By Edward Davis | The Playlist September 17, 2012 at 1:35PM
Which brings us to "Resolution,” the opener to season 3. And perhaps like the most recent season of “Breaking Bad,” the ‘Boardwalk’ opener was somewhat sleepy, awakening from a brutal aftermath. “Resolution” was akin to the morning after the storm. With Darmody (and the Commodore) dead, the show does still ache with his loss. Left on his side were only his mother Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol, who is also doing her finest work to date on the show) and his loyal ally Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), a fellow WWI veteran horribly disfigured in the war who remains deeply faithful to the Darmody family as Jimmy was his only true and non-judgmental friend. How this unlikely pair, Gillian and Richard, will regain power remains to be seen, but by the end of this episode Gillian was trying to build a new business and some measure of revenge had been enacted -- Jewish gangster Manny Horvitz (Forsythe) met his demise at the end of Richard’s shotgun. Another interesting part of this Darmody legacy storyline is the battle for Jimmy’s son Tommy. With both mother and father departed, Gillian, Tommy’s grandmother, is trying to convince the young boy she is his “new mother.” While Richard, devoted to both the deceased Angela and Jimmy, is still in mourning, reminding the young boy of his parents' various talents. Gillian wants none of this talk and the schizm will surely come to a head later in the season.
Elsewhere, Nucky made some tough New Year's resolutions which affected his business associates, including new hothead gangster Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) who will surely be challenging Nucky later in the season. Nucky's mistress-turned-wife Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) -- now Margaret Thompson -- was still reeling from the events of Season 2. While grappling with her Catholic upbringing and morality -- she was living high on the hog, but keenly aware of Nucky’s crimes -- her daughter was crippled by polio and Margaret was convinced that God was punishing her. While ultimately she did not testify against Nucky and in fact, married him, her faith was deeply shaken in the second season and now, in the aftermath of her daughter’s illness, her new obsession appears to be the hospital and she Nucky have become patrons of th pre-natal care it's lacking. The news of aviatrix Carrie Duncan making her solo flight across the country appears to have acted as an impetus for her confidence; a galvanizing act that will surely have her meddling in Nucky’s affairs and therefore becoming a thorn in his side.
Meanwhile, in the episode’s third main storyline, the disgraced former Bureau of Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden (an intense Michael Shannon, also doing some of the best work of his career on the show) -- who turn and ran at the end of episode 2 when his bosses discovered he killed his partner in a fervor of religious frenzy -- has now moved to Chicago assuming the identity of George Mueller. Van Alden, a highly devout, but repressed and fallen-to-temptation Protestant, impregnated Lucy Danziger (Paz de la Huerta), Nucky’s former mistress, at the end of season 1. His wife then divorced him and he was left to take care of his illegitimate daughter Abigail with his Swedish nanny, Sigrid (Christiane Seidel), now under the guise of Mrs. Mueller. Struggling to stay afloat as a door-to-door salesman, the foreshadowing of fortune seems to have fallen on Van Alden.
As the Chicago mobsters jockey for position, Capone and O’Banion (Arron Shiver) butt heads. When Capone attempts to teach O’Banion a lesson about insulting his deaf child, fate intervenes as Van Alden enters O’Banion’s flower shop trying to sell his wares. O’Banion pretends Van Alden is his back-up muscle, Van Alden joins the ruse and Capone and his men decide they’ll meet again another day. While Van Alden has not yet entered O’Banion’s crew, as he struggles to feed his nanny and child, it seems his move to the gangster side as muscle is his only real option. And surely this maneuver will be explored as the season progresses.
The key to “Boardwalk Empire” is its many storylines and subplots that are often complicated (and even complex to the point of holding back its momentum), but look towards the horizon and the longtail game. It sometimes makes for a show that is slow, mannered and perhaps not quite as engaging (or critically adored) as some of television’s most revered shows (“Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” etc.), but with 30 Emmy nominations (including two for Outstanding Drama Series) and 8 wins thus far, clearly “Boardwalk Empire” is still worth celebrating. Where the show clearly shines is in its tremendous cast that’s constantly elevating the material and making you care enough to stick around to see who betrays whom and where the drama will go. The show could pick up its pace and become more gripping in Season 3, but that might be antithetical to the “Boardwalk Empire” approach where characters slowly walk up to their adversaries with a handshake and grin and then bury daggers into their backs episodes later. More likely, “Boardwalk Empire” will take the slow and steady approach and while ratings have dipped from Season 1, this is still an absorbing show worth watching. Even if “Resolution” was more of a reorienting calibration that got the characters and audiences back on its feet from the last season. [B]