Boardwalk Empire (Season 3 Episode 12: Margate Sands)
Oh so bittersweet.
Let me start off by saying that HBO should own your Sunday night. For all of you whining that television rots your brain-teeth, nobody is listening, so you may as well enjoy it. Acting can be stellar and visual effects breathtaking. So why not spend an hour immersed in fantasy land? The only issue involves investment, and you need not look any further than Terence Winter’s gripping gangster drama.
It was nice while it lasted…
Capping an astounding season, “Margate Sands” had everything the fans were hoping for, all tied up in a bloody bow. Writers Howard Korder and the aforementioned Winter wove together the various storylines with grace, brilliance even. As the final minutes subtly unraveled Nucky’s (Steve Buscemi) master plan, I simply couldn’t bring my lower jaw back to its upright position. Flight attendants be damned! There was just no reaction more appropriate. The way in which every single ostensibly unrelated action was executed to thrust the seemingly struggling Nucky back into power deserves infinite praise.
Perhaps my feelings are as such because of the transformation that the character has undergone this season. From on top of the gritty underworld to almost beneath the ground, the viewer witnessed 50 shades of Nucky before E.L. James even got a crack at writing that awful book. The protagonist was conniving, merciless, and Buscemi’s performance always convinced. Even as Eli’s (Shea Whigham) monumental proclamation of “brother” floats around his ears (to say that these two had their share of disagreements would be an understatement), Nucky ceases to break character, continuing to plot, to prepare.
Thompson’s vulnerable moments, however, are closest to my heart. Watching him question his own greediness as he worked on the car with Eli conveyed just enough humanity to keep me invested. It was just enough to keep me believing in the possibility (however slim) that he might just get out of the business, start fresh. With him throwing down his trademark carnation, though, I think we both know that’s not going to happen… yet.
Richard Harrow’s (Jack Huston) Bond-esque bullet barrage certainly ranks up there in the series’ greatest sequences. But more than that, Harrow has grown on me a lot this year. His character has found a suitable niche outside of the realms of gangsterdom, existing to diversify the experience, to act as an unexpected source of humanity in a largely barbaric universe. For example, Harrow’s reason for being was unapologetically displayed this week as he risked it all, even his future with the lovely Julia (Wrenn Schmidt),to save the future of his late friend’s young son. This became all the more important when Gillian (Gretchen Mol) reveals one of the reasons why she is so emotionally crippled. Turns out that being involved with prostitutes at a young age will do that to you.
Though I was basically certain that Gillian would be the one to off Gyp (Bobby Cannavale), as their affair was anticipated from day one, having him stabbed by his own guy while he was taking a piss on Nucky’s town: I could not think of a better way for the show’s protagonist to cause the nefarious nutjob’s end.
So for those of you scavenging the channels for something watchable, take a trip to 1920s Atlantic City. Seeing as Nucky Thompson won’t be strollin’ the boardwalk again for another 10 months, you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.
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