Episode Title: "Resolution"
Writer: Terence Winter
Director: Tim Van Patten
Previously on 'Boardwalk Empire:'
On New Year's Eve in 1922, Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) questions a thief who attempted to steal booze from Mickey Doyle's warehouse. After getting the man to give up the name of his accomplice, Nucky has Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe) shoot him. Meanwhile, Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) makes arrangements for that night's New Year's Eve party while listening to a radio broadcast about female aviator, Carrie Duncan.
In Chicago, Al Capone (Stephen Graham) nearly comes to blows with Dean O'Bannion (Arron Shiver) after the Irish bootlegger made a crack about about Capone's deaf son. Back in Atlantic City, Nucky tells Attorney General Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald) about his concerns over the bad press his administration has been getting. Daugherty, in turn, accuses Nucky of living in a glass house. Later, Nucky tasks Manny with taking out the thief's wheelman. Manny agrees on the condition that he get an liquor operation of his own, to which Nucky agrees.
While visiting the hospital she donated the proceeds from Nucky's land tract to, Margaret witnesses a woman have a miscarriage. She questions one of the doctors about it and he explains that it could have been prevented if the hospital had a pre-natal care program. In Chicago, Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) attempts to sell irons door-to-door, but faces constant rejection.
While spending some time with young Tommy Darmody, Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) tells the boy about his late mother, Angela. Later at home, Tommy refers to Angela as his mother and Gillian (Gretchen Mol) reminds him that she is his mother now.
That night in Chicago, Capone arrives at O'Bannion's floral shop ready to exact revenge for the comment about his son. However, Van Alden unwittingly shows up to sell his wares and O'Bannion makes Capone think Van Alden is his associate. When he calls on him to show that he's armed, Van Alden unclasps his case and Capone makes his exit. Afterwards, O'Bannion thanks Van Alden for playing along and places an order for two-dozen irons. He also offers him a job. When Van Alden arrives back at the office, he's told that despite selling the most irons, he's arrived too late to win the sales contest for five-hundred dollars. Dejected, he goes home and tells Sigrid (Christiane Seidel) the bad news.
At their Egyptian-themed New Year's party, Margaret and Nucky chat with one of the doctors from the hospital. When Margaret brings up the miscarriage and what she was told about a pre-natal program, the doctor takes offense.
At the Commodore's, which Gillian has now turned into a brothel, she asks Richard to stop telling Tommy about Angela for fear it would upset him. He quietly agrees to her request. Downstairs from his party, Nucky meets with Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) among others. He makes it known that he will only be selling to Rothstein going forward, which incites Gyp who traveled to Atlantic City for rum. He insults the entire group and abruptly leaves the party. Later that night, Nucky berates Margaret for her comments to the doctor.
As Manny Horvitz leaves his house to go kill the thief's accomplice, Richard Harrow shoots him dead. Nucky returns to the Ritz Carlton to meet his mistress, Billie Kent (Meg Chambers) while Margaret rushes to the beach to watch Carrie Duncan take off.
Nucky Thompson has straddled the line between gangster and politician for some time now. But that duality came to an end in this season three premiere, which left no question as to who Nucky really is.
Of course, there's plenty of room for overlap between Atlantic City's political circles and its prohibition-era underworld. But the opening scenes of "Resolution," in which we saw Nucky authorize the murder of a booze thief, may have set the tone for this season, the tagline for which is "You Can't Be Half a Gangster." And after this episode, there's no doubt about it. Nucky Thompson is a full-on gangster.
While there was plenty of violence in this season three premiere what with two shootings, a roadside beatdown and a near bar room brawl, the episode was also heavy on metaphor. Nucky as King Tut, the tall, frail Egyptian ruler, Margaret witnessing a woman miscarry right in front of her in a hospital funded by Nucky's ill-gotten fortune and Margaret's fascination with female aviator, Carrie Duncan were all powerful metaphors for the state of affairs in Atlantic City. In the past, it felt like the show relied too heavily on metaphorical storytelling, but this time it was more revealing and insightful than too obvious.
One thing I was worried about going into season three is how much we'd feel the absence of the troubled, brooding war vet turned gangster, Jimmy Darmody. The premiere did a nice job of acknowledging the character via the sensitive Richard Harrow. And Richard taking vengeance upon Manny Horvitz was especially satisfying after Gillian scolded Richard for bringing up Angela.
To that end, I'm not sure what role Jimmy Darmody's over-affectionate mother will have this season. She's set up shop at the Commodore's and has agreed to let Richard stay on. I'm just glad to see both characters again as much as Gillian makes my skin crawl.
As for Van Alden, he's a broken man facing rejection after rejection as he tries to sell an iron to man brewing moonshine in his bathtub. His chance encounter with Dean O'Bannion and Al Capone did seem a bit forced, but it opens up an unlikely new career path for Van Alden. He may fancy himself a man of God, but as we've seen before, Van Alden harbors a kind of quiet rage that isn't suited to working in law enforcement. However, Chicago's underworld might just be the perfect fit.
Atlantic City's newest player, touchy Sicilian gangster, Gyp Rosetti (well played by "Nurse Jackie's" Bobby Cannavale) is poised to be the major thorn in Nucky's side this season. As his brutal beating of a good samaritan at the beginning of the episode demonstrated, Rosetti's temper can get out of control quickly. And he's got a way with words, as we saw when he leveled a room of Nucky's mob associates with insults tailor made for each them (Nucky does kinda look like a "breadstick in a bow tie.") Of course, Nucky's got plenty of experience dealing with posturing thugs and machismo mobsters. It remains to be seen if Rosetti has the smarts to go mano a mano with Atlantic City's ruling king.
"Boardwalk Empire" tends to burn slowly but this premiere started the season of at a good pace, laying some interesting foundations for all kinds of conflict, deceit and ruin in the weeks to come. Nucky's character has become much darker, which makes him that much more interesting to watch. Margaret still seems to be finding her way though she's quickly coming to terms with the reality of the world she finds herself in. Indeed, everyone seems to have a clear agenda after this premiere. It took two seasons to get there but "Boardwalk Empire" has finally arrived. And based on this season opener it was definitely worth the wait.