Boardwalk Empire: Margate Sands

Boardwalk Empire 3.12

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Margate Sands

Season Three: Episode Twelve (Season Finale)

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter & Howard Korder

The Spin:  Well, the third season went off in grand style with a suspense and violence-riddled hour mixed with quiet manly heartbreak as the brains of the show –  Nucky (Steve Buscemi) –  and the heart of the show –  Harrow (Jack Huston) – closed off their story arcs in classic style.  Van Patten opened with another signature montage detailing the war on the streets of Atlantic City between Rosetti’s gang and Nucky’s thugs-for-hire that the whole season has been building to.  Meanwhile the mechanization of the plot became more twisted than a flapper’s dress in a cyclone, and to try to recap who double-crossed who would leave me with mental whiplash.  Suffice it to say, Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) appeared to be holding all the cards, until at the very last-minute…

…when Nucky pulled the Mellon (James Cromwell) card and had his old gal-pal Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) tipped off about Rothstein’s new ownership of the former Mellon distillery.  Meanwhile, Masseria (Ivo Nandi) gets left with a smaller portion of his own heroin bizz though otherwise unscathed and Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) is left with his “uh-hum” twisting over the Margate sand only to get stabbed in the back – literally.  As for the ladies, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) gets a taste of her own poison but makes it out alive (and even more emotionally unstable) while Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) makes some difficult choices about her pregnancy and status as a kept woman.

Composed and business-like, Nucky asks his estranged betrothed to at the very least take the billfold he offers…for the children…while she makes her decision about coming back to him or not.  “It’s just money…it means nothing,” he tells her.  “Yes it does,” she says while she calmly closes the door on him.

Indeed…and at the end of the episode, Nucky is alone and bitter on the boardwalk, with his money and power restored but not even wanting to answer to his own name.

Most Heartwrenching Scene:   After the righteous bloodbath at the Artemis club where Harrow takes out just about everyone there, culminating in an insanely tense standoff where he rescues Tommy, he delivers the boy safely to Julia’s only to walk away from his chance at a family life, bloodied, damaged and alone.

Wait Until Next Season:  Seriously what the heck was up with the Van Alden storyline this season?  He just dropped off the face of the map…yet you know Capone has him in the thick of it.  How’s that going to play out next year?  Is Esther going to get Rothstein?

Commentary by David H. Schleicher 

To my readers and Boardwalk strollers:  Thoughts, reactions, comments?


  1. Putting my amateur classicism aside (Rome), this just might be the finest television program of our time. I always thought Sopranos had its ups and downs, and Mad Men is a wonderfully brilliant show, but let’s face facts: it lacks bite.

    The final two episode cycle of this season put it over the top.

    I’ll be pouring one out for Bobby Cannavale, in his greatest role of his career, he delivers, and gets a knife in the back. Amazing season-villain that beats Richie Aprile by a long shot (with similar perversions even).

    In a return to the first season, this show wasn’t afraid of pleasing the audience in the finale.

    I told you Harrow would reap some souls. I am become Harrow, the Destroyer of Worlds.

    • I agree with you – and if you look at how unsatisfying many of those Sopranos’ episodes and storylines were over the course of the years…Boardwalk Empire if far more consistently entertaining and electrifying. The plot and action never stops moving (similar to Rome which only lasted two seasons). I loved this season finale – it brought everything (except the Van Alden plotline) full circle. The writing here, as it was with The Sopranos and is with Mad Men, is stupendous.

      And the Harrow stuff – especially when that guy had the gun to Tommy – and the way that played out and was paced and was photographed – pure brilliance of a cinematic kind. I don’t think The Sopranos, as great as it was at some points, ever pulled off a moment that cinematic and emotional. I felt like my heart dropped into my gut watching that – and the sense of relief in that final shot of the blood/brains splattered on the window and the little boy through the curtain running into Harrow’s arms. Damn. It was like something out of a Sam Mendes/Roger Deakins film.

    • Linda, I was reading an interview with creator Terence Winter, and he implied that both Margaret and Richard would be around in some capacity for Season 4. Richard is the best character on the show, IMHO, so I can’t wait to see what they do with him next.

  2. I agree that Richard is the best character on the show. I wish the writers had told us more about his background and the dichotomy of his personality. He can easily kill without remorse but yet has tender and protective feelings at the same time with certain people. I hope he and Margaret both will be back next year.

  3. The last 2 episodes of this season 3 (plus the “4am delivery” scene in the 3rd to last ep) were simply amazing. Bobby Cannavale was terrific and brought so much to BE. I started to get nervous for every person that came in contact with Gyp for fear that he would bash their head in even if they were only the slightest bit out of line… I was even a little worried for the dog Regina! Haha. I’m now on episode 4.3 and I’m not sure whether or not this season will be as satisfying. I really hope Boardwalk Empire ends on a high note and doesn’t drag on for seasons and seasons.

    On a side note, this episode guide you have composed is great and I always enjoy your reviews! So much so that they have inspired me to try and start writing my own. Thanks and keep it up!

    • Whit – thanks for reading the Spin! I, too, fear the series will just drag on…but even when there is a lousy episode or two they always seem to bounce back. Hopefully the quality stays high to the end.

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