”This is my town. I'm not leaving, one way or the other.”
Besides a few bumps in the middle of the road (and some consistent slow-burn complaints from yours truly), the third season of Boardwalk Empire has turned out pretty great. After a strong start, it felt like the show fired off more than a few filler installments until the various characters celebrated Easter in “Sunday Best” and the boozy HBO drama began paying off big. The last four or five episodes have saved Season 3 and ”Two Imposters” set up what should be a really exciting finale next week in “Margate Sands.” If you remember, Nucky began the year by trying to insulate himself from the criminal side of his life but these attempted safeguards not only set in motion the chain of events that led to last night's bloodbath but also reinforced what Jimmy's been saying all along - or was saying all along - you can't be half a gangster. No wonder that motto was adopted as the tagline in the marketing of Season 3. Nucky's always been able to handle himself, it's just everyone else in his life in serious danger...
”Hey asshole. You know what? You're under arrest.”
Lucky and Meyer's herion business is one of the season's side stories that finally had major implications in Atlantic City last week. The implications being Owen in a box. In order to find a backer, the pair had to turn to Joe Masseria and that meant not only owing the man money but also giving up information on Nucky's scheme. This week, the boys in NYC are sweating the loan so Lucky takes a meeting with some unknowns from Buffalo and one of them doesn't speak. For some reason I was thinking he'd make a great partner for Richard but then it turned out he does, in fact, speak. Before getting to the exact words spoken (they are written above), it's probably worth mentioning how much Meyer was against the venture from the minute is was put on the table, even making sure that Lucky wasn't going to make a deal. Well, the bright side for Charlie is that the flurry of action on the roof didn't turn him into a corpse because that was certainly my first thought when things went sour. Nope. Obviously, Lucky couldn't let it go. At least he wasn't followed.
”Pretty girl. Pretty name. She doesn't look blind in the photograph.”
The only reason "A Man, A Plan..." wasn't a completely depressing enterprise was the love connection made between Richard and Julia under the boardwalk. This week picked that thread up right where they left off with Richard returning 'home' with sand still in his pockets and finding Gillian rooting through his things. Her not so veiled threat about him not dreaming too big is the nicest the ungrateful crazy woman is the entire episode and she's going to rue the day she crossed her dead son's former best friend. That portrait isn't just his property but also a symbol of a better for Tommy and he needs it more than ever now that Gyp and his thugs have moved (Nucky's things) into the mansion. Gillian doesn't seem to realize that she's forcing out her only ally against Gyp's invasion but the thought of losing Tommy to a normal(ish) life is apparently too scary and she gives him the boot. I don't know who all those guns are for but I wouldn't want to be the person standing between Richard and Tommy. Just ask Paul Sagorsky.
”Same thing happens to everyone. Just sooner.”
While I hope Richard points one of his many firearms in Gillain's face in an attempt to rescue Tommy from that horrible place, it seems that Gyp's men will probably take the brunt of the aggression. Richard could play an interesting role in the upcoming war, functioning as an unpredictable, Anton Chigurh (No Country For Old Men), ghost-like figure who might just appear when someone needs them most. And we know he's got a history of working for the Thompson family as well as Capone, so he could come in handy against Gyp's siege of Atlantic City. After his thugs clear house but fail to kill Nucky, Gyp arrives at the Ritz to not only find his former mutt (Margaret was right, he can have him back) but also a desk that he likes. The rest of the suite? A dump! He'd much rather run his business out of the 'cathouse' and become partners or pitch his tent with 'Red' aka Gillian. If you recall, he likes redheads. And once he's set-up, Gyp personally joins the hunt for Nucky by paying Chalky a visit.
”If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...”
"Two Imposters" was a great episode for Steve Buscemi with Nucky involved in most of the action and, as usual, figuring out a way to survive. The opening shootout was an exciting sequence that completely came as a surprise since I didn't expect for Gyp's men to come for him so soon. They should have just trojan horsed him instead of sending the dead bodies. Either way, he and Eddie manage to shoot their way out of the Ritz but not before the butler takes one to the gut. Nuck can't even drop him off at the hospital in his own city and retreats to Chalky's looking for refuge. And an army. Too bad Mr. White only has enough men to protect what's his, maybe if Nucky had been more accommodating with the club proposal the former would have more for the latter than safe keeping and impromptu surgery for Eddie. Not that those aren't appreciated, especially since Chalky keeps quiet even after Gyp comes calling. Can't say the same for Eddie with it all happening mid-procedure.
”We've been on the road for 18 hours. I need a bath and some chow. And then you and me sit down and we talk about who dies, huh?”
Nucky and Samuel continue to work on the wound while Chalky and Gyp have a tension filled showdown just outside the, uh, OR. There are a lot of men with guns and even though they are almost kissing by the end of it, the smooth talking Italian never convinces Mr. White to betray his long relationship with Nucky. Of course, he's quick to remind the former boss of AC how much money he could have made by simply opening the front door. But nope, these two are stuck together and it's nice to see a genuine relationship. I feel like there's actual trust there. For now. Nucky actually did several redeeming things this week which allows us to once again rally behind Steve Buscemi's character before the big finale. Not only does he have a few nice scenes with Michael K. William's Chalky and Anthony Laciura's Eddie Kessler - if you were wondering, that was Rudyard Kipling's "If" that the servant kept muttering in German - but he's also willing to put his life on the line for his nephew. And it felt great to see Nucky finally get rewarded for his solo stand and find some support in the calvary recruited by Eli. Tell me you didn't smile at Capone's last line. I wonder if he'd be so accommodating if he knew the truth about his pal Jimmy?
Boardwalk Empire's Season 3 finale, "Margate Sands," airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Terence Winter, it stars Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Vincent Piazza and Michael Stuhlbarg.