Empire State of Mind: “Blue Bell Boy”

kimberlee rossi-fuchs and bill bodkin hunt down some bootleggers…

The Low Down: Nucky and Owen head to South Jersey to find the thieving Rowland Smith (Nick Robinson) who stole a number of crates of whiskey from Nucky. Meanwhile Mickey Doyle, due to an angry phone call from Rothstein, must deliver a large shipment of booze to NYC, which means going through the Gyp Rossetti controlled town of Tabor Heights. Meanwhile Margaret continues her crusade for women’s care at the hospital. In Chi-Town, Al Capone deals with bullies.

The Body Count: Three. Two of Nucky’s men outside of Roland’s and the unlucky Rowland Smith.

Our Favorite New Jersey Reference: Sadly none that we haven’t heard already.

Favorite Performance: Stephen Graham as Al Capone stole the show this week. His scenes with his son are powerful enough to leave a lump in your throat. The scene where he tells his son to hit him is really, really sad. And you can see Capone’s eyes welling up as he yells at his boy. And then when he strums his mandolin, nestled next to his boy, it just melts your heart. This is why Capone is one of my favorite characters in the entire series. –BB

I’m always happy when Al Capone gets some serious screen-time and Stephen Graham’s stellar turn this week may have been his best yet. Graham’s multi-faceted performance as the Chicago gangster, ably shifting from jocular to terrifying to tender, creates a charismatic dichotomy between both the supportive and protective father and friend and the volatile and violent thug within him. Previously, Capone has expressed both shame and protectiveness over his deaf son, but his scenes with the boy this week were so feeling and incredibly moving that his ensuing brutal murder of O’Bannion’s man Miller, though completely vicious in nature, felt warranted and redemptive. Although his storylines often don’t seem to dovetail with the goings-on in Atlantic City, I hope the writers continue to focus on Capone. –KRF

The Supporting Scene Stealer: As the sought after but previously unseen warehouse thief Rowland Smith, Nick Robinson was so precocious, charming, and, as Nucky acknowledges, full of moxie it seemed he was bound to stick around a bit longer than just one episode. Demonstrably clever and youthful enough to remind Nucky of a certain former protégé, it seemed plausible that Nucky would give Rowland a chance despite his offense, perhaps as a way of alleviating his guilt over Jimmy’s death. Once the cocky kid pulled out his own pack of cigarettes, however, I knew he was a goner, as the tougher, colder Nucky no longer has any compunctions about offing those he can’t trust (a message clearly meant for Owen, as well.) –KRF

Charlie Cox brought a new shade of sentiment to Irish killer/bodyguard Owen Slater. His shock at Nucky killing young Rowland Smith was quite surprising, especially since you consider Slater’s penchant for violence. I love his look of bewilderment in this scene, it spoke volumes. I also like his underlying reluctance about Nucky’s turn as a full-time mobster, like he almost wants to keep at least one of Nucky’s feet planted in the world of non-violence. –BB

The Best Part of the Episode: Nucky’s Final Judgement. His execution of Rowland Smith is absolutely shocking. It really reinforces the show’s theme of “You Can’t Be Half a Gangster.” Nucky’s transformation is totally complete. Killing has become easier for him and this notion disturbs Owen Slater. –BB

Though it was difficult to watch, the scene in which Capone tries to toughen up his sensitive son was a high point this week. When the boy fails to pick up on the boxing lesson, Capone begins yelling and shaking him, leading the frightened boy not to defend himself as intended, but to break down in tears. For a second, I expected Capone to become enraged at the sign of weakness, but instead he chokes up and takes the boy in his arms. It was one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen on the show and also another step in the Capone’s maturation, accepting that his son just isn’t cut from the same tough-guy cloth as his father. And, as evidenced by his later handling of Jake Guzik’s bully, Capone has no problem being the muscle for those who can’t defend themselves. –KRF

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: I could really care less about the Luciano/Meyer heroin subplot as it just seems to be a plotline that’s spinning it’s wheels. I’d rather they focus on Capone or Chalky rather than these two. –BB

I thought Katie the maid was annoying last season, but I definitely preferred her as Margaret’s in-house punching bag then her current incarnation as Owen’s bed-warmer/dick-namer. –KRF

The Little Thing We Loved: When Jake Guzik comes into Capone’s bar and brothel all beat up and retells his story of getting beat up and then about his body odor that Capone had previously teased him about, is really touching. We’ve all been there and it really touched me. –BB

Although Margaret’s ongoing struggles to get the women’s health clinic up and running are hardly the show’s most compelling segments, I really loved her and Dr. Mason’s argument with the conservative nun (Vagina? “I never enjoyed the sound of it.”) over acceptable terminology. The nun’s stubborn quibbling over proper euphemisms – pregnant is no good, but gravid “has a noble ring” – was pretty funny, as was her horrified indignation at Margaret’s suggestion that she might benefit from a Kotex. –KRF

Final Thoughts: “Blue Bell Boy” continued the series string of really powerful episodes. There’s been a lot more impactful and emotional scenes in Season 3 and the characters turns and development have really been at the forefront each week. I love the way Nucky took a turn to the dark side and how much of an emotional side we saw from Capone. –BB

“Blue Bell Boy” was a very strong episode, well-paced and compelling throughout all of its storylines, particularly Capone’s emotional turn and Nucky’s continuing evolution to full-fledged gangster. This week’s developments promising interesting things to come, as well, with trouble brewing with Rothstein over his yet-to-be-delivered shipment, Rosetti’s increasingly bold and violent moves, and, as the final scene seems to indicate, a reconciliation between the two Thompson brothers. –KRF

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