In contrast to the powerful and intense season premiere last week, this week's episode was much quieter and more personal. In addition to building the tension between the Nucky Thompson and Gyp Rosetti camps, this episode featured the first third-season appearances from Chalky White and former sheriff Eli Thompson. A new character, played by Stephen Root, made his debut and Margaret Thompson began her crusade to provide better medical care for women.
The theme of the week seemed to be a focus on family, as both Chalky and Eli were shown interacting with their respective children. When a young prospective doctor comes courting and asks Chalky for the fair hand of his daughter Maybelle, he is welcomed into the family after diagnosing Chalky with a mineral deficiency. Although Maybelle initially deems Samuel too boring and not as "interesting" as her father, she changes her tune when she sees one of her father's goons mercilessly assault a man who slashed Samuel's face with a knife. This harsh life lesson/mindfuck ("Am I interesting now?") is a hallmark of Chalky's character.
Upon his return from a prison stint, Eli is welcomed with open arms by his wife and younger children. The former sheriff is proud but dismayed that his teenage son had to drop out of school to support the family by working in a lumber yard. Finding his son to be quite distant, Eli reports to work for Mickey Doyle, who is only one disfiguring accident away from being a Dick Tracy villain. As played by Paul Sparks, Mickey is a slimy and unsavory character and it's almost sad to see Eli have to treat him like an employer. He is given a gun by Owen Sleater, but it remains to be seen if he will use it on his new boss.
Last seen on HBO portraying a homosexual vampire in the first season of True Blood, Stephen Root joined the show as a recurring character named Gaston Means, a former swindler and murder suspect who became a special investigator for the Department of Justice. Taking payments from both Nucky and George Remus, he is obviously not on the up-and-up and Root displays his impressive range with this role. A very nice addition to the cast.
As much as I have enjoyed Steve Buscemi in his film roles as well as his stint on The Sopranos, he has never fully won me over on Boardwalk Empire. He turned in a strong performance last week, but overall I have a hard time buying him as a charismatic leader of men and lover of women. I feel bad saying this, even though he will never read it, but the man looks like a frog trying to catch a fly when he's making out on the show. His love scenes and romantic interactions feel clunky and awkward. It looks like his affair won't last long, anyway, as doubt has seeped into Nucky's mind about what his mistress is up to.
After the exciting events of "Resolution" last week, "Spaghetti & Coffee"—titled after the order that Gyp Rosetti places at the diner—is considerably low-key and presents a lull in the new season. While there were some advances in the overarching storyline between Nucky and Gyp, this episode wasn't very compelling and didn't do much to carry the momentum from last week's notable premiere. With the focus on B-stories and tertiary supporting characters, I found this week's show disappointing and frankly forgettable. Nevertheless, there were a fair share of character moments that will help to shade in these impressively three-dimensional personalities and continue the slow burn to the eventual showdown between the two burgeoning rivals.
FINAL GRADE: C+