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'Boardwalk Empire' Series Finale Recap: "Eldorado"


All Empires Fall


After five seasons of betrayal, corruption, murder and a myriad of undesirable acts too numerous to mention, was there any other way Nucky Thompson was going to go out?


Well, there could have been. But if there’s one thing Boardwalk Empire has taught us over the last few episodes, it’s that karma is indeed a bitch, and nobody is spared. Not Chalky, Van Alden, Al Capone (although that is factual), Dr. Narcisse, or even the show’s protagonist.


The moment Tommy Darmody came back to give Nucky one last goodbye on the boardwalk, you had to know his time was up. Just last week, yours truly mentioned in Boardwalk’s episode recap that maybe “Joe Harper” was Tommy. When Nucky gave “Joe” the cash and told him to hit the road in the previous episode, however, many assumed it was the last we would see of the character. However, the reappearance of “Joe” in the finale was no coincidence. A small-time character (or so it seemed) ended up sticking around just a little too long, and there had to be a reason for it. Even though Jimmy Darmody’s murder was touched upon after the shocking season 2 finale, Jimmy’s presence in the series remained long after his death. Despite the fact that Jimmy’s mother Gillian was tried for the murder of his look alike in season 4, it was only briefly touched upon from Nucky’s perspective in a season 3 dream. Photo: avclub.com


That never really made sense, until the last episode. Having lost his entire empire, the events from the previous week set the stage for Nucky to now tie up some loose ends before leaving Atlantic City for good to start a new life. He makes peace with Margaret, and it even seems his influence rubbed off on her to some extent. Margaret’s ability to short the Mayflower stock and making a king’s ransom for herself and Joe Kennedy showed she has come a long way since Nucky came to her aid in the first season. Whether Nucky lived or died, it’s apparent that Margaret will be just fine. Nucky also leaves on a good note with his brother, Eli. Whether Eli will reconcile with his estranged wife is unknown, but the nest egg Nucky left him will hopefully help him get started on the right path.


In the end, however, it all comes down to Gillian. As the flashbacks confirmed, it was Nucky’s decision to surrender Gillian to the Commodore that changed the course of many lives, and none of them for the better. The Commodore and her son were killed, and she is institutionalized and butchered at the hands of the resident doctor at the facility. When Nucky finally visits Gillian in the institution, he can’t even look her in the eye. Although he claims there’s not much more he can do for her while practically fighting back tears, Nucky knows Gillian is in the condition she is in because of him. It doesn’t matter that he once supported her and Jimmy. As we all found out rather poignantly, Gillian obviously harbors some severe hatred towards “Sheriff Enoch.” Although he arranged for a private room and money in an account “if” she is ever released, Gillian isn’t going anywhere. She’s just as much of a prisoner now as she was when Nucky surrendered her to the Commodore all those years ago.


Nucky did just enough to try and clear his conscience regarding Gillian. You get the impression that Nucky has come to terms with these events that have shaped his life and that he’s finally in the clear.


Not so fast. In the end, it turned out his life would come full circle on that boardwalk. The young Nucky Thompson died the moment he sold his soul to the Commodore to get ahead. He was practically thrown off the boardwalk before turning Gillian over, just as he was treated like a second class citizen at his old club as he went to get his belongings. Nucky was trying to help Tommy in the same spot where he failed Gillian years before. Maybe it was the culmination of his wife’s miscarriage, the violent altercation with his father, or the Commodore simply asking him "What are you in the end, anyway?” that pushed Nucky over the edge. No matter what it was, the fact that Nucky subsequently met his fate at that exact location is pretty poetic.




-What was Future Girl’s deal? It seems like one of those things we’re going to be asking about for years when discussing this final episode, but it has no real meaning to it. There’s probably tons of theories being posted on message boards as we speak. Maybe Nucky looking at the television foreshadows his life story, which will be told on the small screen. All that aside, if she really lived up to her name, Future Girl would have given Nucky the heads up and told him he was going to be shot dead.


-What is unclear is exactly what Gillian told Tommy to make him want to kill Nucky. First off, doesn’t Tommy know by now his grandmother is nuts? Richard got him out of that whore house at such a young age, so how could he even remember what she said and form a valid opinion about it? When was the last time he saw her anyway? Seven years? Maybe Tommy knows Nucky killed his dad, but how could he? Did Gillian tell Tommy how Nucky turned her over to the Commodore? Did he know how Nucky basically led Richard to his death by attempting to kill Narcisse?


Final Thoughts:


As uneven as Boardwalk Empire could be at times during its five-year run, all the loose ends are tied up nicely (if not rather quickly) and everything comes full circle in this episode. Lucky Luciano says, “The old way of doing things, it’s over,” and it couldn’t be more apropos as his reign begins. Capone meets his demise, but ever the showman, flashes a grin from ear to ear until the very end. Even though Margaret didn’t cash in the way Nucky wanted her to in regards to the stock market, she is smart enough to walk away when the time is right. The same can’t be said for Nucky.


You have to give series creator Terence Winter, writer Howard Korder and director Tim Van Patten tremendous credit for blindsiding the audience like they did in the moments preceding Nucky’s assassination. Who else thought Nucky was in the clear the moment Narcisse was shot dead by Lucky Luciano’s men? After all, Luciano ordered two gunmen to deliver a hit in broad daylight. Raise your hand if you thought those bullets were intended for Nucky?


Early response to the death of Nucky Thompson has not been not favorable, but I guess it depends on how you view him. His character came full circle the best way he knew how in “Eldorado.” Whether it’s satisfying or not lies in the eyes of the viewer. You’re not going to make everybody happy, but hey, at least it was a better than The Sopranos’ ending. Right? In the end, it’s tough to argue that Boardwalk Empire had a pretty good run.


Thanks to everybody who took the time out to read our reviews over the last four seasons!



Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com


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Photo:  avclub.com