Last week, ”Boardwalk Empire” left us with a serious cliffhanger wondering what would happen next. Sunday, the drama returned with a strong episode that showcased the nuanced writing and expert performances of everyone involved. In a show that sometimes struggles to keep all the characters and subplots in play, it was an impressively balanced episode.

Read our review to find out our thoughts. . .

The Players:

  • Director: Timothy Van Patten
  • Writer: Terence Winter
  • Cast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Pitt, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Shannon, Vincent Piazza, Michael Stuhlbarg, Shea Whigham

Episode Title: “Two Boats and a Lifeguard”

In the wake of an attack on his life, Nucky begins to rethink his priorities; when his father dies unexpectedly, he decides that the life he’s been living is no longer in his best interest. Therefore, he appears to concede defeat to Jimmy and the Commodore. However, as always, he has something else up his sleeve. Angela and Jimmy have a conversation that they probably should have had much earlier in their marriage, and she begins to find fulfillment with a new friend she meets on the beach. Van Alden continues to try to adjust to his new role as a father, but it does not come naturally to him.

The Good:

  • Nucky: Steve Buscemi delivers his most emotional performance in the series as a man torn between bitterness, natural grief, and indecision. His breakdown at the casket of his father is so moving and convincing that many of those watching at home probably forgot that, at heart, he’s a cunning and ruthless character who will not give up a fight. Instead, he’ll decide to change the rules. Either way, we didn’t expect a certain twist in the plot (towards the end of the episode), and like so many great twists, in retrospect, we should have seen it coming.
  • Angela: Angela was a major character last season, but this year, she’s been relegated to the role of the frustrated wife who is unable to find happiness in her marriage. We’re not entirely sure where her new social circle will take her, but at least it gives her something to do aside from denying her own emotional state.
  • Chalky’s turn? Fans of Michael K. Williams have waited a long time for him to play a major role in “Boardwalk Empire.” While he is terrific as Chalky White, Chalky, up until now, hasn’t been a key player in the drama of the series. Thankfully, a decision of Nucky’s may give the character some more screentime. We look forward to it.

The So-So:

  • Dreams: The episode begins with a dream sequence which feels a little out of place. While the writer makes an admirable attempt to mimic the logic–or lack thereof–of dreams, it felt like a bizarre element in an otherwise strong episode.
  • Nucky and Eli: The conversation between Nucky and Eli in the funeral home is beautifully written and acted, but the fact that these two brothers want each other dead make it difficult to believe that they could be so civil to one another. We were waiting to see if something more would come of the encounter, but it doesn’t look to be the case.

The Bad:

  • Emily’s illness: The subplot involving Emily being sick is certainly cause for alarm, but it is unclear just how much alarm. It feels like an extra plotline that the writers threw in to raise the stakes and create more drama. Well, with everything that’s happened so far this season, we think there’s enough of that for now.


“Two Boats and a Lifeguard” is perhaps the best episode of the season. Many of the plotlines have reached the turning points that we were waiting for, and everyone involved was in top form. At the same time, there is no real resolution to any of the problems. Therefore, we’ll keep watching to see how it develops from here.

Rating: 8.5/10

“Boardwalk Empire” airs every Sunday night on HBO!

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What did you think of last night’s episode? Tell us in the comments!