Pop-Preview: Boardwalk Empire Season 3

bill bodkin previews the third season of the atlantic city-based crime drama…

“You can’t be half a gangster anymore Nucky, not anymore.”

These words, uttered by the late Jimmy Darmody in Season 1 of Boardwalk Empire, have become the mantra of the Prohibition-era crime drama’s third season. After the series controversially put three major characters into an early grave last season, much to the ire and dismay of many fans, Boardwalk Empire is taking a new direction, all centered around Nucky Thompson’s full realization that he is, indeed, a gangster.

Pop-Break was very lucky to catch the first few episodes of the new season courtesy of HBO and after viewing them we hope we can assuage the fears and trepidations many fans may have heading into Sunday night’s premiere of the third season. Last season when the show decided that one of its major characters, Jimmy Darmody, was to meet his demise at the hands of his father-figure friend/enemy Nucky Thompson; message boards, twitter feeds and Facebook statuses exploded with shock and appall. The smoking revolver in Nucky’s hand put down one of the show’s most intriguing characters; so fans rattled their proverbial sabres stating the show was ruined, the writers had done irreparable damage and that this was one of the most idiotic moves in television history. To many, Boardwalk Empire was as dead as poor Jimmy.

However, after viewing the new episodes of Boardwalk Empire, this notion could be the furthest thing from the truth. And this is because much like in the world of the series, the buck stops with Nucky Thompson.

Nucky’s turn from half-gangster/half-politican to full-fledged crime boss is absolutely brilliant. Steve Buscemi, one of the best character actors of the modern-era, is able to maintain Nucky’s snarky loveability but he’s also able to really bring out Nucky’s dark side — in both the world of crime and the world of his mind. His new attitude greatly effects those around him especially the relationship with his wife Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) — due to her continued mission of repentance and Nucky’s penchant for beautiful women.

The loss of Jimmy as well as his wife Angela Darmody (Aleska Palladino) and The Commodore (Dabney Coleman) have allowed for series regulars like Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) to have a much more expanded role. Sparks provides a tremendous amount of foolhardy comic relief as the bumbling bootlegger and his relationship with the newly-released from prison Eli Thompson (Shea Whigam) provides a lot of excellent tension and laughs.

The massive character void left by Jimmy’s passing will look to be filled by veteran actor Bobby Cannavale as New York gangster Gyp Rossetti. Cannavale has made his name more on the comedic side of things, with a recurring role as Will Truman’s boyfriend Vince on the NBC series Will & Grace as well as roles in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and most recently on the big screen in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. It’s his comedic sensibility that helps heighten the paranoid madness of the volatile Rossetti. The easily insulted gangster will become Nucky’s major nemesis, providing an unpredictable, take-no-prisoners assault on Nucky’s empire. What’s great about Cannavale’s Rossetti is that unlike others who’ve opposed Nucky in the past, he doesn’t have to play in the political arena of Atlantic City like Jimmy or The Commodore did in Season 2 and is a much stronger (in terms of manpower and personality) than the D’Alessio Brothers from Season 1.

One hope for this new season is that the writers give Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) more to do this season. The two are some of the most entertaining and rich characters on the season. In roles that could easily be one-dimensional, over-the-top violent caricatures, Graham and Williams bring humor and humanity to their roles. In the first few episodes Capone is given a bit more screen time than usual and Graham makes the most of it; while once again Chalky is used sparingly but effectively.

Also lurking on the outskirts of the series storylines are Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) who’s now under the guise of Midwestern iron salesman, Jimmy’s mom Gillian (Gretchen Mol) who’s now become a madame, the amazing Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) as well Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stulhbarg), Owen Slater (Charlie Cox) and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef). All these characters have tons of unresolved storylines which all will be resolved or complicated due to the new page Nucky Thompson is turning.

So this Sunday break out your finest bottle of Canadian Club because Boardwalk Empire is back and could be coming to you with what could be its finest season ever.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites