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: SUPER DUPER SPOILERS AHEAD – A skipping record plays over the closing credits of Korder’s masterfully penned slow-build to the two-fold finale, and Daughter Maitland’s (Margot Bingham) rendition of “Dream a Little Dream” haunts the hour as our dear Chalky (Michael K. Williams) makes a deal with the devil Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) in order to give Daughter and her/his daughter a chance (even if only in a dream). It’s been a roller coaster season of highs and lows and mostly frustration, but Korder, who has always been the most reliable of the Boardwalk scribes, operates on this one with the expert precision of a Shakespearian surgeon. Did anyone ever really doubt this was a tragedy?
Written by: Christine Chambers, Howard Korder and Terence Winter
The Spin: There’s been a melancholic pall hanging over Boardwalk Empire’s fifth season. Yes, it’s the last, which is sad enough alone, but it’s also strangely fitting that in the real world the actual current Atlantic City is on a generational decline with the closing of multiple casinos (most notably the lavish Revel) and nothing seeming to go the city’s way. Watching the flashbacks to “The Education of Nucky Thompson” where the city was but one resort and a modest boardwalk before the turn of the 20th century reminds those localized to its current perils just how far the city has come and how long the way down is (I fear in the real world we ain’t seen nothing yet about how down and out AC can get). You see this mirrored in the lethargy of 1930’s Nucky, a man who’s gonna have to wake up. And could Capone’s warning call to Nucky about Luciano’s insinuation that the Italians should cut out Nucky from their empire at the end of tonight’s episode be that wake up call? Nucky is a man who’s come so far (from Dickensian beginnings so painstakingly tailored in the flashbacks) and runs the risk of falling ever harder.
The episode oozed a calming dread in almost every scene.
The Spin: Plots thickened and women showed their cunning nature during crisis situations in this Chambers and Korder penned hour. Early in the episode, Nucky and Sally (Patricia Arquette) share over the phone “Happy Days are Here Again” playing on the radio after he tells her about the presumed Kennedy deal, but are they counting chickens before they hatch? On the run, our old friend Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) and his volatile chain gang compatriot pull off a sloppy home invasion of a mother and her teenage daughter. Chalky shows his true colors as he’s still clearly ravaged by the brutal death of his own teenage daughter, Maybelle, years ago, but these ladies prove to be more resilient than either foolish man could know. Out in Harlem, Luciano and Siegel begin to systematically threaten Narcisse’s operations in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is forced to pay a visit to the Rothstein widow (Shae D’lyn in a pitch perfect cameo) who has her own plot to hatch that involves the blackmail of…you guessed it…the Nuckster.
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: Christine Chambers, Howard Korder and Terence Winter
The Spin: Sally (Patricia Arquette) surprises Nucky by arriving in AC along with the first shipment of booze from Tampa, but Nucky is still too busy trying patch things up between Eli (Shea Whigham) and his son Willie (Ben Rosenfield). What he doesn’t realize, though, is that Agent Fox (Brian Geraghty) has been clued into the mysterious nature of Willie’s schoolmate’s death and how his roommate got charged with the murder. Thus he visits the poor kid in the slammer and gets the real scoop. This allows Fox to brazenly approach Eli with an ultimatum.
But the really interesting action this evening was the Chalky vs. Narcisse plotline, which got even hotter and heavier. Continue reading →
The Spin: Symbolically characters in tonight’s episode were searching for their “north star” which often came in the form of women and families. Eli (Shea Whigham) wondered how Eddie could take his life like that, leaving children behind, while that crafty double agent Fed insinuated his way into the lesser Thompson’s confidence. Harrow (Jack Huston) made his way back to Atlantic City to find the elder Sargorsky diagnosed with cirossis and Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) making a sincere plea that she can’t raise little Tommy (now obsessed with star-gazing and mapping his way home) alone. Then there’s Chalky (Michael K. Williams) falling under the spell of Narcisse’s songstress, who gives a mesmerizing performance of “St. Louis Blues” at the Onyx Club.
Before venturing off down south, Nucky, seemingly directionless without Eddie, stopped in New York to deliver a belated birthday present and the personal news of Eddie’s demise to Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) in a sad attempt to weasel his way back into her life.
Meanwhile, down in Tampa, things are getting soupier than a hopped-up alligator wrestling match. 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 →