Things have certainly intensified quickly. Two episodes into season 3 and Boardwalk Empire has shown it’s newest cast member to not only be quick-tempered, but Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) is also quick to make it known just what’ll happen in the event he feels slighted by one of his so-called business associates.
That’s the problem with criminals: They’re inherently untrustworthy, prone to changing any agreed upon arrangement to better suit their needs – and, when the time comes, they usually brandish a gun that’s seen its fair share of use. ‘Spaghetti and Coffee’ sets out to explore that “paradox” – as Stephen Root’s rather eccentric character, Gaston Bullock Means, likes to call it – placing several of the series’ characters in a position of experiencing such a contradiction firsthand.
For Nucky, Means’s strict policy of ‘anonymity during bribery’ is problematic at first – which includes the ridiculousness of dumping $40k into a fishbowl and blindly trusting the payoff will find its way to the right hands. But if it keeps the right palms greased, then everyone is obliged to participate in the farce these men have designated as a necessary business transaction.
It certainly doesn’t appear that Means is going to be more trouble than any other corrupt government official used in the past, but looks can be deceiving. Besides, men like Nucky (Steve Buscemi) are capable of turning trouble into their advantage – or so they say, when Gyp Rosetti isn’t camped out on the only stretch of road a caravan of liquor can travel on its way from Atlantic City to the place where things actually matter (New York).
That’s another peculiar issue ‘Spaghetti and Coffee’ presents. We’ve all heard it in the trailer: Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) referring to New York as the place that “matters,” and, it seems, for the beginning of season 3 anyway, Boardwalk Empire has its eyes set on the Big Apple, as well. Nucky’s been shacking up with his little flapper girl, Billie Kent (Meg Steedle), becoming increasingly seduced by her various charms and, perhaps, the fact that she lives in New York. After Nucky consolidated all of his liquor sales through Rothstein, his business is now essentially a New York-based endeavor.
Of course there’re shipments to be made, and warehouses to be stocked, but Nucky’s management, and such concerns are now to be handled by those in his employ – all the way back in Jersey. The disconnect that Nucky has developed – possibly as a result of his newfound affection for Billie, or inability to forget the land Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) bestowed upon the church – leaves him wanting everything to take care of itself, freeing Mr. Thompson up to handle business of a more personal nature - in the place ‘where things matter.’ But Billie’s young, popular and has a phone line that won’t stop ringing; she simply loves the spotlight and, sure, Nucky’s interesting, but spending all her time with him and a leaky radiator isn’t how she envisioned her youth. Then again, in that regard, Billie’s a lot like Nucky; he has the shiny, self-granted moniker of “entrepreneur” to live up to – and unlike his new acquaintance Mr. Means, Nucky’s not averse to a little attention.
However, considering the shortlist of options women were granted at the time, Billie’s freedom to choose an interesting man (or men) over one of means (meager or otherwise), may have been quite the luxury. And as Maybelle White (Christina Jackson) soon finds out after her father, Chalky (Michael K. Williams), insists she marry the very capable – but very boring – Samuel (Ty Michael Robinson), the options she has ahead of her are even more limited. Her future is entirely in the hands of others, making her act of defiance – taking Samuel out to her father’s speakeasy where the young doctor’s face is left with quite the story to tell – all the more infuriating for her father. As Maybelle was certainly unaware, there’s interesting (like some stories surrounding her father) – and then there’s seeing a thug get beat within an inch of his life while your would-be fiancé clutches a slash on his cheek. This range of choices is enough to make the high-flying life of Carrie Duncan seem all the more idyllic and charming.
Maybelle’s circumstances, torn between the notion of security and a life less ordinary, aren’t altogether different from what the former Mrs. Schroeder considered when entertaining the move into Nucky’s world, and again when she moved into the brief embrace of Owen Slater (Charlie Cox). But Margaret’s made a stratospheric leap forward; people answer to her, fulfill her demands – it’s all on account of being Mrs. Thompson, but it’s enough to empower Margaret to see her concerns are heard by everyone, even if it means dealing with increasingly frustrating young doctors.
The interplay between Dr. Douglas Mason (Patrick Kennedy) and Mrs. Thompson quickly borders on flirtatious, but Margaret’s concern for the prenatal health of St. Theresa’s female patients seems genuine enough – at least genuine in regards to her having something to do, which doesn’t concern her husband’s business. Wealth, it seems, grants some interesting diversions, and if those happen to be telling highfaluting doctors how to better run their hospital, then so be it; the worst that could happen is being castigated by Nucky again – it’s not like he’ll throw Margaret to Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) or anything.
Then again, betrayal isn’t something Nucky’s shown much tolerance toward, as his brother Eli (Shea Whigham), and (to a much greater extent) Jimmy Darmody can certainly attest. Still, as far as penance for plotting to kill your brother goes, spending a little time in the clink and answering to Doyle is a shade better than taking two bullets to the face. Eli’s walked away, been ostracized and is now working his way back into the good graces of his brother and the family he’d been separated from. It may be lowly working for Doyle, but backstabbers have to stick together – especially when faced with the very straightforward hurdle of Gyp Rosetti.
Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘Bone for Tuna’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: