Boardwalk Empire Season 3 Finale: Nucky Regains Control of Atlantic City

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Updated: December 4, 2012

I’ll be honest, they almost lost me.  For a series that started out with so much promise, Boardwalk Empire meandered its way through most of last season in what felt like slow motion.  How could they be screwing up a premise with so much untapped potential?  It made no sense.  There on the table you have all the trappings of Prohibition-era Atlantic City – the gambling, booze, gangsters, girls, and guns, and yet each week we were forced to suffer through painfully awkward scenes featuring the sleepwalking Margaret Schroeder.  It was quickly starting to feel like the last few seasons of The Sopranos.    

I initially gave Season 3 a shot for the sole purpose of seeing how the fallout from the Jimmy Darmody situation played out.  While the blood of Darmody remains on Nucky’s hands, the writers adeptly moved the show on into a different direction and onto a brand new feud for the show’s primary protagonist.  Boardwalk was in dire need of charismatic villain to challenge Nucky’s stranglehold on Atlantic City, and the show got that and more in the form of Gyp Rosetti. 

Setting aside Gyp’s twisted sexual fetishes, I believe his character helped break up the monotony of the show and kept everyone (especially the audience) on edge.  It was clear from the first time Rosetti appeared on screen that we were dealing with one extremely psychotic, sadistic, and demented individual.  He took offense to the most harmless comments, was a virtual ticking time bomb, and in his personal affairs seemed to have more than a little Ralph Cifaretto in him (have to credit @Bob for making that comparison).  Probably the most horrifying scene of Season 3 featured Gyp wielding a shovel like a 9 iron, repeatedly smashing the face of an underlying who was buried in the sand up to his neck.  It was captivating (albeit disturbing) television, further proof that you never knew what you were going to get with Gyp.          

My only complaint with Rosetti’s character was his uneventful death.  After all the violence and torture he initiated, I was really hoping for a brutal ending for Gyp.  I’m talking a Pesci in Casino type of death.  It felt like they gave him an easy out to a degree, as he was a person who deserved some prolonged suffering before ultimately expiring.  I mean look at poor Owen -the state of his corpse wore the look of man who didn’t have an easy time of it at the end.  Surely they could’ve gone in a similar direction with the Gyp-ster. 

All things considered though, it was a great season.  Nucky made amends with Eli, “Chalky” White played a more prominent role as things got hairy in AC, and slowly but surely the future stars of the underworld (Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and the emerging psycho Bugsy Siegel) continued their gradual ascent.  I will miss a few of the characters that got taken out for good this time around, but there seems to be enough momentum gained this year to keep things moving.

One character who must return next season is Richard Harrow.  It goes without saying that the Masked Man was the MVP of Season 3, stealing the show in practically each episode in which he appeared in.  He started things off with a shotgun blast to the face of Manny Horvitz, made a romantic connection with Julia Sagorsky, and in the finale went on a Scarface type of rampage in order to extract Tommy Darmody from Gillian’s house of crabs.  Harrow walked off into the darkness after making sure Tommy was safe and secure, hopefully just to pull himself back together.  At this point he is the only one on Boardwalk with any true honor left, and the show is much better off having his unique brand of vigilante justice ready and waiting to be dealt.            

With any luck, Terence Winter will do us all a favor and not bring back the following train wrecks for Season 4:  Nelson Van Alden (should’ve been axed after the first season), Gillian Darmody (how can anyone come back from an incest subplot), and Margaret Schroeder (please God).  They effectively kill 95% of the scenes they are in and need to be permanently retired from Boardwalk.   

Nucky ended the season back on top in Atlantic City, pledging that to be smarter with his decisions and essentially eradicating himself from questionable partners and business interests.  He will likely lock horns with his on again/off again rival Arnold Rothstein at some point, and it will be interesting to see if Nucky aligns himself with the Lansky/Luciano group when they make their eventual move on Joe Masseria. 

This show has the ability to go in a number of different directions going forward, ultimately depending on how many more fictional storylines they want to wrap some of these real life characters into.  Though it will be difficult to find another villain as compelling as Gyp Rosetti, this season proved to me that Boardwalk can still be a great watch. 

Here’s hoping that Season 3 doesn’t turn out to be the high water mark of this captivating series. 

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