Boardwalk Empire – Season 3 Episode 12 – Finale – Recap and Review – Margate Sands

Boardwalk Empire aired its season 3 finale tonight. The tables turned so many times during “Margate Sands” that I found myself getting dizzy! This is what a Boardwalk Empire finale does to me. I don’t even want to think about what a heroin hangover feels like. It probably feels a lot like death… Good luck, Gillian!

The episode opened with Al Capone (Stephen Graham), Eli (Sheah Whigham), and the rest of Nucky’s (Steve Buscemi) men bloodying up the boardwalk as the mayor answered to the hounds of the press. Everyone had already known that Nucky Thompson was running Atlantic City like a king. The dirty laundry had simply been aired. The mayor, on the other hand, seemed to be out of the loop.

Over in Pennsylvania, Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) meandered around a massive distillery. Andrew Melon’s bombastic booze business was empty yet promising. It looked like a factory that could have a theme park tour attraction running through it à la Hershey Park. After Nucky barely filled Mickey in on what’d been going down in A.C. (Read the news much?) he realized he could potentially become the biggest bootlegger in the country. Unfortunately, he was, at the moment, confined to a shack in the middle of a quarry. Outside, Capone’s men butted heads with Chalky’s (Michael Kenneth Williams) over petty racial issues. Their biggest problem seemed to be who would be responsible for cleaning up the corpses littering tourist hotspot. Not Al! Get rich or die tryin’, but cleaning up your mess is boring. Get someone’s mom to do it.

Over at Gillian’s (Gretchen Mol) “health resort,” Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) and his goons managed to scare away all of the nice whores. If they could deal with Gillian for all of that time and be fine with it, maybe Gyp really was as awful as Gillian made him seem.  Meanwhile, Masseria decided to pop into town at the worst possible time for Rosetti. With his men in shambles, getting sloshed as they awaited their own executions at the hands of Team Nucky, Masseria put Gyp on borrowed time. Gyp has the hotel, the casino, the warehouse, blah, blah, blah… where’s Nucky? These people were fighting for their town and they weren’t about to give up because Rosetti was flexing his muscles and puffing up his chest to prove a point to himself.

Masseria: “Everyone dies. Not everyone keeps their promises.”

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Gillian, meanwhile, had been trapped in her own house. Tommy wouldn’t even give her the time of day when she brought a plate of lunch up to his teepee. Not even Oreos were enough to lure the kid out. Not… even… Oreos. Don’t even bother trying to join in on the fun, Gillian. After attempting to reason with Rosetti for the right to, you know, leave, Gillian found her proposal rejected. Small talk about the children wasn’t enough to convince Rosetti to allow her to take Tommy somewhere more appropriate. Sex would have to do! We were all privy to what kind of “love making” Rosetti was into, though. He even cried describing his covert s&m fetish to Gillian. Nothing sexier than being treated like a bug! Throw that freak show Gillian into the mix, and who knew what would go down! Later, we would find out.

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I thought the scene between Nucky and Eli when they attempted to fix the car was a nice moment. I thought it was interesting to see that Nucky was still concerned with shaving his stubble clean, while Eli wasn’t worried about his own. Then, of course, Eli tinkered steadily on the car while Nucky rushed in and ended up all dirtied up again. It was all so telling! The plan? Kill Rosetti, get the town up and running again, and give people what they want; basically, enough of biting off more than they can chew. It was nice to see how far Eli has come this season; from virtually dead to someone who is kind of a voice of reason, at this point. I don’t think he was ever really too much of a rational voice, prior. Jail time well spent!

Meanwhile, Mickey decided to take matters into his own hands by phoning Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and offering him Nucky’s new super-warehouse in exchange for backing Team Nucky. Wow, who would have though Mickey could actually become a somewhat loyal team player? I like Nucky’s team all rag-tag. Rothstein took the deal. In exchange for getting Masseria to quit backing Rosetti, he wanted a whopping 99% of the distillery. Nucky was happy to offer up the bait.

Meanwhile, Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) dealt with the consequences of getting caught by the feds last episode. Wasn’t it funny to hear those guys knock Luciano like a punk who would never be remembered knowing that in reality Charlie Luciano would become an iconic gangster in history? Lucky offered up fifty pounds of heroin in exchange for his freedom. He only gambles when he can win. He learned that from Rothstein!

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Once the deal was apparently struck, Meyer (Anatol Yusef) was livid. Luciano promised to take the fall all by his lonesome, but he knew very well that Meyer would be held responsible for his screw-up, too. Things took a strange turn, though, when Masseria showed up uninvited and super pissed that someone had sold his bricks out from under him. He’d already paid the $100,000! Before Charlie could even explain, Rothstein revealed himself. Having been lurking in the shadows all season, Rothstein informed Charlie that he’d been set up. The feds were more like “feds.” As in, they were Rothstein’s associates.

Rothstein decided to punish the duo for going above his head and defying his word with regard to their heroin business.  All that was left to do was to solidify a deal with Masseria. Lucky saw red when he realized Rothstein had duped him out of his passion project by doing pretty much nothing. Meyer played the diffuser pretty well, all things considering. “Shut up or die” kind of threw me for a loop. I’m so used to The X Factor where it’s the reverse… “Sing for your life!”

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Just before Chalky and his men could duke it out with Capone’s group yet again, Nucky and Eli stopped the brawl with news of the deal with Rothstein. Little did they know, Gillian had already concocted a plan of her own that could have rendered all of this business unnecessary. Playing into Rosetti’s dark fantasies, it wasn’t long before Gillian had manipulated him into his favorite method of asphyxiation via a belt around the neck. After distracting him with a lot of derogatory dirty talk, Gillian reached for her own favorite weapon of choice, a heroin needle. Unfortunately for her, Rosetti turned the table pretty quickly and disarmed her. Uh oh, somebody has to lose, Gillian. Just like that, a totally twisted character bit the dust; vengeance for that poor sap James Roger who was murdered by Gillian a few weeks back. R.I.P. classy whoremonger and mean grandma!

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Rosetti couldn’t even take a beat before ripping off the belt and realizing his men were flying the coop. Downstairs, a few of his own men unaffiliated with Masseria informed him that the others were gone for good. Watch out, Gyp! Here comes Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) with a ton of guns and even more moxy.

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Making it all look so damn easy, Richard took out nearly all of Rosetti’s men without even breaking a sweat in one of my favorite scenes of the season. Rosetti, on the other hand, managed to get away. At the end of the line, Richard found Rosetti’s most obnoxious minion with a gun pointed at Tommy’s head. Tommy stood pretty calm, cool, and collected as Richard aimed his sniper. Prompting him to put rifle down, the man threatened to kill Tommy without a thought. Richard looked as though he was obliging.

Richard: “Tommy, close your eyes.”

That translates to “Gotcha! Boom!” Tommy and Richard are free! All bloodied up and probably just a little tired, Richard brought Tommy to Julia’s place for safekeeping. I liked when Julia’s father, sober for once, told Richard that he “couldn’t come home like that.” Unfortunately, it seemed as though Richard had other plans. He dropped off Tommy and left. I hope he can fix this! Richard Harrow lives a life of danger now, but it doesn’t seem like he has to be living this way forever.

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While Chalky and Capone bonded over killing the fleeing men of Masseria, Nucky and Eli ventured over to Gillian’s cathouse, which I’m sure is never a fun thing to do under any circumstances, and ended up running into… Gillian! She’s alive! High as a kite, but alive nonetheless! That cockroach will outlive them all. It took Nucky a moment to realize something was off, but Gillian started babbling like a little girl being used as a prostitute and Nucky got the picture fast. It’s in moments like these that I almost forgive Gillian…. almost! I have to say, I am glad she is still alive. Gretchen Mol is a scene stealer!

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Meanwhile, Esther Randolph got a call from Andrew Melon informing her that he was aware of what was going on surrounding the distillery. His deal was with Nucky, not Arnold Rothstein. As it turns out, Rothstein may not be as invincible as he seems. In fact, he could be in hot water come season 4!

What would become of Gyp Rosetti? Well, he went off the deep end. Okay, ever further off the deep end. That’s for certain.

Rosetti: “Relax! It’s a party!”

Standing on the beach with his last few men, Rosetti contemplated his future. He sing-songed his way through plans to move out west and start again. It’s the American Dream! *Stab* Gyp Rosetti’s own man stabbed him in the back. He’d been hiding in the closet when Richard went on his killing spree, only to be discovered and turned by Nucky and Eli later. Nucky watched from down the road, later informing the man to send Rosetti’s body back to Masseria as a message and to never return to Atlantic City.

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Hey, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) bothered to show up this week, too! We got just a glimpse of her in Brooklyn early on. After contemplating an abortion, the end of the episode revealed that she had indeed gone through with it. Then, Nucky showed up and spooked her in the middle of the night. With one hand in his hat, Margaret got a little nervous for a moment, and so did I! Eli and Nucky had talked about tightening up their circle and letting no one else in. In fact, Nucky was offering Margaret money and inviting her back into his life. Margaret refused, though. She knows that money does mean something after all.

The episode closed with Nucky Thompson strolling alone on the boardwalk and ignoring a few folks who seemed to look at him like a local celebrity.

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What did you all think of the finale? What did you think of season 3 in general? Do you think Margaret will come around? What will come of Richard Harrow and Tommy? Were you shocked to see Gillian still kicking? Was the death of Rosetti and the chaos surrounding it enough to compare to the previous finale? What do you think will happen in the fourth season?


It’s been a pleasure writing the recaps and reviews for season 3 of Boardwalk Empire! Thanks to all of those who have been reading and commenting. The conversation makes watching the show even more enjoyable!


A Farewell Tribute to Gyp Rosetti:


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