‘Boardwalk Empire’ Episode 3.1: New Year, New Enemies for the Pharaoh of A.C.

Did you miss the season premiere of Boardwalk Empire last night, Save Jerseyans?

Oh boy. It’s only Week #1 and heads are already rolling. Or exploding, as the case might be.

HBO’s leading fall drama occupies a soft spot in your Blogger-in-Chief’s heart. Not just because of the political intrigue, eccentric characters, 20’s era charm and blood-pumping action. The series is also chock-full of South Jersey and tristate-specific historical anecdotes which add an extra layer to the story for savvy Garden State fans (including frequent references to the Black Horse Pike, a road familiar to Atlantic/Cape May tourists). That’s to be expected given how Boardwalk the show is based on a book written by Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson C. Johnson.

I’m not going to tell you everything that happened in last night’s Season 3 premier, Save Jerseyans, but here’s a taste of the major plot points…

ALERT: Spoilers below the fold…

As with the past two seasons, last night opened up with a city-wide New Years Eve celebration. Nucky is richer than ever and has fully internalized the late Jimmy Darmody’s advice that you “can’t be half a gangster.” In one episode, we witness Nucky order the execution of a thief who stole from one of his illegal liquor warehouses, parlay with a thoroughly corrupt attorney general and throw a lavish Egyptian-themed NYE party where, to his visiting gangster friends’ amazement, the guests are given gold jewelry for party favors. It’s good to be the king pharoah!

Nucky’s marriage isn’t going quite as well. He’s harboring major resentment over Margaret Thompson’s fateful decision to sign his crooked highway land over to the Catholic Church. Nucky has even returned to his old habit of spending nights at his Ritz suite… with female singer. Yup, it looks like the Pharoah’s one redeeming quality (his love of a poor Irish widow and her troubled children) is out the window. At least for now. She and Nucky have established themselves as prominent philanthropists; he can’t just throw her overboard like any of his other women and still maintain his public image.

Nucky’s business interests are on more solid footing… also, only “for now.” Trouble is brewing. After informing a gathering of high-level gangsters at his NYE party that all A.C.-smuggled liquor must be purchased through Arnold Rothstein going forward, a hot-headed Gyp Rosetti (a NYC gangster who bludgeoned a good samaritan to death in the episode’s opening moments) loses his cool and threatens everyone present including Nucky. This isn’t going to go well, but it wouldn’t be a Boardwalk season without a mob war.

Meanwhile, a fan-favorite character from last season, Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), is helping his deceased pal’s crazy mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol) run some species of brothel. Jimmy is also caretaker of Jimmy and Angela’s living son, Tommy, but Gillian is less-than-pleased that Richard is trying to keep Tommy’s parent’s memory alive. Meanwhile, Richard takes NYE night “off” of his caretaker duties to settle an old score from last season; this act (the first semi-major character murder of Season 3) is certain to play a central role in next week’s plot…

Out in the Land of Lincoln, Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) are settling into new roles; the former taking on more authority in his Chicago crime organization (and trying, not too successfully, to control his anger issues), and the later finding that civilian life is a hard slog even in the “roaring” 1920s. Interestingly, a chance meeting between the two (a homage to the Godfather hospital scene) at a florist shop may have foreshadowed Van Alden’s next fall from grace… a career in organized crime? History buffs will recall that Val Alden’s new home (Cicero, Illinois) was headquarters of Capone’s criminal organization for many years.

Judging by the official HBO preview, next week’s episode will feature the return of another fan-favorite — Chalky White — and some sort of game-changing power play by Gyp Rosetti.


2 thoughts on “‘Boardwalk Empire’ Episode 3.1: New Year, New Enemies for the Pharaoh of A.C.

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