Monday, December 3, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Twelve "Margate Sands"

Boardwalk Empire's third season comes to an explosive end as Nucky takes on Gyp's men while working back-channels to end up on top. Harrow liberates Tommy from the Artemis Club in the bloodiest way possible.

Old Man Duggan: It's pretty rare that a finale, season or series, gives me just about everything I want. While last season's finale brought to a close a season in which the conflict was a bit more personal, this one brought together each last outlying piece of an even more complex season. This season was fucking epic, and this finale made sure of it. Quite the fucking exclamation point, Terence. I'll start by saying, I have no idea how many people died in this episode, but it has to be right around 100. In. Sane.

The reporters laughing at Mayor Bader for insisting that he controlled Atlantic City was priceless.

Wordy Ginters: If only our press were as openly cynical today.  

OMD: Opening shot? Shots. Capone stepping forth with the single bullet to cap it off. Winter and Howard Korder (who penned last week's installment) really followed that fantastic close from "The Two Imposters" with what was promised, Capone offing a handful of Rosetti and Masseria's men. What follows is a gleeful slew of caps being placed indelicately in people's asses. To quote Shea Whigham's character in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, "Whoa." Bodies hit the floor.

WG: The symphony of violence throughout was beautiful. Ghastly, but beautiful. Perfect opening scene. The gangsta's silhouetted in the headlight beams and fog almost looked like they were dancing as they got dusted (Cheney reference) by machine gun fire. Definitely a harbinger of the carnage that followed.

OMD: I can't believe I liked what Mickey Doyle was spinning this week. If they get me in Mickey's corner, I'll be shocked.

WG: Was he operating rogue, or carrying out Nucky's orders? Regardless, it is the first time he's been allowed to demonstrate even a whiff of competence. Or likability for that matter. In that phone call scene, it was a largely unspoken, but effective back at Rothstein's place, showing his complete disdain for dealing with Mickey by reluctantly directing his goon to turn down the record player. 

OMD: It seemed like Nucky called that whole shot. "Big bait? Big rat."

How great was the repeated butting heads of Capone and Chalky? Sure, it was ultimately empty chest pounding, but it made their shared getting off on cutting down Masseria's caravan all the better. 31 down in one fell swoop. Still, the cockswinging was in full effect, and it worked.

WG: It was a nice twist. Of course there would be race issues between Capone and his crew and Chalky's guys. It was a nice way to keep the tension vibrating. Purnsley pissing on the car was great. Capone v. Chalky, who wins? I noticed Chalky immediately got into a traditional boxer stance, moving, feigning dancing. I think Wilfredo Benitez is high on his comp list. I sensed Capone was going to go more MMA style, with a bull-rush, probably try to get Chalky down and work on his ground game. It would be a toss up.

OMD: I'm sure Capone was a hybrid Brazilian jiu-jitsu/muay thai guy. His submission game was likely unparalleled for its time.

Man, I did not see Rothstein screwing over Lucky Luciano coming. I figured something was up, but that was not how I figured the arrest would go away. Looks like that heroin came into play in the big picture though. Just like everything else from this season did. You have to admire the juggling act Winter and crew pulled off this season. There may not have been many developments in the last two episodes that shocked me, but I have to say that for ten episodes there were a lot of strings out there that I never thought would get tied back in to this tapestry.

WG: Me neither. In surface ways, Rothstein has been a somewhat sympathetic character this season, as a partner to Nucky, pragmatic, honest, reasonable. They put the black hat on him in the last few episodes. I assume this might be positioning for Season Four, with him squared up against, rather than tentatively alongside Nucky. 

OMD: If I didn't see Rothstein screwing over Luciano, I definitely didn't see Nucky's whole play coming. He's nothing if not calculating, although that calculation seems to only play well for him in business.

WG: That Capone and Chalky wiped out Masseria's soldiers as they retreated from Atlantic City surely has to stir up a shitstorm that could definitely soil Nucky's fragile situation. 

Stay away from Needles
OMD: Maybe. he told Tonino to bring Gyp to Masseria and tell him they can either be squared up or keep things hostile and acrimonious. After all, Masseria did back a play against Nucky in Nucky's hood. Masseria could have justifiable been retaliated against even more.

Gillian, Gyp, the belt, the needle. All of those chickens came home to roost. Gyp's dirty talk got me going. Or at least it would have if I truly loathed every inch of my being. What a depraved sonuvabitch. I suppose Gillian's failure was inevitable. She stuck the needle in once and got everything she wanted in nefarious ways. Second time was not the charm, though she'll reportedly live to see another day.

WG: Gillian drawing out Gyp's particular brand of kink was compelling as hell. I didn't know whether I should be feeling uncomfortable, aroused, confused, aroused, or horny. The femdom/asphyxiation angle plays well as shock value, and as insight into Gyp's twisted soul. Maybe my favorite character on the show. It's rare to see a character who can exude menace and a loopy, goofy, charm. Usually it comes off like Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze. Gyp was just a shade too much cartoon, but for the most part he nailed it. Getting fragged by his main man was fitting. As was his off-kilter coda on the beach. Goo-Goo-Goo.

OMD: The entrance of Richard Harrow hit the precise beat that it needed to. Masseria's men withdraw. Only Gyp's men are left. Gyp storms downstairs after dosing Gillian, and I looked to the screen knowing what was coming brimming with sick glee. And how glorious was Harrow's precise gunning down of all but four of Gyp's men? Methodical. Detached. "Close your eyes, Tommy." I laughed so fucking hard when he sprayed that dickhead's brains across the window with the rifle he was setting down. Harrow's Taxi Driver Preservation of Innocence spree was even more fulfilling than Travis Bickle's. I loved that when Harrow started gunning fuckers down, Gyp ran for the hills, or more precisely the dunes. The beats of Harrow's delivery of Tommy from evil were spot on. If there's a bigger badass than Richard Harrow, I've not seen him. One can't help but imagine that Nucky knows Harrow did his dirty work for him and offers him a place at his side.

WG: Lots of Taxi Driver homage this season. The overhead shots. The endless supply of weapons in his coat. They should have had Harrow hold up his mask and engage in a "you looking at me" dialogue with it to really drive the point home. I hope he's around for Season Four.  I got the feeling he might be headed back to the woods with suicide on his mind. 

OMD: It would certainly be logical to have him join up with Nucky, especially with Owen having had his neck opened up.

It was a nice touch to have Gillian, in an opiate-fueled daze, confuse the Nucky in the house with the Nucky that delivered her up to the Commodore when she was but a wee lass. It was a poetic little reminder of what Nucky's actions have cost people around him.

WG: Maybe the creepiest cold jolt scene in the whole episode. 

OMD: There was an undercurrent of the elders schooling the younger generation in this episode. There were nice parallels between Mr. Sagorksy/Harrow, Joe Masseria/Gyp, and Rothstein/Luciano. The least likely of those playing out was Sagorsky telling Harrow that a soldier leaves the battle at the battlefield. Hell, it was weird just to see him sober. Masseria's clock correction was fucking great. Such a small gesture, yet it meant so much.

WG: Masseria was a nice addition to the end of the series. Has someone blankly looking at their watch and adjusting the time on a clock ever been more chilling? It was like Pacino kissing Fredo in Godfather 2.      

OMD: Cannavale's impression of Nucky was pretty hilarious. If he's gonna have a last moment, why not have it be as crazy as that? Barney Google. Talk about holding onto something. He's still pissed about Nucky telling him not to take things so personally? Even as he's pitching his vision of the Horatio Alger dream he'd been reading about in the book in Nucky's desk and singing the Barney Google song (a comic strip character), it's clear that he's batshit crazy. If he'd never bludgeoned Tonino's cousin to death, maybe Gyp would've survived, but he dug his own grave with those actions, at least as far as Tonino was concerned.

WG: I think you called that one too Carnac. I'm guessing Gyp was too unpredictable to be left upright. Nice insight on Gyp's Horatio Alger musings at the end as well. Gyp's gravestone:  "Killed pissing." 

OMD: I think it was Sepinwall (who I make sure not to read until I've already written what I've got to write) who noticed the book that Gyp was reading from Nucky's desk last week. It sure came back this week.

It'll be interesting to see where Nucky and Margaret's relationship goes from here. I gather that the character she's based on in real life sticks around, but given all that's happened, it'd be hard to see that playing out the same way. She won't take his money. She eschews her staunch Catholicism in favor of getting an abortion. I suppose all of the women's reproductive education plays its ultimate role here in the finale with the ending of Owen's line.

WG: I suspect she'll reluctantly return to the fold. And that Nucky's next bodyguard will be homely and communicate via grunts and hand gestures. 

OMD: So where do we think things go from here? My guess is New Year's Eve heading into 1924. O'Banion dies in November of '24, and it seems like they wouldn't have introduced his character in so central a way if they weren't going to have his demise play out on screen, though he doesn't fall on account of anything he did to Capone or Torrio. Esther Randolph exacts Nucky's revenge by way of Mellon's mandate that control of Old Overholt be seized from the criminal element that took hold there, blowing up his stake in the deal in the process. Van Alden will be in the mix somehow in Chicago. Harrow takes a place alongside Nucky. Margaret is seeing what St. Louis is all about. What think ye?

WG: At this rate, I would be foolish to offer up any alternatives. You've been pre-saging plot twists and character arcs like you worked on the set. I hope Chalky gets a little more screen time. I'm also hoping for more Mellon. I'm already looking forward to Season Four.

OMD: I'm guessing that with Owen out of the way and Harrow's likely coming into the fold that there will be room for more Chalky story. Mellon is a player through the decade. I guess we'll see how badly Nucky burned that bridge, although you got the sense that Mellon wasn't enamored with doing business with Nucky in the first place.

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