Boardwalk Empire Review: "A Man, A Plan" (Episode 3.10)

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<i>Boardwalk Empire</i> Review: "A Man, A Plan" (Episode 3.10)

It’s getting to be about that time on Boardwalk. The season’s body count is dangerously high, yet Mickey Doyle is still alive. Alliances are nearly reshuffled—bringing some back to where they once were (Eli and Nucky), while new partnerships cement (Masseria and Lansky/Luciano) and others appear imminent (Van Alden and Capone). And again Margaret has some tough decisions to make alone, while Nucky glibly tells her everything is going to be OK. In short, a familiar question presents itself once more: How will our leading man get out of this one?

All season it’s been easy to ignore Lucky and Lansky, the kids with some “cute” business ambitions of their own, but now, fresh off Nucky’s failed gangster-dream-team-summit, they have just the ammo they need to get their heroin op afloat and shake this war to the core. After Rothstein rejects their partnership proposal, they go to Masseria and strike a deal with information that will save his life that very day. Lucky for Masseria. Not so much for Nucky, who in turn receives two pretty harsh blows: the delivery of Owen Slater’s bloody corpse and the realization that there will be no “fresh start” with Margaret.

Having your right-hand man delivered to you in a crate and then learning your wife is in love with him is certainly a setback, but Nucky’s not at the end of the road yet. Bill McCoy has successfully infiltrated Gyp Rosetti, and there’s still Chicago, although at the least Eli has Johnny Torrio’s early retirement to contend with. And while Nucky is getting handily played by Gaston Means, he seems to have the Fed situation under control; the dangerously undone Jess Smith is officially out of the picture and Doyle is on his way to West Overton (not Paris) to take over Remus’ operation. In other words, Nucky’s still in OK shape, but the second another ball drops he could be toast, and his dismissal of Chalky, who has ambitions of his own (opening his own club in place of the freshly incinerated Babette’s), certainly doesn’t bode well. One thing that could come back to haunt Nucky for the better is his initial reaction to not send Owen alone to take out Masseria; carefulness could be his best weapon against Gyp’s ego. As we learned last night, “rogue waves” is another item on the list of things you don’t educate him on (see: 3-In-One).

The nice thing about Boardwalk is that as ugly as things get (and things are pretty darn ugly at this point), we still get moments to simply enjoy its reconstructed world—in the form of sunbathers flocking to collect bottles of whiskey from the waves or Harrow telling Julia in their little niche of beach: “I’d like to kiss you.” Scenes like these give me a moment to loosen my grip on the couch and indulge in an unadulterated moment of intimacy or admire the show’s aesthetic, albeit with full knowledge the next scene and episode will most likely send me for a tailspin.

A few weeks ago Owen Slater was moved up on Boardwalk’s short list of “next to go,” and after this episode Harrow and/or Julia are presumably one slot closer to the top, because anyone on the verge of attaining a traditional happy ending must be thwarted. It’s a function of storytelling, but also life, because in reality, being young, likable and good-looking doesn’t excuse one from tragedy. In a way, Harrow’s picture scrapbooks remind me of us, as TV viewers. He clings to images and memories that remind him of what happiness feels like, in the way fans cling to the good times of their favorite characters (see the gazillion TV shipper tributes on YouTube). Which is to say, whatever happens to our Harrow, I reason “that one night with Julia under the boardwalk” will be remembered amongst fans (or at least those with a pulse) as one of the show’s sweetest moments.

Stray Observations:
-The only time that I recall Boardwalk re-visiting a character post-mortem was after the death of Angela in season two. Seeing Owen and Margaret’s final conversation (and the revelation of her pregnancy) after his death was a nice use of this storytelling device, I thought.
-It seems Margaret’s handshake with Dr. Mason won’t be their last encounter after all.
-I can’t decide which was more excruciating to watch, because knowing what’s coming only made it worse: The seconds leading up to the crate reveal or the murder of Tonino’s cousin.
-Of course Means, the tricky devil, banks $80,000 for a crime he didn’t have to commit.
-Owen’s warning to Margaret that Eddie Kessler knows more than he leads on has me wondering if perhaps I’ve been purposely led to underestimate the man (and how this may play out in the future). But that’s just some fan theorizing…
-Jack Huston and his dog will be featured in The Gap’s holiday ads. I have to say this is something to cheer about.