Nucky uses wits to win the war against Gyp Rosetti and Joe Masseria in Boardwalk Empire‘s most riveting season finale yet.

Boardwalk Empire, Season 3, Episode 12, Season Finale, “Margate Sands”—The season finale of Boardwalk Empire can only be explained in one word: riveting. Right from the brutal opening sequence, the episode delivered the action on the much-anticipated war between Nucky, Gyp and everyone who had their hands dirty in between. As Masseria, Gyp and Nucky’s men get killed at every turn, Eli, who’s held up with his brother at a lumber yard, reminds us that Nucky is not down an out and that he can basically outwit anyone.

And how crazy is Al Capone? Very. But admittedly, now that he’s finally got his own crew and is the big boss of Chicago, things are getting even more exciting. Al’s men help Nucky through the war and no doubt there will be a great alliance with Nucky and Al in the coming seasons.

While the war is going on, Lucky Luciano finds himself stuck in a jam with the undercover cops who seem to strike a deal with Lucky: give up info on 50 pounds of heroin in exchange for his freedom. But that doesn’t work out so well.

Beginning to use his clever wits to win the war, Nucky gets Mickey Doyle to tempt Arnold Rothstein into taking possession over the Overholt Distillery in Pennsylvania. It works.  Rothstein calls Nucky at the lumberyard with an offer. In exchange for 99% ownership, he’ll get Masseria to pull his men out of Atlantic City, leaving Gyp alone in the fight. Nucky agrees to the deal, and turns to Eli and says, “Big bait catches big rat.” Hmmm…wasn’t it Rothstein who told Lucky and Lansky to not make deals during times of war?

This in turn gives Rothstein his opportunity to use the heroin that Lucky “sold” behind his back to reel in Masseria. Rothstein calls Lucky and Lansky into a meeting with Rothstein, and find Masseria and their fifty pounds of heroin there as well. Revealing to Lucky that the undercover cops were in his pocket, Rothstein offers Masseria a partnership in the heroin business if he’ll pull his support from Rosetti. Lucky has a fit of rage but Lansky reminds him that they’re still alive.

As the men fight, Gillian fights to get rid of Gyp and take back control of the Artemis Club. She gets Gyp into bed and plays on his fetishes. When she has his belt tied around his neck, she reaches for a hidden heroin needle and just when she’s about to stab him in the neck, he grabs it and stabs her. Gillian got a taste of her own medicine I suppose, but somehow that scene was too easy. How could Gyp see that needle? After he injects Gillian, who looked pitiful lying on the bed, Gyp sees all of Masseria’s men leaving. He runs downstairs to find out what’s going on but walks right into a heaping mess of Harrow trouble.

In what can be described as a perfect choreographed dance, Richard Harrow swoops into the Artemis Club and guns down all of the remaining men one by one. Gyp narrowly escapes. When Richard goes to get Tommy, he finds him at gunpoint with one of the men who tells Harrow to put his gun down. On his knees, Harrow tells Tommy to “close his eyes” and positions the gun to shoot the guy in the head. It was brilliant. He then takes Tommy to Julia’s and leaves.

With Masseria’s men on the road back to New York, Al and Chalky’s men gun them all down, leaving Nucky’s camp with the advantage.

Tying loose ends with Rothstein, Nucky orchestrates his demise. Andrew Mellon calls Esther Randolph to tell her his distillery is in the hands of a criminal organization, ordering her to shut it down and “apprehend and indict anyone associated with its illegal operation.” Esther thinks it’s Nucky but Mellon corrects her and tells her it’s Arnold Rothstein he wants her to go after. Well, Rothstein does now own 99% of it now. You get what you pay for.

At this point, many were probably wondering, how is Gyp still standing? Well, things finally come to an end for the psychopath gangster on the beach in Tabor Heights.

Tonino stabs Gyp to death, at the command of Nucky and Eli, who wait nearby. Nucky orders Tonino to ship Gyp’s body to Masseria to let him know that this could either be the end or the beginning of problems between them: “I’ll oblige him either way,” Nucky says.

Nucky then goes to retrieve Margaret, who’s had an abortion, who’s living in a rank one-bedroom apartment with the kids and urges her to come home. He offers her forgiveness for her affair (but clearly not sorry for his) and offers her money, pressing her to take it because it doesn’t mean anything. Standing her ground and maybe seeing this as a way out, Margaret tells him, “Yes it does,” before locking him out of her room. But will she stay there? We’ll see.

Now that Atlantic City is in one piece again, what will Nucky do with it? Which brings us back to the scene at the beginning when Mayor Bader tells a group of reporters “I control Atlantic City!” causing them all to roar in laughter. But now that Nucky wants anonymity, what path will he take next?



—Toni-Marie Ippolito





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