Sky Atlantic: Saturdays (from 29 September), 9pm
Story: Welcoming in the New Year – 1923 – Nucky Thompson tells his bootlegger compadres that he will no longer be supplying them with booze. He will only sell to Arnold Rothstein, and they will have to pay his price…
|Nucky’s Egyptian-theme New Year’s Eve bash. Pics: BSkyB|
The champagne corks are popping – Boardwalk Empire is back. It’s the eve of 1923 and Nucky Thompson is about to make a whole new hive of enemies.
Having offed his former protege, Jimmy Darmody, in series two’s finale, the bootlegging politician wants to simplify his life by turning into a booze wholesaler who supplies just one man, Rothstein, instead of all his former cohorts. When he announces this at a lavish New Year’s Eve party at his home, Nucky makes some nasty people very unhappy about having to pay Rothstein’s price – including the new psychopathic Sicilian in town, Gyp Rosetti.
Sicilian with a Gyp on his shoulder
|Bobby Cannavale as Rosetti|
In the opener Gyp was introduced to us as he takes a metal tool to the head of a sweet old guy out walking his dog. The reason – the old boy was trying to be helpful.
Boardwalk Empire has been criticised for being short of explosive action, and it’s made hardly a ripple in the UK because it’s tucked away for a small audience on Sky Atlantic. But it is a superb drama, a rich recreation of a fascinating and wild period, and season three’s opening episode was fizzing with conflict.
As the trailer above makes clear, Nucky – an Emmy-winning performance by Steve Buscemi – is precariously balancing between being a corrupt political operator and an all-out gangster. His relationship with Margaret has soured, and she is becoming enmeshed in the affairs of a hospital of which she is a patron, and is perhaps attracting a new admirer there.
|Stephen Graham as Capone|
Al Capone makes an enemy
The eerily masked man, Richard Harrow, had the episode’s one gun blast to his credit when he took out Manny Horvitz in revenge for killing his secret love, Angela Darmody. More problems there for Nucky.
And Al Capone is emerging as a significant force, here having a serious falling-out with Irish hoodlum Dean O’Banion.
As the actor who plays Capone, Britain’s Stephen Graham says in an Observer interview, the infamous gangster’s character will be developed in season three as we see him as a father as well as fearsome mobster.
|Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson|
In coming weeks Rosetti will be moving against Nucky and Rothstein, and former G-man turned struggling door-to-door salesman Van Alden is in for an interesting time having fortuitously saved O’Banion from Capone at the Irishman’s flower shop.
With the creative forces of The Soprano‘s writer Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese behind it, Boardwalk Empire is period drama with punch.
Where UK history shows such as Downton Abbey, with its airbrushed view of life below stairs, is a watered down version of the past, Boardwalk Empire‘s evocation of the mad, messy Prohibition era is 95% proof. Go for the real stuff.
Cast: Steve Buscemi Nucky Thompson, Kelly Macdonald Margaret Thompson, Michael Shannon Nelson Van Alden, Shea Whigham Eli Thompson, Michael Kenneth Williams Chalky White, Jack Huston Richard Harrow, Paul Sparks Mickey Doyle, Michael Stuhlbarg Arnold Rothstein, Stephen Graham Al Capone, Vincent Piazza Lucky Luciano, Gretchen Mol Gillian Darmody, Anatol Yusef Meyer Lansky, Bobby Cannavale Gyp Rosetti