Spoilers for this episode and the previous season below!
How can Boardwalk Empire get any better than last season? The last few episodes saw so many climactic resolutions that could have carried other shows through to a series finale. The death of Jimmy Darmody was easily one of the most shocking deaths on TV last year. The end of hostilities between him and Nucky could have been a satisfying end to the second season following the already shocking deaths of Jimmy’s wife and father. Such a swift resolution called for the jump ahead in the timeline, introducing many new developments and characters in the season three premiere.
The episode begins with the introduction of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), a new gangster who has a temperament as bad as Joe Pesci’s Tommy Devito in Goodfellas (1990). Rosetti’s default emotion is anger. He responds to minor slights with over-the-top violence and he burns quite a few bridges by the end of the episode. Nucky’s deal to exclusively sell to Arnold Rothstein clearly will result in serious repercussions from Rosetti. Ironic, considering the deal is partially inspired by Rosetti’s senseless killing of a mechanic outside of Atlantic City. Rosetti’s imminent rivalry with the Atlantic City crew promises to be as long and hard fought as previous hostilities, but with a new degree of uncertainty. (The funniest line of the episode: Rosetti calls Nucky a “breadstick with a bowtie.”)
Former federal agent Nelson Van Alden, now hiding in Chicago as a traveling salesman, will only remain low key for a very short time until he inserts himself into Al Capone’s outfit. Calling himself George Mueller—I wonder how long that alias will endure—Alden coincidentally ends up helping rival Chicago gangster Dean O’Banion without the smallest bit of hesitation. To see Van Alden head down this path is a far cry from his previous religious fervor. This development promises to be one of the most interesting; his dealings with Capone and undoubtedly with Johnny Torrio will inevitably lead him back into conflict with Atlantic City, either with Nucky, his former government agency, or both.
Richard Harrow has always been one of the strongest characters in the series. Subplots revolving around his attempts to find some kind of normalcy have been consistently heartbreaking and his ability to kill has been the only thing he’s held onto since fighting in World War I. Harrow’s cold-blooded killing of Manny Horowitz was shocking and echoed Manny’s own brutal killing of Angela Darmody. Seemingly incited by Gillian’s attempt at erasing Jimmy and Angela from their son’s mind, Harrow will continue tearing his way through those responsible for Jimmy’s death. Nucky will certainly be untouchable. He’s cheated death before, but many in his outfit are likely to be picked off by the expert sniper. Another conflict between Harrow and Owen Sleater is likely and will definitely be memorable, to say the least.
The episode concludes with the promise of continued tension between Nucky and his wife Margaret. The addition of Billie Kent as Nucky’s new mistress makes this episode worth a rewatch in order to pick up on the subtle hints within her introduction. Her musical number where she calls Nucky over to dance echoes Don Draper’s awkwardness at his wife’s birthday, although it was nowhere near that level of spectacle. Margaret’s involvement in the hospital has already reached a personal level as the miscarriage she witnessed recalls her own from the pilot episode. Perhaps she’ll encounter children being treated for polio next. In spite of the dismissiveness and sexism confronting her, she looks on with inspiration as one of the first female pilots takes off and flies away.