‘Boardwalk Empire’ Season 3, Episode 11 Review – Unexpected Surprises

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Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire Two Imposters Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Episode 11 Review – Unexpected Surprises

At this point in Boardwalk Empire, most everyone is operating under the assumption that Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is, for all intents and purposes, a dead man. Trapped in his own city with few places left to hide, and, seemingly, even fewer friends, the most powerful man in Atlantic City has once again seen his authority tested by interlopers – namely, Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale).

So, what’s a gangster to do when outsiders barge in, hell-bent on taking things over? Well, he brings in additional interlopers, in the hope that, when the dust settles, there will be something left to reclaim. The sudden appearance of Eli (Shea Whigham) is enough for Nucky to think that the cavalry has arrived, but once Al Capone (Stephen Graham) steps out from behind the wall of men he’s brought along, the conversation immediately changes. Capone is, as Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) might put it, “an unexpected surprise.”

There are quite a few unexpected surprises layered throughout ‘Two Imposters.’ Most notably, the realization that although he’s spent much of the season feeling alone, abandoned and isolated, Nucky still has plenty of people by his side. Sure, one of them conspired to have him killed last season, but the other one is Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), who twice makes reference to solidarity and the responsibilities that come from powerful associations. “We all take care of each other, son,” Chalky says to his future son-in-law, but his words are meant more for Nucky to understand help and trust is a two-way street.

Bobby Cannavale in Boardwalk Empire Two Imposters Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Episode 11 Review – Unexpected Surprises

Moreover, Nucky’s desire to keep Eddie (Anthony Laciura), his devoted manservant, safe and alive, and the spring in his step when his nephew may be in danger both speak volumes about what the would-be ruler of Atlantic City holds dear: Faced with losing everything, the people he’s taken for granted suddenly become most important. Much of that unspoken sentiment is very similar to the season’s other highpoint, ‘Sunday Best,’ but considering the two unwelcome surprises Nucky received last week when Owen (Charlie Cox) showed up at four in the morning, whether or not Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is still on that list remains to be seen.

Though fast paced, tense and one of the season’s best, the episode is primarily focused on characters finding their place, and whether or not they’ll fight to protect it. Gillian spells it out most blatantly by telling Richard (Jack Huston) wanting things that were never yours to begin with will always end up hurting you – then she goes on to say some really insulting things. Of course, she’s talking about Richard’s burgeoning romance with Julia Sagorsky (Wrenn Schmidt), but her words seem to be more about the situation everyone is in due to the actions of Gyp Rosetti.

Perhaps it is Gyp who is one of the two ‘imposters’ mentioned in the episode’s title. As more of a bully and emotional wreck than crime boss, he certainly fits the bill. Gyp’s sudden expropriation of Atlantic City, the Artemis Club, Nucky’s desk and (once more) his dog, are all things Gillian was pointing out to Richard earlier, but on a grander scale. The question now is: who is the other imposter?

In a way, everyone from Nucky to Al Capone could easily be made out to look like another imposter. Which of them hasn’t been, at one time or another, shown to be something other than what people expect? Come next week, it looks as though we’ll find out what each of them is made of.

Eric LaRay Harvey and Micheal Kenneth Williams in Boardwalk Empire Two Imposters Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Episode 11 Review – Unexpected Surprises

Various other items:

  • A Horatio Alger novel says a lot about Nucky’s beginnings. Also, Nucky’s mother had exquisite handwriting.
  • “We’ve been on the road for 18 hours. I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down and we talk about who dies.”
  • Given Al Capone’s opinion of bullies, it’d be great to see him have a discussion with Rosetti.
  • Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) getting caught in a sting operation by two undercover cops is another nice nod at the idea of imposters running around.
  • Come next week, it looks like the Artemis Club is going to be infamous for another reason.


Boardwalk Empire concludes its third season next Sunday with ‘Margate Sands’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview for the episode below:

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  1. Can’t wait till the finale

  2. eddie quoting Kipling’s IF caused me to re read this very inspiring poem. As always the hidden meaning to ths quote is manyfold. Nuky’s character,jimmies character ideed Capone and Luciano Gllian all of them. Who among them is “a man”?

  3. Who are the Two Impostors?
    Eddie was reciting If by Rudyard Kipling while hallucinating.

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools;

    • For best effects – go on to You Tube and find the poem ‘If’ read out by Nadal and Federer previewing their epic Wimbledon final of 2008. 100% gravitas guaranteed

  4. Great episode. Finally we are getting to some good stuff. Too bad it’s was held to the last 2 episodes of the season. Hopefully next season will pick up the pace a little.

  5. Capone showing up at the end, with that big ass grin smoking that cigar, was one of the high points in the series so far.

    • I reckon next series Nuk will be jailed and maybe might change the title to Capone..

  6. This whole season hasn’t been about Nucky at all, its about the rise of Al Capone. Capone is going to be the boss of it all soon.

  7. Awesome episode.
    Finally(!) I’ve been waiting for Richard Harrow to explode, and that teaser makes me think that it’s coming…
    I’d love it if HE was the one who puts an end to the Gyp Rossetti situation: permanently. Is Nucky even aware how much of an asset Harrow/Mr. Brewing Intensity really is?

  8. best episode of the season. Finally we are seeing Capone becoming the boss.

  9. “Two Impostors” refers to the poem Eddie was reciting, Kipling’s “If.” There is a line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same . ..”

    • CORRECT!

  10. Great episode. Some surprises – I thought something would be made out of Nucky finding out that Margaret had an affair with Owen, but I guess that will have to wait until later, because right now it looks as if Margaret and the kids have skipped town. Also, I was really hoping that they would make something out of who in Nucky’s circle informed Lucky Luciano that Owen was being sent to kill Masseria in the bathhouse? I guess that’s a detail that the writers didn’t really think was important.

    The question is, who’s going to kill Rosetti? Could it be the tragic Richard Harrow, who could end up killing Gillian as well due to the way she’s treating him, and Rosetti out of some sort of bizarre loyalty to Nucky?

    What asset does Nucky have to surrender in order to win the war with Masseria/Rosetti? Could it be the distillery he’s agreed to operate for Andrew Mellon, something far more valuable, such as control of Atlantic City itself? For who is Arnold Rothstein offering “a way out” in the season finale preview? Lucky Luciano, or Nucky?

    Can’t wait for the finale.

    • good observations.

  11. My take on the two “Imposters”:

    1. Gyp. For assuming control of Atlantic city, while seemingly temporarily dethroning Nucky.


    2. Gillian. She’s an imposter mother to Tommy, and she is also an imposter in her little fictional kingdom which she created at the expense of her deceased husband and son. The events with Richard in this and the previous episode, I feel, point towards this being a possibility, since he seems to be the only reality left, and her banishing him is possibly an attempt to further solidify and make real her fiction. That, coupled with his apparent “gearing up” to do something (towards the end of the episode), perhaps to liberate Tommy? Or to exact some sort of revenge on her? Also appears to be a nod in that direction.

    Just a thought, at any rate.

  12. The Two importers if from the poem “IF” by
    Rudyard Kipling
    “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same”
    It’s what Eddie was saying to him or at least tring to.

  13. Great episode!

  14. Continues to be a boring series.

  15. This was my favorite episode of the season. It had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. You never knew what would happen. Would Nucky get shot, captured? Would Chalky stand by Nucky or betray him? I loved Nucky having to go to the brothers to save him. Now Nucky knows who his true friends are. And Jillian, what a nasty person she is. I hated how she treated Richard and I look forward to her getting hers. Hopefully Richard will come back and blow her head off. I was wondering if Eli betrayed Nucky. But the ending scene when Capone walks in… Amazing. It took a while for this Capone to grow on me, but yeah, I like him now. Now with Chalky’s and Capone’s men Nucky can reclaim what’s his and put an end to that sicko Rosetti. Overall, great episode!

  16. It strikes me that Nucky, in this episode that shows just how few real allies he has, feels more bereft of, than betrayed by, Owen. He has always clung to the idea that Margaret and her children are “his family”, even when he was involved with Billie. We have only two references to Owen in this episode; one is Nucky’s little “test” to Eddie to see how much he knew, and the other is his despairing tone when he says that Owen is dead (one which most female viewers shared, I would guess, I know this one did). Of course we are not privy to whatever happened between the 4 AM delivery and the departure of Margaret and the kids.

  17. WOW what an episode! Probably the best yet and next week’s episode may have the capacity to top season2′s finale.. As much as I would love to see Gillian get hers, I think she will help Nucky take down Gyp.. When Gyp told Gillian that Nucky was dead, she seemed to look afraid for a moment like she was no longer protected. Besides her grandson, she realistically only has Nucky as any kind of relative and I think that will be why she winds up helping him.. Gyp on the other hand I would love to see survive into the fourth season and although unlikely, that could make for an awesome twist. Surely Rothstein hasn’t completely turned his back on Nucky so it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table next week. Finally, it was great to see Chalky and Nucky make that pact complete with handshake but I fear that is a setup to truly test Nucky’s loyalty to Mr. White – can’t wait!

  18. It’s taken three seasons but finally Boardwalk Empire is finding the heights of greatness that it’s concept has promised throughout without fully delivering on a consistent basis.

    Two Impostors is simply a series classic and the best episode of the entire series. The whole episode was just filled with unrelenting tension that comes with the fact that minus Richard and Chalky, were dealing with characters that are ultmately out for themselves. Out for as much power and money as possible each could turn on the other at anytime and it makes for such compelling viewing.

    There were just so many fantastic scenes right form the beginning. Seeing Nucky trapped and having to fight his way out of corner was a brilliant development. Yes his position was threatened to a degree last season but this time he was fighting for his life. To have a character so normally in control suddenly hiding in corners, scrambling for his life and then suddenly at the end coming out ready to take all comers on, finally as a viewer made you care what happened to Nucky. These scenes also gave Buscemi more dramatic range to instill into his character.

    Having been absent for almost the entire season, it was great to see Chalky back in the forefront of things. The stand off between him and Gyp was simply fantastic. Two men of considerable position facing off, the threat was constantly there of a mass shootout between both of their armies. Would one of Chalky’s men give up Nucky for 25,0000? Again just having that sense of danger and unpredictability is what made this episode so great.

    And then there was Richard – without question the most heroic and rootable character of this season. For so long you’re wishing that he’ll end up happy with Julia and her kid. But then he has to save Tommy from Gyp’s men in Gillian’s whorehouse which will not be easy. So time to arm up and get ready (another great scene You just know it’ll end up in tears and I’m just praying for a one man army take, down of Gyp’s men – with Gillian included just so Richard can rescue Tommy. Somehow I don’t think there will be a happy ending.

    And finally Capone!! – ‘ We have a sitdown and then talk about who dies’ And so we see the start of Chicago’s notorious gangster’s rise to power. A great ending to the episode and promise of a simply sensational season finale. I just hope we don’t get that typical let down after great set up that The Sorpranos was guilty of so many times.

    I reallt just can’t wait till the finale next week.