"Sorry boys. New year, new rules."
All but one brief scene of Season 2's premiere, "21," took place in Atlantic City but let's face it, Boardwalk Empire is not the same series it was a season ago. Or at least, AC's not the same place as it was in 1921. The bootlegging drama pulled a Game of Thrones and offed one of the main characters at the end of last season but while the death of [redacted] worked as a spark that started a bigger (ice and) fire in Westeros, losing Jimmy Darmody completely changes the narrative, emotional and structural landscape of Boardwalk Empire. "To The Lost" didn't just tie up the central thread but also perfectly bookended the series with Nucky finally taking James' pilot episode advice - "you can't be half a gangster" - resulting in the tragically fitting conclusion. Since Jimmy carried at least a third of the narrative weight, not to mention that the loss of Michael Pitt weakens even the strongest ensemble, where does Boardwalk Empire go from here? Well, Tabor Heights, New Jersey...
"You're a gangster. Plain and simple."
But first, even though the show had a rather interesting opening, let's jump ahead one sequence and catch up with Nuck having a nice breakfast brought to him by a kid who conveniently runs past the 1923 sign being hung on the Boardwalk. That's right, it's been over a year since Jimmy took two to the head and our Season 3 introduction to Nucky lets the audience know that he wasn't kidding about that half gangster stuff. He toys with a local thief in front of his cronies - Owen, Mickey and now Manny - mostly to make a point about how stupid Mickey is before giving the order to untie him and kill him. The shot is beautifully framed while we watch the blood hit the windows from outside. Next up is some political manoeuvring for the full time philanthropist and he and the notoriously corrupt Attorney General discuss first, how everyone is slowly finding out just how corrupt he is and second, how he'll now be taking his protection fees through an intermediary. Hm. That better turn out to be more interesting than it sounds.
Making damn sure we know he's a gangster, Nucky pays Manny a visit and orders him to take care of a little problem that's sprung up in his territory. Manny would be more than happy to oblige but it's New Year's Eve and his wife will want to party, however, if he were to be given his own operation instead of sharing with his 'friend' Mickey Doyle than perhaps something could be arranged. But his wife is right, what's New Year's Eve without a party and the Thompsons have quite the Egyptian themed gala in store, in honor of the recent discovery of 'King Tut' (Tutankhamun) only a month prior. Celebrating on the grave of the 'Boy King?' Sounds fitting for the man who murdered one to end last season. And every party needs entertainment, so enter Eddie Cantor and newcomer Lillian 'Billy' Kent. If you couldn't tell within about two seconds that she and Nuck would wind up in bed together, you weren't looking. It was, however, a neat twist to find out that they not only already have been but that's now the only place where our gangster can find solace. What about Mrs. Thompson?
"A lady who flies an aeroplane?"
Mrs. Schroeder, sorry, Thompson starts the episode off by prepping for the New Year's Eve party and gathering a little inspiration thanks to the wire about aviatrix Carrie Duncan making her solo flight. Even in the face of that smarmy prick servant. Something tells me, joking with the boy or not, that the Margaret we've seen in seasons past wouldn't take that shit. Speaking of seasons past, she soon gets a tour of the new hospital that her generous donation helped build only to be interrupted by a woman bleeding from between her legs. Again, something about the scene just didn't ring true. It's a completely clean and quite area, like a private tour, before the woman appears out of nowhere and miscarries on the floor. Well, of course that's a pretty personal issue for Margaret so she's obviously going to start poking her nose around, aided by the smarmy doctor telling trade secrets. Dr. Mason tells her that her facilities may be state of the art but the treatment and health education of women is appallingly behind the times which will undoubtedly give Margaret something to rabble rouse about in Season 3.
I wonder how the church will play into this one? But enough about blood on the floor, there's an Egyptian party to get to and Owen is looking almost as dashing as she is. Do women look dashing? Anyway, he's clearly not finished with the 'fling' and despite her best efforts by bringing up Katey, it's clear that Margaret isn't over Mr. Sleater either. And surprise, she's not done with the whole woman bleeding in the hospital thing either as she approaches the head doctor to inquire about her well being and if everything that could have been done was done. The Head Doctor is only mildly upset about the accusation of negligence but Nucky, well, that's a different story. The feud that's surely been ongoing for the last year bears its head briefly but is quickly stifled by the appearance of Teddy atop the stairs. And while her husband leaves for his happy ending, Margaret is able to find inspiration in the aviatrix flying by the New Jersey coast at magic hour. At least, I think that was inspiration. Nucky's got a girl. Margaret's got a new cause. And Teddy looks like a young James.
"I'm sorry, I, I couldn't hear ya."
There are two story lines unfolding in Chicago, and it doesn't take long before Al Capone and Former Agent Van Alden now Mr. George Mueller run into each other. First, Al's in a meeting between a getting ready to go to Naples Johnny Torrio and another major player in the Chicago scene, Dean O'Banion (also based on a real gangster, sometimes called Dion O'Bannion) where things don't go exactly swingingly. It's not polite to encroach on other people's territory and it's down right rude to insult someone's deaf son but Torrio lets both slide while Capone pretends to turn the other cheek as a New Year's Resolution. Good thing that ain't till midnight and they can go pay O'Banion a visit at his flower shop. And things aren't looking so good for the Irish mobster until Van Alden accidentally walks in the shop and then plays along with the possibly life-saving ruse. Well, life-saving for now, probably many more people will die in the future because of this feud.
Capone retreats and Van Alden is offered some real work by O'Banion who is seemingly in desperate need of some muscle. Speaking of desperate, Van Alden doesn't seem to be doing so well playing the role of George Mueller either, especially since those two dozen irons he sold at the very end of his day (which he had to risk his life for, whether he knew that or not) were all he could muster. And still he gets screwed out of the sales prize by his boss. The early scenes of Van Alden going door to door were not exactly exciting although they were well shot (especially the porch dissolves) did offer a glimpse into his dire situation at work and the need to make a change. Perhaps even accept working for a criminal like O'Banion if it means ridding the world of sinners and ensuring that Abagail (not to mention Mrs. Mueller, the nanny/wife he's got there) has everything she needs.
"Very nice... You know. She drew me once, your mother. A long time ago."
My favorite thread of "Resolution" involved Richard taking care of Tommy and trying to ensure that the boy would remember his real mother and father instead of Gillian, who is turning out to be a strong contender for the biggest villain on the Boardwalk. If we recall, this is exactly what she wanted, at one point in Season 1 offering to take Tommy off Angela's hands and raise him as her own. While Gillian does her 'Mistress Darmody' routine with the girls before the big night, including introducing a new one who seems to take an interest in Richard (and we all know how Richard has a thing for pale brunettes, especially whores), the man with half a face and Tommy are off to the local fair. Obviously an ace at the shooting game, Richard wins the boy a bunch of toys but can't shake the fact that Tommy keeps referring to Gillain as his mother so it's time to go home and show off her paintings. After a Norman Rockwell moment, Richard continuing to stay there is threatened, so he shies away from the confrontation with the Mistress (for now) to take part in his own New Year's Eve plans. It was a bad hat Manny.
"Nobody here can take a joke?"
Back to the beginning and Tabor Heights, New Jersey. It was a really interesting and bold move to start the third season with a new character but considering the hole he has to fill, it was smart to immediately introduce the audience Bobby Cannavale's Gyp Rosetti. Serving as Season 3's main antagonist, Rosetti opened "Resolution" with a very No Country For Old Men type scene where we learn he's not the kind of main who likes to be corrected, nor is he quick to let anything go. It was a great way to bring him into the fold because you know fans are going to want to see some blood and who better to start the bleeding than the show's new baddie? And Bobby Cannivale completely nails every line, walking on an intense edge the entire episode. We also learn that he's a Sicilian mobster, you know, the ones who we're probably the most familiar with thanks to years and years of movies about las cosa nostra.
However, he does bring the pup to the party first so you know he's got a few screws loose, a welcome addition to any antagonist. I wonder how long he's going to hold a grudge against Eddie Cantor for interrupting him in the middle of his pitch to Nucky. Not that it would have mattered because, as he soon finds out in a meeting in the basement with all the major players, all tragically underused (Rothstein, Luciano, Lansky, Remus), from now on Nucky is only selling his booze to one buyer. This doesn't seem to really upset anyone except for Gyp and watching him cut apart the room was pretty amusing. Racial slur after racial slur, he finally realizes he may have made a few enemies and decides it's time to go. But not before the most intense shot of the episode, Rosetti all crazy-eyed stumbling up to Margaret and giving her Scruffy. He takes, renames and then ditches the dog. That's cold. I like this guy. Something tells me he, and Richard, are going to make this year worth watching.
”Well, enjoy yourself. And let’s look to the future.”
As exciting as it was to have HBO’s bootlegging drama back on the air, “Resolution” didn’t fully quench my thirst. It was a good episode of Boardwalk Empire but in many ways came across like another pilot. Like the series is starting over because of the giant hole to fill. It’s a lot bigger than the two little left in Jimmy’s head in “To the Lost” and without him, the Season 3 premiere felt like half a show. Or at least a very different Boardwalk Empire, which I’m sure is why they introduced Gyp’s character right away. It’s a new era with new enemies. Sorry, a new year with new rules. “Resolution” usually comes at the end, but what is the end if not a new beginning? It might take a little getting used to a Pitt-less series but once these new characters grow into the world (as well as wreak a little havoc) and more familiar faces start popping up - Eli and Chalky, it should be the same good times fighting for control of the booze on Boardwalk. It just needs some momentum.
Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 2, "Spaghetti & Coffee," 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.