BOARDWALK EMPIRE Recap: “A Man, A Plan …”

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Boardwalk Empire, I thought we were good. I thought we were getting somewhere. Sure, maybe you made some mistakes in the past, and maybe I didn’t always appreciate you for what you were trying to do. Maybe I didn’t give you enough time to sort yourself out. But then you go and you do something like this and I just … I just don’t know that I can do this anymore. It hurts me, Boardwalk, it really does. More than you know. I mean, we’ve been through some real stuff, you and I. But this? I saw it coming, I’ll admit. But I didn’t know it would go down like it did. (Sigh). Hit the jump for less of my break-up letter and more of the nitty gritty of this very full-of-feels and all over the place episode.

boardwalk-empire-a-man-a-plan charlie coxObviously, last things first. We knew that Owen and Margaret were never going to be able to run away together and his time on this Earth was probably going to be short but … Corpse in a Box? Really? And the fact that Nucky could smell what was happening before the lid was fully off? Come on, throw us a bone here. Can’t we have anyone likable on the show survive? (And the timing of the baby reveal at the end, which was also heavily foreshadowed, was rather too manipulative. Damn my eyes and these tears. Melodrama!)

At least for now there’s Richard Harrow, and him finally getting laid (I’m presuming … was it innocent? Look, after Owen’s death I am interpreting as I will and throwing caution to the wind) was such a nice moment that had been building for so long. It was the natural culmination to the dream life he sees with Julia and Tommy. The two of them on the sand and him getting ice cream cones reminded me a great deal of Jimmy and Angela in happier times, though without the darkness that always clouded Jimmy’s features. Harrow is finally starting to open up, and now that he’s no longer a gangster’s thug but a male nanny and occasional protector of damsels in distress, he’s able to leave some of his own shadows behind. At least I hope so. Unless Gyp slaughters Tommy and Julia next week, which I wouldn’t even doubt at this point.

boardwalk-empire-a-man-a-plan steve buscemi“A Man, A Plan …” was a strange episode in many ways, and its ultra violence just felt so over wrought. Boardwalk gives you a bad feeling in almost every scene now, you’re left to wonder not just if things will go bad (they will) but how. The scenes between Jess and Harry and later Jess and Gaston were great examples of the show drawing out our fear of someone’s death and subverting it (we knew Gaston would come to kill Jess, but how? I mused aloud with my friend Martha, “will they poison him? Smother him in the night? Or just shoot him? Hmmm”). Gaston did creep up on Jess but, surprise! Jess was waiting with a gun. Will he? Won’t he? And then boom! Another twist! Jess kills himself and Gaston looks on with disgust.

Elsewhere on this site I have chastised Sons of Anarchy this season for being cartoonish and completely over the top with its violence, and I don’t know why its taken me so long to wag that same finger at Boardwalk Empire. The scene by the beach was a great example, again, of how excessively gruesome things have gotten.

I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen on the show — the show is about gangsters, bootleggers and nefarious sorts: people are going to die. Many will die terrible deaths. But do we need to actually hear the sound effects of a shovel being repeatedly beaten against a skull? That’s not something that will leave me any time soon. The sickening crunch and squish of brains being liberated from the skull as the neck cracks from the force of an angrily wielded tool? I could have done without hearing that in my life, Boardwalk. It’s disgusting, it’s unnecessary, and you should be better than that.

boardwalk-empire-a-man-a-plan jack hustonWhen your story is in doubt kill some people and fuck some corpses up I guess. It doesn’t bode well. There were some really great moments in “A Man, A Plan…” revolving around Van Alden (again, the sickening feeling of doom in his scenes), who begins to pray to God about Job, as a man in his position very well should. It was great to see his journey finally intersect with the Chicago situation, making him (once again) a spy, this time for Capone on his nemesis O’Banion. But none of that could even be focused on well enough because of the gratuitous nature of the rest of the episode.

Nucky continues to make enemies when he can’t afford to, Gyp continues randomly and brutally killing, Margaret’s dreams continue to be crushed like Frankie’s head, and the beat goes on. I have tried terribly hard to appreciate this fractured season and enjoy it for what it has given us (instead of dwelling on all that it hasn’t), but I’m tired of playing defense. With two episodes left, this show better really show us something good, or it will become as relevant as Babbette’s.

Episode Rating: B (That B is all for Harrow getting laid)

Musings and Miscellanea:

boardwalk-empire-season-3-poster-1– I doubt that, with Margaret’s pregnancy (as long as that lasts, anyway) that she will be teaming up with the Doc anymore to host women’s health classes. Unfortunate, I was starting to really like where that was going. I appreciated the nun acknowledging how helpful it had been, though.

– So now Nucky knows about Owen and Margaret (I guess) … I don’t know where that’s going to go, though. He doesn’t really have the moral high ground.

– “What’s the difference between an Italian and a catfish? One is a filthy scum-sucking bottom-feeder, the other is a fish.” Heavens.

– I think Katie will come back as a very loose canon to haunt Nucky and Margaret.

– It looks like in the preview for next week that Nucky tries to reconcile with Chalky. It is at his own peril that he be so dismissive with him. Seriously, like he can afford any more enemies?

– “Jess may say anything to anyone about everything. It’s the nature of hysteria.” – Gaston

– Whiskey in the water … opening credits callback.

– Richard’s story was so damn cute I am incredibly upset it was mowed over by the rest of the mess.

– In useless news, I learned the other day that “race car” is also a palindrome.

– “Why do they keep killing off the young, good-looking ones? Who the hell are we supposed to look at now??” – my friend Martha




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  • Jimmy

    This show has gotten Retarded.

  • van alden

    this show, is utter bullshit. mokery of shove it in your face useless melodrama, people invest time and emotional thought into these characters , what if sopranos just killed off tony in the 2 season.?

    its like Val said to Freddie in “the master”…..”He’s making this all up as he goes along”

    its pointless, stop it

  • Allison Keene

    I should have added a plus for Harrow getting laid, if indeed he did. regardless, just A+ for his continued existence, LONG MAY IT LAST IN HAPPINESS …

    • Kronos

      “would you pay a dime to see this???” was a badass line

  • John

    Why do they keep killing off young good looking characters? Complaining about gruesome killings? You realize this is a show about 1920s gangsters on HBO. It’s not twilight. Or some show on CBS or abc where they keep people around because their hot. Jimmy went against Nucky a powerful man. He lost and he died. Owen attempted to assassinate the biggest mob boss in New York. He lost. Ended up in a box. Sounds like a show that is realistic and doesn’t do things like keep a character around just cuz people like them or think their hot. Just like my other favorite show The Wire.

    • Roger in the Bathtub

      This show’s violence is now being used for only one thing: shock value. And stop trying to impress people by saying you like The Wire.

      • Kronos

        i was glad they killed slater, I always felt he was too sly, too charming to the point where you couldn’t see his true intentions, and that was before this episode and the conflicting messages he gives katy and margaret. even after what he tells margaret about wanting it to be a boy, which did seem genuine, with his guile it makes it hard to tell what he truly wanted.

      • Kronos

        whoops, that was meant as a general comment, not a reply

  • van alden

    john, you have a point..but its all forced. which makes it unrealistic

  • Roger in the Bathtub

    Come on guys stop hating this season has been the best ever

  • James

    I don’t know. I have followed this show since day one, and although they do tend to kill off great characters, I have to give the writers credit for being “ballsy” if you will. It was a sad episode for sure though. Richard remains my favorite character since Jimmy and I hope he never suffers the same fate as the aforementioned characters. Gyp remains a menacing force that I also find relentlessly amusing. Looking forward to the final two shows.

  • van alden

    roger you should be pissed, you were just a Pawn in this whole thing. like just show his ab’s, and cut his hair like jimmy then fuggen kill’em

  • James

    I don\’t know. I have followed this show since day one, and although they do tend to kill off great characters, I have to give the writers credit for being \"ballsy\" if you will. It was a sad episode for sure though. Richard remains my favorite character since Jimmy and I hope he never suffers the same fate as the aforementioned characters. Gyp remains a menacing force that I also find relentlessly amusing. Looking forward to the final two shows.

  • Roger in the Bathtub

    John the deaths and violence this year have been for nothing more than shock value to keep people watching this show that died withJimmy. And we get it buddy, stop trying to impress everyone by saying you like The Wire.

  • gyp with his hat on

    I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!!!! JIMMY AND OWEN DEAD!…..who’s next

    • James

      Im calling for Nucky. Maybe not next, but eventually.

  • eli thompson

    show sucks

    • James

      Matter of opinion.

  • Roger in the Bathtub

    this is how I felt at the end of tonight’s episode:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlRzEpR71HA

  • Jz

    of course a woman wrote this recap, and of course these softies with weak stomachs are gonna comment. if u can’t handle the violence don’t write about it, don’t watch it. This show is awesome as is
    Period!!!

    • Jimmy

      how about this: you’re an idiot

      • Jz

        Nice contribution jimmy
        don’t know shit

      • Jz

        Nice contribution jimmy

      • Jimmy

        Nice contribution jackass

      • Roger in the Bathtub

        Yea I agree with jz, you need to take a chill pill Jimmy

  • Van Alden and Capone’s Forced Interaction

    Yeah I agree with Roger

  • Jz

    of course a woman wrote this recap, and of course these weak softies are gonna comment. if u can’t handle the violence don’t write about it, don’t watch it. This show is awesome as is
    Period!!!

  • Jimmy

    Tommy’s going to kill Nucky in the series finale, just saying.

    • Jz

      That’s the stupidest shit i ever heard come on Little jimmy

  • Roger in the Bathtub

    That was cool when that fat guy blew his freakin head off tho

  • Kronos

    i was glad they killed slater, I always felt he was too sly, too charming to the point where you couldn’t see his true intentions, and that was before this episode and the conflicting messages he gives katy and margaret. even after what he tells margaret about wanting it to be a boy, which did seem genuine, with his guile it makes it hard to tell what he truly wanted.

  • billie kent

    this is as predictable as glee..

  • Jacob

    This episode was fantastic best one in a while.

  • Lance

    Gyp’s story arcs have become completely predictable and do nothing for the character or the story. Someone says something to piss Gyp off. Gyp gets steamed — uh oh! — but then he smiles, and it seems like it’s cool. Only then at the end it turns out he’s still psycho-steaming mad and he kills somebody in some horrible way.

    He needs to be dead by the end of this season (preferably before the end of the next episode) because there is NOTHING to they guy.

    • ZAR

      Actually, there is some development going on with that character! Gyp’s subordinates look less and less happy around him. I wouldn’t wonder if his great “plan” would ALMOST come true… if it wasn’t for some scared/pissed off subordinate betraying him to the other side. We’ll see.

  • Bill

    This is a terrible review. Not to mention a complete reversal on everything else the same writer has said about Season 3 up to this point. A ‘critic’ can’t hand out nine A+, A, or B+ scores to a show every episode out and then because of one unlikeable plot development and one gruesome scene of violence immediately revert and say the show is done for. Either all her previous scores of B or higher are useless and have no correlation to the show she’s reviewed OR the critic is just being hyperbolic on this one episode.

    Whatever. Boardwalk Empire is still the best show on Television by far. It’s a hell of a lot better than that forgettable Walking Dead.

    • Michael

      Thank you!

  • Drew

    I disagree entirely. Season 3 is Nucky’s nightmare. Coming true. It’s a marvelous production and it only gets better.

  • chris

    There are plenty of other shows to watch where all of your adored characters will be predictably immune to death. This is a show about gangsters, it would be awful if there were certain characters who one knew would always survive.

    • Pointless sarcasm

      There are. They are called historical characters.

  • ZAR

    Well, what to say. So you were disappointed because the show “tricked” you once again and killed off a “nice” guy.

    Ever watched Lonesome Dove (the first one)? It’s a show, where they play quite a lot with your “home trained” expectations as a viewer and television stereotypes – just to have it be VERY realistic* and all those “sympathy carriers” get killed off left and right – up to and including one of the two main characters! And it’s still great!

    (I also wasn’t too happy about Billy being killed off last season. Hell, I expected the show to bring him back one way or another. Well, it’s not going to happen and that’s ok for me now.)

    To me it was obvious that Owen would be dead the moment he promised his girlfriend to get married. (Well, ok, maybe at the end of this season and not already at the end of this episode.) Whereas Gyp has now overplayed his card with his pointless cruelty against strangers and subordinates and at a later point this will blow up in his face. (Just watch the faces of his thugs when he appears with that hat at the end of last episode. They consider him insane.)

    Let’s see how things turn out at the end of this season before we judge to hard on it!

    (* poison snakes will kill you, as do Comanches on the warpath and most certainly gangrene)

  • this ain’t hot wings

    So where does Margaret go from here? Hopefully back to Ireland cuz it’s clear they have no idea what to do with her anyway.

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  • Kelly

    The first season of Boarwalk Empire was fantastic. The second was also quite good. This season was deplorable. An endless onslaught of gratuitous & pointless violence. Gyp Rosetti is the worst character of all time. So cartoonish & over the top. We get it, he kills EVERYONE who so much as looks at him funny. It’s ridiculous & we don’t need to see it. The show has devolved, the storylines are awful & every scene is filled with graphic violence & someone being killed. EVERY SCENE. I don’t object to the violence but here they are using it in place of plot & character development. Such a shame as this show had so much promise.

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