In case you missed last week's "Boardwalk Empire" episode, "The Pony," well things concluded with a bang. Literally. In a plot to kill rival bootleggers Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Italian gangster Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) attempted to obliterate them all with a well planted bomb, thanks to the information of their meeting whereabout supplied by Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol).
Unfortunately for Rosetti, all three men survived the blast when they were slightly late for dinner. Killed by the explosion, however, was Thompson's mistress Billie Kent (Meg Steedle). And while all three men survived, each one was worse for wear, especially Thompson who suffered a major concussion in the blast and has been completely disoriented cognitively.
With his enemies recovering, Rosetti and his men go back to retake the geographically-desirable Tabor Heights — the last waystation from New Jersey to New York that provides the precious gas to fuel their trucks carrying the contraband that drives their business. From a writing standpoint, this is perhaps the biggest blunder of the show all year. Tabor Heights has been a crucial locale all season long with lots of blood shed over its control. It seems ludicrous that — after all that's happened — that Rosetti can roll up into town unannounced and simply take it over again, with no men staked out to protect it, but this is exactly what occurs.
Nevertheless when Rosetti returns, all he has to face in opposition is one Sheriff in Nucky's pocket that he quickly pummels and shows who's boss. Ever the gentleman, Rosetti drags the bloodied cop into a town hall-like meeting and announces to all the townships main stakeholders that he's now in charge and new rules are in place. With the law crippled, Tabor Heights is Rosetti's to control once more.
Meanwhile, suffering brain swelling, Nucky is in rough, rough shape and there's little doctors can do other to order bed rest which he's in no mood to listen to. Revenge is on his mind, but between the flashbacks of witnessing Billie Kent die before his eyes, the loss of equilibrium which drops him to his knees and the confusing of names, faces and people, Nucky is a disaster that can barely function. And a disaster that has his entire team — his brother Eli (Shea Whigham) and his lieutenants Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) and Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) — are deeply concerned about. The fear on their faces is discernible– is Nucky fit to run this business anymore? Will he ever be?
Nucky tries to make, big, bold, potentially rash decisions while Eli, Owen and Chalky try and talk him down from the fence, but Nucky, as sick as he is won't relent. During a meeting Gyp Rosetti calls Nucky and reads out of the obituary, revealing he was the one behind the explosion. He taunts Nucky and the mobster explodes, destroying his office. Eli grabs him and tries to calm him down and tells him, “who are you, get off me!!” And with a scared look on his face Chalky White says, “Nucky, it’s your brother. You need to get a hold of yourself.”
The call from Rosetti is the last straw. Nucky wants a full-scale war and calls a townhall of all the mobsters not on Joe Masseria's side — Rothstein, Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Waxy Gordon and more. He appeals to them to join in his cause and bring down their foe and in return to share in the wealth of the Atlantic City riches which he controls so tightly.
“Business with you is more trouble than its worth,” Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) says. "I warned you, but you wouldn't listen,” Arnold Rothstein adds of messing with Cannavale who is under the jurisdiction of the powerful New York mobster Joe Masseria. But one by one, each mobster — who would rather not deal with Masseria's army or wrath — declines insisting to Nucky that doing business with him is now not worth the effort considering the potential risk (dying in the crosshairs). Even Luciano and Rothstein, also targeted in the blast defer knowing Nucky was the main target. Livid, Nucky can do nothing, but accept their decision, but he's now put his cards on the table — Masseria knows his intentions — and is left holding his dick, essentially.
Bits & Pieces:
– Gillian Darmody and Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) get into a squabble over his absence in general from her brothel and not attending to her grandson Tommy. While Richard is out at the American Legion dance with his new romantic interest Julia Sagorsky (Wrenn Schmidt), Tommy runs around unsupervised in his grandmother’s brothel. Tommy’s taken a recent shine to one of the girls named Josephine and the other girls play a horrible trick on the boy — telling him that Josephine, his favorite, wants to see him. Instead, the young child walks in on Josephine and a customer having sex. Traumatized, Gillian has to put rum in the boy's warm milk to put him to sleep. Richard, meanwhile, has a great night with Julia. When the other men mock the disfigured Harrow, Julia shows them all up, dancing with Harrow and then planting a big wet kiss on him in front of everyone that yields, ooohs, ahhs and big applause. Richard is elated, but comes home to get a scolding from his boss Ms. Darmody. Still, it was well worth it for him this evening.
– Emily’s long-planned birthday party — the would be pony — is nearly ruined by Nucky, who’s once again, deeply confused and out of control. He calls Margaret, Mabel, his dead wife’s name and Nucky gets overly enthusiastic in his concussion-fog, practically yelling at the children, violently cutting Emily’s birthday cake apart and then finally fainting in front of everyone.
– Owen and Margaret’s affair continues and Sleater starts to get serious, propositioning her to leave Nucky and take off with him. But as Margaret suggests, if she were to run away from her mobster husband with his lieutenant, they would have to go far far away otherwise risk a no-going-back wrath. After some deliberation. Margaret agrees, surprising Sleater by saying, “We’ll go, as soon as we’re able.” How she’ll get away with kids, will be a complicated matter to say the least. It'll be interesting if this escape timetable factors in Season three or if it's a long-term plan that will mature next year.
– As promised from last episode, the bootlegger George Reamus (Glenn Fleshler) takes the big fall for the prohibition officers barely doing their job and gets arrested by Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) and the police in rather amusing fashion. Trying to save his skin, the mobster reveals he kept receipts from Jess Smith — the aid of the Attorney General and Chief Law enforcement officer of Prohibition Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald). Next episode should prove to be quite a scandal for that office.