This review contains spoilers.
3.10 A Man, A Plan…
Boardwalk Empire is at times a careful show. It has a lot of ground to cover, and if it sometimes struggles to find time to fit in all of its characters, it has done better with its plot. Now, as we approach the final stages of the third season, a sense of escalation and of linking plot strands becomes necessary. Episode ten, A Man, A Plan… delivers. I was impressed by how gently it treats the escalation; there is a return to violence, but in singular events rather than the massacres that are surely to come before the season is out.
Naturally, one agent of the violence is Rosetti. Still ploughing the psychopath’s furrow, we should nevertheless applaud him for his restraint in waiting almost the whole episode to punish Tonino’s cousin for his unintentional slight. As soon as he had the shovel in his hand, you knew what was coming but it didn’t make it any easier. It was one of the more gruesome deaths the show has featured, not least because of the slow build-up.
Talking of which, you wait all season for a Chalky appearance and two come along in a row. His plan for a club on the site of the ruined Babette’s place on the Boardwalk is interesting. If he gets it together, and I hope that he does, it would give the show an excellent new location and give Chalky more of a presence. The idea that it not be simply a ‘negro club’, but that it reflect the evolving tastes of the era, would develop the theme of changing times. One for season four perhaps.
Of more pressing concern, however, is that Nucky dismisses him just when he could be of most use. Nucky needs tough supporters, particularly those unlikely to be turned by the Masseria-Rosetti crew. That he could overlook one even as he sat there right under his nose tells us more about Nucky’s parlous state of mind than anything else.
This in turn bring us round to Margaret and Owen. Their affair, which had also been taking place under Nucky’s nose, has finally come to its conclusion, in the worst possible way. There was a feeling of inevitability about Sleater’s demise, his scenes with Margaret and Katie carried the sense of finality about them, and with Luciano’s whisper, the deal was sealed.
Still, it was more pertinently a Margaret storyline than an Owen one. Her ‘Anna Karenina Moment’, as she wailed over the bloody corpse of her dead lover looks set to cause Nucky’s penny finally to drop. A low point for Margaret, but a high point for Kelly MacDonald, whose hysterical agony was delivered in a painfully natural manner. She’s been such a buttoned-down character that there was an element of catharsis in seeing her open up so fully and instinctively. Quite where it will leave her now is anyone’s guess, but with her chief escape route gone, she may well be trapped. It is small consolation that the women’s healthcare storyline seems to have been brought right home.
The same may be said for the Van Alden storyline, now that he has crashed firmly into Capone’s orbit. The scene between the two men was brilliantly done, not least because Capone echoed so much of Van Alden’s old MO. The intense bullying, with a fork no less, managed to convey a sinister power, when it could have been ridiculous. Stephen Graham is portraying the steady growth of Capone brilliantly, especially as Torrio fades from sight.
Staying safely out of the loop, for now at least, is Richard. I liked his scenes with Tommy and Julia, the most apparently natural family in a show full of dysfunctional ones. I was disappointed that he didn’t give Julia’s father the full no-holds-barred beating he’s been asking for, but I respected his restraint. He’s trying to be a normal man, and his steady relationship with Julia is the best route he has to that. If Margaret must be denied her escape, I hope that Richard isn’t denied his. Somehow I doubt it.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, The Milkmaid’s Lot, here.
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