Boardwalk Empire Recap: "A Man, A Plan..." or Jack in the Box! by Donald McCarthy

If you’re a fan of attractive men with Irish accents, then tonight was a bad night for you.

RIP Owen Slater.

I saw it coming, did you? I don’t think knowing it’d likely happen took anything away from the moment when we saw Owen’s body in the box. If anything, knowing that in all likelihood his body, or part of it, would be in there raised the tension in that scene. Had I not suspected that Owen’s hit on Masseria would go badly I probably would’ve thought the box was the start of a joke or a subplot.

I knew Owen would have to die eventually because there was no way he and Margaret would run off together. That’d be one plot too many considering we already have a number of them that take place outside of Atlantic City, and thus away from our protagonist, Nucky. In this episode alone we have scenes taking place in: Tabor Heights, New York City (in two different NYC locales, no less!), wherever the hell Gaston Means was, and Chicago. When we take Atlantic City into account that’s five different settings. Boardwalk Empire is starting to give Game of Thrones a run for its money when it comes to far apart characters and plots.

It’s remarkable that Boardwalk Empire has killed off another key character, and I’d argue that Owen was just as key as all the other dead characters barring Jimmy. I figured we’d be safe up until the season finale before anyone major bought it but once I heard that Owen would be heading to NYC to off Masseria I knew he wouldn’t be seeing next week’s episode (which is a pity as it looks stellar). Granted, Joe Masseria is a real historical figure so odds were good that he’d not get killed considering that the real Masseria didn’t die until 1931. I’ve heard people say that having so many real historical characters in Boardwalk Empire lowers the stakes as it makes some characters off limits when it comes to having them whacked. I can definitely see that. We know that Nucky isn’t going to have Masseria killed by the end of the season so that does give us a clue as to how the season will conclude. We also know that Gyp Rosetti is NOT an historical characters so there’s a good chance that he will end up getting killed before the season ends (unless this plotline goes into next season which I just don’t see happening- more on that in a minute). Does this lessen the show?

History has long been the plot of many a book or movie. Hell, even Shakespeare used history albeit he played fast and loose with the facts. I’m not the biggest fan in the world of films about major historical events (so, no, I won’t be seeing Lincoln no matter how good people tell me it is- although I also don’t much care for Spielberg so there’s that, too…) but there’s no doubt that those types of films can work. So far, I think it’s worked with Boardwalk Empire as the show has managed to shock me on multiple occasions. Still, the historical aspect of it bothers me when it comes to making the plot predictable: i.e. Gyp Rosetti.

Is there any way that this season doesn’t end with Gyp Rosetti getting killed by Nucky? I sure hope there is or that Terence Winter and his writers have a unique way of making the obvious appear thrilling. Last winter, when FX’s Justified aired, I came across a similar problem as Justified’s season ended pretty much exactly as I expected it to. When you’re telling a season long story it’s not good if the ending is obvious well ahead of time. This season of Boardwalk Empire has had enough individual moments that it won’t be a disaster if they don’t stick the landing but they have gotten themselves into a bit of a corner. History demands that certain plots go one way and since Gyp Rosetti isn’t from a history textbook and he’s the main antagonist this season I’m worried that his end will be a little bit of a whimper. There’s a big difference between seeing Owen’s death coming and Gyp’s. Owen’s is tragic, and thus seeing it coming almost makes it worse. With Gyp, we don’t like the guy and have no particular interest in his wellbeing so his death will have to be surprising in order for it to be effective. If it comes in a by the numbers fashion then the audience will be left shrugging. I’ll only have to wait two weeks to find out if I’m wrong and if I’m worrying for nothing. Here’s hoping! After all, last season sure ended with a shocker…

Line of the Night: Gaston Means referring to Jess Smith as “un-incarcerated.”


Donald McCarthy is a teacher and writer. His fiction has appeared with KZine, Cover of Darkness, and The Washington Pastime. His non-fiction has been featured in The Progressive Populist, Screen Spy, and AOL Patch News. And here, too, but that was probably obvious. His twitter is @donaldtmccarthy and his website is donaldmccarthy.com.