This season of Boardwalk Empire has dedicated significant time to the state of mind of one Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), and it has come up with some interesting episodes and unfiltered looks into the mind of a man who recently decided he could no longer be half a gangster.” While that line has been put to good use in season 3, it’s becoming clear that sacrificing one’s other half in pursuit of becoming a whole gangster means finding out you no longer have friends, you simply have acquaintances who are in the same business.

‘The Milkmaid’s Lot’ deals with the after effects of the bomb Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) planted in Babette’s, attempt to wipe out Nucky, Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) in one fell swoop. Of course, what Gyp managed to do was devastate the boardwalk, kill Billie Kent (Meg Steedle) and ensure that Nucky would declare war on him and Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi). War was inevitable, as Nucky explains to Margaret (Kelly Mcdonald), saying, “…there’s no walking away. It doesn’t work like that. I do it to them or they do it to me. That’s all there is.”

Of course, those words have a slightly different meaning to Margaret, who has been propositioned by Owen (Charlie Cox) to run away with him. Owen is already thinking about his exit, and, like Margaret, is already thousands of miles away from home, so what would it matter to travel a few miles more, as long as the two of them (as well as Teddy and Emily) left Nucky Thompson and his pending war behind? It’s hard to believe Nucky would let them stay gone – if they managed to get away at all. But they are bit players in the larger plot controlled by the Nucky Thompsons, Arnold Rothsteins and Joe Masserias of the world, so carving out a small niche for themselves means taking risks. And as we see with Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) inviting Julia Sagorsky (Wrenn Schmidt) to a dance at the American Legion, those kinds of risks can actually pay off.

As such, ‘The Milkmaid’s Lot’ is entirely concerned with what the characters are feeling in this moment – which is why Nucky stumbles around most of the episode, half-remembering Billie’s last moments and existing in a near-constant state of befuddlement and anger. He confuses his wife with his late-lover, further insults his manservant and (probably) manages to put Emily off of birthday parties for the foreseeable future. Nucky’s all emotion, because he’s simply not capable of thinking clearly. He even accuses Rothstein of succumbing to his emotions, to which Arnold asks, “Have you known that to be a habit of mine?” – just before he and all the other bosses walk out, leaving Nucky to battle Masseria and Rosetti alone.

Still, it’s a good bet that with George Remus (Glenn Fleshler) being arrested – in part because of Nucky’s newly acquired relationship with Andrew Mellon (James Cromwell) – the others may want to rethink their position, lest Nucky find a way to dispose of them as he did Remus. Nucky warns Arnold that he won’t forget, but perhaps he’ll also remember he’s not as alone in this as he thinks.

Highlights from the episode:

  • “Bible Camp’s canceled. I’m not really doing questions and answers right now.” Gyp Rosetti handles the people of Tabor Heights better than he does his own family.
  • Right off the bat, Richard gets that the rhinoceros is waiting for the train. And Boardwalk Empire seems to get Richard this season. Even though he’s not been around as much as viewers would like, the writers have found numerous ways to fill Richard’s scenes with genuine warmth, charm and humor.
  • “I’m on top of it, Bismarck.”

Boardwalk Empire continues next Sunday with ‘A Man, a Plan…’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview of the episode below: