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Review & Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 3 Opening Episode 'Resolution'

Television
by Edward Davis
September 17, 2012 1:35 PM
6 Comments
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Season 2 of the Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”) created, Martin Scorsese-exec-produced "Boardwalk Empire" ended in a spectacularly bloody and vengeful fashion that left many viewers in mourning (spoilers will follow for those who have not seen the show).

For those who haven't been playing along -- and we admittedly caught up after the fact -- HBO’s "Boardwalk Empire" centers on the gangsters and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who ran Atlantic City during Prohibition in the early 1920s (one of the clever elements of the show is how it almost acts as a prequel to the celebrity American Gangster era of the late '20s and '30s which included folks like Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, "Lucky" Luciano, Meyer Lansky; all of whom appear on the show as budding mobsters before they were kingpins).

In Season 1 we were introduced to Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi in an unlikely leading role that many thought he was miscast in, but has since grown into), the Atlantic City treasurer who's pulling most of the city’s purse strings. More conniving and smart than violent and reckless like most of his contemporaries, Nucky’s got control of the booze still flowing into the city, the cops under his thumb, led by his brother Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham), the negroes (as led by Chalky White played by Michael Kenneth Williams) and various politicians on the local, state and federal level (Christopher McDonald, Robert Clohessy, and William Hill). His main adversary was the cunning, Jewish mobster/businessman/gambler Arnold Rothstein (played with wonderfully coiled menace by Michael Stuhlbarg).

But shady businessman are always (and constantly) making deals with the devils, so by Season 2, Nucky and Rothstein had come to a mutually benefitting and understanding truce. Yet, frustrated by Nucky’s scheming ways, getting too big for their britches and craving a bigger piece of the pie, the true conflicts of season 2 were all the ambitious underlings. As Nucky said in the key line of season 2, episode 8 to Rothstein and Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci), Chicago’s mob boss, "the pups have grown fangs, gentleman."

Thanks to the colluding influence of his manipulative mother (Gretchen Mol) and estranged father (Dabney Coleman, also Nucky's mentor and predecessor), Nucky's own ward James "Jimmy" Darmody (a brooding Michael Pitt in probably his finest role to date) and his pals organized their own coup d'etat that included Eli Thompson, Rothstein's low-level foot soldiers ("Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lansky) and low-level wannabe gangster Chicago's Al Capone (Stephen Graham). And as the  Bureau of Prohibition and the Assistant U.S. Attorney hovered (represented by Michael Shannon and Julianne Nicholson), investigating Nucky for various criminal charges (election fraud and murder, culminating in very public indictments and trials), the underlings struck when he was on the ropes politically, putting a stranglehold on the booze and convincing the local politicians that Nucky was now a liability and they should jump ship. They posited the young Darmody, the heir of the Commodore (Coleman), should run the city in Nucky's place. As this coalition grew stronger in power, it looked like Nucky would not only lose it all, but potentially face the electric chair.

But for Darmody --who was essentially like a son to Nucky, the father figure putting him through college and taking care of him since he was a child -- the crown weighed heavy. With a disatisfied wife, Angela (Aleksa Palladino), trying to escape his cold and distant manner, the still emotionally shellshocked WWI veteran turned unlikely Atlantic City figurehead soon realized he didn't possess Nucky’s keen finesse and art of dealmaking. After his wife was murdered by a Philadelphian butcher/gangster (William Forsythe) that Darmody had double crossed trying to maintain his loosening grip on power, he returned to Atlantic City in a remorseful mood attempting to broker peace with Nucky, his former ally, boss and defacto progenitor.

But Darmody had made his bed with his grand betrayal (something it seems that he knew in his final moments) and Nucky used him to help turn the tide of his conviction (by having Darmody kill key witnesses) and then murdered him as payback. Like “Game Of Thrones,” this killing of a major character was a deep shock to audiences whose sympathies lay with the conflicted and handsome young lead. And like Walter White in "Breaking Bad," the scheming Nucky Thompson, who usually would rather extort or barter with a man before killing him, became even more ruthless, corrupt and soulless. Having narrowly escaped jail or death and betrayed by almost everyone around him, Nucky was in no mood for forgiveness or compassion and had to convey that those who double crossed him would do so at their own peril; even family.

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6 Comments

  • JimmyMackey | September 22, 2012 2:46 PMReply

    I think with a show like “Boardwalk Empire,” the more evil the characters are, the more shining any characters’ benevolent act becomes. Sometimes when things seem the darkest, we appreciate the blessings more, and I think even in a life of crime, avoiding jail is still a blessing. This season looks to be just as good as the first two. I started watching from the beginning because of the fanfare that preceded it, so I guess advertising CAN be effective. I use my Hopper to record it now and I will be saving all of this season’s episodes, so my Dish coworker can come over and we can watch them again later; the thousand hour capacity make it easy to keep a library of my favorite shows.

  • Greg | September 19, 2012 12:14 PMReply

    This is not a review!!! You simply recapped what happened. Don't you have an opinion on what things mean in the show? Allusions? Conclusions? Things to come? Don't just say, "we'll have to keep an eye on that plot line." THAT'S NOT A REVIEW! "Another great acting performance." NOT A REVIEW!
    If you could, please be more specific. At what point in time did you feel that the actress displayed her great acting talents? Be specific.
    Please be more specific with your 'insights' or take out the word 'review' from your headline...you can leave in 'recap'...that's what you did.
    Good luck in future writings,
    Greg

  • Barron Network | September 18, 2012 10:12 AMReply

    I loved every moment of this episode and Gyp Rosetti has to be hands down my favorite new character. He is outright gangster and he is going to cause so much trouble for Nucky. Gillian trying to erase angela is just downright creepy...I mean she creeped me out when she slept with Jimmy...is she going to do that with Tommy...somethings off with her , Nucky has completely changed and like the saying goes you can't be half a gangster. I thought when he said "untie him but before you do put a F**ckin bullet in his head" was epic!

  • Rosie | September 17, 2012 1:53 PMReply

    ["After his wife was murdered by a Chicago butcher/gangster (William Forsythe) that Darmody had double crossed trying to maintain his loosening grip on power, he returned to Atlantic City in a remorseful mood attempting to broker peace with Nucky, his former ally, boss and defacto progenitor."]


    Forsythe's character was from Philadelphia, not Chicago.

  • Zack | September 17, 2012 2:42 PM

    And as long as we're doing corrections, Van Alden is a Protestant.

  • Edward | September 17, 2012 1:58 PM

    Right you are, thanks Rosie.

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