Boardwalk Empire Review: "Bone for Tuna" (Episode 3.03)

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<i>Boardwalk Empire</i> Review: "Bone for Tuna" (Episode 3.03)

Owen Sleater only showed up for about two seconds this week, but it was long enough to unwittingly produce a brilliant phonetic misspelling of “buona fortuna,” which you’ll also recognize as this episode’s title, “Bone for Tuna.” Following logic, my mind immediately went to “boning a tuna fish” (which I figured could be metaphor for any number of facets of the tenuous biz of bootlegging) and then from there, “bone the fish,” which of course in TV jargon is another way of saying a show has “jumped the shark.” At three episodes in I’m happy to say the show doesn’t look like it’s going that way any time soon. In fact, things picked up a bit this week, taking a turn into horror-tinged noir.

It began with Nucky’s opening nightmare (replete with an eerie warning from a disembodied operator: “The only thing to worry about, is when you run out of company, sir”) and a sense of dread that only increased with each unanswered phone call to Billie Kent. And then of course there was the haunting stigmata on the face of the alter boy, Harrow’s silent hijacking of Doyle, even a Dracula story (appropriately told by Gyp’s guy on dark, shadowy car ride), and then the final scene in Billie’s apartment. Is Nucky awake or having another nightmare? Just follow the POV shot to the sound of the sizzling bacon and all will be revealed…

Much to Nucky’s relief, he’s not alone, and Billie, who we were led to believe was good as dead, is very much alive. But for a moment, we learned what would happen if the lynchpin were to be removed. When Billie’s suddenly missing, Nucky’s fear of being alone, especially now with his residual feelings towards Jimmy Darmody, wreaks havoc, even driving him to reach momentarily for his estranged wife. We’ve all been waiting for the fall-out of last season’s finale, so while the turn onto Nucky’s psyche wasn’t necessarily surprising, it was gratifying.

Meanwhile, this episode also gave us further insight into another gangster’s preoccupations. As we were reminded, Gyp’s a different breed, an incredibly dangerous mixture of the psychotic and sensitive. That said, I can’t help but appreciate the simple logic in Gyp’s response when Nucky tells him he’s learned not to take things personally: “Everyone’s a person though, right? So how else could they take it?” But that’s also of course the problem with Gyp. He’s really good at seeing the world only the way he wants to see it.

Later, stewing on Nucky’s “Bone for Tuna” message in the car with Tonino, Gyp spats (mostly to himself): “Nothing’s personal? What the fuck is life if it’s not personal?!” Spoken like a true villain. As we’ve been taught, that’s the thing with the bad, bad guys—they can’t see past themselves. Gyp loves focusing on (and fabricating) personal injustices, yet he’s perfectly fine dousing an innocuous man in gasoline and lighting him on fire.

Needless to say, this episode was another Nucky/Gyp-centric piece, further setting the tableau of distracted overlord and his unhinged former underling, the greater of two evils. Margaret’s storyline places third by a nosh, specifically for her well-played ploy to get her women’s clinic underway. Everyone else is at about the same level of advancement. Van Alden, nay George Mueller, continues to struggle at his job and nearly gets busted in a speak raid when all the poor guy was trying to do was fit in with some imbecile co-workers. I get the sense he’ll be getting out of the iron business soon. Harrow scares the bejesus out of Doyle, all to tell Nucky “they’re cool.” Gillian remains pretty tight-lipped about Nucky despite Gyp’s prodding, although the little bit of ammo she drops (“I heard his own brother tried to have him killed”) leaves me wondering what she’s cooking. That and a short, spine-tingling moment she shares with Nucky from afar.

Finally, in the least interesting part of the episode, Lucky and Lansky’s business undergoes minor setback when their boy Benny (who seems just about as crazy as Gyp) goes out on his first job. As it turns out, heroin is boring. Or, to misquote Margaret’s smart pandering to the Bishop on the subject of reproductive health, perhaps, a touch too modern.

Stray Observations:
-Season 2’s “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” opened with a similar dream sequence, in which Nucky also faces his boyhood self, stigmatized with a bullet wound (this time in the hand, a reference to his assassination attempt).
-Nucky to Gyp: “You’re a man who can find an insult in a bucket of roses.” Yep.
-Maybe the kid just rubbed me the wrong way, but the conversation between Doyle’s lackey and Harrow at Gillian’s was obnoxiously convenient.
-Also obnoxious? Dr. Landau’s emphasis on the word “contretemps,” when telling Margaret he’s glad there’s no “hard feelings” from the party.
-The smokin’ blonde at Babette’s is still around. Nice continuity, Boardwalk!
-The poem that Evelyn recites to Gyp at The Artemis Club is “Dream-Love” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
-Nucky is still wearing his medal when Harrow arrives. Did he forget about it?
-Random thing I recently learned at IMDb: Margaret’s children are both played by twins.
-Not so much an observation, but a fact: Dr. Mason has changed tobaccos.