Boardwalk Empire Episode 3.10 “A Man, A Plan”
Written by: Dave Flebotte
Directed by: Podeswa
Airs Sunday 9.00pm EST on HBO
This show featured beaches. The same beach, three ways. First we got the kind of set piece for which the series is rightly famous: bathers clad in vintage knitted swimsuits discover whisky bottles washing up on the shore, while an ancient Jupiter abandons his lines to follow them. This subtext of hedonism beating culture hands down is later mitigated by the second beach scene, as luminous as a Hatfield painting, where Richard Harrow and Julia Sigorski (beautifully played by the pensive Wrenn Schmidt) finally embrace with dreamlike peacefullness. And then we have the third scene. Gyp Rosetti and blood in the sand. The same place witnesses pleasure, love and violence: all the aspects of the human condition.
Those scenes punctuated the rest of the drama, giving it structure and balance. In between the story progressed. Owen and Margaret plan their escape. Van Alden falls into the clutches of Capone. Nucky plots against Masseria. Meyer and Luciano plot against Nucky. Daugherty and Nucky hand large sums of money to Means to take care of Jess Smith (making Stephen Root the unlikeliest hitman in the history of assassins). Two shows from the finale, the threads are slowly coming together. Nucky’s confrontation with Masseria and Rosetti is approaching, like a runaway train belching steam and red hot cinders. So far Nucky has lost control of Tabor Heights and the lives of some of his support staff. To really ratchet up the tension, a further sacrifice was required. Enter Owen Slater.
The demise of Slater didn’t come as a surprise. The writers tried to divert our attention from the inevitable with hints about Slater’s unreliable nature. We knew Owen and Margaret were never going to be allowed a happy ending, so as soon as we realized Margaret was pregnant (and therefore unlikely to decide to stay with Nucky for the sake of her other children), only two possible resolutions remained – he lies or he dies. Charlie Cox’s performance told us what the writers didn’t. He was dead from the first scene, gaze already fixed on something distant. When Nucky sends him to the Turkish Baths to kill Masseria and a crate arrives later that night, we don’t need to see the lid prised off to know what’s inside. The coda scene, where the question of Slater’s commitment to Margaret is answered, allows us to grasp the depths of her pain at his loss, but we knew what was coming even before she did.
Harrow’s story is following a lighter arc. I badly want Harrow to be happy (to the extent that I’ve even forgiven Jack Huston for his occasional moments of overacting), but I’ve seen too many characters on Boardwalk Empire snatch tragedy from the jaws of bliss to feel certain that Richard’s affair with Julia is destined to end well. He has a child to look after, the grandson of only-occasionally-rational Gillian Darmody. If that boy is anything like Carl from Walking Dead, he’s bound to wander into the path of a bullet or a rampaging rhinoceros or something.
As for Van Alden, his story is now firmly bound up with Capone’s (after a betrayal scene at the hands of a Norwegian cafe owner which Bergman would have been proud of). If Capone now becomes involved in Nucky’s attempts to deal with Masseria, we may be provided with the kind of ending in which everyone plays a part. The best kind in other words.