Boardwalk Empire - "You'd Be Surprised," or Is That Too Tight, Mr. Rosetti? by Donald McCarthy

Let’s talk about Gyp Rosetti’s penis. No, don’t leave, stick with me for a moment here. While Boardwalk Empire has shown nudity in the past it’s rare that we see a guy’s genitals on screen outside of a brief scene or two but in this episode we get to see that Gyp Rosetti’s got a big swingin’ dick. There’s a reason for this outside of giving Bobby Cannavale a chance to show that he’s rather well endowed.

But to talk more about this we need to take a step back and look at Rosetti’s first scene which is, appropriately enough, the first scene of the episode. We open on moans which I first assumed was sex only to be shocked to see a nude woman choking a man to death with a belt. So it’s a murder scene. Oh, wait! My initial instinct is right; it’s a sex scene. It’s just that Gyp Rosetti enjoys being choked while having sex. And, mind you, Rosetti doesn’t fuck around with this. He wants to be choked to unconsciousness while he masturbates.

Wikipedia tells me that this is not just erotic asphyxiation but also “paraphilia,” a preference for unusual sexual activities. And unusual this is. We’re not talking a little dirty playing in order to sex up a failed marriage here, folks. This is full on Guantanamo torture. In Rosetti’s case, it’s interesting to wonder if he wants to be harmed or if he gets off on making the other person do an extreme act. I lean more towards the latter as it goes along with his dominant attitude that he usually displays and that we see at the end of the episode.

The next time we see Rosetti he’s sitting down with everyone’s favorite mobster, Arnold Rothstein, the master of dry humor. Rothstein, angry that Nucky hasn’t been able to deliver his alcohol because of Rosetti’s interference, appears to offer Rosetti a deal. It’s bullshit, though. And to Boardwalk’s credit I didn’t think it was until the hit on Rosetti went down at the end of the episode. The only reason Rothstein was there was to scope out the terrain and see how he could best remove Rosetti. A brilliant move by Rothstein but one that ultimately fails. Why?

Because even he underestimated Gyp Rosetti. Rosetti’s odd sexual proclivities are at it again during the episode’s finale. He’s being choked once more, while in the hallway an assassin is blasting through his guards. Rosetti, surprisingly, is able to react as the assassin comes through his doorway, killing the woman but missing Rosetti. The assassin flees as Rosetti goes for his gun. This leads us to the big moment.

Gyp Rosetti walks out of his room, nude, covered in blood, and with a gun in his hand. Director Tim Van Patten shoots the scene from above as we watch Rosetti walk over the dead bodies in the hallway like it’s no big deal. The camera tilts down and we see that Rosetti is, understandably, pissed. What’s amazing is that he’s naked and covered in blood but still looks like a goddamn monster that could kill everyone in the world. Even at his weakest point, the man is almost supernatural, like a super soldier from The X-Files.

I’ve seen some commentators say that Rosetti is a cartoon character or an all time simple figure of pure evil. I disagree. I don’t think Rosetti is some representation of pure evil. I think Rosetti is the male id unleashed. He’s a cowboy figure but instead of an idealized one, he’s a cowboy of the most vile sort. He rides into town, looks impressive, takes on villains, but also takes whatever he wants. He takes the alcohol, the road, the women, and the money. He has everything the traditional male hero wants. It’s just that in this case he’s ruled completely by his id. I think it’s an interesting move by the writers and I’m looking forward to seeing what they plan to do next.

Line of the Night: Once again we go to Arnold Rothstein- “You want to start a war in New York? A place where things actually matter?!”


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.