Opening a good year and a half from where season 2 ended, the season 3 premier certainly opened with a bang. With the hope of new year's resolutions right around the corner, Nucky is tying up loose ends and hoping to start the new year on a simpler footing. Of course things rarely go as planned. Nucky's new mean streak shows and a psychotic new mobster by the name of Gyp Rosetti shows his face around town.
The openings scene with Rosetti though, was menacing. He is not a man to be trifled with, or made fun of for that matter. As he kills an innocent man for a simple throwaway remark, even after apologizing. An innocent man who was helping him fix a flat tire by the way, pummeled to death while his dog watches it happen. Which he then later takes with him like some kind of trophy. The look on Rosetti's face said it all, I get my way and when I don't I will make you bow to me. Whether or not you're alive when that happens doesn't seem to matter.
At the party this tenacity was even more palpable, as he faced off with Nucky over denying him an alcohol deal. Going off against everyone in the room. Calling Rothstein a creepy dentist, Lucky Luciano ''short pants'' and Nucky a ''bread stick in a bow tie''. I admit I laughed at that one, even though I couldn't escape the feeling Rosetti would've taken some lives there if he could have gotten away with it. Instead he shrugs it off as a joke, realizing he is vastly outnumbered. Ball breaking this was not.
Which then lead to Rosseti walking off, trophy dog in hand, the figurative tail between his legs. And then he sees Margaret, timing couldn't have been worse for her. He thanks her for the party and hands her the old man's dog. For the first time in this show I fear for the people around Nucky. Rosetti is one temperamental Sicilian mobster and him giving Margaret the dog 'for the kids' might just be telling whom he'll go after next.
As the season 3 poster of Boardwalk Empire teased us ''You can't be a half a gangster''. Nucky certainly has embraced that thought, the old Nucky was kind and forgiving to a certain degree. He certainly wouldn't needlessly kill, but that's exactly what happened in the episode. After capturing a thief and getting the name of his accomplice Nucky told Manny to untie the man, after putting a bullet in his head. For those of us who watched seasons 1 and 2, we know the Nucky of old. I, for one, was completely convinced the thief would have been let go and was shocked when he was shot. And later on ordered his accomplice shot as well, his body put on display to discourage other thieves.
What is showing in Nucky though might be some reluctance to be this man, this unforgiving gangster. When Margaret signed the land over to the church last season, she also signed away their future together and the money he would have needed to quietly retire. Margaret's guilty conscience inadvertently created the Nucky we have now. Unforgiving, cold, calculating. In the brief moments they are together Nucky shows alot of resentment towards Margaret for causing him to be this man and of course all the money she has cost him. It is no surprise that their marriage is only a facade now, only affectionate when they are together in public.
Margaret on the other hand obviously feels trapped by her guilt in a marriage she can not get out of. Her desire to do good has cost a lot of people many things. Even though the church has opened a pediatric ward, even that is at its most basic as a woman gets a miscarriage in front of Margaret when she visits the ward. Even then she has tried to do good, but it still isn't enough. It can be better. Which leads to her talking to the director of the ward and him feeling lectured by her on what is best for pregnant women. In turn Nucky lectures her on this and one can feel Margaret's desperation, trapped in this world and the freedom she sees in the female pilot Duncan.
Poor Harrow, still torn over the loss of his crush Angela. Now caring for her and Jimmy's son Tommy with Gillian. Though Gillian seems more preoccupied with other matters like the whorehouse she is running now. As he trying to get Tommy to remember his mother, you can almost feel his heart breaking in every scene. Then when Tommy is finally accepting of the truth, Gillian swoops in and reminds him she is his mother now. She will not allow Harrow to dwell on the past if he wants to continue to care for Tommy. Harrow isn't exactly someone who lets go off things, so I wonder which direction the interaction between Harrow and Gillian will take. Speaking of not letting go, Harrow going to an ''old friend'' and taking revenge for Angela's death was a great moment. It shows you how much Harrow really cared about her and how sweet Manny's other side was when he was with his wife and not being a 'butcher'.
Then there was the Chicago side of things with Van Alden, O'Banion and Capone. Van Alden, now a door-to-door salesman, actually seemed quite humble and at peace with what he was now doing. Short on money and caring for a child can change a man, I really felt for Van Alden here. Even though he probably knew the first man was bootlegging booze, he didn't seem to care. He couldn't have done anything about it anyway. The scene where he accidentally walks in to O'Banion's shop and saves his life from Capone was hilarious. Van Alden is just so much taller than Capone, it was nice to see Capone going out of someone's path for the first time.
It also gave us a glimmer of hope as O'Banion bought two dozen irons from Van Alden, hoping he'd make the sales deadline in time only to get the rug pulled out from under him. So the sad thing is, he will probably have to take O'Banion's job offer now. Sending him down a path I'm now sure I wanted him to go, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
If there was any downside to this episode it was that the episode spent most of it's time catching up with the character and updating the status quo. There was little forward momentum for the story itself, but I suppose that's typical in a premiere episode. Especially one where a year and a half have passed since the previous episode. Other than that there was some obvious for shadowing in Manny being sweet to his wife and the old man having a dog with him set that scene pretty much in stone too as too what was going to happen. Boardwalk Empire still feels like a book, with each episode being a chapter in the book. I'm looking forward to where the show will go from here.
Catch you all next week!