Boardwalk Empire Review: "Sunday Best" (Episode 3.07)
What started as an episode of innocuous Easter ritual (and sex on the dining room table) soon turned into what will surely be one of Boardwalk’s most indelible murder scenes. From the second Gillian insisted they take a bath before their next romp of the day, we knew Roger, i.e. poor man’s Jimmy, was doomed. Each sponge stroke was excruciating (I watched with one hand over the eyes), and when she finally stuck him with the needle chock full of heroin, I admit I breathed a sigh of relief. Her intentions with the young boy—to pass off his body as Jimmy’s to take legal control of the commodore’s mansion—were finally confirmed, the only question now is: will people buy it? And how is Harrow going to react?
The end of this episode left me with familiar feelings for Gillian: part sorry, part horrified. Her tears for Harrow—the first time she admitted out loud that her son is dead—felt genuine. At the same time I got chills wondering how calculated her plan was. Did she know the second she spotted Roger on the Boardwalk? While she was sleeping with him for the first time? Over pillow talk as she cloyingly deduced his hopes and dreams? Either way, it was clear that on this Easter Sunday she knew exactly what she was going to do, plumping him up and pleasing him so she could get him exactly where she wanted. Her soft command early in the episode to eat something because he’s “going to need his strength” is especially unsettling in retrospect.
Other people fared better this Easter Sunday. Harrow takes Tommy to Julia’s and saves the day, whisking his melancholy hostess away from her angry father to the carnival. It actually wasn’t as romantic as it sounds, which is exactly why these two are so charming together. They clearly see something in one another, but are in that nervous and awkward phase of traditional courtship. Take for instance Harrow’s arrival to Julia’s door. “Hello. I’m here,” he announces, to which Julia responds, “Yes you are,” before accepting the bouquet he hands over. And later she confesses over their carnival stroll that she doesn’t know what to say to him. Harrow responds, “Say what you want.” Honesty, it’s a good start.
There also was progress in the Thompson brothers department; Eli hosts Easter (with a full-fledged Easter egg hunt!), and although Nucky attends, his heart doesn’t seem to be in it. For starters, he still can’t get his nephew’s names straight. And later, he expresses his disgust at Eli’s show of kindness to get in his good graces, reminding his kin that the whole conspiring-to-kill-him thing is why Eli’s “loading trucks and riding shotgun for $30 a day.” But by the end of the episode Nucky has a change of heart, and calls his brother to deliver an apology in the form of a promotion at the warehouse. Earlier June tells Margaret that her husband “has a good heart,” and it’s instances like this that remind me how much of a softy Nucky can be. He realizes it’s his weakness, yet still, he can’t help himself. Family is family.
Meanwhile, Gyp and Margaret are struggling to keep it together. As Margaret confesses in the kitchen (with little more than a flinch from June), “I feel like the life is being pressed out of me.” And Gyp, we learn, lives with his mom and is feeling especially sorry for himself. In fact, he makes a special trip to church to let Jesus know exactly how unfair his life is—and takes things out on the priest while he’s at it. But, by the end of the episode both these characters have managed minor personal victories. I admit that I suspected a Nucky/Margaret reconciliation (mostly because of the googly eyes he was giving her at the annual Eli Thompson household Easter talent show), but when he offers to teach her to juggle at the end of the episode she tells him “It’s too late,” and walks away. And Gyp also regains some control when he delivers a rather convincing war decree to his boss, promising to take out Thompson, Rothstein, Luciano, and make Masseria “the king.” How Margaret and Gyp move forward from here will be interesting to see, to say the least.
In other news, no word from Owen Slater, Chalky White, or the good folks in Chicago and New York this episode, so it’s safe to assume their Easters were a little less dramatic.
-Eli hides the Easter eggs in the same place every year—a nice, accurate detail that every kid who’s ever hunted for an Easter basket can attest to.
-The low angle shots from the kids’ perspectives in the first half of the episode were a nice touch—especially the tableau of the entire Thompson clan on the porch.
-”How do I look?” Harrow asks Tommy when they arrive at Julia’s door. Aw. Also, Tommy’s quite the little wing-man this episode.
-Steve Buscemi—and he juggles too!
-If allotting points for completely superficial reasons, Margaret gets bonus for an awesome Easter hat and singing voice.
-Not only did we get to see Rosetti’s home life this episode, but we got to see his spiritual side too. Is it any surprise that his idea of praying is yelling at Jesus? Hey, you can’t say the guy doesn’t believe.