Empire State of Mind: “Bone for Tuna”

The Low Down: Nucky attempts to make peace with Gyp Rosetti and accepts the St. Gregory knighthood Margaret’s been pestering him about, while grappling with a growing insecurity about his relationship with Billie and haunting visions of a ghost from the not-so-distant past. Margaret gets the ball rolling on her prenatal care initiative when she outwits Dr. Landau to secure the Bishop’s approval for the creation of a women’s health clinic at St. Theresa’s. Gyp, though initially satisfied with his deal with Nucky, takes umbrage at an innocuous (though poorly pronounced) message of good tidings and makes moves to escalate the brewing war between the two men. Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) also takes offense to a casual remark and sets the record straight with Mickey Doyle and Nucky. Beyond Atlantic City, Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef ) and Charlie Luciano (Vincent Piazza) encounter some resistance getting their new business venture off the ground and out in Cicero, Van Alden continues to struggle with his new, mild-mannered alter ego and has a brush with the law.

The Body Count: One unlucky, flaming sheriff.

Our Favorite New Jersey Reference: Rosetti ‘s reaction to Nucky’s mentioning the Pine Barrens: “I don’t know where the fuck that is, but I bet its one hell of a slag.” A timeless remark, since nearly a century later, the Pine Barrens still remain the Bermuda Triangle of New Jersey.

Favorite Performance: Although his consistently strong work is often outshined by that of the show’s stellar supporting cast, Steve Buscemi stood out this week with a subtle, but often riveting performance. Yes, the dream sequences were a bit heavy-handed and obvious, but Buscemi so ably conveyed Nucky’s haunting guilt that it was easy to overlook the somewhat corny imagery. Even better were his subtle attempts to reach out to an unreceptive Margaret, taking her hand in the church and somewhat timidly confessing that he’s been having difficulty sleeping. In those small moments, Buscemi imbues the typically cool character with a vulnerability that makes his somewhat needy pursuit of Billie seem less foolish and much more reasonable, as he’s seeking to ease his burden through the warmth and companionship he’s no longer getting at home.

The Supporting Scene Stealer: Jack Huston’s Richard Harrow is a character whom, as soon as he’s off the screen, I’m eagerly waiting to see again and this week was no different. Harrow is likely the show’s most captivating character, deadly yet staunchly adherent to his soldier’s notions of honor and loyalty, and his scenes this week perfectly encapsulated that blend of dangerousness and nobility, as he refused to let the clownish Doyle take credit for, and thus strip the meaning from, Manny Horvitz’s murder. (The way he surprised Doyle was great, too. Harrow’s is not a face you’d like to encounter unexpectedly in a dark room.) I also loved his interaction with Nucky, particularly his response to Nucky’s asking if he’s ever haunted by those he’s killed.

The Best Part of the Episode: This week’s most compelling scene was Harrow’s hostage situation turned confession in Nucky’s office. As I mentioned before, Harrow’s always a magnetic presence, but more importantly, his conversation with Nucky here clears the air between them and seems to set the stage for what could be an interesting future alliance. Also, it was fun to see the preening Mickey get so supremely punked for his attempt to seem the tough guy.

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: The scenes dealing with Lansky and Luciano’s foray into the heroin trade and brewing troubles with mob boss Masseria were a bit unnecessary. Though both Yusef and Piazza are great in their roles (particularly Yusef, whose line readings make nearly every one of the brainy Lansky’s words riveting) and are a pleasure to watch play off one another, their scenes this week felt like filler. I don’t doubt that their storyline could turn more interesting or pivotal further down the line, but it felt like they were just treading water this week until that moment comes.

The Little Thing We Loved: I loved Gyp’s “Like a monkey, or somethin’?” response and faux-indignation over Nucky’s “neck of the woods” comment, which had to be an homage to the classic and often parodied Joe Pesci clown scene in Goodfellas.

Final Thoughts: “Bone for Tuna” was largely entertaining throughout and featured a lot of great character moments, particularly for Nucky, Harrow, and Van Alden. More importantly, though, it serves to set the pieces in motion for what’s to come this season, escalating tensions in Atlantic City and beyond and planting seeds for the possible formation of some pivotal alliances – Nucky / Harrow, Gyp / Gillian (and maybe even Eli) – which could be of major consequence down the road.

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  1. Wives of TV’s anti-heroes (Skyler White, Rita on Dexter, Lori on Walking Dead) always, always have an uphill battle, but Margaret’s been a thorn in Nucky’s side since the end of Season 1. And the moments she’s worked against him now far outweigh any support. And the fact that she’s the one who initially came to Nucky for help just makes things worse for her, from a “rooting for” standpoint. Margaret’s daydreaming, about the 30 hours of soaring freedom being experienced by female pilot Carrie Duncan (while Marion Harris’ “There’ll Be Some Changes” played us out), fits with the theme of her feeling trapped within a fake world of opulence. But it’s also a world that she’s chosen to be in, many times over, over the alternative.