Eldorado: Boardwalk Empire Series Finale

Boardwalk Empire ended with the 8th episode of Season 5 (10/26/2014) with the death of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) at the hands of Tommy Darmody (Travis Tope), who up till this episode had been going by the name Joe Harper.

We’re going to let Terence Winter tell you all about how, despite the fact that Al Capone was played as a miniature bulldog with rabies for most of the series, underneath it all, he was really just a family man.

As for the ending, Winter says “Because the betrayal of Gillian was really the linchpin to Nucky’s entire downfall, we needed to address that betrayal in the biggest possible way and, of course, the biggest possible way was to have Gillian’s own grandson, Jimmy’s son, be the person who exacts revenge on Nucky. Once it’s revealed that this is Tommy Darmody, I think it’s incredibly powerful and it brings the series to a really unexpected conclusion that feels right. For a guy who lived by the sword, it felt very appropriate to have him die by the sword as well.”

This “really unexpected conclusion” has been predicted by many on the IMDB board ever since Mickey Doyle first agreed to give the kid a job in What Jesus Said, the second episode of Season 5.

As we said in our own take on Joe Harper,  we find it hard to believe the kid would have any fond memories of Gillian. The last time he saw her was in Season 4, Episode 11, Havre de Grace when Gillian decided to give up her custody claim so she could run off to California with Roy Phillips. Richard Harrow came out and refused to let her near Tommy. This was in 1924 and you can see how young Tommy was at the time.

What might make a little better sense maybe is Nucky thinking money is the answer to everything, thinking perhaps he could get back with Margaret after he made $2 million and made it possible for her to get in on the stock maneuver to the tune of $29,000; bidding farewell to his untrustworthy brother Eli but leaving him a ton of money; setting up a trust fund for Gillian, basically telling her the money and getting her a private room is all he can do for her; and Nucky giving even more money to “Joe Harper” after he already gave this kid over $1,000 and the kid has no explanation as to what happened to such a large amount of money in so short a time. The kid rips the money up right in front of him. So money wasn’t going to solve anything in what turns out to be the last time Nucky throws money at a problem. But we never do find out exactly why Tommy Darmody kills Nucky Thompson. The kid even seemed to be asking for another chance to work for him before suddenly popping up and pulling out a gun with murder on his mind.

Then there was the death of Valentin Narcisse in this episode. After a transparent red herring of a conversation where Luciano decrees that their “friend” has to be taken out in public by two shooters, Narcisse is killed. Viewers are supposed to be misled into thinking that Luciano meant Nucky. Well, after 5 seasons of red herrings, this last one was just as predictable as the Tommy Darmody thing. It was a miscue that the writers must have thought was awfully clever but it would have been a lot better to have had a scene showing how Narcisse pissed off Luciano enough to want him killed by two shooters in public.

And then there was the old bullet hole in the cheek.

Jimmy and Nucky and their bullet holes

Boardwalk Empire has been a fine series with many terrific scenes throughout its run. Ultimately, it needed more time than it got to finish out the storylines in a more sensible manner, or maybe it didn’t. They probably could have done it in Season 5 without indulging in so many of the extra little touches they seemed to take so much pride in.

Many may disagree with us, but as we recall, the initial premise was that Nucky did help Gillian by looking after Jimmy Darmody and becoming a surrogate father to him. That must not have been enough to atone for what many have called “Nucky’s original sin”, eh? The damage to Gillian’s psyche was so great that she was not responsible for anything for the rest of her life, Nucky was. Well, we have never bought that. The truth is survival was not enough for Gillian. She always wanted revenge and both her own son and the Commodore ended up dead because of it. Billie Kent and a whole lot of other people died in the explosion at Babette’s because Gillian told Gyp Rosetti that Nucky would be there. And now, her grandson (who, by the way, is also the Commodore’s grandson) is either going to jail or a mental institution for murdering Nucky. Probably the worst thing about it for Richard Harrow fans, it invalidates everything Harrow did to save Tommy Darmody.

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