Last week’s episode ended with a major cliffhanger when we discovered that one of the victims shot during Jimmy and Capone’s robbery of the whiskey shipment was able to stay alive until being discovered in the woods. We also saw relationships between character start to fracture in potentially hazardous ways.

The Players:

  • Director: Timothy Van Patten
  • Writer: Terence Winter
  • Cast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Paz de la Huerta, Shea Whigham, Gretchen Mol, Michael K. Williams, Vincent Piazza

Episode Title: “Broadway Limited”

With a wounded but still living witness to the bootlegging massacre now in the hospital, Van Alden is determined to find out exactly who was involved. Jimmy, who has been struggling with the stress of returning to the world after the war, is revealed to have been one of the participants, threatening his safety in Atlantic City. In the meantime, Nucky provides Margaret Schroeder with a job.

The Good:

  • Michael Shannon: Shannon seems like the kind of actor best suited for two basic types of characters: if he wasn’t playing men with an almost inhuman devotion to justice, he’d be great as a psychopath. When Van Alden interrogates a witness by shoving his bare hand into an open shotgun wound, Shannon gives off a distinct “you do not want to mess with me” vibe. In a show where killings and beatings are commonplace, his character, ironically, seems to be the only one who almost enjoys brutality, so long as it is a means to an end.
  • Jimmy’s losing it: The mentally scarred soldier may be a stock character by now, but Michael Pitt’s performance as Jimmy gives a nervous energy to what otherwise could have been a stale, predictable role. We’re not exactly surprised at what he goes through during this episode, be it the paranoid conviction that the mother of his child slept with another man, or the dawning realization that he may actually have to pay for the murders he committed, but we are worried about whether or not he will snap, and exactly who will be affected when he does.
  • Things are heating up: The previous two episodes of this show featured excellent performances but not much plot development. Luckily, we’re picking up the pace now. Characters are facing actual threats, be it from the authorities, or competing criminals. Any good gangster drama needs a constant atmosphere of danger, and now we’re getting one.

The So-So:

  • Michael K. Williams: Anyone who followed HBO’s The Wire is familiar with Michael K. Williams, who appeared on that show as Omar, the shotgun-toting ghetto legend. His character in Boardwalk Empire starts to get a little more exposure in this episode; turns out he’s also an up-and-coming gangster looking to get into the liquor game. It looks like it will be another great performance from this immensely skilled actor. Sadly, his presence in the show is still too infrequent. There’s no use hiring such a terrific performer if he’s rarely going to get the chance to show off his skills.

The Bad:

  • Is Buscemi the star? Buscemi is as close to a main protagonist as an ensemble piece like this will get, but not much has happened with his character so far. Nucky is an intelligent criminal with a gorgeous girlfriend and a lucrative source of income, but he never seems to enjoy it that much. We see that he has feelings for Margaret Schroeder, who reminds him of his deceased wife, and we see that he’s a good businessman. Often times, a character isn’t interesting because their actions don’t seem to stem from any real motivation. Here, we’ve got plenty of motivation, but not much dynamic action yet.
  • Do something, Mrs. Schroeder: It’s easy to admire Maragaret Schroeder, who has just lost her husband and unborn child, yet remains strong for her family. But still, she lacks an assertive quality that we like to see in female characters. Everything involving her character happens to her, and it’d be nice to see her ask some serious questions about who really killed her husband, or why Nucky is being so generous to her.

Overall:

Now that the creators of the show are done impressing us with their period sets and fine cast, it’s time to get to business, and it looks like that is the direction in which things are headed. Jimmy’s life is spiralling out of control, Nucky’s desires are becoming more transparent, and Van Alden is a force to be reckoned with. Maybe it’s a good thing that they took their time introducing us to everyone; now we really care about what is going to happen to them.

Rating: 8/10

Boardwalk Empire airs on HBO every Sunday night

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Did you like the episode? What do you think will happen next?