Episode Title: "Two Impostors"
Writer: Howard Korder
Director: Allen Coulter
Previously on "Boardwalk Empire:"
In the wake of last week's events, this third season penultimate episode was surprisingly quiet. Rather than escalate the drama, ramping up to next week's finale, "Two Imposters" felt like a tense character study of Nucky (Steve Buscemi) and his ever-loyal righthand man, Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura).
With Owen dead and no doubt in Nucky's mind that he and Margaret had something going on, the long-suffering Mrs. Thompson left town with the kids. And that's pretty much that, at least for the time being. With Gyp Rosetti and Joe Massaria on the hunt for him, it makes sense that Nucky would send his wife and step-children away. Or perhaps Margaret insisted on leaving after last week's special delivery. It's unclear what exactly happened which is frustrating considering all the build up to her departure.
With nowhere to run and his only potential ally half-way across the country, Nucky turned to Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) for protection. At first hesitant, Chalky saw the value in keeping Nucky alive and in his debt. Meanwhile, Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) settled into his new digs at Gillian's cathouse, even going so far as to have Nucky's desk installed there. Gyp's a painfully insecure thug, as we were reminded again here.
With Nucky on the run, Gyp put a twenty-five-thousand-dollar bounty on his head and tried to make nice with Chalky. In the end, Chalky decided a longterm relationship with Nucky was worth more than Gyp's immediate reward and chose not to give up his partner. The repetitive attempts by Gyp's men among others to take out Chalky and his crew in order to get to Nucky got old pretty quickly. We know Nucky isn't going anywhere, just yet. Nothing short of a double-cross by Chalky or Eli would have made this sequences suspenseful.
What was suspenseful was Eddie's babbling fight for his life, as Chalky enlisted the reluctant medical student, Samuel to save his life. How this will affect Samuel's relationship with Chalky's daughter should be interesting – if we revisit that storyline ever again.
Eddie is intensely loyal to Nucky but we already knew that when he saved his employer's life at the end of the first season. As he recovered from the makeshift surgery, Eddie told Nucky about his family, which surprisingly, Nucky did not know about. But it seems the real point of their bonding session was for Eddie to drop some wisdom on Nucky about trusting yourself when everyone else doubts you. It was a sweet moment and Eddie, a character so comical you forget he's a total badass, is a favorite of mine. But I'm not sure this was the right time to focus on such a minor character, with so much going on.
You could also argue that as Nucky's only true friend, it was actually the perfect time for a heart-to-heart. It really comes down to what you want out of the show at this stage in the game. Eddie's a great character but I'd much rather spend time with Van Alden or Richard Harrow.
Fortunately, we did drop in on Richard (Jack Huston), who's still seeing Julia and still living with Gillian. Now that her whorehouse is also a mob den for Gyp Rosetti, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) decided to have Richard keep Tommy upstairs, locked in his room. After spotting a picture of Richard with Julia and Tommy, she warned him about wanting things he can never have. We knew this was coming and it only got worse for Richard when Gillian learned of his plans to take Tommy over to Julia's. After she threw him out, Richard laid out a small arsenal of guns and rifles which he hopefully uses on Gillian.
With so many characters in the mix, unfortunately it feels like Gillian's lost. Now that she's dealt with Jimmy's death, Gillian's only purpose seems to be having uncomfortable interactions with assorted mobsters like Gyp and Lucky and making Richard Harrow miserable. It doesn't feel like there's a story there and maybe that's because her story is over. "Boardwalk Empire" has so many great characters, which has always been both a blessing and a curse. If Gillian's story ends, we might get some movement with other characters who've been stagnant for too long.
As "Two Imposters" came to a close, Nucky was greeted by Eli (Shea Whigham), back in town with Al (Stephen Graham) Capone and his men. Meanwhile, Lucky (Vincent Piazza) was quickly put out of the heroin business, after attempting to sell to an undercover cop. By the end of next week's finale, I'm expecting a steep body count. But with Owen already gone, I'm not sure if the additional causalities will have the same impact.