“Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Four: “Blue Bell Boy”

* Hey, it’s Al Capone! Glad to see him again. I’m a mob nerd, yes, but beyond that I find myself enjoying the show’s presentation of him as…well, you know in the commercials for Honey, I Blew Up the Baby where they have shots of the giant toddler wandering around the city like Godzilla? That’s kind of Capone on this show: an overgrown third-grader, sweet in many ways and funny in many other ways but also not at all someone you’d want to entrust with power over life and death.

* Eli’s great…? Am I really saying that? I never thought much of that character before, to be honest, but quiet, humbled, older-and-wiser is a much better look for him than resentful kid brother. Literally a better look for him, in fact: Shea Whigham’s severity is engrossing to behold. So I’m glad to see him as well.

* And I’m glad to see Owen’s girlfriend again too KNOWHATIMSAYIN

* And at least this time they gave us some attractive male nudity too! Alright, it was from a distance and out of focus, but still, beggars can’t be choosers.

* Fuck nuns, fuck Catholicism — not just annoying, but boring from a dramaturgical standpoint. That scene with Margaret and the smarmy doctor trying to get the nun to agree to use the word “vagina” was precisely the sort of self-congratulatory empty-calorie “LOL the past, aren’t you and I glad we’re so far beyond that now” progressivism porn that Mad Men is often accused of but rarely actually indulges in.

* Man, look at the chipped paint and wood rot on the doors and shutters at the thief’s place. Gorgeous. This show’s attention to detail is seamless.

* Wonderful camerawork in that house, too, from the initial scene of Nucky and Owen winding their way through the labyrinth of liquor through all the cat-and-mouse business with the prohies.

* Nucky resents Owen for not being Jimmy. Not being Jimmy didn’t do young Roland Smith any favors, either. Nuck’s not in the protégé market, not anymore.

* I’m not one for plotting the future course of the shows I watch, but I do wonder if the solution to the Gyp Rosetti situation is for Nuck to loose Richard Harrow on him, and if perhaps setting that up was the purpose of their run-in last week.

* How about the way the massacre was treated, huh? Heard from a distance as Eli sits powerless to stop it, then a god’s eye view of the aftermath? And how about those closing shots of the boardwalk, luminously artificial? I maintain my belief that the show is more than just eyecandy, because there’s nothing just about it.

* That said, Chris Allen responded to my recent enthusiasm for the show by writing one of the better rebuttals to such things I’ve come across in a long time, so, equal time. His comment made me think of three things:

* This is Margaret’s least interesting storyline yet, and that’s saying something.

* I think the simplicity of Gyp’s threat is what makes it threatening, or at least that’s how the show is presenting it. There’s nothing to be outfoxed here — just a supremely well-armed lunatic who picked the right location to make trouble.

* I’m curious if the seemingly tangential Capone and Luciano/Lansky/Siegel storylines are going to remain separate now. Game of Thrones opened that door and I wonder if more shows will step through.

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12 Responses to “Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Four: “Blue Bell Boy”

  1. Sam Bosma says:

    Cheers to the cameramen for building up that absolutely palpable survival-horror tension of Owen and Nucky winding through the stacked liquor crates. I kept waiting for a shotgun-wielding guard to pop out. The little storyline with Al and his boy and his smelly minion was a little heavy-handed, but I liked it a lot, regardless. I was wondering how things would be playing out if Jimmy was folded back into Nucky’s crew at the end of season 2, rather than how it played out. I figured Harrow would’ve been set on Gyp pretty quickly, and yeah, I sort of think that’s what’s going to go down here.

  2. Mayra says:

    I like your thought about Nucky resenting Owen because he’s not Jimmy. And I think he also resents Jimmy because he was always his blind spot and that’s what Jimmy used to sneak up on him and build his mini-empire. I think what he has always wanted is Jimmy permanently frozen in his childhood, a child he can mold and consent like the son he lost, and I wonder if somewhere along the line Teddy, who is ostensibly taking on this substitute son role, is going to rebel and incur in Nucky’s rage.

  3. I think you’re right about Nucky and Owen, plus, maybe there’s just some subconscious mistrust, like an instinct that Owen has betrayed him that he isn’t consciously aware of. I felt like Nucky killed the kid both to show Owen he’s not to be trifled with or done dirty, but also to kind of cauterize that soft spot he had that let Jimmy get so close.

    Again, the Margaret storyline is boring and you’re right about the smarminess, though I did like the scene on the boardwalk, where we learn the miscarrying wife from Episode 1 is basically going to be forced by her husband to produce another child or die trying.

    I like Capone as well, and was glad he got to shine more here, though the other gangsters are still no treally standing out to me and aren’t terribly more convincing than, say, Richard Grieco and Christian Slater. The thing with Al killing the guy who picked on his henchman, basically to get out his frustrations over his equally helpless son, was heavy-handed, yes, but worked fine. I can’t name them, but it seems to me that’s a pretty common type of storyline in crime dramas–killing one guy because you can’t actually kill the real source of your frustration/pain.

    I agree Harrow is going to take out Gyp, and eventually Owen. I do like Owen, and hope he gets a little more to do than nod, smirk and fuck, though that’s not a bad way to make a living.

  4. Pete says:

    I agree, this new Eli is great — I think in part because he doesn’t have to wear that uniform that makes him look like a dork.

    But I think the Gyp Rosetti story is setting up a bigger problem — and a bigger story — with Arnold Rothstein. Arnold’s been forced to call Mickey Doyle; he’s pissed (I would be, too!). He’ll be even more pissed now that the promised booze won’t be showing up. He’ll blame Nucky. Now Nucky has this more elemental force to deal with as well as trying not to be outfoxed, out-negotiated and outplanned by Mr Rothstein.

    I wonder, too, if we’ll see Nucky come to regret his decision regarding young Roland Smith. I enjoyed that whole sequence because I was never quite sure what he was going to do or even if he was sure what he was going to do — and when he did it, it still seemed rash.

    Anyway, thanks for the write-ups. I enjoy reading ’em after I’ve seen the episodes.

    • Roland sealed his fate when he revealed himself to be a liar as though this was a super-cute and enduring trait. Not to a guy who’s survived multiple assassination attempts by people he once loved it’s not.

      Glad you’re enjoying the posts!

  5. Zack Soto says:

    The scene at the end with Capone & son straight made me tear up.

  6. Ales Kot says:

    Zack: Oh that scene! I teared up as well.

    Nucky can use the Gyp problem against Rothstein. If he’s greedy enough to desire Rothstein’s empire, he can easily point Gyp in Rothstein’s direction and let the sparks fly. A few assassinations that would look like Rothstein trying to off Gyp would take care of that. Gyp gets pissed off, makes Rothstein sweat, Rotshtein makes his own mistakes, Nucky uses them against him via business means (splitting territory and offering it to everyone he pissed off before?) and Richard Harrow kills Gyp, most likely also saving the life of Jimmy’s mother. Why? Because they’re clearly foreshadowing Gyp’s interest in redheads, and we already saw them interact. Unless it’s a trick. In which case, good one, writers.

  7. Stacia says:

    I never thought of Nucky letting loose Harrow on Rosetti, but it’s a very good idea! I’ve been talking about each new episode of Boardwalk Empire with many of the TV connoisseurs I work with at DISH, and none of them has come up with that clever thought. I do feel like Margaret’s role keeps the audience grounded in the time period, so I have a feeling that her character may be around for a while. However, if the writers were to have her killed off, I could definitely see Nucky becoming a whole new animal of a gangster, and this could make for some interesting episodes. I’ll have to go back into the new episodes I’ve archived on my Hopper because I didn’t pay much attention to the thief’s hideout house. Sometimes I’m too busy trying to take in the multiple story plots that I forget to pay attention to details.

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