Tweetable Takeaway: Boardwalk Empire ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Airtime: Sundays at 9pm on HBO
By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor
Let’s bid adieu to BOARDWALK EMPIRE. It started so well, but took a big nosedive the last couple of seasons, so it’s fitting the show ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.
I had a feeling this season was doomed when it began to rely on so many flashbacks every episode. In my rough estimation, about 45 to 50% of every episode were flashbacks to either Nucky as a kid, or Nucky as a young deputy sheriff. Maybe there’s a way to make that much back-story work, but they didn’t figure it out here. We were mostly shown scenes that explicitly spelled out what we already knew. Nucky’s dad was a drunken asshole, check. Nucky worked his way up from nothing, check. Nucky lost his first wife when she lost their baby, check. The Commodore ran the town and was a pedophile, check. Nucky sold out Gillian to carry favor with the Commodore, check. We knew all of this shit already, so why in the hell are you wasting half of the eight hours allotted to finish this show up on rehashing it? The writers could have done so much more with this season if they only would have scrapped the flashbacks and a lot of the storylines we didn’t need.
Chicago was an absolute bust that went nowhere. Sure it gave us some great Van Aldern moments, but for the love of God, what was the point? Yes Capone played a big role in the past, and we knew Eli went to Chicago, but all of the time spent there was for what? To show Capone indicted in the end? If you wanted to show us the downfall of the gangster era, you could have simply spent one third of the time to show us Capone being arrested. I really don’t think we needed to see anything more. A simple solution would’ve been to have Nucky reach out to Capone while at war with Luciano, and Capone unable to help because of legal problems. Done, you’ve now shown part of the way the feds began busting up the gangsters.
I’ve already talked about the pointlessness of how they dealt with Chalky, but it came home even harder after seeing how Narcisse went out. Why did Chalky have to die the way he did? Wouldn’t it have been better if Chalky had exacted his revenge on Narcisse and gotten rid of him instead of a pointless hit by Luciano’s crew? We didn’t need to see Daughter again, although Chalky’s death was very poetic and the music cue was touching, it could have all played out in a more satisfying way.
Nucky finally got what he wanted in this episode, and that is legitimacy. He lost the gangster empire in the last episode, but with the help of Margaret, he’s manipulated the stock market to come out clean. The Mayflower Grain Corp. has been his savior after turning its back on him. He’s used their company to make an enormous profit. He’s a businessman now, he can put everything behind him. He has everything he’s ever wanted and nothing at the same time. For a brief instant it seems he and Margaret can have a life together again, but alas those dreams are dashed. Too much time has past with too many hurts in-between.
In fact a lot of people were chewed up and spit out in the wake of Nucky’s rise, but none so much as Eli and Gillian. Eli is a broken man with not a lot going for him. He’s made some dumb decisions, and now he has no one. You have to feel a little bad for the guy. He was just trying to help his big brother, but ended up losing everything so Nucky could gain it all. Where is he now? With a bag of money, a razor to shave with, and kiss off from Nucky, can he start fresh? I kind of hope so, but are the murder charges dropped or not? I’m not sure it was clear whether De’Angelo took care of it, but if he did, there may still be a chance for him.
Gillian on the other hand gets her revenge. Her bit of storyline took the long road to finalize itself. Though she’s most likely doomed to live out the rest of her life in that asylum having the misguided doctor using her for surgical practice. Through machinations not of her own doing, her day has finally come. When she reaches out to Nucky for help, he doesn’t give it. He does what he always does, uses his money to make problems less severe. It’s not enough though, and he knows it as well. He carries the guilt of a devil’s bargain he made as a younger man, and karma has finally caught up with him.
Karma comes in the form of Tommy Darmody (Joe Harper to the rest of us). Gillian’s grandson has come to take vengeance on Nucky for murdering his father. A lot of people called this out online, and they were spot on. The end was supposed to be poetic justice for what Nucky did to Gillian to further his own career, but I found the cross cutting between past and present to be emotionless. It didn’t carry the heft it was supposed to. Instead I was just sitting waiting for it all to be over.
In short, a slow and fumbling season is finished with a slow and fumbling episode. A once satisfying show became a chore to sit through, and I’m happy to say there’s no more disappointment in store since there are no more episodes left to disappoint.
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.