Friday, 21 December 2012

TV: Boardwalk Empire (S3) (9/10)

Why did I watch it?
I watched the previous two seasons, and although it isn't my favourite show on TV, the show is close to being great and considering the involvement of certain characters can only be expanded on, in particular Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, its potential is in reach.

What's it all about?
Fresh from cleaning out his own house at the end of season two, Nucky cements his relationship with Arnold Rothstein by announcing their exclusive business partnership. This angers new character Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Carnavale), a Sicilian bootlegger so hot headed he could rival Joe Pesci's Tommy in Goodfellas, leading to battle lines being drawn around Atlantic City. This forms the central storyline of the season as Nucky scrambles for support from his allies in New York, Washington and Chicago. Meanwhile, Eli returns from prison, Al Capone's influence in Chicago grows and Margaret and Owen's dangerous affair is rekindled. 

Should you watch it?
Starting with the positives, Boardwalk Empire's third season is it's greatest so far. In a similar manner to the previous seasons, it builds slowly from the start but accelerates to top gear by the fourth episode and while there are some slight dips in between, the momentum is largely maintained, sometime single handedly by Rosetti, to the final four episodes, from which point on the season is outstanding.

Season three probably featured more of Rothstein, Luciano, Lansky (at a cost to Chalky White and van Alden) and Capone than before, and with the additions of Rosetti and NY boss Joe Masseria, meant the season had a truly mob feel to it. In my eyes this was greatly needed as Nucky and his Atlantic City team of politicians and bootleggers just don't have the cool factor and threat of the Italian Americans. In part this is down to Steve Buscemi, after three seasons you would think I would have made my mind up about his casting as the Atlantic City crime boss but I still can't quite decide. The tagline of the season is 'You Can't Be Half A Gangster' but it still feels like Nucky is just that, especially in comparison with the representatives of New York and Chicago. The dips in momentum during the season are usually due to Nucky's relationship with his new mistress, actress Billie, or his political scheming. These distractions serve a purpose, in the first instance to Nucky's mindset after the attempt on his life at Bebette's, and in the second in giving Nucky options other than violence but they don't half leave you craving for a scene where someone upsets Rosetti.

Such are the abundance of great characters in the show that it isn't until you stop and think about it that you realise how much Michael Williams' Chalky White and Michael Shannon's van Alden are underused and marginalised respectively. Thankfully both appear likely to continue into the next season, following changes for both in season three. The writers pen some fantastic lines, with Al Capone being given the line of the season when he turns up in Atlantic City, "I've been on the road for 18 hours. I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down, and we talk about who dies."

Gyp Rosetti - "Everything of mine is bigger than Nucky's"
Season three really gets going in episode four, Blue Bell Boy, an episode which reminded me of The Soprano's episode Pine Barrens where Paulie and Chris end up lost in the woods (an episode written by Boardwalk creator Terence Winter and regular director Tim van Patten and directed by Steve Buscemi). Nucky and Owen are trapped in a cellar for the entire episode and Nucky's discomfort and jealousy in Owen's role in his operation becomes uncomfortably apparent. While trapped and out of the decision making process, Mickey delivers a shipment straight into Rosetti's ambush, Joe Masseria is introduced and Al Capone takes out his anger  over his deaf son's bullying on a local rival.   

The final four episodes deal with alternated attempts on the lives of various characters, culminating in a Goodfellas style montage of a full scale gang war in Atlantic City at the beginning of the fantastic final episode Margate Sands.

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