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!
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: As much as Nucky has tried to stay out of the Chaky-Narcisse War, he can’t help but get sucked in when he learns Narcisse is in cahoots with not only Masseria’s clandestine Tampa heroin run (of which he got tipped off by stalwart Sally) but also with his puppet Mayor (whom he learns about from the trusty Willie). Meanwhile he’s completely oblivious to Eli’s ongoing betrayal. Elsewhere up in New York, Rothstein makes an interesting deal with a desperate to be independent but still all kind of cutesy-crooked Margaret. Out in Chicago, a newly confident Muller is in like Flynn with Capone and gang who are celebrating high off the hog, hooch and hookers oblivious to the obvious retaliation brewing in the wake of Obanion’s obituary. Continue reading →
The Spin: New alliances and showing one’s true colors were the themes of the night as writer Matthews focused on the old plot thickening and director Bianchi provided some clichéd thrills with panache – check out the lighting, sound design and camera angles on that guy getting tossed out of a Chicago window or watch Capone going tommy-gun bonkers on that poor fat bastard who finally met his damnable fate.
In AC, Nucky calls on Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) to see if he wants in on the Tampa deal. While waffling, Rothstein shows his true colors at an endless poker match, leaving Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) wide open to strike up his own deal with Nucky. Continue reading →
The Spin: The theme of the evening was deception: people pretending to be what they are not, or pretending to work the system better than the next person, when in fact they’re setting themselves up for their own comeuppance.
It’s the dead of winter, 1924, and Nucky is making peace with Masseria and Rothstein when Eddie Cantor introduces him to the next pretty gal, who turns out to be no Billie Kent, at Chalky’s hot new Onyx club. Meanwhile, Gillian is embroiled in a custody battle with the Sagorskys over Tommy and pretending to sell her now empty manor when in fact she’s selling herself all doped up. Back in Cicero, Al Capone is busy making a name for himself.
This curiously disjointed season premiere spent far too much time on a brutish subplot involving Chalky’s right-hand man getting into quite a mess with a sleazy talent agent and his slinky, kinky wife, though that wasn’t the worst of things tonight. There was also a painfully dull cliché of a plotline involving Eli’s eldest college-age son mawkishly wanting to learn “the family business.”
I was ready to give up on the sour hour if it weren’t for the as-yet-to-be-explained cross country-killing spree of last year’s best character – Harrow – as he made his way in the last scene (SPOILER ALERT)…home…and to his estranged sister. Continue reading →
The Spin: All the soldiers moved into battle ready positions in this Margaret-less Korder penned hour. In the wake of the special delivery announcing the start of the war, after a violent shoot-out at the hotel that leaves loyal aid Eddie (Anthony Laciura) badly wounded, Nucky turns to his only “friend” left in Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) who uses his armed men to keep watch while his med-student-son-in-law-to-be mends Eddie. Of course, Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) is leaving no stone unturned, leading to a tense stand-off of words at Chalky’s beach-side gangland cottage where a hefty reward is offered to anyone who turns in Nucky. Meanwhile, Gyp’s uncouth cohorts invade Gillian’s (Gretchen Mol) house of ill repute, leading Harrow (Jack Huston) to plot an escape for himself and Tommy to Julia’s. Gillian catches wind and kicks him out, leading him to take stock of his supplies and plot an extraction – wait until next week! All the while, Eli (Shea Whigham) has been in Chicago, and just as Nucky decides to stand his ground and makes a deal with Chalky to ensure his army will help, little brother finally comes up big with an eager to join Al Capone (Stephen Graham) arriving on the scene happy to help decide who gets killed. All of which makes for a perfect build to what should prove to be a sizzling season finale next week. Continue reading →
The Spin: A man a plan a canal panamA…frontwards or backwards…the fate of those on the boardwalk is the same. Not a single plan went down as planned…from Means’ double-dipping hit-turned-suicide (with Stephen Root giving a delicious performance), to Nucky’s attempt on Masseria (Ivo Nandi) involving Owen (Charlie Cox), to Owen’s own plot to flee to St. Louis with Margaret (Kelly Macdonald). NOTHING went right. No matter who the man or what the plan, in this world, people’s fates are sealed by the beds they’ve made and now have to lie in with the evil beside them. In the shadows, Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) was Gyp (and continues to find creative ways to kill those who offend him), the Muller formerly known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon) saw his decent into private Norwegian bootlegging lead to a brush-up with Al Capone (Stephen Graham), and Chalky (Michael K. Williams) gets rebuffed for trying to open a new club. Women’s rights and minority rights mean nothing when bottles of (symbolic) poison wash up on the pristine shores turning everyone into smiling or hysteric drunks. Continue reading →
The Spin: It was an hour of new alliances made, chapters coming to a close and pawns being put in their place as series creator Terence Winter colluded with the series’ best writer Korder to coauthor an explosive episode where an act of fiery terrorism brought destruction to the boardwalk (and poor Babette’s!) while in real life the modern day Atlantic City licks its wounds from Hurricane Sandy. And wouldya look at that, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) has become the greatest pawnbroker: her mock-Jimmy funeral brought her ownership of the whorehouse, she kicked Luciano to the curb as a partner, she came to verbal blows with Nucky (revealing that she’s not delusional and is fully aware of his part in the real Jimmy’s death), and then invited Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) into her lioness’ den to give him a tasty bit of information about where Nucky and Rothstein would be cavorting on a certain evening (hint: there’s only one supper club in town).
The Spin: It was a tense hour as two oncoming “showdowns” ran parallel in this David Stenn penned episode. First, Nucky joins Slater (Charlie Cox) on a run to finally take out Roland Smith – the last guy Manny was supposed to have taken care of. Turns out Roland Smith is just a kid – a charming chap with plenty of moxy who was also being trailed by the Feds who come crashing down on his hideout forcing Nucky, Slater and the kid to bond in the cellar and wait things out. There Nucky tests Slater’s loyalty, and once free and clear, comes to terms with his new nature, making it clear to Slater who is boss. Secondly, idiot extraordinaire Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) decides to run Rothstein’s shipment through Tabor Heights (which is increasingly becoming like a Middle East occupied territory) despite Nucky’s clear orders and the wise protest of Eli (Shea Whigham) leading to a Gyp-ordered massacre that at the end of the episode throws Eli back into Nucky’s confidence.
Meanwhile, there was nice little side-story in Chicago where the writers finally found something interesting to do with Al Capone (Stephen Graham, whom I’ve slighted before but pulled off a nice performance tonight). We get to see Al’s softer side as he comes to the defense of his deaf son and the fat slob of a collector working for Torrio. Seems he’s becoming a champion of the defenseless, even if it involves beating a man to death. The closing rendition of Capone playing “My Buddy” on the mandolin while his little boy “listens” by touching his father’s throat was another sweet, melancholy moment in an increasingly melancholy season. I couldn’t help getting misty as it transitioned into playing over the scene of Eli “reuniting” with Nucky at night in the cold on the boardwalk – the pretty lights strung up over the damp wooden planks – the Empire quietly lying down for a winter’s nap…for now. For there’s a war brewing. Continue reading →