Boardwalk Empire—Season 3

boardwalk empire season 3 poster episode guide
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Still great television with great characters

Van Alden storyline, Jimmy's death hurt show

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 8 the pony explosion nucky steve buscemi

Can Nucky crawl from the ashes?

Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) is dead, and Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and his wife Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) find their relationship shattered due to Margaret’s betrayal with Nucky’s money.  Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) is on the run in Chicago as he finds himself encountering Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and his growing power among the Chicago mafia.  Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) seeks vengeance against Nucky for Jimmy’s death and the arrival of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) could mean things in Atlantic City are heating up again.

Boardwalk Empire—Season 3 is a period crime drama.  The season aired from September 16, 2012 to December 2, 2012 on HBO.  The season won Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series (“Resolution”), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series—One Hour (“The Milkmaid’s Lot”), Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series (“Sunday Best”, “Two Imposters”, “Margate Sands”), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Bobby Cannavale), and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series (“The Milkmaid’s Lot”) with nominations for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (“Margate Sands”), Outstanding Costumes for a Series (“Resolution”), Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series—Non-Prosthetic (“Resolution”), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (“Margate Sands”), and Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role (“The Pony”).

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Van Alden’s story is played out..

Boardwalk Empire is one of those shows that feels a bit under-watched.  While it was big when it was released, the show has kind of fallen by the wayside in comparison to shows like The Sopranos and The Wire.  That being said, Boardwalk Empire is still one of HBO’s best shows.

The season has its good and bad aspects.  The show is fiction but somewhat locked into real events which always can pose a problem (like with HBO’s Deadwood).  The series obviously can’t break from reality entirely and has to find a way to work among actual events during Prohibition (including Capone’s rise to power)…it has means to alter things, but it is somewhat locked in.

The other problem is the radical shift in the previous season.  Jimmy Darmody as a big part of the show and his character’s death rattles the series.  The show handled it decently, but the Van Alden storyline is another matter.  Van Alden’s character might have plans for the bigger story, but his inclusion in this season feels unnecessary and clunky.

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He steals the scenes but is too over the top

What remains part of show’s appeal is the great cast and strong acting.  Steve Buscemi continues to eat up his scenes as Nucky and the series does more to make Gretchen Mol a character.  The show gives Kelly Macdonald a chance at hope though you know from how the series is written that Charlie Cox never has a chance.  Jack Huston is shown as series’ resident badass (especially in the last episode), but I wish there had been more Stephen Graham as Al Capone and Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White this season (White is one of the show’s more interesting characters).

The main protagonist of the season Gyp as played by Bobby Cannavale is a bit much although he was the one who walked away with an Emmy.  He’s loud and more obnoxious than scary or intimidating.  He seems like a bad caricature of an Italian mob boss than a rounded character.  The kinks given to him are a bit desperate and feel more arbitrary than interesting or developmental.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 12 margate sands chalky white nucky michael kenneth williams steve buscemi

Not enough Chalky White this season

The show continues to have high production design.  The sets and locations add to the story writing especially as the show continues to expand off the Atlantic City boardwalk and into more areas.  As Nucky grows, the scope of the show grows with him.

Despite some down aspects of the season, Boardwalk Empire continues to be a great series.  The show is fun and smart and despite being tied to some real events, it manages to surprise.  I don’t know where Nucky’s path will take him or any of the other characters at this point (ok, well maybe Capone), but I look forward to finding out.

Boardwalk Empire—Season 3 Complete Episode Guide:

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 1 resolution nye egypt party nucky steve buscemi


3.1       Resolution Airdate:  09/16/12

It is New Year’s Eve 1922, and things are happening in Atlantic City.  Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is back in charge and finding new power as he controls the liquor in the area. Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) and Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) cope with Jimmy’s death but face-off over Gillian’s systematic erasure of Angela from her son’s life.  Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) works as an iron door-to-door salesman in Chicago and has a run in with Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and Dean O’Banion (Arron Shiver).  Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) deals with the consequences of selling Nucky’s land and learns about problems at the new hospital wing.  Nucky sends Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe) get payback on robbers, but fate could intervene.  A new player arrives in Atlantic City in the form of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), and he doesn’t like the new sales plan that Nucky’s developed.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 2 spaghetti and coffee shea whigham

“Spaghetti and Coffee”

3.2       Spaghetti & Coffee Airdate:  09/23/12

Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) is released from prison and finds himself at the bottom Nucky’s employment ladder.  Margaret takes a bigger interest in St. Theresa’s and the conditions for women going there for treatment but butts heads with Dr. Douglas Mason (Patrick Kennedy).  Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) learns his daughter Maybelle (Christina Jackson) has had a proposal, but Chalky has his own opinion on her future.  Eliminated from the alcohol trade, Gyp Rosetti finds another way to get at Nucky which has Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) and Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) in trouble.  Nucky’s relationship with Lillian “Billie” Kent (Meg Chambers Steedle) runs into a roadblock regarding her “work”.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 3 bone for tuna gyp rosetti bobby cannavale

“Bone for Tuna”

3.3       Bone for Tuna Airdate:  09/30/12

Nucky is suffering from nightmares and a planned ceremony with Margaret and the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t help the situation.  Margaret sets out to get the prenatal care at the hospital but realizes she must do so through trickery.  Benjamin Siegel (Michael Zegen) runs heroin and has a confrontation with Joe Masseria’s gang.  Harrow learns Mickey Doyle is claiming to have killed Manny Horvitz and decides to set the record straight.  Nucky tries to mend his rift with Gyp but finds it might get worse.

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“Blue Bell Boy”

3.4       Blue Bell Boy Airdate:  10/07/12

A personal trip to deal with the liquor thief hitting Nucky’s storehouses has Nucky and Owen trapped by agents from Philadelphia.  Capone learns his child is being bullied just as his own business comes under attack.  Charlie “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza) deals with Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi) targeting his heroin business.  Mickey learns that Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) expects his order, and Mickey plans to deliver despite Eli’s warnings.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 5 youd be surprised van alden kills agent michael shannon

“You’d Be Surprised”

3.5       You’d Be Surprised Airdate:  10/14/12

Van Alden’s encounter with the FBI at the speakeasy has him concerned when it appears an agent named Emmet Coughlin (P.J. Brown) might be on to his secret.  With Billie’s big break stage break closing down before it opens, Nucky steps in to “encourage” Eddie Cantor (Stephen DeRosa) to reconsider.  Margaret opens her health clinic but discovers that building interest is more difficult than expected.  A hit on Gyp Rosetti goes horribly wrong.

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“Gin Gang Goolie”

3.6       Ging Gang Goolie Airdate:  10/21/12

A fire in the greenhouse has Margaret worrying that her son Teddy (Declan McTigue) is responsible.  Nucky realizes that Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald) is maybe turning on their partnership when he meeting with Gaston Means (Stephen Root) falls through and finds himself in jail as a result…and a new ally in Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson).  Richard meets an alcoholic vet named Paul Sagorsky (Mark Borkowski) but finds a connection with his daughter Julia (Wrenn Schmidt).  Gillian befriends a younger man named Roger McAllister (Billy Magnussen) who she nicknames Jimmy.

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“Sunday Best”

3.7       Sunday Best Airdate:  10/28/12

It is Easter Sunday, and Nucky and his family are trying to mend the differences with his brother Eli…and Margaret gets some understanding Nucky’s upbringing from Eli’s wife June (Nisi Sturgis).  Gilliam spends the day with Roger McAllister who has some ideas for their future…but Gillian has other plans.  Gyp finds his life crumbling as he could be facing death at the hands of Joe Masseria.  Harrow takes Tommy and Julia to Easter lunch at Julia’s father’s house and finds the relationship changing.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 8 the pony billie kent killed meg chambers steedle

“The Pony”

3.8       The Pony Airdate:  11/04/12

Gillian has substituted the body of Roger McAllister for Jimmy’s body and officially declared him dead…much to Nucky’s confusion.  Forced to manufacture moonshine in his home by O’Banion, Nelson explodes at work, and it could force him to go underground again.  Margaret and Owen search for a pony but finds the tension is growing between them.  Nucky approaches the Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon (James Cromwell) about bringing down George Remus (Glenn Fleshler).  Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) returns from Italy, and Capone finds that it could benefit him.  Billie auditions for a Hollywood film and ends up in conflict with Nucky.  Gyp’s new alliance with Masseria has Gyp partnering with Gillian…and Nucky is the target.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 9 the milkmaids lot steve buscemi

“The Milkmaid’s Lot”

3.9       The Milkmaid’s Lot Airdate:  11/11/12

The explosion at Babette’s has left Nucky mentally impaired and Billie dead.  Gyp and his men moves back to Taber Heights and takes over the town.  Margaret and Owen question their new relationship as Nucky needs Margaret more.  Nucky calls a meeting of the heads of the gangsters to rally support against Masseria and Gyp…but learn his actions have a price.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 10 a man a plan margaret kelly macdonald

“A Man, A Plan…”

3.10     A Man, A Plan… Airdate:  11/18/12

Gaston Means works to take action against Harry Daugherty’s friend Jess Smith (Ed Jewett) when he fears he might talk.  Owen and Margaret plan an escape, and Margaret reveals a secret to Owen.  Alden gets himself in trouble with Capone with his attempts to sell alcohol.  Chalky has plans for the boardwalk, but Nucky has thoughts on them.  A hit on Masseria is planned, but Nucky’s control of his men could be problematic.

boardwalk empire season 3 episode 11 two imposters nucky eddie anthony laciura steve buscemi

“Two Imposters”

3.11     Two Imposters Airdate:  11/25/12

Owen’s death has made Margaret leave with the children as a hit on Nucky by Gyp’s men leaves Nucky and his assistant Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura) on the run.  Gillian tries to turn Richard against Julia while taking Tommy away from his care…as Gyp and his men move in to Gillian’s home.  Lucky Luciano looks to make a heroin deal but is warned it could be dangerous.  With Eddie dying, Nucky goes to Chalky White for help…but Chalky has requirement for his aid.

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“Margate Sands”

3.12     Margate Sands Airdate:  12/02/12

Rosetti has taken Nucky’s place in ruling New Jersey as war between Nucky’s men and Gyp’s men boils over.  Nucky and Eli try to keep Capone and Chalky’s men in check as tempers flare.  Gillian finds she and Tommy are in a dangerous position, but Gillian could have an unlikely savior.  As Nucky’s dealings with both Rothstein and Randolph could pay out, Gyp’s time as a leader could be running short.

Related Links:

Boardwalk Empire—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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