“Boardwalk Empire” returned last night and the show resumes eighteen months after the events of season 2. With the death of rival Jimmy Darmody in last season’s finale, the premiere opens up new storylines for “Nucky” Thompson and his mobster allies and enemies. Season 3 moves the audience into 1923 and the program will likely offer more references to events and trends from the Roaring 1920s.
In an early scene, Thompson meets with Attorney General Harry Daugherty and another official from President Warren Harding’s Administration. Referring to the various newspaper accounts about “oil companies” and other potential scandals, Nucky tells them they are going down and are not going bring him with them. Thompson is describing the opening salvos of the “Teapot Dome” scandal, which would eventually besmirch Harding’s reputation after he dies in August.
The other real-life administration member attending the meeting is Andrew Mellon, who served as Treasury Secretary through the 1920s and early 1930s. An advocate of low taxes and limited government regulation of business, he was a key architect of the economic policies of Presidents Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Under his leadership, income taxes were significantly reduced from their World War I-era levels.
After escaping arrest for murdering a fellow agent, former Treasury Agent Nelson Van Alden has moved to Chicago and taken up work as a door-to-door salesman selling electric irons. While it is hard to imagine a worse profession for the humorless Van Alden (now under the assumed name of George Mueller), he is selling the new consumer goods of the “New Era” of the decade. In this time, more and more new appliances were available to middle-class Americans.
Continuing references to a female pilot flying across the continent speak of the perceived openings for women during the Roaring 20s. Though scenes of “flappers” often appeared in the media, most historians don’t believe women made significant progress during the decade.
The death of Darmody left a major hole in the show, which will apparently be filled by a new mob rival who is upset that Thompson has decided to only sell liquor to Arnold Rothstein. It will take a few episodes to see if the show can generate some momentum.