The third episode of the second season of Boardwalk Empire ("A Dangerous Maid") was one of the best of the series thus far. The installment was almost too tension filled, with the budding conflict between Nucky and Jimmy almost coming to a head right in the middle of Babettes which put us on the edge of our seats for the remainder of the year. But this season has been very different. The players have changed and there obviously isn't the same history between Nucky and Gyp as the former and Jimmy so no matter how long the show takes in setting up the conflict, it will have a tough time feeling as epic or earned. Meaning, it might be time to stop with the slow-burn and jump right into the battle. And for the most part, "Bone For Tuna" manages to do just that... But boy, do I miss Jimmy. It seems I'm not the only one.
"Well. You lose your own flesh and blood, what do you have?"
Before we get to Nucky's tortured dreams about the surrogate son he shot in the face, (Grand)Mama Darmody is also still clearly having trouble getting over the loss of her boy. She won't even admit to herself that when someone goes missing in the bootlegging business, they are likely to return. However, she is making nice with Gyp and if she chooses to avenge Jimmy, well, that's the first and best place to turn, especially considering the events of the end of the episode. And even if Gillian has 'nothing' in the figurative sense, she does still have the whorehouse to run and partners' investments to return. It can't all be lovely furnishings and poetry readings, not when you're in business with Lucky Luciano.
"You ever eaten with that prick? He has his diner and then he has yours."
Things in New York are also heating up with the feud between Lucky, Lanksy and a young Bugsy, sorry, Benny Siegel and their cross town rival Joe Masseria starting to bubble over. The boys aren't happy with having to pay him a percentage of their heroin gig when they are barely even operating within his territory. Lanksy, of course, wants to be gentlemen and keep things civil for now but things don't go as planned. Before Benny can make it to the next pickup, he's mugged by a couple of Masseria's thugs but Lanksy arrives just in time to put a few bullets in the assailants. And with one of them getting away, there will be no mistake about who did what to whom (yes, whom), only the consequences of said actions. Yes! Consequences will mean some bloody confrontations!
"Nothing wrong with letting your hair down."
Well, there is usually one non-bloody way to repent for you actions and make things right. Money! A solution that Van Alden soon finds himself lucky to have available. Van Alden, sorry George Mueller is having a tough time at work, not only struggling to move those irons put also being the brunt of all the office pranks. You do not prank Michael Shannon. He handles it well enough, although I bet that slippery prick of a boss (glasses) will get his, and returns home to a, uh, happy evening with the Mrs. She really is a sweetheart and has somehow managed to soften her husband but I know I'm not alone in wishing for him to get back in the game. It can't be too long, especially with things at work not shaping up, before he calls O'Banion. Right? Please? Anyway, like I said before, while letting his hair down with the boys at a local speak, he's able to grease the right palm and get out of what could have been a pretty bad situation. Since he's a fugitive and all.
"I'm afraid you finally trapped me. We'll sponsor the clinic as you wish."
Margaret's quest to improve women's health is also moving along nicely with some major progress being made and flashes of her former self coming out. I'm not talking about the sweet Mrs. Schroeder we met in Season 1 in Atlantic City but the cunning and almost ruthless women she became after first moving in with Nucky. She plays everyone around her perfectly, from not prying on her husband and still managing to get him to accept the honor to trapping the devout Catholic Doctor Landau in front of the Bishop in order to secure the women's clinic. Of course, room 314 will need a little work but if she can convince to prickly Dr. Mason to switch tobaccos (is there a romantic angle there?), she can do anything! Except make up with Nucky. She doesn't seem to keen on accepting his olive branches ("can't sleep") but he's too busy creeping out over Billie to notice.
"How do you think he got that way?"
While Nucky is wrapped up in his affair and trying to please Gyp Rosetti, his operation is still running smoothly thanks to Owen and Eli (both of whom we saw way too little of this week, not to mention some of the missing favorites like Chalky and AR) as well as Mickey Doyle. Being the dummy that Mickey Doyle is, he starts shooting his mouth off and taking credit for the murder of Manny not realizing that the actual killer might take notice. And, a little too conveniently perhaps, it isn't long before word reaches Richard. The man with half a face doesn't think a man's life is fodder for jokes or boosting one's reputation so he takes excepting and pays Mickey a visit in my favorite storyline of the week. To be fair, Richard's usual are and I also thought we were going to see Eli's 'how the fuck are you still alive' foreshadowing come into play. Nope, Mickey makes it out of another tight spot, leaving Richard and Nucky to hash out where they stand. Tortured but no hard feelings.
"You could find an insult in a bouquet of roses."
And that's good for our leading man because Nucky's got a lot his plate and is also devoting too much time to his new girl. I don't mean within the context of the story (although that too, it's weird to see him act like such a love-sick puppy) but for the show. His relationship with Billie is the least interesting thing happening this season because it has very little consequence. Margaret doesn't care, Billie doesn't care and I don't think the audience cares to watch Nucky constantly calling an unanswered phone. His battle with Gyp, however, is coming along nicely and it shouldn't be too long before the blood really starts to spill. I'm really curious how the rest of the gangsters - New York and Chicago - will figure into the fight or if they'll be too busy hashing out their own issues. Gyp is really entertaining and Cannavale's is incredibly watchable but I can't help but think of Chazz Palminteri's character in Analyze This. Perhaps his short fuse and, well, lack of knowledge are being played up a it too much (almost to the point of parody) but who cares when it's so damn lively not to mention fuelling the fires.
Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 4, "Blue Bell Boy," 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.