‘Boardwalk Empire’ Season 3, Episode 2: ‘Spaghetti and Coffee’ Recap

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Shea Whigham Boardwalk Empire Spaghetti and Coffee HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Episode 2: Spaghetti and Coffee Recap

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.

Michael K Williams Boardwalk Empire Spaghetti and Coffee HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Episode 2: Spaghetti and Coffee Recap

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.

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Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘Bone for Tuna’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below:

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13 Comments

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  1. I hate to say it but other than a few key moments I found this episode to be a complete bore and I had to fight not to nod off.
    I love the show so I’m sure next week it will return to form…

    • I agree!! I stayed up late (EST)…for what! It was so boring!!!! I’m still mad about Jimmy being dead. We need a naughty/nice character and the only person that comes to mind is Richard. Gyp is going to be interesting…

  2. A slow burner compared to last week, which was all spectacle. I love what Bobby Cannavale is doing with Gyp. Even during what seems the most innocuous conversation (the one about the map for instance), he’s playing it in a way which leaves the audience wondering if a flip is coming. One facial expression here, another there, teasing us. I can also see the seeds in Eli killing himself (to go after Nucky again would be repeating a storyline from season two). All in all, good stuff and with Dexter, Fringe and Homeland coming this week, a fine time for American drama.

    • @ Ajeno
      Sunday nights are about to get seriously busy again and I love it.
      Boardwalk, Homeland, Dexter and soon The Walking Dead. I love it.
      I’ve also taken a liking to Revenge but if I have to stop watching because there’s not a enough time that’s the show that I’ll skip.
      On a side note, I’m also a huge football fan so on the nights there’s a good game my DVR will be on overload…

  3. certainly not as eventful as past episodes but i believe necessary. with jimmie and the whole overthrow nucky plot narrative dead, the writers are just laying the groundwork for a different direction. i’m sure we’ll soon get back into the high action swing of things as new characters are developed and motives are established.

    my biggest issue this fall is deciding on whether or not i want to watch boardwalk empire in real time and DVR the walking dead for viewing afterwards or watch the walking dead realtime and DVR boardwalk empire for viewing afterwards! what a great problem!

    • So far I really like the direction of season 3. Bobby Cannavale really surprised me with his acting, at first I was hesitant when I saw the trailers but he’s turned out to be one of my favorite characters in Boardwalk so far. I love both shows but I’m going to record The Walking Dead and watch Boardwalk primarily because AMC has commercial to fast-forward through.

      • Ah good point about the commercials! I think I’ll do the same!

  4. I’ve loved this show from the first episode but I have to say last night’s left me confused on a number of points:

    1 – The apparent time jump to Eli being released from prison, wasn’t he supposed to be in for 2 years or more?

    2 – The young doctor, I don’t see any borderline flirtation, I just see a very rude man.

    3 – Nucky/Billie, that seems more like Nucky pissed at Margaret for giving away that land and her ‘kicking him out of her bed’.

    4 – Owen, I don’t quite get why he’s still around. I thought last season, he was in the U.S. just to eliminate a couple traitors to ‘the cause’ but now he appears to be Nucky’s right hand? (BTW, I do like Charlie Cox in this role!)

    5 – Richard, why he’s staying with Jimmy’s mother and son, considering how nasty she is to him and how Margaret treated him so kindly after her initial horror (and apologizing for it).

    I dunno, this season hasn’t grabbed me yet and I don’t know that I like the addition of Gyp Rosetti (more due to not liking Bobby Canavale). But I’m sticking with it in hopes it grabs me yet again.

    • The doctor/Margaret conversation kind of irked me because you could see where it was going. He obviously has a chip on his shoulder about fake rich donors to the hospital who give money but have no real interest in improving the medical care. She wants to help, but they’re both so kind of stubborn in their ways that they can’t see past it all. I think the writing here took an odd turn. Why did they have to end it on her pestering him about his tobacco? Unless they want to leave it deliberately vague as to where the rest of the conversation went, I think it would have been better to leave it off at a point where it appears they have reached some kind of agreement. Unless that is what we are meant to interpret by her comment about his tobacco.

    • 1) I believe it was two years; since he has missed two years of his childrens birthdays. I was a bit puzzled about the age of Michael Shannon’s child-would it not be a toddler right now? In that one shot with the sitter, it seemed to be an infant still.
      2)I saw the flirtation. It could have been amusement on his part, because he was definitely smirking when Margaret got more heated. I think he was writing her off as a rich woman, or just a “woman”, which is possibly considering the theme of the first episode. Their exchange reminded me of her and Owen’s exchanges-and that led to a passionate moment.
      3)I don’t think Nucky is very seduced; Billie is a bit more intelligent than season 1′s floozy but he is constantly distracted. The scene in the bathroom, the scene in the club, and then back at the apartment-he seems to be extremely jealous. I’m not sure if its because he really likes her, or just because he hates liars. He seems to know that she’s a very young woman who likes the spotlight and is bound to be attracted to others.
      4)He was made Nucky’s right hand (or it was hinted at) last season. He seems to be good at the job, likes it and likely likes seeing Margaret around.
      5)Well,the writers are obviously keeping Richard in the plot line, same with Gillian. Gillian is kind of just “there” now, so this keeps their little side story going. Richard obviously cares for Jimmy’s son and is starting to see how crazy Gillian is. I am guessing he is sticking around to make sure he is not completely brainwashed by her. Also, Richard has no where else to go, really. He was suicidal and is lingering around to what he now calls home.
      6)Gyp is okay. He’s such a crazy character to wrap the mind around but he makes the screen full of tension when he is on. Very unpredictable and I find myself wondering who he will randomly murder next.

      Overall, I don’t understand those of you writing off the season as if its halfway done already-there’s only been two episodes! I think it needs to regroup after killing off so many major characters. I think it will do just fine.

  5. People have called this show boring and I’ve defended it. But I have to admit this latest episode was in a word – boring. It has none of the underlying tension that the sopranos did so well and that breaking bad does so well now. Boardwalk’s style just comes across as pretentious sometimes and I can’t help but feel that its makers think that what they’re doing is far better than the end product. Yes the actings good, the sets are good, all the costumes are very pretty but what’s the point in all that if they make a boring hour of television? When it first started I predicted it would be the new Sopranos. Guess I was wrong.

  6. I loved the show the first 2 seasons. They captured me from the get-go but this season just seems slow to me. I think it would have been more exciting to be had they time jumped into Capone taking over power in Chicago and battling it out with Nucky or something like that. I think Gyp Rosetti isn’t convincing me yet and I see why Richard is staying with Jimmy’s mom and son even though she is mean but why isn’t he more of predominate role this season? I would figure they would have more focus on him considered his best friend was just capped. Wouldn’t you think he would want revenge on the people responsible for taking part in his killing? I hope this season gets better because as of right now I am watching Hells on Wheels live(with commercials and all) and DVR BE.

  7. My problem was the whole “no gas” issue. It’s 2 hours to NYC from AC why do they need to stop? Those trucks would make it on one tank, easy. Not to mention, nobody thought to fill some gas cans for illegal booze runs? A weak premise, indicitive of weak writing in general.

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