* A dream comes true. Echoing your opening credits in your opening scene is a surefire signal that something momentous is going to happen in the episode, that’s for sure. And while we’re on the subject of how this show brings the dream world into the real world, that shot of Neptune running into the sea was disproportionately unnerving to me. Typhoon! Typhoon!
* The smiling old woman with the rotten teeth was a big moment, too. I don’t know…I just feel like this show has gotten really, really confident in its ability to wordlessly, plotlessly communicate itself.
* Gaston Means is fucking phenomenal. That’s mostly Stephen Root at work, of course: the snake-oil accent, the purred one-liners (“I hope you don’t choose a surgeon on the same basis”), the way he smizes after advising Jess Smith to take his money and “consign it to the fires of hell,” the obviousness of how unused to being caught off guard he is with Smith surprises him in the middle of his home invasion, his IDGAF grin after Smith takes care of the job for him. But it’s also how Means is being presented as a character: Here’s a guy who in the case of Smith alone is playing trusted advisor to at least three people that we know of, all of whom are at literally mortal odds by the end of the gambit. Here’s a guy who’ll double-book a hired gun to people on opposite ends of a conflict, only to serve as his own triggerman. He couldn’t be further removed from the immigrant-gangster milieu of the New York/New Jersey/Chicago Jewish/Irish/Italian criminals, yet he demonstrates that a true genius for graft knows no ethnicity. I hope the show gives him room to breathe — its track record for this sort of character puts him at about 2:1 odds against.
* Speaking of: Please let a negro nightclub be Chalky’s ticket to increased screen time and plot prominence.
* Also speaking of: I liked Owen. Hailing as he did from the auld sod, how could I, Sean Thomas Patrick Collins, not like Owen? But…did he ever really get off the ground as a character? Better: Did he ever really reveal his character? It was never clear to me whether he was ever truly down for the Cause or simply a gangster who went where the market for his talents provided. It was never clear to me if he was the compunctionless killer who choked a man to death in a men’s room and remorseless liar who proposed to poor Katie knowing full well he’d be skipping out on her, or the romantic who apparently sincerely planned a life on the lam with Margaret and her two-point-five kids. This made it difficult to know how to feel about pretty much everything he said and did in this episode.
* Crystal clear how to feel about our final glimpse of him, though: jesus, that was grim, grim business — high-Godfather mafia-movie violence at its most dramatic and unpleasant. Margaret’s dragged-out screaming and sobbing and flailing in response was all but unbearable. Certainly that character’s finest moment in a long, long time.
* Regarding Means and Owen, and also Lansky & Luciano’s betrayal of Nucky & Owen to their former rival Masseria: Their respective storylines in this episode embody something Terence Winter said in interviews after the conclusion of season two: that among other things, the show turns out to be a show about the difference between people who are able to make a go of high-level high-stakes criminality versus those that aren’t. This, I suppose, is how he squared the circle of having people named Al Capone interact with people named “Jimmy Darmody” — since we know what the show can and can’t do with those two sets of people, they might as well make it a theme.
* Richard’s galpal looks a little bit like Gillian Darmody, doesn’t she?
* The shovel to the protruding head murder is one of the most appalling I can remember seeing on television. If Owen-in-a-box is The Godfather, Gyp’s execution of his underling’s hapless fisherman cousin is Casino. Makes me wonder if my “Richard is the endgame” theory is incorrect and Gyp’s heretofore acquiescent underling will be his boss’s undoing.