Boardwalk Empire Season 3 Finale Review “Margate Sands” – Give the people what they want

The third season of Boardwalk Empire came to a bloody end in which the writers gave many fans what they’ve wanted all season – Gyp dead, Nucky finally understanding what it takes to fully be a gangster, Chalky living to see his Cotton Club dream get off the ground and an unforgettable scene with Richard and Tommy. Likewise, Nucky took his brother’s advice and offered many people what they wanted and emerged the victor.

Whereas last week’s penultimate episode narrowed the focus on a handful of characters and engaged viewers with suspense, this week’s episode was a long overdue bloodbath. I believe the final count was around sixty-one fallen gangsters.

The finale saw many of the show’s troubled characters making offers to others in order to resolve their complicated predicaments.

Although she’s a horrible parent and grandparent, a relationship with Tommy was undeniably important to Gillian, particularly after the loss of Jimmy. With her grandson clearly upset and alienated by her dismissal of Richard and the onslaught of crude gangsters, Gillian tried to offer Tommy a sandwich, pickle, milk and Oreos in order to get a little quality time with him in his wigwam. Tommy was not having it. Good for him.

In order to break ties from Gyp, she offered the gangster what she knew he wanted – kinky sex with the ginger he’s been pining after since the two first appeared on screen together. Unfortunately, Gillian’s “lovely heroin” did not solve her problems this time around. Instead, Gillian ended up with the “lovely heroin” in her arm thanks to Gyp, which left her thinking she was a thirteen-year-old girl Nucky just took to the Commodore. The look on Nucky’s face during that conversation was priceless.

Gillian is down but not out. She lived to see another season, which means trouble for Richard. Speaking of Richard . . .

Operation Save Tommy
Richard was just about the only character not trying to wheel and deal and make offers people couldn’t refuse. Instead, he picked up his guns and charged into the brothel with one goal – save Tommy. In a series full of amazing moments, Richard’s one-man rampage was hands down my favorite over three seasons.

The scene was brilliantly shot. I also appreciate that the writers did not try to sell viewers on the idea that Richard had endless ammo, we saw him reloading, switching guns and even being creative when the occasional gangster tried to take advantage of Richard during those brief transition moments. My only complaint is that we had to see Tommy run into Richard’s arms through a window. I really would have liked to see his face, particularly after having to endure his sad face as he sat in his wigwam and as one of Gyp’s henchmen held a gun to his head.

The moment in which Richard saved Tommy was rivaled only by the exchange between Julia, Richard and Julia’s dad. The sight of Richard’s bloodied face and a sleeping Tommy seemed to finally snap Sargosky out of his bitter funk. It seemed to take him back to his own service and finally break his disappointment over his son dying before he saw any action. I hope that this will cause him to put down the bottle as well.

As much satisfaction that resulted from Richard saving Tommy, with Gillian still alive and Richard wandering off into the night there is very little resolution here.

Thanks to Richard, Eli and Nucky had very little do as they arrived at Gillian’s brothel. It was quite fitting that Tonino was the one to both figuratively and literally stab Gyp in the back. Gyp’s second-in-command endured a lot of abuse, watched his cousin get pummeled with a shovel and never appeared to receive a lot of gratitude from Gyp.

Nucky also got a little help from Rothstein, who totally played Lucky and Lansky. Rothstein and Masseria entered the heroin trade and as a result, Masseria’s men withdrew their support for Gyp. Rothstein also thought he gained control of Mellon’s HUGE distillery but alas, the player got played. (Forgive me for that cliche – I had to do it.)

Not so fast Rothstein. Turns out you were just means to an end for Nucky. (pun!) Nucky calls Means, who alerts Mellon to the criminal organization that has taken over his distillery. Mellon calls Randolph and orders her to shut it down. Rothstein gained a heroin operation and a whole lot of legal trouble, thanks to Nucky.

Other favorite moments and observations . . .

– Reporters laughing at Mayor Bader suggesting that he was in charge of Atlantic City.

– Masseria cautioning Gyp against underestimating the Black Atlantic City residents who fought alongside Nucky to protect their home town. Oh Gyp, the three-fifths compromise and its flawed logic was so 1787.

– Chalky and Dunn simultaneously shooting one of Gyp’s men.

– Gyp’s impersonation of Nucky was pretty funny. The Barney song also made me think that if they ever do a biopic on Don Knotts, Buscemi should be a no brainer.

The post-Jimmy, third season of Boardwalk Empire may have had a few slow episodes along the way but it undeniably ended on a strong note. At the season’s end, the writers have successfully rebooted the show and given it a new direction. The finale was satisfying but left enough loose ends to suggest an interesting season 4.

In the end, Nucky dropped his carnation and resolved to be invisible. Nucky is definitely a full gangster but based on his last comments to Eli, he seems intent on being the invisible, collecting money in a fish bowl, emerging from closets gangster like Gaston Means. I would agree that this approach has a much better longevity prospect.

It was disappointing to not see Mueller in the final two episodes but he clearly would not have had a natural fit in either one. I hope that season 4 of Boardwalk Empire will bring us more Mueller, Chalky and Richard – less Margaret.

What did you think of the Boardwalk Empire finale? Sound off below!

  • gazzy

    One of the problems with Boardwalk Empire that seemed to be more magnified this season, was that there are so many interesting characters that the stories jump around and some of the lesser characters like Mueller and Capone are left out. This despite starting great scenes that should be developed further. Probably a strange comment (too many good characters) but a great series.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying. The show has the benefit of a ton of great characters but only 60 minutes and about 13 episodes to do anything with them. It is hard to naturally work them all in enough to satisfy viewers’ needs to get more Capone, Mueller, Chalky, Richard, etc.

      Given where things ended, I would anticipate seeing more of the New York set and perhaps more Chalky/Dunn as he sets out to build his club. Unfortunately, I think we’ll continue to get Capone and Mueller peppered in throughout the season but with Capone forcing him to play double agent against O’Banion, those scenes are sure to be great.

      I also think they could leave Margaret in Brooklyn and free up a lot of time for other stories. I understand her story as part of the larger context of the time period but I wouldn’t miss her if we never saw her and the kids again.

  • Allen Stern

    Best show on Tv right now bar none. After a slight dul in mid season, the show never looked back. Can’t wait for season four.

  • Leandro Calandra

    “You talkin’ to me?” – Richard Harrow lol

  • Joe D.

    One serious casting flaw in an otherwise brilliantly cast ensemble: the actor (Graham?) that plays Al Capone is about 5’4″ on a good day. No physical presence at all. Al Capone was about 5′ 10″. Graham is a relative midget. The actor who played Remis would have been a much better choice to play Capone.

    • Interesting point. Many people have raised the same issues with the casting of Steve Buscemi to play Nucky Thompson who is of course, based on the real life Nucky Johnson. Johnson was over six feet tall and weighed about 250 pounds – much different than the lanky Buscemi, who is only about 5’8″. After three seasons, I’ve grown used to the actors now, so the differences don’t bother me quite as much.

  • This was such a great finale and a great way to end the season, especially since there will be a fourth one.

    I agree with you, Harrow’s scene to get Tommy was one of my favorites from the show. Then again, he’s always been my favorite character and every season they give him some amazing storylines which is great.

    I have always disliked Gillian, but that last scene with Nucky really made me feel sad and reminded me of the life she had. It’s going to be interesting to see what she will do next season with Tommy gone.

    I also am kind of excited to see Chalky get his club. That’s definitely a storyline I’m looking forward to next season.

    And there’s is so much more!! That’s what I have always enjoyed about Boardwalk Empire, they are able to finish a chapter but leave enough open to get us excited for the next one.

    Can’t wait for next season.