In the season finale Boardwalk Empire attempted to create a live-action version of Superjail! The show's typical slaughter reached new peaks, and in the aftermath it looks to be a new era in New Jersey and abroad. Overall, a decent finale, thought it left me a little wanting by the end. Hard to top last season though.
The opening scene starts the ruckus as Nucky's new army, commanded by Generals Capone and White, even the score against Gyp Rosetti, our "big bad" in a television show about appalling people. The Thompson allies gun down various members of Joe Masseria's gang that have occupied the entirety of Nuck's warehouses and casinos, and it gets so bad Masseria visits Atlantic City to tell Gyp to get his shit together.
The tide is turning for a man previously on the run, but from his view things are as worse than ever. Nucky Thompson expresses his disappoint in his greedy behavior and there is a sense of change in a man who has undergone great transformation already this year. He is repentant, and at the end of his rope. Yet, the cool cat he is, Nucky gains an idea through his brother Eli to get out of the sewage: bribe the fuck out of someone until they can't say no.
Through a serious of ploys Nucky compels Arnold Rothstein into a deal where the New York financial kingpin takes majority ownership of Andrew Mellon's Pennsylvania distillery in exchange for a deal to have Masseria pull backing Gyp Rosetti. Without Masseria the Rosetti army is nothing but a few loyal men and a real bad outlook on life. Rothstein is totally for the idea, and gobbles it down selfishly. He's a cold, cake-loving businessman, which is why he set up Lucky Luciano, now fresh out of jail for seeing loads of heroin to a few undercover (dirty) cops. Ah, but Rothstein gets his, don't you worry, reader.
Gyp attempts to run Atlantic City, and chooses to do so from Gillian's Artemis Club. The nefarious Madame does not take kindly to the invasion of dozens of armed men in her house (her sole possession), and even though Gyp promises the world to her after he takes over the boardwalk she still attempts to kill him during a rather bombastic foreplay scene. Gyp escapes unharmed, dodging the heroin needle of Gillian, and instead injects the woman with her own poison
That makes what she experiences next all the more intense. We saw previously that Richard began preparing for some type of combat scenario, taking inventory of every firearm in his arsenal. My assumption was right: Richard Harrow was preparing to fuck shit up to save Tommy Darmody.
He enters Gillian's club just as Masseria's men pull out, and the massacre that follows is among the best scenes the death-hungry show has ever cooked up. Harrow parades down the long halls blasting his foes, reloading and switching weapons while taking care to deliver repeated kill shots. Coincidentally, Nucky and his boys are on their way to handle the same group of criminals. By the time the crew of blacks and Chicago Italians arrive nothing's left but bloodstained walls and a doped up Gillian. Thanks, Richard!
There's great little moment between Gillian and Nucky as she's under the influence. She confuses Nucky for a younger version of himself, specifically the time when he whored her out to the now deceased Commodore, Jimmy's (also deceased) father. It's a neat little nod by the writers pointing out that Nucky causes his own problems, and all decisions can have ramifications in some way.
During Richard's one man ambush Gyp Rosetti and few of his men slip away and end up staring at the Atlantic Ocean the next morning. Bobby Cannavale caps off an astoundingly entertaining year as Gyp goes a little out of his mind, singing a silly song and making fun of how ugly Nucky is, grasping the only revenge he has left — shit talk. As he takes a piss in the sand, proclaiming new plans to head west, he is unceremoniously stabbed in the back by his second in charge, Tennino, the cousin of the poor soul Gyp brained with a shovel.
Anti-climatic, but perhaps appropriate. Nucky and co. easily convinced Tennino to turn on his boss because he is not longer deathly loyal to Giuseppe Rosetti. Gyp isn't taken out by Nucky, or Richard, or Chalky but by a member of his own posse, a reminder to take inventory on those close to you and not be a dick to the bros who watch your back. It's a flip of what Nuck did near this season's end: build bridges with Chi-town ganglords, his brother, and a powerful friend from the black part of town.
It would seem Nucky gave up a lot to get rid of Gyp, but through clever political maneuvering he manages to both get the U.S. Government to come down hard on Rothstein for operating the same distillery that Nucky sold him (illegally, because he didn't own in the first place), and knock out a group of Masseria's thugs, around fifty of the New York's deadliest.
Nucky buys and schemes his way out of pending death, and even puts a dent in both of his rival's activities. He appears to have come out on top, and then you remember that his wife ran away last episode and never came back.
We find Margaret in a proto-abortion clinic, preparing to rid herself of Owen Slater's child. It's an awkward sequence, rightfully so, and makes me feel terrible about Margaret's path this year. She might have been an adulterer, but she attempted to do a lot of good too.
She's visited by Nucky, and her estranged husband tries to convince her to put the ugliness behind them. In a gesture of kindness, the only one he knows, he makes effort to hand her a wad of cash. Margaret refuses it, turning away the man and the money that put her on the path to danger and sin.
The final scene of season three demonstrates the new mindset of Enoch Thompson. He stands alone on the boardwalk, a place he toured with great frequently in his treasurer days. Now he seeks anonymity. When a passerby recognizes him the returned gesture is a mere aggressive stare. He then discards his trademark red carnation pin, a relic he's worn throughout the series. Nucky is not a public figure anymore, his lifestyle now demands a more incognito style.
It's an troublesome path, Nucky choosing to piss off his competitors and recalibrate his methods for a new period of crime in the United States. We'll see where the series goes from here. Obviously, there will be dead people involved, maybe more than The Walking Dead.
If anyone has stuck with me over the season, thanks a bunch. Boardwalk Empire is a joy to watch and a challenge to write about. As a whole I thought this was the show's best season overall, but last year made a bigger splash with Nucky's murder of Jimmy. Season three lacked a grand finale, but the entire year delivered great episodes and, per usual, a wondrous array of personalities, many of which are still alive and slithering in the background still. There are a bunch characters looking to grow and find greater purpose, and it will be interesting to see how the three cities (Atlantic City, New York and Chicago) react to each other in the years going forward. This season started with a time jump a
nd I'm willing to bet next year will too. On the current trajectory Boardwalk Empire is on the cusp on being a top level show, and hopefully, if the world doesn't end, I'll be right here with you at Comics Bulletin when that happens! Drink up in the meantime.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.