"Boardwalk Empire" gets a lot of guff for being too boring. It's too slow, too talky, too bureaucratic. My ass. Those of us smart enough to have stuck with HBO's prohibition-era gangster saga know that patience is a virtue, and with superlative performances, characters, writing and attention to detail, it's assuredly one of the better dramas TV has seen in the past few years. Not to mention that, for viewers of prurient interests, there's enough soft-core, pay-cable adult situations to satisfy the Marquis de Sade (if the Marquis de Sade's bedtime were 10PM). And then there's the violence. Oh, the violence. Glorious arcs of crimson and flying chunks of viscera, strewn across the screen in an unsettlingly life-like fashion. While most of your Twitter timeline is steady getting clogged with prison zombie raids or whatever the fuck, we "Boardwalk Empire" fans get a bump of that uncut rawness off the switchblade's end, and nearly every single week.
This Sunday, season three will wrap up with what teasers have promised to be the bloodiest battle the series has ever seen, and there's little evidence we shouldn't believe them. So to commemorate, we've decided to count down the ten grisliest murders of the season to catch you up to speed. Readers interested in avoiding major spoilers -- or those of you who just happen to be enjoying your lunch right now -- should probably click away.
10. Episode: "Bone For Tuna"
Victim: Victor Sickles
Burning alive is probably pretty low on most people's lists, and Victor Sickles was probably no different. Alas, the late sheriff of Tabor Heights, NJ met his maker at the hands of this season's chief baddie Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), thanks to a judicious application of gasoline. So it goes when you don't play ball with gangsters. But aside from the screaming, Sickles's death wasn't all that awful to endure. One thing that seems to elude movie magic-makers, even in this advanced age, is having the dude in the fireproof suit slathered in flame-retardant lube not look like a dude in a fireproof suit slathered in fire-retardant lube. It always feels like you're watching a Troma film.
Wince Factor: 2/10
9. Episode: "The Pony"
Victim: Billie Kent
Proof that pretty people can still get murked on this show, too. And yet, it was hard to see the impossibly lovely Meg Chambers Steedle, who plays Nucky Thompson's (Steve Buscemi) Broadway showgirl mistress Billie Kent, get the axe. What should've been a nice lobster dinner at Babette's Supper Club instead turned tragic, as a bomb laid by Gyp -- intending to off Nucky and guarantee control of Atlantic City once and for all -- snuffed Billie's light out before it could properly shine. At least she went out in an appropriately lyrical fashion, the flames briefly consuming her in a way that felt reminiscent of Maggie Gyllenhaal getting flambéed in The Dark Knight. Still, nothing to avert your eyes for. I mean, how could you?
Wince Factor: 2/10
8. Episode: "A Man, A Plan..."
Victim: Owen Slater
Damn, and we liked him. For Owen -- played by Charlie Cox with charm, sensitivity and a surprising ruthlessness -- the luck of the Irish ran out in the third to last episode, as a botched hit in New York resulted with his body sent back to Atlantic City in a shipping crate. As Nucky pries the crate open, there's a brief moment that you think the body may belong to poor Jess Smith, aide to scummy Secretary of State Harry Daugherty, who earlier in the episode put a pistol to his own head and painted a wall. No dice. But no one felt it more than Nucky's wife Margaret, who planned to secretly run away with Owen, his unborn child in tow. You can almost hear Snoop Doggy Dogg in the background lamenting, "I can't die, my Boo-Boo's bout to have my baby!"
Wince Factor: 3/10
7. Episode: "Sunday's Best"
Victim: Roger McAllister
Gillian Darmody has never been shy about getting her rocks off, so when she brings home a young stud who resembles her deceased son Jimmy, you'd be quick to chalk it up to garden-variety Oedipal perversion. But after a quick soak in the tub, Gillian jams a syringe full of heroin into the guy's arm and drowns him, later to pass his body off for Jimmy's (long story). Still, getting plugged full of premium dope while being bathed by a half-naked Gretchen Mol isn't the worst way to die.
Wince Factor: 3/10
6. Episode: "Blue Bell Boy"
Victim: Rowland Smith
Nucky Thompson isn't a complete monster -- in fact, his humanity is one of the best things Buscemi brings to the role. But guys, don't fuck with this man's money. In "Blue Bell Boy," Nucky and Owen track down whiskey thief Rowland Smith, who has filled his parents' house with a staggering amount of Nucky's product. Any other schmuck dumb enough to sit on this much hooch and get caught doing so would normally catch a slug to the dome in a red-hot second, but Rowland's just a kid (played by a scene-stealing Nick Robinson), and a precocious one at that. Even if Nucky had been so inclined, the G-men show up to the stash house right after he and Owen do, and they're forced to hide out in the basement with Rowland until the coast is clear. Bonds are forged, and it's no wonder -- Nucky's need to play father figure is almost as strong as his need to stay on top. Guess which need wins out? Rowland catches one in the back of the head, his blood dripping through the rickety floorboards.
Wince Factor: 4/10
5. Episode: "You'd Be Surprised"
Victim: Agent Coughlin
Aside from the fact that Michael Shannon is a fantastic actor, it's kind of a surprise that his story line as Nelson Van Alden, a disgraced federal agent turned iron salesman turned bootlegger, has lasted this long. He's like Gil from "The Simpsons" if Gil had a face like a Frankenstein and a penchant for planting piping hot irons on people's faces (that incident would've made this list, but that guy's probably gonna live...a terrible life). But here it's his wife Sigrid who gets things popping, bashing the unsuspecting Agent Coughlin's brains in hard enough to render him twitchy, only to instruct Van Alden to finish the job and smother him. She's like the Swedish Lady Macbeth, but way more annoying.
Wince Factor: 5/10
4. Episode: "A Man, A Plan..."
Victim: Tonino Sandrelli's Smarty-Pants Cousin
Here's a fun "Would You Rather?" for your next box social: Would you rather be buried up to the neck in sand and wait for the tide to drown you, or be buried up to the neck in sand and take a spade to the face until you evacuate your bowels? Sandrelli's cousin never got the luxury of choice, but in the eyes of Gyp -- pissed that the guy made him look like an idiot by suggesting that rogue waves might've been to blame for booze lost overboard -- the repeated shovel thwacks were much more humane. Good luck getting that noise out of your head.
Wince Factor: 8/10
3. Episode: "Blue Bell Boy"
Victim: Joe Miller
This is just a savage beating, no way around it. When rival henchman Joe Miller bullies his associate Jake, Stephen Graham's Al Capone visits Miller's favorite speak and literally beats him to death. Face to the bartop, coup de grâce with a barstool, the whole friggin' nine. Sweating and disheveled, he throws a a few bills on the corpse in front of the frightened and now way-sober patrons. "For the funeral." Nice guy!
Wince Factor: 9/10
2. Episode: "Resolution"
Victim: Manny Horvitz
Season openers should end with a bang, and this one came at the end of Richard Harrow's (Jack Huston, so good it makes you sick) hefty boomstick. Manny made a mess of Richard's best friend Jimmy's wife Angela last season, and Richard suspects he's responsible for Jimmy's death, too (he's not, and again, long story). So in a higher stakes game of ding-dong-ditch, Richard knocks at the door, and when Manny answers, he gets a grapefruit-sized chunk of grey matter blasted out the back of his face, leaving his screaming wife with a foyer in some serious need of the power of Pine-Sol, baby.
Wince Factor: 8/10
1. Episode: "You'd Be Surprised"
Victim: Various Henchmen
Which brings us to the Tabor Heights bloodbath, in which a young hitman posing as the paper boy makes his way into the B&B where Gyp and his men are holed up, and just paints the goodamn place. I mean, yuck. Even better is the fact that Gyp is in the back bedroom with a redheaded waitress, getting asphyxiated with a belt while they get it on. Meanwhile, this kid claps an assortment of thugs in such a splatterific fashion, it's breath-taking. Instead of sealing the deal and finishing Gyp off, the would-be assassin meets his end at the hand of his intended target. We're left with Gyp panting amidst the carnage, wearing nothing but a belt and a fresh coat of blood. It's gonna be a hard one to beat.
Wince Factor: 9/10
This story was published on November 30, 2012 3:00 PM