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5 Spoiler-Free Reasons To Look Forward To The Third Season of 'Boardwalk Empire'

(SEASON TWO SPOILERS AHEAD)

Last year, the fourth season finale of Breaking Bad got most of the attention around the water cooler, but the second-season finale of Boardwalk Empire was right up there in terms of pure, violent shock value. It was an incredibly brave move to kill off one of the show’s major characters, Jimmy Darmody, who was also the best reason to watch the show. Can Boardwalk Empire survive without Jimmy? I’ve seen the first three episodes of the third season, and I can say without a doubt: Absolutely. The series found its legs around the end of the first season, and it’s been barreling ahead brilliantly since then, quietly becoming one of the best-written, best acted, and most riveting dramas on television.

Here’s five spoiler-free reasons to look forward to the third season of Boardwalk Empire, which begins on Sunday night without Jimmy Darmody.

5. Lucy Danziger (Paz de la Huerta) Is Gone — You don’t have to have seen the first few episodes to know this; all you need to have done is follow the trade news during the hiatus. But yes: Lucy and her crazy are gone from Boardwalk Empire for good (and yes, so is her nudity. But it wasn’t worth it). No more whiny scenes that go on for an eternity.

4. Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) May Actually Do Something Worthwhile This Season — Michael Shannon may be the show’s best pure actor (don’t believe me? Watch Take Shelter; you’ll believe), but he was completely wasted last season in a pregnancy subplot with crazy Lucy. It was a lost season for Van Alden, and when there’s that much pure psychological bat-sh*ttery in a guy’s head, it’s a shame to waste it on baby drama. This season, he’s married to his nanny, and he’s working as a door-to-door salesman pulling some weird Stuart Smalley self-help schtick to get over his addictions. However, he’s about one slammed door away from completely cracking and going to the dark side. I welcome him there, and hopefully, as an adversary to Nucky.

3. Chalky White Tends to Domestic Issues — While it was a waste of Van Alden to spend all year on domestic issues, that trajectory better suits Chalky White because Chalky White has a far more interesting home life. A young, very straight-and-narrow doctor is courting Chalky’s daughter this season, but Chalky’s daughter wants someone more like her father. That is, until she finds out what her father is really like. Will the young doctor find the bad boy within him, or will Chalky’s daughter be scared straight by Chalky’s lifestyle? Or, more likely, will the young doctor betray Chalky and end up a blood stain on a sidewalk?

2. Nucky Thompson Goes Don Draper — The third season of Boardwalk Empire picks up not too long after the second season ended, a few months maybe. That’s enough time for Nucky to get completely tired of his marriage to Margaret Schroeder — who is acting out by doing charitable things all the goddamn time — and start sleeping around, restarting the cycle he began with Margeret in the first season. With whom? A very young, very attractive, very naked escort who enjoys the sex. Moreover, Nucky is not terribly happy that his new lady friend also seeing other men. He’s got a jealous streak, and killing Jimmy Darmody has given him a bad case of bloodlust. I foresee him acting on it a few times this season.

1. Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) Is the Best Villain Boardwalk Empire Has Seen So Far — You know how there seems to be a certain trend in dramas toward the Gus Fring/Stringer Bell types (see, e.g., Damon Pope in Sons of Anarchy)? Cool, collected men who distance themselves from the criminal activity, while quietly being dangerous motherf**kers? Gyp Rosetti is nothing like that. He’s more like Breaking Bad’s Tuco: Short-tempered, easily offended, and quick to resort to nasty violence over even the tiniest slight. He’s pure, undistilled crazy, a psycho of monstrous proportions. You end up knowing all you need to know about Gyp Rosetti in the opening scene of the third season, when he goes crazy on a good Samaritan who stops to help him fix a flat tire. There’s a lot to be said for those cold, calculating Big Bads, but the unpredictability of men like Gyp Rosetti makes every scene he’s in tense and terrifying. Will he snap, and what will he resort to? I’ll tell you this much: He doesn’t like Nucky one little bit.

Check out a preview of the upcoming season.

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