The war for criminal control of Atlantic City is over and the winnah and still champeen is Nucky Thompson. But he neither acts nor feels triumphalist at the end of the season finale, Margate Sands. Btw, the title is drawn from TS Eliot's epic poem The Wasteland and that's what AC feels like when the guns are silenced. How's that for highbrow, y'all?
The primary theme of the episode is betrayal. There's so much backstabbing and double dealing going on that it seemed like a smoked-filled room at the 1924 Democratic Convention. That's the one that went a record 123 ballots, and produced a dark horse nominee, John W. Davis, who went on to be slaughtered by Silent Cal in the general election. Of course, that's in the future, Boardwalk Empire-wise.
Reety alrighty, here are some scatter shot observations, hopefully a few will hit the target:
Machiavelli Thompson: Nucky's allies spill a lot of blood but victory is really secured by playing the old bait and switch. Nucky devises a brilliant scheme to get Arnold Rothstein's help in convincing Masseria to betray my main man, Gyp. Andrew Mellon's inactive distillery is used as bait. The trap is laid by Icky Mickey Doyle who pretends to betray Nucky to Rothstein in the way that only a fake Irishman who is really Jewish can do. What that means, I'll never know, but I like the sound of it…
The greedy and conniving Rothstein swallows the bait hook, line and sinker. Sucker. He cuts a deal with Nucky to take over the distillery by getting Masseria to dump Gyp. This is, in turn, accomplished by Rothstein's betrayal of his smack dealing pal, Charlie Lucky. Masseria gets the heroin and a player to be named later and Gyp gets got.
There's yet another turn of the screw when Nucky betrays Arnie baby by alerting the Feds that the latter is operating the Overholt distillery. Nucky even gets the uber plutocratic Mellon to do his dirty work for him. The plan was a thing of manipulative beauty, y'all.
Richard Channels Travis Bickle: The first time I watched Richard's balletic bordello bloodbath, I knew it reminded me of something. On second viewing I realized that it was reminiscent of the finale of Taxi Driver: an armed gunman shoots up a whorehouse to rescue someone. Scorsese is one of the executive producers of BE, and this was the most Marty-like episode evah.
I'm not really sure what will become of poor Richard. When he dropped Tommy off at Julia's pad, he was too ashamed to enter and track blood on the carpet. I'm hoping that Richard will be back: Nucky could use a graceful gunslinger, after all.
Jillian very nearly vanquishes Gyp by trying to inject him with smack while she's got him cornered and collared, but he's as strong as he is insane. I guess that makes him, as Ken Kesey would surely say, the bull goose loony. He's certainly cuckoo or was…
I'm glad that Jillian survived her battle with the Gypster. Bat shit crazy characters with bizarre back stories come in handy. It will be interesting to see what becomes of her once she recovers from the shock of seeing how much blood is splattered all over her cheesy Victorian wallpaper.
Margaret Moves On: Margaret is hiding out in a hovel in Noo Yawk, doing her best to avoid both Nucky and the bloody gang war. She decides to move on from IRA Man Owen by getting an abortion. She's one of the lucky ones: her illegal abortion is performed in a doctor's office by a physician instead of in a back alley by a fat lady with a coat hanger.
At episode's end, Nucky tries to convince her to return to him but she's not having it. Will she stick to her guns? I don't know, but I'm hoping we won't see the Tony-Carmella thing of serial break-ups and reunions. The ties between Margaret and Nucky seem too frayed for that to be credible but ya never know.
Arrivederci Gypster: I’m still in mourning this morning but I knew Gyp's demise was inevitable. He's a classic Dillinger/Roy Earle/Jimmy Cagney-style movie gangster who lives large and dies that way too. I'm considering flying a flag at half-staff or wearing a black armband because I'll miss his sociopathic ass. I somehow doubt Dr. A will let me but I can dream, can't I?
Gyp experiences serial betrayal in the season finale. Masseria sells him out to Rothstein and Nucky. (The latter, of course, betrays Masseria by having Capone's men slaughter his henchmen.) Jillian tries to administer an opiated coup de grace to him. Finally, his closest associate, Tonino, literally stabs Gyp in the back on the beach to save his own life. Who can blame him? Gyp beat his cousin to death with a shovel on the same beach, after all.
I hope that Bobby Cannavale wins a slew of acting awards for his portrayal of Gyp. He was absolutely spectacular, and his death scene was positively Cagneyesque. Top of the world, Ma.
I'll let Al Capone and Chalky White have the last, uh, word at the conclusion of the concluding post of season-3: