Boardwalk Empire Series Finale Review: What Are You in the End?

Boardwalk Empire S05E08: "Eldorado"


What an odd journey Boardwalk Empire embarked upon during its five seasons on the air. If you can recall the summer of 2010, before the series debuted, the show was hyped as the big savior in prestige drama that HBO needed after a couple of weak years. Armed with a massive budget, creative firepower from The SopranosTerence Winter, and the direction of Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk was supposed to guide us through the next age of Great TV. Four years later, The Newsroom Game of Thrones has grown into HBO's real savior; meanwhile, Boardwalk has weathered some creative bumps and the occasionally frustrating subplot to make it to this point, its series finale. And while it's fully unfair to say that Boardwalk didn't live up to its immense expectations, it's also hard to imagine that HBO and Winter truly drew it up this way some years ago—just five seasons, a massive time jump, and a truncated final run. But "Eldorado," like the seven episodes that preceded it in Season 5 and many of the 48 episodes before that, managed to deliver something partially unexpected, but still very satisfying.

I say "partially unexpected" because it wasn't much of a surprise to see the finale continue the story the show has been telling since the beginning of this season, not to mention the one that I'm sure Winter and Howard Korder would argue they've been telling since the beginning. The amount of time that Season 5 spent on flashbacks with young Nucky (and young Eli, Gillian, the Commodore, etc.) was frustrating early on in the season, and while the flashbacks improved once they began to depict an older Nucky (played with real aplomb by Marc Pickering), they were ultimately still frustrating. We already knew so much of what transpired during them, and at times, it was difficult not to get lost in the possible stories the show could've told with Chalky or Van Alden before their deaths, or with Luciano and Lansky as they more clearly established themselves within the criminal syndicate. 

But as these things tend to go on Boardwalk, the payoffs near the end were worth it—or in this case, at least worth slogging through everything that came before. Knowing that Nucky would eventually make the terrible choice to serve up Gillian to the pedophiliac Commodore cast quite the shadow over her introduction in the flashbacks and Nucky's subsequent promotion through the Commodore's ranks, as we really got the sense that that moment was Nucky's original sin. Before that point, he'd tried to work as hard as he could to get away from his roots and his abusive father (never seen that before), but after that point? Something very different. "Eldorado" of course waited until near the end of its running time to deliver that moment, allowing us to see present-day Nucky try to justify his actions to the still-institutionalized Gillian one last time before hitting us with the real wallop. 


On top of that, the show finally revealed that Joe Harper, Mickey's young apprentice, was indeed Tommy Darmody, in town to learn more about the man who murdered his father. Nucky tried to "help" Joe/Tommy one more time with a big wad of cash, echoing Nucky's decades-old realization that working hard doesn't guarantee anything; it's all about money, and the power that comes with it. Unfortunately, so many of Nucky's choices were tinged with regret, all the way up to that moment with Joe/Tommy. As he said, money wasn't the only answer, but he'd learned that it was the best one he had.

While some of the dialogue in "Eldorado" was a bit on-the-nose (as tends to happens in series finales), the writing, Tim Van Patten's direction, the editing—it all came together in that final sequence, which cross-cut between Nucky's decision to hand Gillian over to the Commodore and his ultimate demise at the hands of Gillian's grandson, Tommy. The sequence fantastically illustrated how something Nucky did all those years ago led directly to his death: He failed to protect Gillian, he couldn't make up for it in the way he promised Jimmy, and he ultimately made an orphan out of Tommy (sorry, Julia). Nucky killed Jimmy to reaffirm his power, and so many years later, having given up everything in order to protect the last vestiges of a family, he still paid the price. Shot right the cheek, just like Jimmy was. That might be too unsubtle for some, but it really worked for me. Boardwalk was never as "deep" as The Sopranos, but it did masterful stuff with more direct symbolism, and its series finale was a crowning example of that kind of storytelling. Plus, while though I can understand some viewers' issues with how the show turned so much of its energy toward Nucky in the final season, the focus on him in "Eldorado" was about as worthwhile as you can get. 


And to be fair, plenty of the stories and characters highlighted in the finale fell victim, at least a little bit, to Boardwalk's shortened Season 5 episode order and time jump, no matter how good the individual scenes were. Nucky shared scenes with his two closest family members, his wife and his brother. The story with Margaret and Mayflower Grain didn't quite pay off, and it's a shame that we didn't get to see much of Kelly MacDonald over Boardwalk's last couple seasons. However, her final scene with Steve Buscemi was a cool reminder of the odd chemistry that Margaret and Nucky had way back in Season 1; their brief dance in the glorious apartment I assume he bought for her was quite special. Likewise, Nucky and Eli had been through countless ups and downs, but "Eldorado" wouldn't've been a series finale without just one more conversation between the two. The Thompson boys ended on good-ish terms, with Eli still smarting over Nucky constantly providing him with advice, jobs, money, whatever, and Nucky was still hopeful that his brother could make it work with a family in a way he never could. 

The fact that we didn't get to see a more methodical rise for Luciano and Lansky, and that the supposed war between them and Nucky really only lasted for one episode, will go down as one of the small tragedies of Boardwalk's run. But hey, "Eldorado" delivered a couple of solid scenes with Luciano guiding his new crime empire, speaking of a new era and a new method—and at least Narcisse finally got his, so that's something. Similarly, Capone's journey came to an end with one great scene between him and his son, always a source of delight, and the start of a big trial for tax evasion. The Chicago stuff provided a handful of good moments in Season 5, obviously most notably in "Devil You Know" a couple of weeks ago, but there could have been entire seasons dedicated to that alone. Stephen Graham was excellent here, showing us Capone's warmth with his family and signaling his bluster and love of the spotlight right before the trial began. Of all of Boardwalk's memorable performances, that's the one I'll miss the most. 


It's too early to make any authoritative claims about Boardwalk Empire's legacy, but I strongly believe that the show's reputation improve as time goes on. As this finale displayed, Boardwalk covered such a fascinating time, full of juicy stories and compelling characters, that it was almost perpetually frustrating to some degree. But as it also displayed, the series told season-long stories with real precision—and often, real emotional impact—even if you didn't always care about the beats that led up to the satisfying conclusion. Once it's a bit removed from some of the baggage that weighed it down in its later seasons, and once it's perhaps disassociated from other, lesser shows that we as the TV-viewing public paid more attention to during its run, Boardwalk Empire will seem better than it already does. This may not have been the journey we all expected, but having reached the destination, it was well worth it. 



NOTES

– I kept waiting for Mickey to suddenly appear in this episode, somehow not dead. He's probably still out there somewhere, bloody throat and all! 

– You could probably add "political maneuvering around Prohibition" to the list of Cool Potential Boardwalk Empire Stories We Never Really Got to See. The series, like its lead character, always had one foot in the political arena, but could never quite tell its best stories there. 

– Now that we've reached the end, it's time to do my favorite thing: rank stuff! I'd probably rank Boardwalk's seasons, from best to worst, Season 4, Season 2, Season 3, Season 5, Season 1. And the death scenes that hit me the most: Richard (obviously), Owen, Jimmy, and Chalky. What are your picks?

– Thanks to all of you who've read, commented on, or shared even one of my reviews over the past three seasons. It's been a real delight to write about this show from time to time. 


What'd you think of the final episode? Worth all the time spent on those flashbacks?


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Nov 07, 2015
I fell off the wagon after Boardwalk moved from the crisp and clever storytelling of seasons 1&2, to the blunt launching of new unrelated plots and characters beginning in Season 3 and especially Season 4 (the first parts of S4 were just so disconnected, and I stopped watching for almost 2 years until finally finishing the whole series now).
I'd rank the seasons like this: #2, #4, #1, #3, #5.
S4 really redeemed itself in the end, but beginning with the launching of Gyp Rosetti out of nowhere in S3, Boardwalk's plots seemed to start jumping in from nowhere, and that was a big turnoff (even though Boardwalk is still one of my favorite series' ever). The sudden passing of 7 years between S4 and S5 was unforgiving. Also, instead of allowing viewers to re-associate with the changed circumstances of key characters in S5 (Chalky White, Van Alden), they were abruptly killed-off the show, as if they had been just incidental characters all along, even though in fact viewers knew a lot about the inner workings of Van Alden and Chalky. There was a lot more appetite for storytelling here, which Boardwalk did magically for the first 2 seasons. There was also seemingly a lot of storytelling room left for Arnold Rothsteins character, played superbly by Michael Stuhlbarg, who just got straight cut from the series after it leaped past his real-life demise.
I don't mind the ending of S5, but the whole season left me feeling detached from everything I had known before, so the effect was muted.
The naturally-evolving plots of S1 and S2 were nowhere to be found later in the series, with the worst offender being the completely unnatural fit of Van Alden as one of Capone's henchmen. Van Alden's character transformation itself from bible-totting, lawful, moral fanatic to impulsive crook and killer was just fantastic. However, seeing him share the screen with Capone during the Chicago story was cringeworthy, as it felt forced, pure fiction with no real basis for having happened.
Although it was dismissed by Terence Winters as being too obvious of a twist, Van Alden seeking revenge on Nucky after all those years was at least more credible than a lot that went on over the last couple seasons.
Overall, I loved Boardwalk, but can't help thinking that it could have been a series for the ages, as opposed to a rush-job with seemingly random plots over the last few seasons pushing too hard for a conclusion. I think I could watch Seasons 1 & 2 over and over again with great satisfaction, but the hinges became too loose after that. There was a lot of discarded potential in Boaldwalk Empire, after an initial few fantastic seasons developing the characters.
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Dec 26, 2014
I have just scanned through all of these comments and found no mention of the deal that Gillian was doing with the Warden. She was swapping clothes for paper and not just once. Her letter to Nucky would have been one transaction and imagine the other paper was for letters to Tommy. Tommy could have had the whole history of Nucky's sins with his father and grandmother.
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Dec 11, 2014
Enjoyed the article, thanks from Holland! Agreed on the length of season 5. As i've just finished watching it, I would vouch for 2 extra episodes with some extra time for Chalky and especially Nelson Van Alden, who had somehow become one of my favorite characters. Also the death of 'AR' came as a suprise to me.

But then maybe us fans would have gotten too much, as now there's enough to fantasize about; What did Chalky think during those 7 years in chains, still so mad at that annoying Doctor Narcisse - great symbolism there obviously - and giving himself up so easily. And that poor man Van Alden, what a change! From a full-blown honest to God prohibition officer to a genuin gangster, high in the ranks of maybe the most famous Kingpin of all time: Al Capone!

Great series.. Season 5 was probably my favorite, maybe after season 2. I actually loved the flashback because it taught so much about Nucky, Eli, the complications surrounding Gillian.. To answer your question. My favorite character was Van Alden, best performance as an actor Stephan Graham as Capone... I wish there'd be more to see!
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Nov 29, 2014
All of this reminds me of something I've read on tv.com about the death of the patriarch on television. I can't remember the article, or who wrote it. But characters like Walter White and Nucky Thompson "getting what they deserved" in the end is also symbolic for the death of the genre. tony Soprano didn't die because the show ended years ago, and Dexter didn't because, well, it was badly written, because he should have. Let's see how Ray Donovan ends...

All in all, it was sad, disappointing but not at all unexpected how Nucky promised Gillian "I'll be always looking after you" and in the end washed his hands and said there was nothing he could do for her. I know Gillian was nuts, manipulative and a cold-blooded murderer, but in fiction it's easy to get involved with the way the character is constructed (and she was constructed well enough) and sympathize with her. I wish Gillian had had a chance to start over, and in one piece, not with parts missing because of an unwanted surgical procedure.

Boardwalk Empire had many good moments, but several boring ones as well. It was a heavy show, and never my first choice of watching the recorded file, among so many other good choices we have on Sunday. So much so, I only got to finish it now. But, still, it'll be for a long time the main modern reference for crime life during Prohibition. Well, at least until a better show comes along.

Oh, and last but by no means least, this show really changed the image I had of Steve Buscemi (and Marc Pickering and Madeleine Rose yen were perfect as young Nucky and Gillian, with all the correct mannerisms, and they had great chemistry). I had always thought of Buscemi as the creepy henchman, never the leading man, but he showed he can deliver it and be a star. Perhaps that's the best legacy this shows leaves us with.

Thanks for the reviews and keeping the show alive on this site, Corey. I didn't always comment, but I always read them.
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Nov 24, 2014
Finally got around to watching the final season. Wow, definitely worth it. Although, I do believe the shortened season held the show back a bit, season 5 was one of the most satisfying seasons of television. This show will be missed, and so will your reviews Cory.

P.S: Best to worst seasons: season 2, season 4, season5, season 1, season 3.
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Nov 12, 2014
I delayed watching this last episode, as I often do when it comes to shows I don't want to say goodbye to. I must say I was highly impressed. I actually did feel a sense of closure, which is rare for me with the last episode of a series. I think it was a great idea to bring it all right back round to Nucky's 'original sin' as you put it. I do hope the show's reputation improves over the years, as you said. I will really miss it. It was so different to the bulk of other tv out there these days. Let's hope HBO comes up with yet another great show soon!
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Nov 02, 2014
Shame they rushed the last series ,there could have been a series with the 7 years they missed out, and a further series showing capons trial and the rise of the syndicate, but I think steve buscemi wanted out
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Nov 01, 2014
I thought the unexpected flashbacks were inventive and inspired. Would have loved to see more of the love hate relationship with Margaret, she is a fine actress. Great loss to the series was Chalkie, Richard Harrow, and Gyp Rossetti.
Gillian and her young self, superb.... a lost soul, made crazy through terrible men, who Nucky seemed to forget the promise he had made.
There is so much more that could be written into a new series.
Please writers, consider a spin off further series, take us back in time or forward to the future, don't care which.
Cudos to the character actor from Kirby, Liverpool who did a most wonderful portrayal of the crazy Al Capone, surely awards are coming?
Thanks HBO for yet another classy series, and the talent of Steve Buscemi, an unlikely leading man....wow. Marvellous and flawless acting.
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Nov 01, 2014
Some might have not liked the flashbacks, I really did. It really tells the story of how the people became how they did. The actors that portrayed the younger versions were all superb - from the child actors to the older ones. It put things in perspective and also why some people felt a certain way about others (like Eli and Gillian about Nucky, and what affected Nucky like his dad and Mabel). All in all, great season, for me it was amazing storytelling and gripping from the start.
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Nov 01, 2014
Season 1 was the set up...Season 2 was when we found out "Boardwalk doesn't care about your favorite charachters"...Season 3 was pure Rosetti ignorance and we got to see Nucky at war...Season 4 was Chalky and Narcisse story intertwined with the rise of all the young Gangsters and How the world around Nuck affected him..Season 5 was the Grand Closing..more epilogue than anything but still beautiful..and the "flashbacks" were essential..most detractors of this piece of "Art" just dont get it..."YOU GOT GUNS..I GOT GUNS...EVERYBODY GOT GUNS.."

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Nov 01, 2014
for a show that didn't get enough credit,.the writing on this show was "Top Notch"..the acting..the script..the gangsta "quotables"..the rewatchable factor..and whoever did these last two seasons was a Genius.Beautiful television. Having Nucky die on the Boardwalk was poetic in its touch as well, and by Jimmy son at that was Scorseseian? Magic.
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Oct 31, 2014
What happened to Mabel, and why did the Commodore end up going to jail?
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Oct 29, 2014
I was pretty bored by the flashbacks, but it all made perfect sense in the series finale. But I still don't understand why HBO shot only 8 episodes instead of a full season of 12 or 13. I think Boardwalk Empire really deserved - and needed - more time to develop its final season.
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Nov 01, 2014
i agree, it felt rushed to me, they could've done sooo much more with what they got.
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Oct 28, 2014
Did anyone else find themselves quite disgusted by Leander Whitlock after the flashbacks? I quite liked the older guy, and his scenes were always great to watch but to see what he was willing to do and advance for the Commodore when he was younger simply disgusts me.
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Oct 28, 2014
Whilst I was watching the finale I was thinking to myself "this show has a trend of eliminating and or absolutely ruining the good guy." I'm thinking of how things went south for van Alden after trying to put these guys in jail, Chalky - probably the most righteous (relative, I know) of the gangsters and even Big Jim Collosimo - he didn't want to get involved in prohibition and was promptly killed in the first episode! You could add Angela Darmody to that list.

In that regard, I was sure Nucky would buck this trend which made me realise 2 things. 1) I actually think Nucky is a good guy which is no doubt as a result of increased empathy with the man after the flashbacks. and 2.) Boardwalk always remains true to itself


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Oct 28, 2014
I thought the flashbacks were great and the fact that they led to the closing scene intertwining the past and the present made the payoff worth it as well. I just wish I hadn't hear the theory of Tommy killing Nucky before the episode so I was more blindsided. Still, fantastic ending to a very underrated show.
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Oct 28, 2014
Boardwalk Empire is one of those shows where you look back on it in its entirety and cannot believe the first episode was wrapped up with the last; like an infant's first breath is ultimately only completed by the person's last exhale. It is very hard to think that the show was only five seasons, because it FEELS like it was so much longer, and through the last episode in particular -- I actually felt a lot like Nucky was portrayed to be feeling; that it was all slipping away.

I digress. What I mean is that it was quite a journey, and definitely not the same show it started out as. I had no idea what was going to happen in the end, really -- that there might be some big battle and Nucky wind up on top, or that he would die somewhat as he did (but at the hands of Luciano and Co.). I like the way it went, and I think we have RARELY seen a show wrap up as well as this one did in terms of being dramatic and moving. The soundtrack, the flashbacks, and the slow-motion were all perfect. The scenes between Eli and Nucky when he said they would never meet again -- tear jerker! And the casting of and performances by the actors who played Nucky and Eli as young adults were brilliant!! Even the Commodore, now that I think of it, had the same round face and chin as Jimmy did!
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Oct 28, 2014
And thanks, Cory, for the reviews!
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Oct 28, 2014
I thought it was a fitting finale, but for some reason it just didn't leave me completely satisfied. I loved the ending with Nucky, and the flashbacks were effective there, but I do agree the flashbacks took up too much time that could have been used on other characters. Most of the time this season, when a flashback popped up, I would roll my eyes and wait for it to be over. They had some excellent actors/actresses playing young versions of these characters, but they were just there to drill in our heads the fact that this was Nucky's story. It was a very good season, but a weird season, jumping ahead 7 to 8 years and spending so much time on flashbacks in a limited season.

The thing that pissed me off most was how AR's death was glossed over. We invested four years into this great character played by a great actor, and to have him be written off off-screen was fucking stupid. They clearly didn't have this in mind when they ended season 4. Yeah, I know they are keeping with history, all the more reason why I didn't like the time jump. If they are going to write AR off like that, why couldn't they also do that to Chalky and Narcisse? Both characters seemed tacked on to this season, resolving a story that should have been resolved last season. Then again, they ended last season with different things in mind as far as the direction of the show.

The Capone stuff was definitely the highlight, whether it was Capone being crazy or Van Alden and Eli being an awesome weird duo. Speaking of Eli, I'm amazed he survived the show. There were other things I liked, like the stuff with Margaret, and the rise of Luciano, though they should have gotten much more time. Also, I could really feel the absence of my favorite character, Richard Harrow.

Like I said, good season, but not the best. In fact, it might have been the weakest. That being said, it was still better than a lot of these sucky final seasons lately, like Dexter, True Blood, and Sons of Anarchy. It will be on my top 10 of the year for sure.
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Oct 29, 2014
Well they didn't keep with history too well considering that's not how Nucky Johnson(yes Johnson is Nucky's real last name, not Thompson) died at all.
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Oct 29, 2014
I know some things weren't consistent with history. As far as Nucky Johnson, Nucky Thompson is a highly fictionalized version of that person.
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Oct 28, 2014
I thought season 3 was the most compelling. With the most shocking of cliffhangers. James Darmody's death at the hand of Nucky. I'm glad everything came full circle in the Series finale. Just when I was starting to actually like Nucky and just when the character was starting to gain some semblance of redemption about all his dubious life choices he get's payback for one of the more dubious ones. The show ended as it started. In Grand Style!
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Nov 01, 2014
Jimmy died end of season 2
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Oct 28, 2014
Great ending!
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Oct 28, 2014
My favorite from best to worst in order
Season 5
Season 1
Season 2
Season 4
Season 3 (could have done without this one altogether).

Now to my thoughts...Damn Gillian! She ruined Tommy. Any sort of empathy I had for her is gone. She got Jimmy to kill the Commodore, she ruined Jimmy by raping him (but I still felt sorry for her because of the phsycologically damaging raw deal she got from Nucky and the Commodore) and now Tommy will no doubt get the death penalty - thanks grandma. I believed her story - that her parents supposedly brought her to Atlantic City and the Commodore stole her - gullible am I. Showing Nucky's back story and the moment he sold his soul was genius! He deserved what he got it turns out. Times were tough for all in that era. Both Nucky and GIllian were selfish survivors to the core. Ruthless in their endeavors. Nucky almost got to walk away. Turning Gillian down was his death sentence. He didn't keep his word to always help her. Was a kookoo bird really going to let him get away with that. Just superb writing.

Narcisse got his - I will always love Chalky and it pissed me off that Narcisse got the best of him. He did go out on a high note in helping Daughter and feel that maybe his soul was redeemed.

I'm going to miss this show!

We all know what happens to Al Capone and Lucky - just Google them...I'll too miss the actor who brought Al Capone to life.
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Oct 29, 2014
I like what i'm reading but really questioning your preference in seasons
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Oct 28, 2014
Absolutely great move by the writers and the directors of the past season. To incorporate the flashbacks of his past just so it can pay off in the final scene of the show. It was a very poetic ending for the late great Nucky Thompson.
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Oct 28, 2014
I agree 100% with both you and eyeorr. It was very intense in the last 5mins of the series finale and was stunned that the kid was Tommy. I knew there was something going on with that kid (not accepting or reluctantly accepting money from Nucky among other little things) and knew something was up, but Tommy? I thought he would be around 12yrs or 13 yrs old in 1931. Anyway I really didn't mind the flashback at all and how it all came to a head in the last 5mins. That choice that Nucky made and how it would change everything in his life and the life of Gillian and the consequences of that choice so many years or decades later, was such a fitting end to Nucky and for the series. I applaud the writers of the show and great storytelling for the 5 seasons we got out of Boardwalk Empire.
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Oct 27, 2014
I think I'm going to have to say that Season 5 was my absolute favourite. The flashbacks got really interesting after a while, and started to reveal more about a character we'd all grown to hate.

For me it goes:
Season 5 (the last two episodes in particular.)
Season 2 (Jimmy was amazing in this season.)
Season 3 (Gyp Rosetti. What more needs to be said?)
Season 1 (Great setup season, but feels a little dry when re-watched.)
Season 4 (Interesting towards the end.)

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Oct 27, 2014
Wow. Now THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you tell a story. Sopranos might have been deep, The Wire might have been intelligent and realistic, but Boardwalk Empire takes the award for best overall storyline. Hands down.
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Oct 28, 2014
couldn't agree more. Boardwalk's story telling is undoutedly it's strongest trait. Not seen anything better in that regard,
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Oct 27, 2014
Perfect ending for a masterpiece.
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Oct 27, 2014
Some more thoughts (forgive me - I love this show.)

Narcisse's death felt more like the writers flaunting Lansky and Luciano's new power more than it was about ending his thread but they could really have just left it out. This is the arc I feel the time jump affected most. I was incredibly excited to see Narcisse try run a tight ship and black nationalist agenda whilst selling out to the feds as we had left him in 1924. It would have been great to see Marcus Garvey too, but I suppose they can't cover everything.

This season really missed Rothstein. Possibly my favorite character along with Harrow, he gave the cast a lot of balance that wasn't always there this season.

There was no opening sequence for this episode. I've never really understood what that is supposed to achieve

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Oct 27, 2014
I always saw the opening sequence to be a nod to the legend of that king who stood on the banks of the beach and commanded the sea to stop. In the opening sequence, it stopped for Nucky, and the sea goes calm again. In this final episode, he'd finally been swalloed up by the sea.
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Oct 28, 2014
Thanks, I never think of the opening sequence too much but I'll be sure to do in the future! Think you have this spot on
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Oct 27, 2014
Oh! You're right about the opening sequence. Maybe because they had the scene with Nuck in the water? Interesting choice for sure.
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Oct 27, 2014
Nice observation! Hadn't thought of that. Cheers
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Oct 27, 2014
A few thoughts.

Tommy said to Nucky: "I heard Mee-Ma talk about you. and I couldn't tell if it was with love or hate." This says to me that Tommy definitely was on the look for Nucky, but the intention was not *always* necessarily to kill him. At least not till he knew more. One of the show's greatest strengths in my opinion is that the characters are very real. What I mean, in this instance is that any boy who has lost his entire family will be curious, will ask questions. And he would have heard that Nucky and his dad were friends. He is also a smart kid. Overall, I was satisfied with this thread.

How powerful were the scenes with Capone? I had almost forgotten about the scene in season 3 where Al tries to teach his kid to fight. To see him older, putting his fists up was an incredible moment. Stephen Graham has been brilliant all through but particularly this season. A major highlight.

Back in season 1 when Margaret saw Maybel's grave it said she was born in 1885. Somewhere along the line the writers got their timelines wrong but that would be SUPER pedantic of me to care. A rare mistake though for a show that so meticulously pays attention to detail.

How great was it watching Benny Siegel? I'd pay a lot of money to hear him song "My girl's pussy." Absolute lunatic. Fitting that it was he who killed another clown in Doyle

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Oct 27, 2014
Siegel's singing was HILARIOUS!!!!! Do you think Tommy had contact with Gillian in the hospital? Maybe Nucky not helping Mimaw is what sent Tommy over the edge?
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Oct 28, 2014
I think Meema gave Nucky one last chance to help her. When he didn't she wrote Tommy and gave the nod to kill him. I think she set Tommy up to do her bidding.
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Oct 27, 2014
I don't know. He actually calls her Meema, as a grown boy. That sounds like something you might call someone you remember, rather than someone you have had recent contact with? I don't know though, because if not, the only viable alternative for him finding out Nucky killed Jimmy is Doyle. Surely even Doyle wouldn't be so stupid?
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Oct 27, 2014
Sad to see this show end but a fitting end it was. I knew Nucky wasn't going to make it out alive. Just wish we could have seen more of the other caracters. I did find the flashbacks a bit boring at times.
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Oct 27, 2014
For the sake of rankings:

1.) Season 4
2.) Season 1
3.) Season 2 (could easily be 2nd.)
4.) Season 5
5.) Season 3 (which was still very very good. But perhaps a little out of sync with the show's rhythm when one considers the other seasons.)
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Oct 27, 2014
indeed, Marc Pickering makes a great Steve :)
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Oct 27, 2014

I've not got a lot to say, I loved this show. It was my favourite at some point. The quality and the excitement wasn't always the best but it is a drama. The thing I like the most about the show is the scenery, songs, etc. And the characters obviously. They have great abitlity with introducing characters, I love the casting (I know some people have issues with Buscemi, I don't). Michael Pitt could have made things much better, but he had to ruin it. Would have loved to see Jimmy go further.

I'll definitely watch it all again at some point. I mean this is the kind of stuff that fascinates me. It's kind of like a documentary, Real characters, partially true stories.

There's so many good ideas of spinoffs by the way, just saying..
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Oct 27, 2014
I think that the Paz de la Huerta 'Lucy Danzinger' and Michael Pitt 'Jimmy Darmondy' are two of the biggest reasons this show had so many problems early on that it never bailed itself out of. They were with it when this show was creatively at its peak and just made many others involved sick of it early. The stories about how disgusting Paz de la Huerta was on set of this production are legendary. They were constantly a burden to deal with on set because of their completely unprofessional natures and it just made it difficult for everyone involved in this project from the beginning. Its a real shame to see something that could have been so good ultimately brought down in no small measure by two moron actors who constantly screwed things up. Choosing to ignore what really happened to Nucky (died in prison) was a good creative decision and worked well to put this show to rest.
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Oct 27, 2014
The finale did not live up the series. Totally disagree that it was a "wallup" of an ending. In fact, it was a desperate attempt to wind up a series that wasn't supposed to end this soon. Knucky should have been left, in one long camera shot, walking down the boardwalk with the threat of Lansky trying to off him for good. This season was far too confusing with the flashbacks and the present, trying to tie up too many story lines all at once. It's over and no one will care five minutes from now....
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Oct 28, 2014
SIgh. I couldn't disagree more! It ended just the way it should have....I never understood why Gillian kept getting written in...now I know. She and Nucky were intertwined. Nucky sold his soul when he made the decision to give the Commodore what he wanted. If he had not done that, he would have had a totally different life and wouldn't have died the way he did. We know all about Lucky and Al....they were a small part of Nucky Thompson's story line. Turns out it was more about the storyline of Nucky and Gillian. AWESOME WRITING.
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Oct 27, 2014
Too confusing for some people, maybe. I thought it was amazing. The storylines being tied up all at once was the threads of the tale all coming together.
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Oct 27, 2014
It's over and no one will care five minutes from now....

Excellent comment. Homeland will go out the same way.
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Oct 27, 2014
For realsies!
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Oct 27, 2014
Mr. Pink is one of Steve's best roles.


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Oct 27, 2014
Good to see you also think Season 4 was best. I didn't appreciate it (in fact, it seemed boring) until a few episodes in: Where Seasons 1-3 set up so very much, packing everything with such detail, Season 4's first episodes simply "felt" so good. As if everything had reached a plateau and they were justifiably (almost blessedly) letting things ride, letting us relax and enjoy the splendor. I've honestly never found a viewing experience quite so rewarding; in its serialized storytelling longform, Boardwalk's richness may well be unique. I agree its reputation will improve as time goes on. I'm certain my regard for it will grow as well.
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Oct 27, 2014
I don't really get the love for season 4. It felt a little underwhelming to me, personally. Season 2, 3 and 5 were the best.
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Oct 28, 2014
Not just you but very little love for season 1 on here. Weird, I had always assumed those who carried on watching the show were in love with the first season. Haha, how wrong I am
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Oct 27, 2014
Couldn't agree more with this. Season 4 was everything we love about the show and more.
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Oct 27, 2014
Season 2: Easily the best the show has ever been in my opinion. The very end of S2 being the absolute peak of Boardwalk Empire for me.

Season 1: I loved S1. It really did a great job of setting up many of the major characters and story lines.

Season 3: Gyp Rosetti for the win. Boardwalk's most interesting and entertaining "villain."

Season 4: Solid season of Boardwalk but one that I was ultimately a little disappointed in. I loved the stuff with Richard but Narcisse really grew on me the wrong way after a while.

Season 5: I honestly can't see how anyone could argue this wasn't the worst season of Boardwalk but to each their own. Slow season even with chopped and criminally shortened season. Flashbacks that served to fill that limited time with stuff we already knew, an unsatisfying end for chalky, I could find things to nitpick all day but the bttm line is: without a doubt the worst season of Boardwalk by a country mile. I'm not saying the season of tv was terrible - I liked it - it just didn't come close to comparing to the previous 4 seasons.

All in all, a great show that I thoroughly enjoyed but was the best for me the first 2 seasons.
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Oct 28, 2014
Season 5 SHOWED us the moment Nucky sold his soul and was intertwined with all these sordid characters. It was needed and I have closure. Other show's finales have never touched me the way this one did. He did deserve what he got. Gillian deserved what she got. Poor Tommy was ruined. Jimmy was ruined. GIllian was ruined. So many lives ruined because of that one decion Nucky made and the pure rottenness of the Commodore. It explained SO much!

They could have left Season 3 completely out and everything would still make sense.
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Oct 27, 2014
I think you have the proper hierarchy of best to worst. I liked the clash with the D'Allesio brothers. The Klan stuff too.
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Oct 27, 2014
I haven't seen the series since season 2.
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Oct 27, 2014
richard harrow :(
still can't believe mickey survived all these seasons :(
thanks for all the recaps....i always need them when i can't brain certain episodes.
it's a shame that Tommy was not able to live happily ever after normal life with Julia and not question his past
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Oct 27, 2014
I was convinced Mickey would survive to the end, if for no other reason than he was a total cockroach, and those just don't die.
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Oct 27, 2014
My list is:
Season 3 (definitely)
Season 5
Season 2
Season 1
Season 4

Of course the death sceme that hit me the most was Jimmy.
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Nov 01, 2014
I agree with you. Although many seem to dislike season 3, I absolutely loved it.
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Oct 27, 2014
Gyp Rossetti's Season ( number 3) and the season we saw that this was truly Richard' show was the best IMO. Even more after loosing Jimmy in season 2 and expecting the show to drop off the radar. I haven't thought about the rest, but the 3rd season was the best.
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Nov 01, 2014
Gyp Rosetti was indeed phenomenal
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Oct 27, 2014
I've enjoyed the Nucky's journey through the five seasons. I think Van Patten did the right thing in not diverging too much from the story of Nucky's life. The history and politics of the time was important, but any deeper exploration of other character's, other than their relation to Nucky or his business, would be too broad and confusing.
The flashback scenes in the 5th season were a great artistic choice by Van Patten. It worked in harmony with the ending of Nucky's life journey. The flashbacks revealed how Nucky failed Maybel, by not protecting Gillian. I think that was very important to Nucky's motivation. It obviously had a large impact on his decisions regarding Margaret.
When Gillian says to Nucky "There's still graciousness in the world," on a second viewing, I now believe she is refering to the fate of Nucky at the hands of her grandson.
Boardwalk Empire is definitely a show that will hold up over time.
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Oct 27, 2014
+1 on the flashback scenes. The dead ringers they found for the young Nucky and the Commodore were startling in their resemblance, and so beautifully acted. Really made the season.
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Oct 27, 2014
Young buck tooth Nucky was brilliant. Actually the Commodore was too. +100
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Oct 27, 2014
How did Tommy even know a single fact about Nucky?

Gillians been locked up since he was what, 5 years old? At what point is granny educating Tommy?

Did they intentionally shoot this with such a dark cloud over Nucky? From the moment Nucky shows up, it feels like he has a bullseye on him.

I'm not too sympathetic with Gillian. Elvis met his wife when she was 14 and that was the 60's. Not to mention she had sex with Jimmy and had sex with a Jimmy lookalike.

When/If Tommy met Gillian doesn't bother me as much as why he would even listen to such a person.

This may seem like smallfry on the things to complain about. When logic and motivation of characters exist only to move the story in a singular direction I start to leave the story and asking questions.

Overall, This series was definitely pretty to watch and had some topnotch acting. If only it had decent writers.

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Oct 27, 2014
I don't think Tommy knew anything about Nucky, except that his father and Nucky were friends. You're assuming he set out to kill Nucky all along and I don't think that that's the case. Rather that he wanted to see for himself who this man was.

In addition, Micky mentions to him being introduced to his father/mother early on when we first meet Tommy and it is certainly plausible that Micky with his big mouth gave some revealing information to Tommy.
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Oct 27, 2014
I think you're missing the point. I agree with you that Gillian was an unstable woman, you'd have to be if you went through what she did at such a young age. And it is this unstable woman that moulded the mind of young Tommy for much of his childhood life. Gillian would constantly look after Tommy while his mother was off on her romantic adventures, and even more so after he was orphaned and she was the sole guardian (thank god for Richard!). She could've easily filled his mind with stories of her youth, about how Nucky handed her off to the Commodore, and how he later killed Jimmy to gain power, etc. And that's what caused Tommy to seek out revenge for all that Nucky had done to him and his family after he grew up.
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Staff
Oct 27, 2014
Maybe Tommy learned via Mickey? He has a good memory? It's a fair point.
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Oct 27, 2014
I agree with this. Micky is a motor mouth too. Think about to his comment to Tommy about being introduced to his father. That was what set alarm bells ringing early on that the kid could be Tommy Darmody
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Oct 27, 2014
season 2 was the best i think. but i disagree with season4. i think that was the weakest. muddled.
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Oct 27, 2014
And now I'm bummed that I have to change my avatar, because I sort of want it to be relating to a series that's currently on television, and Boardwalk's done now.
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Oct 28, 2014
Please do not change your awesome avatar!
...but if you have to, I strongly advise against changing it to Rick Sanchez.
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Oct 27, 2014
Haha, hard luck pal. Do you watch Gomorrah? Some great characters you could pull from there!
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Oct 27, 2014
No! It's funniest avatar! Every time I see it I laugh. :)
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Oct 27, 2014
Thanks for the review Cory, I've enjoyed somewhat sparring with you over the last couple of years (even when you weren't able to review the series every week).

I've mostly come to agree with you on the series though, particularly this last season. While it will always remain a personal favourite (I honestly think it will remain an underrated gem in the future), there were always many unfulfilled storylines, and yes, because of this at times the series could be perpetually frustrating. Captivating characters like Richard Harrow and Van Alden started to spin their wheels later on in their characters lives and ultimately departed the series with their storylines feeling very unrealised, and really these two were only the tip of the series' difficulty with juggling its ensemble successfully.

On the finale though, the flashbacks finally (?) paid off, but took far too long this season getting there (and like you said Cory, Nucky's family stuff was clichéd at best). While the revelation of what Nucky did to Gillian to get his role as Sherriff was fulfilling, I at least didn't find it all unexpected, particularly since we learnt of the Commodore's penchant for young girls last episode - and knowing from the beginning of the series that Gillian was tied to the Commodore - it wasn't all that hard to put things together. And yeah, as soon as Tommy said grandma I knew who he was and that Nucky was done for.

Nucky had his fitting end, but like I mentioned about all the other characters earlier, most left something to be desired. Luciano and Al Capone went out quite quietly (those HBO's promo's lied!), again, Narcisse's death felt pointless (why keep him around so long for that ending?), Gillian was in a no better position than the end of last season, and I'm quite surprised that Margaret got the series' happiest ending considering how much her character was despised for a time (I'm not saying it was undeserved, just odd).
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Oct 27, 2014
I found the scenes with Nucky and young Gillian really powerful. I am clearly in a minority but as I mentioned in a below comment, sometimes showing is better than telling. And for all that I knew about Nucky giving Gillian to the Commodore, the flashbacks really hit me as to how much it took of him and how really his life and path from that point were almost inevitable. It helped me have more sympathy for older Nucky (Steve Buscemi was brilliant this season don't you think?) than I have ever had before,

The Narcisse scene was also really bizarre. But I suppose if they didn't find a way to wrap up his story we would be wondering if the writer's forgot about him. However, I do think that his death was more a reminder of just how powerful Lanksy and Luciano had become, more so than it was about ending Narcisse's thread.

For me, this is the best series I've seen. I still need to work out what exactly my feelings are about this last season, but I think I am satisfied with where the characters ended up.
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Oct 28, 2014
Thank you! I too found them powerful. It was not enough to just mention it. I needed to see the circumstances behind that awful day. He made a decision KNOWING that the Commodore was going to do something terrible to Gillian and he was an officer of the law. Total betrayal of any little trust Gillian could have had in the human race. I thought all this time that Nucky didn't really know until AFTERWARDS and that he didn't know he was giving her to a monster. To find out he KNEW - WOW. He KNEW the Commodore was an evil man to the core. I am at peace that Nucky's life ended the way it did, EXCEPT that Tommy is ruined. He had a chance and Gillian ruined him just as Nucky ruined her. Now Gillian deserves everything she is goiing to get. They were both evil people. The finale that keeps on giving....I kept wondering why we had to keep hearing about Gillian.
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Oct 28, 2014
Couldn't agree with you more. That Nucky knowingly gave Gillian to the Commodore is deeply unsettling. Glad to find someone who enjoyed the flashbakcs. Great minds, as they say :)
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Oct 27, 2014
I agree. Steve Buschemi was fantastic this year. I also thought the flashbacks helped me find some sympathy for an older Nucky. It seemed he had remorse for his past actions. Unfortunately he choices lead him down his inevitable path. I wonder if he would have helped Gillian out of the hospital if it would have ended the same. Not saying a different ending is what I want because I was very satisfied with the finale.
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Oct 28, 2014
Yes! I think Gilian was writing Tommy letters. or Tommy visited her in the asylum after asking questions about who he was (which would make sense if you are an orphan - you reach a certain age and want to know). I think that if Nucky kept his word to take care of her and get her out of that place, she would have told Tommy not to do anything. When Nucky betrayed her, I think she wrote Tommy and asked him to seek vengeance.

That's where my brain went anyway.
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Oct 27, 2014
I think that if this season had 10 episodes some things could have been done better. Like Van Alden and Chalkey (I'm still irritated by his story). They basically kept Narcisse around just to kill him?! With that being said I felt the finally was fantastic. My big question is how Tommy decided to take revenge on Nucky. Maybe with a couple of extra episode we could have or even an extended finale we could have been giving light on his journey.
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Oct 28, 2014
I was bothered by how Van Alden was taken out too. I mean he was killing Al Capone and the Federal Agent killed Van Alden (another Federal Agent) so they could arrest Al Capone for tax evasion? It didn't make sense. They should have had Van Alden go out differently.
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Oct 27, 2014
I agree. It just seemed such an odd pace for a series we were used to having another rhythm. Normally 8 episodes in most people were bored/complaining nothing had happened and then BOOM, the last few episodes blow everything out the water.

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Oct 27, 2014
I'm glad they didnt have ten, because I wouldve had to watch all of em, even knowing they could be abyssmally boring. When BE shined it was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic, but it was too often a snoozefest. Narcisse' death wasnt violent enough. Maybe because it was an interracial killing, which is sort of a taboo in modern tv. I think he earned a death more like Van Alden's, or those two guys Jimmy slashed with the Skullcrusher. Now that was BE at its finest.
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Staff
Oct 27, 2014
The supporting characters were handled in a very weird way. Disappointing.
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Oct 27, 2014
If you think back to the premise of the story, the ending was one of the best in recent memory. The last season which was dedicated primarily to the back story of Nucky's upbringing was brilliant - even the actor who played young Nucky was great.

Nucky's character was reminiscent of Tony Soprano - a strong and resilient mob leader who in the end was haunted by family and relationship issues. Van Patton and the crew had a great formula with this. I've always wondered about mob leaders who lead this dual life.

Anyway, great last season. This show got better each year so I would rank the seasons one, two, three, four and five as worst to best. As far as the killings, the best was Gyp Rosetti (goo goo googly eyes scene), then Owen and then Eli killing the FBI officer.

Finally, the ending was great. It was three seasons ago so you kind of forgot Jimmy's kid. It was Gillian ultimate revenge. I even wondered if she somehow orchestrated it from the insane asylum.

Great show. I'll miss it.
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Oct 27, 2014
I also wondered if Gillian had manipulated Tommy, but I don't recall that she even knew it was Nucky who killed Jimmy, and even if she did, how would she contact Tommy?
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Oct 27, 2014
There were some good moments in this finale but there were some things that bothered me. First of all why did Tommy look like a young adult while only being born in 1917 (boardwalk wiki). The symbolism had less impact because of that for me. Secondly why was Narcisse still there and not just killed at the end of season 4, because the only real thing he did this season, is kill Chalky. Finally i felt that the New York portion of the finale was really left open (i know the history, but still could have ended on a high note). I guess the best part of the finale for me was the conversation between Capone and his son. It showed another side of him and i've been a fan of him this entire show.
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Oct 27, 2014
Doyle mentioned that he is 16 in an earlier episode. Jimmy went to war in 1915 and Angela was already pregnant so the timeline is correct. He does look a lot older than that though!
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Oct 27, 2014
The first 3 seasons of this show were utter masterpieces. Season 4 seemed a bit uneven and was not satisfying where things were left. However, Season 5 is a total other animal. You can see that the storylines were rushed with 4 less episodes, and badly at that.

The appearance of Tommy made no sense just from an age standpoint, as another mentioned on here. If I am doing my timelines right, he is 15 at most, so why is the guy playing him 22-25? I found it interesting that we had the teaser with Margaret and Joseph Kennedy and a short scene with Eli yet with no resolution. Gillian the same, though they teased that to be a bigger plot point, oh well.

The only thing that was interesting to me in this episode was the showing of the "future": TV, well not the TV we know today, but mechanical 30 line resolution TV. It made things go full circle, and was a written nod to storytelling.
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Oct 27, 2014
Thank you for the review. It was a great show and the finale was great. Unfortunately, karma got Nucky.
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Oct 27, 2014
Boredwalk Empire had more filler than any show in tv history. They gave you three or four grand episodes and filled out the rest of the season with chopped liver.
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Oct 27, 2014
But wow was that chopped liver ever so delicious. Every morsel of it.
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Oct 27, 2014
no. the chopped liver sucked. those three or four grand episodes per season were delicious. thats what kept people wading through hours of boredom in between. BE had no consistency whatsoever.
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Oct 27, 2014
Loved this series for the most part, but the shooting of Nucky by Tommy Darmody was too far fetched to be believable. There was a custody battle for Tommy and his grandmother lost then ended up in a mental institution for criminally insane women. Certainly the people raising Tommy would have kept him as far away from the grandmother as possible. He would not be able to visit her and hear her stories motivating him to seek justice for his father's murder and his grandmother's ruined life, much less have the brains to infiltrate Nucky's operation in order to kill Nucky. This whole subplot of Gillian and her son was whacked from the beginning. The implausibility of Gillian being able to cremate the body of the boy she murdered in the 1920s was equally ridiculous as was the overheard confession to the PI posing as her lover. The whole store line added a yuck factor that was creepy enough to increase the show's tension (like it needed it) but the contrived ending delivering justice to Nucky was hard to swallow.
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Oct 27, 2014
I too, had doubts about the Tommy Darmody thread for a while. I suppose alternate thinking though would be that, as he got older he would have asked questions about his family, his father. It's not inconceivable Julia would've told them stories about Jimmy, but might try hide Mee-Ma.

I definitely don't think Tommy's intention was always to kill Nucky from the get go. I think he went there to see what Nucky is about, who this monster he'd heard of was.

Shooting him in the cheek like Jimmy, some will like the symbolism, some won't. Different strokes I suppose
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