"My son is dead. And nothing on Earth will ever bring him back."
Boardwalk Empire had another relatively slow installment last night, making "Sunday Best" the latest in a long string of snail-paced episodes. The third season of HBO's drama has been remarkably different than the first two, so much so that it sometimes feels like an entirely foreign show. It's like Roger is to Jimmy, while they appear similar and you can try to pass one of for the other, there's something just off. And we all miss Jimmy, the series maybe more than the rest of us. Before getting too melodramatic, "Sunday Best" was not without its fair share of fantastic scenes which showcased the series always impeccable acting, cinematography and direction. A lot of tension was derived from the shot setups, making this week's quiet story still seem very cinematic and often compelling. Actually, three of the four threads were pretty great and even though not a lot happened action-wise, "Sunday Best" was mostly a pleasure to watch.
"You wouldn't be trying to take advantage of a lonely widow, would you?"
The storyline that let the rest of the episode down was Gillian's. Her character is the least interesting to watch after the death of her son and quite a lot of "Sunday Best" was devoted to seeing her predictable plan finally play out. I remember mentioning after seeing Roger for the first time that there was probably a body switcheroo coming in the near future to allow Gillian to declare Jimmy dead and inherit his estate. Through Tommy. To accomplish this feat, she first sends Richard and her (grand)son out for Easter as she pretends to be bedridden by that time of the month. Roger soon arrives which kicks off the money discussions and sexual exploits. Yep, that's pretty much all the story has, Roger questioning her wealth and then the pair having intercourse. We also learn a little more about his past, probably to make his passing carry more weight, and it turns out he's a pretty decent guy. Too bad. And what's Gillian's obsession with dreams? She's losing it. Gretchen Mol is doing everything she can to keep us interested and her delivery of the final line was perfect. But now that Tommy will likely inherit the goods, I imagine relations between Gillian and Richard won't continue to be so friendly.
"What's a boxer without a sparring partner?"
Richard loves that boy and I don't believe for a second his threat to kill Paul was posturing. I sense a showdown between the crazy woman calling herself Tommy's mother and the new father figure with half a face. He better win! The Harrow boys arrive at the Sagorski home for Easter dinner, thanks to an invitation from Julia, but before they enter Richard shyly asks Tommy if he looks alright. A great character moment. The boys, however, are almost immediately made unwelcome by Paul who doesn't mind being belligerent even to ten year olds (how old is Tommy now?). After a not so mild debate about politics and religion, Julia pulls Richard into the kitchen so he can eat in peace. She's so adorable the way she fusses about the 'right' way to talk to her new man, even if she doesn't like him threatening to kill her father. Paul's pretty sympathetic though, crying in his dead son's unchanged room, and I really like the direction Richard's thread is taking. The three of them, 'sonny, mommy and daddy' would make a great family and I loved how Richard's not only facing her in the photo but showing the camera his good side.
"What I love about Spring, how everything starts growing again when it's all been so grey..."
Meanwhile, the Thompsons were also wearing their "Sunday Best" with Nucky, Margaret and the kids actually attending dinner at Eli's even though the brothers are still very much estranged. That's what happens when you plot to have family killed. The opening sequence was brilliant. Eli creeping around the house, constantly looking over his shoulder only to reveal the red egg and set up the holiday episode. The brothers relationship isn't the only one strained, Nucky and Margaret are still drifting further apart and placing them in the family setting was really compelling. I remembered how much I liked watching them come together (and conflict), a far more interesting romance for the lead than that mistress. Oh yeah, and Emily had polio! Eli, on the other hand, has a loving marriage and lovely family, but would still like a little more respect from his big brother not to mention a better job but is still happy that Nuck came over for the holiday. No drinks before dinner though, he promised June. After dinner, the children start their egg hunt while the men retire to the garage and the women chat in the kitchen.
"It's too late. I'm sorry. But it's just too late."
Spending the day with June in her loving household, makes Margaret emotional and spill the beans about Billie to her sister-in-law. You can't blame June for changing the subject, they only just met, and at least there was a reassuring tap on the shoulder. In the garage, Eli can't gain an inch with Nuck and Shea Whigham is an absolute pleasure to watch. The exchange over the gun was a great two minutes, with the younger brother sensing his time is running out before Nuck tells him to quit being so melodramatic. Back inside, it's family talent show time and one of Eli's daughter's kicks things off with "Beautiful Dreamer" (which I know from Saved by the Bell) on some kind of string instrument before Nuck dazzles with his juggling (seriously, how talented is Steve Buscemi?) and Margaret her singing. There seems to be love in the air for the first time in a while between Mr. and Mrs. Enoch Thompson but when they return home, the flicker is quickly extinguished by the latter. It's just too late for them to reconcile but it does inspire Nuck to call up his brother and try to bury the hatchet. They're family. And you don't want an idiot like Mickey Doyle calling any shots, just look at Tabor Heights.
"You do what you gotta do with me but you're gonna to be in a war whether you like it or not."
Oddly enough, I found Gyp's thread to be perhaps the most interesting and Bobby Cannavale should be submitting "Sunday Best" for Emmy consideration. He knocks it out of the park, making me feel a great deal for the season's antagonist, especially during his Easter dinner. He primps his best suit for the meet with Masseria, already well aware he's in a bad spot before his right hand spells it out for us. We then see how Gyp was raised in a family of tough females being the only boy and taking a lot of shit. The look he flashed his soldier when he's about to leave was quite sad and a great way to to get us feeling for his character. The speech in Church was equally effective, especially since Cannavale is so compelling on-screen, and I definitely didn't think he'd rob the place. I was as surprised as the Priest, however, the coins were not enough to please Masseria, who's far more concerned with his man's out of control behavior. What do you do with a rabid dog? You put him down. Except when you've got an alliance of Irish and Jewish mobsters moving in on your territory in the foreseeable future. Gyp would rather speed things up and take out the competition - Nucky, Rothstein, Luciano and Lanksy - before they get too strong. I say this every week, but a war is coming.
Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 8, "The Pony," 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.