BOARDWALK EMPIRE Recap: “Two Impostors”

     November 25, 2012


What a long, strange trip it’s been.  The chief complaint about this odd season of Boardwalk Empire has been its wandering.  The journey has been uncertain both for the series and the characters within.  There have been some absolutely fantastic small moments throughout, but on the whole, the series has had trouble defining itself this year.  Making the choice it did to end the second season — putting Nucky in the position of going Full Gangster — has been difficult on viewers who appreciated the parts of the show that were more than a shoot-em-up.  But “Two Impostors” handled the balance exceptionally well, culling down other stories to focus back on Nucky. Whether or not it’s too late remains to be seen.  Hit the jump for why, with all due respect Mr. Custer, this ain’t no time for a last stand.

boardwalk-empire-season-3-poster-1What angered me so intensely last week was that Boardwalk finally split in to two separate personalities.  If you enjoyed last week, I’m guessing you weren’t a huge fan of this week.  The comments seemed pretty split — those who believed the show had lost its way, and those who thought I was completely crazy for going on about it as I did.  Friends debated it the same way, and I realized that Season Three’s extreme unevenness finally drew a line in the sand.  There are the languid, character-driven side-bar plots, and then there’s the action.  The two haven’t mixed well.  Until, perhaps, now.

Season Three has had trouble finding itself ever since Jimmy’s demise, and the villanization of Nucky (besides his usual gangster role) has made me think that Owen’s death was about more than just showing the violence of the world or sending a message.  It’s about how everything Nucky touches turns to shit, yes, but also that there can’t be anyone who takes Nucky’s place as an audience favorite.  Nucky is the protagonist, we’re supposed to root for him, but this season has made that all but impossible.  By eliminating Owen, who often stole his scenes with Nucky (and indeed stole Nucky’s place with Margaret), Nucky was able to have a redemptive episode that almost made him likable again.  Almost.

boardwalk-empire-two-impostors“Two Impostors” was a great episode though, and suspenseful throughout.  Nucky was left with the only people in the world he still has to rely upon — Eddie, his faithful servant who he has taken for granted forever, and Chalky, who he alienated last week and in the past as well.  Not exactly a rousing group.  But Chalky still has plenty to offer Nucky, for the right price, and more Chalky is never a bad thing.

Nucky’s moment in the back of Chalky’s truck was the first time I’ve seen the man really feel in a long time.  He felt fully the weight of the bodies he’s put into harm’s way, and the extent of his fall and possibly soon demise (it won’t play out like that, which is good or bad depending on your personal feelings towards him).  It brought Nucky back into the sympathetic fold before Eli, White Knight, rode in with Capone and the Chicago guns, ready to war with Masseria.   It was necessary for Nucky to fall further before the war escalated in his favor, but I still don’t believe he fell far enough.

boardwalk-empire-two-impostors-1Still, “Two Impostors” has set up one hell of a season finale where both sides (the cold and the emotional) will be wrapped up together in what looks like a whirlwind finish to this strange set of episodes.  While Nucky’s war has its most important battles on the horizon, Richard Harrow, the show’s only remaining hope for happiness this year, sets out to do some damage of his own.  What and to whom is debatable (I know what I would like to happen, anyway. Sidebar: I’m essentially hoping he shoots Gillian in the face.  Yes, I who wrote of excessive violence last week.  But that at least would have a point to the story.  With Gyp, we already know he’s a psycho, how much more spelling out do we friggin’ need?  If Harrow killed Gillian, which I doubt will happen, it would have so much emotional fallout and meaning it would be warranted).

This week’s episode was mostly a set up to the finale, but it still had plenty to recommend it.  Eli saving the day was fantastic, as was Capone’s sudden appearance.  The Chicago story has been very remote from the rest of the action, but now it has finally come together in a way that makes sense.  Lucky Luciano, out on his own getting arrested, felt less certain.  His story is important, historically, regarding the Masseria War, but probably not until (possibly) later seasons.  As such, for now it feels like little more than a shoehorned plot point, even though it was interesting on its own.

But back to Nucky — while Atlantic City and New York have turned their backs on him, Chicago comes to the rescue.  The war will be brutal and bodies will stack up.  Hopefully one of them will be Gyp’s.  But anyone who vies for attention other than Nucky better watch their back if they start getting screen time … their episodes could be few (looking and you, Richard, may you live long and prosper).

Episode Rating: A-

boardwalk-empire-season-3-posterMusings and Miscellanea:

– Nucky killing Masseria’s men at the beginning is significant — recall that he hasn’t really killed much this year even when required.  It’s new for him still.

– Poor Eddie Kessler.  I hope he lives and leaves Nucky and goes back to his wife and two children (who are probably not alive anymore, but if they are go, Kessler, go!)

– Kessler was quoting Kipling’s poem “If…”

– Gillian was such a snake this week.  There hasn’t ever been anything redeemable about her.  If she sleeps with Gyp and they die in some Harrow-engineered bloodbath, I will cheer.

– Gyp: “You’ve been left out in the sun a little bit too long.”  Chalky: “Maybe you still cooking.”

– Chalky used one of my favorite phrases: “for the nonce.”

– “Then we’ll sit down and talk about who dies.” – Capone

Around The Web
  • junierizzle

    I really liked this episode. It took forever but it finally felt like Boardwalk Empire. Personally, I’ve never liked Owen or Margaret so their absence was really appreciated. To me the show always slowed to a crawl when Margaret was on screen.

    I bet Harrow goes in to get the little boy. He might let Gillian live. I dont think Harrow would kill a mom even though she is nuts. But I wouldnt complain if she exits the show. Without Jimmy what is her purpose? Even if next week’s episode is great, overall Id give this season a C. Enough to bring me back next season at least.

  • City

    This episode was one of the best episodes out of all three seasons, not one moment of boring screen time. It’s a shame it took so long to get this good. Just a reminder of how boring, slow, bad all of the Margaret stuff was…most of it felt like filler, which is a shame because there are so many great characters the show doesn’t really need any superfluous story lines.

  • City

    This episode was one of the best episodes out of all three seasons, not one moment of boring screen time. It\’s a shame it took so long to get this good. Just a reminder of how boring, slow, bad all of the Margaret stuff was…most of it felt like filler, which is a shame because there are so many great characters the show doesn\’t really need any superfluous story lines.

  • Darden

    You know it’s funny because if after last season this one was boom boom boom all the way through everyone would complain and talk about how it had lost it’s way. This season had to be slow and build to a huge payoff. Gillian is the only one with the balls not to dick ride Richard Harrow in the show (or out) so I don’t see why they’d kill someone that controversial.

    • junierizzle

      I disagree. I like and can appreciate a good slow burn. That’s what this show has always been. But this season just isnt as good as the previous two. They clearly didnt have a well thought out season. Nucky’s pointless mistress, Gillian’s plan to move on from Jimmy’s death was just filler, not enough Rothstein, Chalky, too much Margaret, Gyp could or should have been a two or three episode story line. It shouldn’t have taken 12 episodes to finally come to a head. This season was uneven, let’s keep it real. I don’t think it will be getting any best dram noms this time around.

      • Darden

        Let’s think about it. The female characters have always been thin so Nucky’s pointless mistress- par for the course. Gillian wasn’t filler she’s a devoted but clearly troubled mother who self-deludes at the beginning (surprised no one could see that- it was so obvious when she was writing her letter and before “Please…Please…Please… come home” that she just couldn’t say it out loud, but people chose to think she really thought he was alive cuz they like calling her batshit crazy) and she (and Tommy) keep Harrow connected to the storyline. I’m not gonna argue about too much Margaret and I think that she, like Lucy has run her course- not to mention since the real Nucky Johnson didn’t marry in ’23 he could get this one annulled or whatever and it’d feel like a pretty good little dovetail to history. And as far as Gyp is concerned if he’s a two episode storyline what goes on in the rest of the season? I realize a love of people think he’s a one-trick pony, but a lot of those guys were like that and so to be true to life you had to know there would be a character like that on the show. Hell thats what Capone basically is in this show other than the sparse son scenes. (By the way I don’t see how they’re reinventing the wheel with that -”not showing the traditional Capone”- or whatever the movies and tv have been humanizing gangsters and villains in general for years and I seem to recall them doing it with Capone in past incarnations as well so people blowing that up kinda irks me.) Maybe I didn’t think that character would show up as early as season three but… I won’t debate that it felt a little uneven but let’s keep it real there were folks trumpeting the show’s end and I think they just missed the hair of their pretty boy Michael Corleone pastiche.

  • Daan van Meurs

    I agree with junierizzle. This season was just barely good enough for me to watch the next season. A shame really, cause if all episodes were like this one the season would have been so much better. The suspense was killing me! Don’t get me wrong, I really like all the none-action scenes too, what made this episode so good for me was the fact that finally I didn’t get to see 6 different stories. I don’t mind different storylines at all, but when they still don’t get together after 10 episodes I just get frustrated. I’m happy they’re coming together now. Chuky getting back in the picture is great too!

    Anyway, I bet the next episode is going to be awesome, and I ám going to check out S04E01, but if it’ll be like this season I’m afraid my interest will drop too much to continue watching.

  • janks

    Brilliant episode and season thus far, hasn’t been a bad episode in my opinion.. Best show of 2012… Was hoping to see the rise of Al Capone, looks like it might be coming soon!

  • Drew

    Oddly enough, I felt this episode had a lot of the criticism Allison wrote of last week which I dismissed. It felt too cartoon. I appreciated the Siege of the Castle, Fall of the King, elements, but there was something about a high body count in which people didn’t react as if they had killed anyone. (When Chalky and his aid whacked the three guys…or when Nucky shot the men…there was a complete lack of appropriate reaction. As if they had not killed someone. Just a storm trooper or clone solider. No soul. No ones child. Nothing.) Albeit, it is a bridge episode and maybe we will see more next week.

    • JP

      “…there was a complete lack of appropriate reaction”
      I disagree. Nucky was being hunted and on the run for his life. He didn;t have the time to process the kills and everything that happened…until he got in the back of Chalky’s truck. Then you really saw the emotion of the killings and the situation affect him.
      As for Chalky, Dunn and his crew, they are much more ruthless. They have killed before without emotion, why show it now?
      One thing this week that really hit me was the score. The music was so perfect, especially the beating of the drums as Harrow is preparing for war, and while all hell is breaking loose. Added to the intensity of one of the best BE episodes ever.

  • ZAR

    Excellent review!

    Harrow’s most certainly preparing the way Travis Bickle did – to save an innocent. I don’t think he’s going to kill Gillian – just trying to get the kid out.

    And once again about your expectations: “Nucky is the protagonist”
    Yes, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a hero or even sympathetic. This show is going for a certain type of realism in its depiction of characters – black and white, but also with a lot of greys. It will be interesting to see how (and if) he develops further. And not only by turning more and more into a criminal power player and killer.

  • valentine

    There isn’t a better show on television right now. I enjoyed every episode if only for the art direction and dialogue. I love the unpredictable and explosive Gyp Rosetti, and the quiet, ticking time-bomb Richard Harrow, brilliantly played by Jack Huston. Although I still think the casting of the lead is fundamentally flawed, I’m even kind of warming up to Buscemi, almost, not really, well I can nearly tolerate him now, he has to stop rolling his eyes with heavy sighs. The entire season has been building up to a gang war finale: Rosetti vs Capone. It should be explosive.

  • Standbyforacommercial

    Silly and boring.

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