So it’s finally come down to this? Gyp Rosetti taking over Atlantic City? Not if Nucky Thompson has anything to say about it, despite the bodies piling up around him.
Nucky may be cowering from Gyp’s men in the back room of a house on the beach, but he’s not willing to surrender. “This is my town. I’m not leaving,” he declares. Seeing how next week is the season finale, we’re pretty sure there’s going to be a spectacular bloodbath. I’m guessing we ain’t seen nothin' yet. Remember, in the previous episodes, Nucky made it clear: He owns the town that hugs “my ocean.” He’ll not forfeit his kingdom without a war.
In what many are already calling the best episode yet this season, we finally get to see the beginning of a bloody war that has been brewing all season between the New York and Atlantic City mobs. Its fast-paced, violence-filled plot makes up for those episodes that seemed to be on the back burner. I can’t help but wonder if executive producer Martin Scorsese had a hand in this episode. Yes, it was that good.
Sunday’s episode, titled “Two Imposters,” begins with New York bootleggers Joe Masseria’s and Gyp’s men storming Nucky’s headquarters, The Ritz Carlton. Gyp’s guys come close – so close that Nucky, and his manservant Eddie Kessler, are cornered in Nucky’s office when the enemy comes a ‘knockin.’ Margaret and the children are gone – whether it’s because of her affair with the late Owen Sleater or for their own protection, or both, we don’t know.
Gyp’s plan was well-executed. The phone lines at the Ritz have been cut, so Nucky can’t even summon backup. But Nucky refuses to surrender, even as Gyp’s guys are aiming at him through his office door. Nucky pulls his own gun and shoots his would-be assassin through the wooden door. This leaves a huge hole in the door, a wounded thug, and an almost comical tug-of-war for the weapon. In the end Nucky wins, (single-handedly gunning down several of Rosetti’s men) and he and Eddie – ever the devoted servant – make a run for it. It’s not until Eddie’s driving becomes erratic does Nucky realize Eddie has been seriously shot. Eddie has not said a word about his wound. This is a predicament, since Gyp’s men are all over Atlantic City, just itching to gun down Nucky. For the entire show, Nucky has belittled, insulted or berated Eddie. I have to admit I was touched to see that Nucky didn’t throw him out of the moving car and bolt for his own safety. But when Nucky attempts to take Eddie to the hospital, he is accosted by Gyp’s gun-toting thugs and must go on the lam again.
Oh, and by the way, this all takes place in the first 15 minutes of the show.
Nucky heads to Chalky White’s house on the beach. You’ll remember that Chalky asked Nucky’s blessing last week to open a supper club on the Boardwalk where Babette’s Supper Club used to be. Nucky snubbed the idea, citing the racial divide in the city. He’s about to rethink that decision now that Chalky has some serious leverage on his side.
Chalky takes in Nucky and Eddie. It is the last bastion of safety in Atlantic City. Gyp’s men have not arrived yet, but we know it’s merely a matter of time – and we’re talking minutes, not hours. Chalky has his men fetch his daughter’s paramour, Sam, a medical student to attend to Eddie’s wound, which is deep. It’s a literal gut-wrenching kitchen-table operation with liquor as the only anesthesia, so you can imagine Eddie’s pain.
Steve Buscemi’s talent shines like a kaleidoscope of emotions. It’s the first time I’ve seen genuine fear on his face, as he comes unpleasantly close to shaking hands with the Grim Reaper. We even see a touching side to Nucky, as he realizes he never truly knew Eddie, the man so devoted to him, he didn’t even complain that he was seriously wounded as he drove his boss away from the melee. Nucky’s embarrassed when he realizes he doesn’t even know if Eddie has a family (he does – a wife and two children.)
Simultaneously, Lucky Luciano is trying to unload heroin and meets with some strange characters to make the deal, one of whom is a mute. I’ve always been fascinated by the metamorphosis of the drug war from liquor to hard drugs. Even the most hardened gangsters (think of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather”) are reluctant to enter the heroin game. But Luciano needs money and he needs it fast. Too bad the mute with whom Lucky made the deal is an undercover federal agent who promptly arrests him once the money is handed over.
Meanwhile, Gillian, who has fought tooth and nail to keep her Artemis Club afloat, finds herself now dealing with Gyp Rosetti’s hooligans, since he bought the building out from under her. Inside, Gillian is seething with rage and disgust. She had always tried to keep a sense of decorum in her brothel, referring to it as a “gentleman’s club.” Gyp’s guys, however, treat it like a common cathouse if that cathouse allowed sex in the sitting room. You can even see the look of disgust on the girls’ faces.
Okay, right here, I’d like to put something on the table. You’ll recall Gyp’s penchant for erotic asphyxiation? Knowing Gillian as we do – a lady who likes to take matters into her own hands – is it possible she uses his sexual peccadillo as a way to rub him out?
This new situation also puts Gillian in a delicate situation; you’ll remember it was she who tipped Gyp off to Nucky’s whereabouts the night of Babette’s Supper Club bombing, killing Nucky’s beloved mistress Billie. Gillian will find herself in the unenviable position of dealing with Gyp and Nucky. So stressed is she that when she discovers Richard Harrow plans to take her grandson Tommy to his girlfriend, Julia’s house, she fires Richard. Under her delicate outside beauty, Gillian sports a decidedly nasty streak. Richard, the severely scarred war vet, realizes Gillian had gone through his personal photos when Gillian remarks, “She doesn’t look blind…in the photograph.” Ouch. He is outraged that Gillian has rummaged through his personal things. Richard may have been fired, but we haven’t seen the last of Richard though. We see him assembling an arsenal of weapons. What does he plan to do with them?
Back at Chalky’s house, Gyp and his men finally appear, just as Sam, the medical student, is rooting around in Eddie’s intestines, looking for the bullet. Nucky has his hand over Eddie’s mouth to muffle the screams of pain, but for awhile there it appeared as if Nucky and Eddie were toast. Gyp offers Chalky – or anyone who’ll listen – a $25,000 bounty for Nucky’s head. Chalky says he hasn’t seen Nucky, Gyp comes close to searching Chalky’s house, but in a show of faith (at least that’s what Gyp would call it), he takes Chalky’s word that Nucky is not hiding inside. Whew…
Once the coast is clear, Nucky makes a deal with Chalky. “I get Atlantic City back, you get the club.” But is that possible?
Just then, their cavalry of salvation arrives! Wowsa! A caravan of cars pulls up to the lumberyard where the two men are holed up. The convoy is headed by Nucky’s brother, Eli, who started the show out as the bumbling sheriff of Atlantic County, is proving to be a rather savvy businessman. He may not have his brother’s nose to stay two steps ahead of his opponent, but he manages to stay one step ahead.
“I made a deal,” Eli tells his brother. “With him.”
Who should step out of the shadows but Chicago mini-mobster Al Capone, who is chomping at the bit to make a name for himself in the underworld. “I’ve been on the road for 18 hours,” Capone says as he swaggers toward Nucky, a cigar stub in his mouth. “I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down and talk about who dies.” Now THIS is gangland talk.
Next week is the season finale. One quote from the preview says it all: “The bodies are piling up!”