You can’t be half a gangster.
That’s how Jimmy Darmody left Boardwalk Empire last season and, judging from the opening scenes of “Resolution,” it appears the message was well received.
The audience is immediately introduced to a new character, Gyp Rosetti, whose car catches a flat tire on his way to Nucky Thompson’s New Year’s Eve party, which doubles as a business meeting for our favorite East-coast bootleggers: Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, George Remis and Rosetti. A stranger on the road offers our new quick-tempered Italian friend some “three-for-one” oil to help. Rosetti doesn’t know what that is. “It’s oil. What else?” the Good Samaritan snapped. Rosetti didn’t like his tone, so he bludgeoned the sap to death with a tire iron and took his dog.
Cue the next scene: a calm Nucky Thompson talking to a man tied up in a chair, a thief who stole alcohol from Nucky’s warehouse manned by Manny Horvtiz and the “imbecile,” Micky Doyle. Nucky smooth-talks the thief into giving up his partner, but just before anyone can wonder whether Nucky has mellowed with age, he looks at Horvitz and says, "Untie him. But before you do, put a bullet in his fucking head."
It was a fitting way to begin the season following last season’s explosive ending. The rest of the episode was spent answering questions left in the wake of the finale.
For me, those questions started with the hole left from losing Jimmy Darmody’s brooding and mystifying character – a far more impressive, cavernous character upon rewatching old episodes with his Oedipus episode in mind – and keeping his mother Gillian and sidekick Richard in the plot. Richard’s role appears to be babysitter, as he talks wistfully about Angela to Jimmy’s son, Tommy, while Gillian continues her hauntingly manipulative ways by erasing any memory of Angela. “I’m your mother, now. Remember?”
Though the violence remains in New Jersey (for now), Johnny Torio and Al Capone have business issues in Chicago. They meet with an Irish bootlegger named Dean O’Banion, a wisecracking, wood-legged loudmouth you get the sense will play the chump soon. O’Banion is encroaching upon their territory. The session quickly escalates in classic Capone fashion and ends early. When Capone visits O’Banion’s shop to get even on a few insults, O’Banion is luckily saved after some smooth moves from none other than Agent Van Aulden, now under the alias George Mueller.
Van Aulden is selling iron parts door to door to help support his two children. It appears he has married his maid. Things look dull for Van Aulden, who has to convince himself in the mirror that things will be ok (“Everyday and every way, I am getting better and better,” he chants), but his newfound friendship with O’Banion promises more action and involvement.
That may also be a theme for Margaret Thompson. Inspired by the female aviator Carrie Duncan – whose story became the motif of the episode and distinguished gender issues of the time – Margaret actually appears relieved of the guilt she so often carries with her and happily in love with Nucky. It doesn’t last.
After witnessing a miscarriage at the hospital she and Nucky now own following her sly dealings with Nucky’s land last year, she begins questioning hospital prenatal practice to an older, insulted doctor. The Thompson charade is then revealed. The two have separated, and they fight immediately after guests leave the party. Nucky heads home to another woman following an announcement to his assembled alcohol crew at the party that he will only be selling to Rothstein in order to keep a lower profile. This causes Rosetti to insult everyone in the room without regard for the possibility of consequence. His name-calling rant is epic. It crests with him calling Nucky a “breadstick in a bow tie.”
In the end, the episode comes back around, showing a tender Horvitz and his wife taking a drink before he goes out to carry out a hit on the other man who stole alcohol from Nucky’s warehouse. He never gets the chance. Richard, who is quite literally half a gangster, blasts Horvitz in the face with a shotgun.
Let the games begin.