In the shocking season two finale, Boardwalk Empire drastically shook up the show. Season 3 Episode 1’s “Resolution” tries to get the train back on track.
With the unceremonious removal of Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) — whose story was easily the most interesting piece of the first two seasons — courtesy of a Nucky-blasted bullet to the head, Boardwalk Empire is left to reshuffle the deck.
To make up for such a massive loss, the season premiere seems to throw a lot of characters around in an effort to see what sticks. The introduction of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Canavale) is easily the strongest. The character, in the opening scene of the season, features a roadside emergency that turns into a brutal murder of a Good Samaritan (with a side of dognapping for the hell of it) and the picture being painted is simple: Rosetti is a dangerous and volatile man.
But while we left Nucky Thompson attempting to correct the criticisms lobbed in Darmody’s “You can’t be half a gangster” speech in season two, the character seems to have taken a step backwards to the wormy politician role more than the hard-ass killer the closing scene led us to believe we’d be seeing. The episode is deliberately woven in such a way as to cut between Nucky’s gangster ambitions and political machinations (pay close attention; every Nucky scene volleys from “Policial Nucky” to “Criminal Nucky” in a more deliberate fashion than any other point in the series). But one goal drives each piece of Nucky’s interactions: To be taken seriously.
Other characters at least try to take on new paths.
-Gillian (Gretchen Mol) attempts to heal the wounds of her son-cum-lover-cum-awkward-Sunday-dinner-companion Jimmy’s murder by building an empire of Pride and Prejudice casting-caliber and covertly erasing the memories of Jimmy’s son.
-Van Alden (Michael Shannon) tries to escape his misdeeds as a Prohibition agent with a new identity in Chicago, only to find himself saving a bootlegger’s life.
-Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) works to figure out a way to get better treatment of women in a hospital after watching a woman suffer a miscarriage in front of her during a hospital wing dedication (I assume that isn’t traditionally part of the donor value proposition but, hey, it’s the 1930s).
-Al Capone (Stephen Graham) attempts to seize some control of Chicago’s bootlegging operations from his boss, one mouthy deaf-kid insulting opponent at a time.
-Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe) is trying to climb Nucky’s corporate ladder by cutting himself a slice of the bootlegging empire.
That is, up until Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) shoots Horvitz in the head in what seems to be an Omaresque mission for revenge against those who killed his pal, Jimmy. Gillian’s “pep talk” encouraging Richard to stop mentioning Jimmy or young Master Darmody’s mother probably didn’t help the situation.
But the defining theme of the show seems to be Stagnation. For every time a character makes to change, they find themselves back in the same situation. And while The Wire reveled in the poetry of it all, Boardwalk Empire seems to be drowning in it.
The strengths and weaknesses of the show are as clear as the prostitute-rattling wound on Richard’s face. For every long arc the show creates that reels the audience in (Darmody’s turn against Nucky, the seeds of the Harrow and Rosetti storylines starting to bloom in this first round of Season 3), there are five more that feel like being on a beautifully produced treadmill.
Another wise TV show recently said, “Just because you shot Jesse Jamesdon’t make you Jesse James.” Apparently, Boardwalk Empire had that message painted all over their writers’ room like Nicholson in The Shining.
Nucky’s Current Gangster Rating: 42% of a Gangster