins and women. Where Margaret wants to educate and save women from reproductive abuse, Gillian is most likely causing it for these girls.
Richard, one of the most fascinating characters next to Jimmy Darmody in this series, is torn between his love for Angela and his admiration for Jimmy. Angela truly saw him as a person, drew him, and spoke to him like normal. Harrow recognized in her a purity that is rare in this dark lifestyle. Jimmy treated Harrow with dignity and considered him a true man. There is no doubt that Harrow would have given his life for his best friend. Now he is caring for their son and Gillian is trying to erase Angela’s memory and demands that he call her “mommy”.
Harrow attempts to remind the boy about his mother and shows him her paintings. Gillian puts a stop to this immediately by threatening to kick him out. As a result, Richard expresses his anger by finding Manny Horvitz as he walks out his front door to assassinate the warehouse robber. Roland Smith should be counting his lucky stars because Richard Harrow saved his life by blowing Horvitz face off with a shot gun as well as his driver before exiting the scene.
Meanwhile, Van Alden (Michael Shannon) is near Chicago after he ran from the feds and killed his assistant Agent Sepso. He is selling irons door to door as George Mueller and enters a floral shop as Al Capone is about to kill a fellow gangster who insulted his deaf son named Dean O’Banion. Dean tells Capone that Van Alden is his assistant and will kill him on the spot, so Capone leaves. O’Banion thanks Van Alden by giving him a bouquet of flowers and buying dozens of irons from him. This could mean that Van Alden might be in on the mob life in the future working under Dean. As of now, he is living with his new wife and raising Lucy’s daughter Abigail as well as a new baby son.
Thoughts: Margaret and Owen need to hook up again pronto and show us some better sex than Nucky and Billie or those sad hookers in Torrio’s brothel. Nucky had better watch his back around Margaret because nothing is more frightening than an angry Irish Catholic woman with a vendetta. Van Alden as a criminal will be absolutely thrilling. His psyche is always on the edge of insanity and watching his God fearing beliefs be reconciled within the mob lifestyle is good television. I miss Michael Pitt and those pillow lips! Word on the street is that there will at least be a few flashback scenes featuring the late Jimmy Darmody.