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!
Written by: Howard Korder, Christine Chambers and Riccardo DiLoreto
The Spin: Coulter masterminded his best Scorsese impression, harkening back to the style of the Marty helmed pilot, with montages and narration and a tick-tock-gun-shot-gavel-pounding score accentuating this written-by-committee penultimate episode. It was a refreshing and impressive piece of workmanship coming off the jaw-dropping events of the previous episode and the scattershot nature of the season prior to this.
AS ALWAYS, BEWARE OF SPOILERS: The gang war between Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Nucky reaches a fever pitch that results in the nabbing of Ben Siegel (Michael Zegan) as a bargaining chip. Luciano one-ups Nucky, however, by nabbing Eli’s eldest son (Ben Rosenfield) in return. Continue reading →
The Spin: The title of tonight’s episode refers to the picture of the king the Norwegian Mrs. Muller hangs in the kitchen. Turns out she’s been having drunken afternoon tristes with Eli (Shea Whigham) who can only barely remember a thing. Too bad his memory gets jogged by the mustachioed regent, and Mrs. Muller chose to reveal the tawdry details at a disastrous dinner where Eli’s pregnant wife had come to visit from Atlantic City, a dinner that could only have gotten worse if say, I dunno, the Feds had shown up. Oh, they did. The Muller formerly known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon) and Eli have been paired as a some sort of tragic comedy team this year where they try to one up each other with their sad, ironic life events. Two former law men nabbed by the feds who now want their help getting the books on Capone so they can nail him on tax evasion – what a joke. And sadly it was about the only interesting turn of events tonight.
The Spin: Director Coulter takes advantage of this being the last season by adding some compelling directorial flourishes, and was that a nod to Twin Peaks and Lynch in the opening “through an ear” dissonant audio-visual cross-cuts, which were bookended nicely in the end with an all-too noticeable missing ear? It’s nice to see the regular series directors give it their all, but it has me worried that Winter felt the need for such a ho-hum filler episode when the there’s only six left to go after this. This week we got (mis)treated to some bizarre sequences in a women’s sanatorium where Gillian (Gretchen) has been spending her days that played with our prurient-minded expectations, continued grim flashbacks to Nucky’s childhood, Nucky turning to Torrio to see who tried to nab him last week in Cuba, Lansky still plotting with Luciano and Siegel to up their game (at the Nuckster’s expense?), the Muller formerly known as Van Alden still making a mess of things at home and at work (with no help from a drunk-as-a-skunk Eli), Capone getting all Capone-y (seriously his character has become a clichéd bore after some shining moments in seasons’ past), young Will Thompson vying for an Assistant DA spot, and some distracting Look, Ma, who it is! guest-appearances by Joe Kennedy Sr. (Matt Letscher) and Eliot Ness.
The Spin: The final season opens with the haunting Gretchen Mol reading a voice-over from the children’s periodical “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” where she’s seemingly telling the young lads we see diving into ocean after coins, “Be honest and true boys! Whatever you do boys, let this be your motto through life.” A moving flashback to Nucky’s hardscrabble childhood in 1884 Atlantic City (which was merely a pier and one Corner Hotel on a tiny boardwalk) is expertly interwoven into a flash forward to 1931, where will the help of the effervescent and ever-saucy Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette, all bosoms and moxy), the Nuckster has become Our Man in Havana, using a screwy senator as his pawn to talk a Rum King into hatching a deal to get Bacardi into the States as soon as Prohibition is inevitably repealed. But trouble always seems to find our anti-hero, and Havana might be too hot to handle for the aging kingpin, who for the first time in his life is placing his biggest bet on a legal operation. Continue reading →
The Spin: The title of the fourth season finale may have been “Farewell Daddy Blues” (and Daughter Maitland blesses us with down-and-out moody blues over the signature closing montage) but “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” could’ve easily been an alternate title. If the penultimate episode was a prime example of tight focus on just a few characters, the finale proved how effortlessly Winter and Korder are able to pack so much into a single hour, and how unpredictable their Empire can be. This hour was a doozy.
The Spin: Korder again proves to be the best series scribe with this crown jewel of an episode, a tightly focused hour of drama featuring the richest characters Boardwalk has to offer, executed with the skill of a master chef as a slow boiling fifty minutes culminated with a steam whistle in the final five. This is what television drama is all about in the new golden age – blisteringly cinematic, tight, and dramatic tension crafted from interesting characters we have come to know over the years living on the razor’s edge.
Written by: David Matthews, Jennifer Ames and Steve Turner
The Spin: With the help of Roy (Ron Livingston) acting as her lover and confidant, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) has cleaned herself in her attempt to win the Tommy custody battle, but a shady phone call hints at Roy not being so forthcoming. Meanwhile, Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) suspects her father’s terminal illness and gets married to Harrow (John Huston), who now comes crawling back to Nucky looking for steady work to support his family.
In other marital news, Muller (Michael Shannon) gets tired of being berated by his wife and bullied by Capone and regains some of his old Van Alden bad-assery. Continue reading →
The Spin: Is it just me or are there some stories just being drug out for too long this season?
Case 1 – Eli’s son Willie (the first doppelgänger/Poe connection of the night) continues to be riddled with guilt (we get it) and starts a bit of a family row at pop’s house.
Case 2 – Don’t get me wrong, I love Gretchen Mol’s Gillian, but her detox scenes in this episode seemed trite as did her blossoming love affair with Office Space guy (Ron Livingston) while under his watchful care.
However, there was still plenty of intrigue. Margaret (the regular-again-it-seems Kelly Macdonald), it turns out, is working for a shady stock broker and helping him swindle customers into shaky deals. Into the office, under his own disguise, walks…you guessed it, Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg). Continue reading →
The Spin: Betrayal, dishonor, broken families and broken hearts were the themes of tonight’s richly composed Korder penned episode. As one of the empire’s dearest characters sang his swan song, Van Patten directed with a heavy Coen-esque pall in one of the most hauntingly photographed hours in the series history.
Eli’s dumb son plotline finely blossomed into something of substance, as Willie is brought in for questioning regarding his schoolmate’s gruesome poisoning and reaches out to Uncle Nucky in his time of need. The Nuckster, always calm under stress, crafts a deal with the DA that involves Willie selling his innocent roommate down the river. He ends up with a sweet crying gal in his arms, but he couldn’t be more torn up on the inside as he realizes the life he wanted is full of heartache, lies, death and an Uncle who will always be calling the shots.
Meanwhile, Gillian (Gretchen Mol – once again signing a letter to the Emmy voters – I mean, seriously, how has she not been nominated yet?) reaches rock bottom with her dope addiction as the Tommy custody case seems to be coming to a close and is not going her way. Mol imbues so much nuance and nerve into her performance, you actually find yourself feeling sorry for Gillian, as if the poor girl after all she has been through can’t help herself…could never help herself…and Piggly Wiggly Roy (Ron Livingston) asks her a dangerous question in his sincere play to take care of her and help her find redemption. But oh boy, Roy, I don’t know what you’re going to do if she ever tells you all the horrible things she’s done. Continue reading →