WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD (or MAJOR if you haven’t watched any of Season 3)

After an entire season of being on the ropes, crescendoing in episode 11 with Gyp Rosetti’s (Bobby Cannavale; TV’s NURSE JACKIE) coup of Atlantic City, Enoch ’Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi; FARGO) finally claws his way back to the top in the third season’s finale of BOARDWALK EMPIRE; and the payoff is certainly worth the long wait. The episode opens hot and heavy with a series of gangland hits as Thompson, backed by Al Capone (Stephen Graham; SNATCH) and Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams; HBO’s THE WIRE), battles it out with Rosetti, who is backed by Joe Masseria. The episode mainly centers around this conflict, but what makes this finale so brilliant is how a wide spectrum of unrelated or loosely related subplots from throughout the season are seamlessly brought together to give the audience a fantastic and rewarding end to the season.

Whether you think Enoch Thompson is a good guy or a bad guy, fans of BOARDWALK EMPIRE can’t help but root for him; as such, season 3 has been extremely frustrating as for every step forward there have been considerably more back. Now this is a story and pattern long used in television, i.e. making the lead into an underdog and then putting him back on top of the dog pile, but writer Terence Winter (THE SOPRANOS) once again proves he is a master of the format by how he manages to wrap up and bring together so many varied subplots and tendrils in a single episode. Composing this story is Director Timothy Van Patten (Just about every major HBO series in recent memory) and his vast experience with BOARDWALK EMPIRE as well as HBO certainly shows, as he easily creates the intensity, intrigue, and emotion that all run high through the finale. In addition to the technical side, the performances are equally impressive in this final episode.

While BOARDWALK EMPIRE has a phenomenal ensemble cast, there were some particularly outstanding performances in the season finale. Bobby Cannavale really goes all out playing Gyp Rosetti. Cannavale has consistently made Gyp’s madness look both amusing and terrifying, but when it finally peaks in this episode Cannavale gives a most unnerving presentation of just how unpredictable madness can truly be. One of the continuous highlights of the show, at least for me, has been Jack Huston (TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE), who plays Richard Harrow. For the first time we get to see Harrow fully unleashed, and Huston doesn’t disappoint the audience as he brings a new level of intense focus and controlled rage to the already quietly intense character. Lastly, Steve Buscemi continues to be nothing short of amazing in his portrayal of Enoch ’Nucky’ Thompson. Buscemi does an excellent job transitioning Thompson from a haggard and exacerbated man under fire back to the stoic, collected boss of Atlantic city in the finale; and the ease with which he so clearly embodies the character that his facial expressions and posture often speak more loudly than words just reinforces how truly skilled he is at his craft.

With the end of its third season, BOARDWALK EMPIRE remains one of the best shows on television. With an outstanding cast, rewarding story, and all the fun and intensity you have come to love and expect from the show, the third season not only wrapped on a high note, it leaves you excited for more. Its no surprise that this series has been green lit for another two seasons, and I’m sure I’m not alone in anxiously awaiting its return next fall.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10