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'Boardwalk Empire' Season Finale Recap: “Farewell Daddy Blues"


Chalky returns and is not happy with Nucky


The show picks up where we left off last week: with Nucky talking to Sally expressing his desire to leave the business and travel down to Florida with her.


While Sally is telling Nucky how much she doesn’t believe him, Nucky’s men are getting apprehended by Chalky’s men outside. Still under the suspicion that Nucky gave the mayor orders to knock him off, Chalky enters Nucky’s house ready to shoot first and ask questions later. Nucky swears he had nothing to do with what transpired, but Chalky knows Nucky is now dealing with Narcisse. Nucky tells him it’s not what he thinks and they they both want the same thing.Photos: Paul Schiraldi/HBO


Knox is so close to nailing Nucky’s crew he can taste it


Knox is rounding out the details with Eli in his efforts to squeeze New Jersey, New York and Tampa. Once the representatives from the three cities are in the hotel room where they’re supposed to meet, the agents will be in the next room ready to administer a radio cue when they get the information they need. Knox tells Eli he doesn’t have to be at the meeting, nobody will know he dropped the dime on them and Willie won’t go to prison.


Gillian’s trial makes Richard take action


Gillian is on trial, but it’s confusing to say the least. She confessed to Roy that she killed Roger, but claims the body she buried was Jimmy’s. Then Gillian claims she was in love (with Roy) but was tricked into making a confession. Richard takes the stand and knows for a fact the body was not Jimmy’s.


Richard then goes to Nucky and asks him where Jimmy’s body is. Richard also tells Nucky that it needs to be proven in court and Jimmy’s body needs to be found or Gillian could go free and go after Tommy again. In exchange for a favor (we’ll get to that in a minute) Nucky will call in an anonymous tip to the police.


Cognizant of what may lie ahead, Richard then sends Julia, Tommy and his father-in law to his sister’s in Wisconsin. The vibe is pretty ominous, and Julia is skeptical whether she will ever see Richard again. Soon after, the tip is called into the police, who uncover Jimmy’s body along with a slew of local press.


Al Capone gets a bigger piece of Chicago


Al is still debating who tried to shoot him. Torrio comes in and claims that it was Weiss- an associate of O‘Banion’s who was seeking retaliation for the O’Banion hit. After Al come off rather suspicious of Torrio’s demeanor, Torrio is shot several times outside of his home.


As Al, Nelson and the gang wait outside Torrio’s hospital room, Torrio asks for Al. After Al arrives at his bedside and vows to Torrio that they’ll find the people who shot him, Torrio tells him he is ok and proceeds to give Al his whole operation. Just like that, the torch is passed. Torrio plans to go to Europe after he recovers. In the process, Al Capone’s piece of the Windy City just got a little bigger.


Nucky makes a “deal” with Narcisse


A disgusted Nucky throws Mayor Bader out of his own office to talk with Narcisse. Nucky tells Narcisse that Chalky knows the whereabouts of Daughter. Moreover, he wants to see his daughter get married and wants safe passage, but Nucky (in language less colorful for print) also tells Narcisse he never wants to see Chalky again in his club.  In other words, everything Nucky said to Narcisse was a lie, as he wants Narcisse taken down as well. Narcisse’s men later call Nucky and tell him Narcisse will be at the Onyx Club by 9pm.


Nucky and Eli finally face off


With the meeting apparently ready to take place, Nucky (who is packing a suitcase) calls Eli, and decides to throw him a curveball. Nucky tells Eli he thinks they should walk into the meeting together. When Willie asks Eli what is going on, Eli blows him off and tells him to tell his mother he will be late.


When Eli stops by Nucky’s, most of the lights are off and Nucky is nowhere to be found. Eli then draws his gun. Nucky appears and tells Eli the meeting is off because he checked the hotel registry and got suspicious of the three empty rooms right next to where the meeting was supposed to take place. Nucky then draws a gun on Eli and seems ready to blow him away when Willie walks in. Eli is ready to accept his fate and comes clean about Knox and everything he made him do. Although Nucky tells Eli that death is what he deserves, he decides not to kill him. He does however, tell Eli he made his own mess, and now he has to drown in it.


Eli has had enough of Knox


Eli returns home looking for Willie and finds an enraged Knox instead. Knox is furious that the meeting didn’t transpire and continues to manipulate Eli, telling him of somebody he sent to jail who has become very “friendly” with the other prisoners implying that will eventually be Willie). That was enough for Eli, who wrestles a gun away from Knox and what ensues is the bloodiest, grittiest, epic, violent fight in the entire history of the show (even better than Dunn vs. Chalky). In the process, Knox gets half his head sawed off (among other things) and Eli gets thrown into a pane of glass. When all is said and done however, Eli manages to overpower Knox, whom he beats to death (and smashes his face with a glass urn for an encore).




Mayhem at the Onyx Club


Chalky meets with Narcisse at the club. Unbeknownst to either one of them, Richard (as part of the deal he made with Nucky) is in the upper deck with a rifle ready to take out Narcisse. Unbeknownst to Chalky, Narcisse has kidnapped Chalky’s daughter. Chalky agrees to exchange Daughter’s whereabouts for his own daughter. Meanwhile, Richard has a clear shot at Narcisse, but for some reason fails to act upon it. When he finally does, Chalky’s daughter gets in the way and gets caught in the crossfire. A visibly shaken Chalky is ushered out of the club and manages to get away in all the commotion, but Narcisse is detained by federal agents looking for the whereabouts of Eli. Although he manages to escape, Richard is identified in the balcony and is shot multiple times. Badly wounded, he manages to make his way down under the boardwalk.Photos: Paul Schiraldi/HBO


In the interrogation room, J. Edgar Hoover gives Narcisse the emasculation we’ve been waiting for all season. Despite the fact that Narcisse cheated death again, he now has to comply with anything Hoover asks of him, or he will be charged in Knox’s death. When Narcisse calls Hoover “sir,” it was such sweet irony.



Nucky detained by the feds and meets up with Willie


Nucky is picked up for questioning in regards to the death of Knox. It’s not revealed whether he knows of what Eli did, but he meets later with Willie to tell him that Eli is indeed somewhere safe. When Willie asks him if he would have killed his dad if he didn’t show up, Nucky simply tells him he’s not who he thinks he is and that all of this will get easier.


The final scenes of the episode are played to a backdrop of Daughter singing in an unidentified nightclub. Margaret is seen moving into her new apartment (courtesy of Arnold Rothstein), Chalky is on Oscar’s porch contemplating his next move, Eli is now in Chicago, where he gets picked up by none other than Van Alden!

Sadly, life does not go on for Richard, who dreams of reuniting with his family in Wisconsin with a healed face. It’s the last thing he envisions before dying under the boardwalk.

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Closing Thoughts:


-You can’t help but feel for Eli. Although you could technically say he betrayed Nucky again, he did it to protect his son. Now, he can’t even be with his son.


-With the demise of Richard, the discovering of Jimmy’s body and the incarceration of Gillian, the whole Jimmy storyline seems to come full circle. Is Willie the new Jimmy?


-What will become of the relationship between Nucky and Chalky? And what is Chalky’s next move? How does he explain to his wife that his daughter is dead- and it’s essentially because of him? Does Chalky think Narcisse arranged to have his daughter killed?


-Did anyone else wonder how they were able to bring Gillian to trial so quickly?


-Did Richard really think Nucky was going to give him an anonymous tip about Jimmy? Or did Richard really know Nucky killed Jimmy, but was so desperate to help Tommy and Julia that he didn’t care?


-Richard got a hand cramp at the wrong time.


-Kudos to Jack Huston, for making the character of  trained but tortured killer Richard Harrow so engaging and likeable over the course of four seasons. Despite always  trying to do the right thing for himself as well as those around him, I always got the feeling Richard knew his destiny. Although he denied it to Julia, Richard knew there was a pretty good chance he’d never see Tommy again.  Always the noble soldier, he technically died because he ultimately wanted Tommy and Julia to have a better life.


-Gillian is finally in jail- where she should have been years ago.


-Did Nucky find out what happened with Chalky and Narcisse?


-Speaking of Narcisse, he literally dodged the bullet of his life in the Onyx Club. Will he return to Atlantic City to cause more trouble for Nucky? Does he think Nucky put the hit out on him? Or was he so engrossed in himself that he didn’t even realize the bullet that killed Chalky’s daughter was meant for him?


-Although Knox got what was coming to him, I was disappointed that Nucky never found out about Knox and how his treatment of Eddie indirectly led to his suicide. Proper closure would have been fitting.


-Was it completely random that Van Alden picked up Eli? Or did Nucky arrange that? Will Eli join Capone’s crew? And did Eli recognize Van Alden, whose is technically on the run himself?!


-In what is perhaps the biggest question of the entire episode- If Willie hadn’t walked in, would Nucky have killed Eli (despite what he told Willie)?


Although it didn’t quite pack the punch that season three did, it was a sad but well done ending to season four of Boardwalk Empire. There were certain times during the season where it seemed character development was slower than usual. Furthermore, it also took a little while longer for storylines to develop. As always, questions remain. When you go back to season one, it seems like Nucky has pretty much lost it all and that Eli may have been right in his assessments. Nucky’s relationship with his brother, wife, and his standing in Atlantic City are all sordid at best. While he’s still a presence in the community, Nucky now seems to be more or less kind of a loner trying to hold on to what’s left of his diminishing power.


Where will Nucky go from here? Tampa? Who is on his team he can even trust? Willie? Is he too young to be a big part of Nucky’s operation?  It’s highly doubtful Chalky will be back with him when you consider the circumstances. Perhaps we’ve seen the last of Gillian, Margaret and even Chalky.


Already renewed for season five, the upcoming season will most likely present a heavy amount of changes.


See you in September.


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com


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Photos: Paul Schiraldi/HBO