Boardwalk Empire – Eldorado
Season Five: Episode Eight (Series Finale)
Directed by: Tim Van Patten
Written by: Howard Korder & Terence Winter
AS ALWAYS, BEWARE OF SPOILERS:
Did anyone following the season’s arc really doubt it would end this way? Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) may have made the claim to Nucky that “there is still graciousness in this world,” but like any great anti-hero tragedy…there is more likely justice. And there are the damned and the damned.
And justice was served in the series finale. Capone (Stephen Graham), who just when he was becoming a painful caricature yet again, has a heartfelt moment with his deaf son (yet again) and then laps up the limelight of his tax-evasion trial while tipping his hat in gentlemanly fashion to the fed that successfully infiltrated his gang. Real men (even royal scumbags) know when to fight and know when they’re beat.
Meanwhile, Luciano (Vincent Piazza) is sitting comfortably atop his throne and orders a righteous hit on that vile piece of sweet talking human excrement Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), who finally gets what he deserves. And in front of his blind blubbering followers, in public! Oh, what sweet justice the lord hath wrought!
For all those who complained about Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) being one of the most annoying characters over the years, her arc ironically proved the most satisfying. After taking a huge risk orchestrating a short-sell of Mayflower stock for not only Nucky but also Kennedy (Matt Letscher), she is gifted with one of the best lines in the history of the series. Kennedy remarks that he will never understand a woman’s mind, to which she quick-wittedly replies, “Here’s an experiment for you. Think about all the things you want in life, and then picture yourself in a dress.” Later, in a touching goodbye with Nucky in an empty posh apt at the Eldorado, she says to him forgivingly, “You only ever offered. I was the one who took.” And in taking, she went from meek abused housewife in the series premiere to powerful woman in control of her own fate and who suffers no fools (not even Kennedy) in the series finale. How’s that for women’s lib?
But of course, there were those things that Margaret knew, that she suspected, and that she hoped to never find out about. It was the latter that made Nucky Thompson unforgivable. The flashbacks culminated with the decision he made that sent him (and Gillian) down the path to their own hells: hers alone in an asylum, and him alone in his own mind…as a child again in the ocean…grasping for that quarter…forever damned. And it was on that lonely boardwalk full of people, where Joe Harper (Travis Tope) finally revealed himself to be Tommy Darmody and executed justice for his grandmother’s fate and his father’s murder.
It was the only way this could end.
Admiring the Storytelling Technique: Kudos to Winter & Van Patten & Korder for book-ending the finale with Nucky’s lonely swim beyond the surf-line in the eerie opening moments with the closing shot of little kid Nucky (Nolan Lyons) underwater reaching for that quarter (which in turn complimented the opening moments of the Season Five Premiere). He got that quarter (and then some), but was it worth it?
And to anyone out there who knows…what was the piece of brooding classical music they wove in as a motif in this final hour? It was hauntingly familiar and a perfect choice.
Commentary by David H. Schleicher
To my readers and Boardwalk strollers: Thoughts, reactions, comments?