In the season finale of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson had to face up to his loyalties and admit who he has become. Writers did the unthinkable and sacrificed another character, but this only further proves that Boardwalk Empire is a serious endeavor in it for the long haul.
The episode began with Jimmy and Richard attacking the KKK and finding the murderers of Chalky White’s people. After gunning them down and bringing Chalky his revenge victims, Jimmy is now laying the ground work for Nucky’s forgiveness.
Esther Randolph is preparing her final case against Nucky. Margaret Schroeder is called into the office and makes sure to bring her priest. Schroeder has been mighty fond of her priest ever since her daughter contracted polio and she now feels some sense of duty in bringing all guilty parties, including herself, to justice.
Esther offers her a deal to escape her situation with Nucky and have her children cared for if she agrees to testify in court. Nucky realizes that he must try anything to gain Margaret’s trust and so he does the thing that comes most naturally to him, he lies to her. He tells her that she is more important to him than the game and that he would give it all up to be with her.
Not to be phased by this latest set of lies, Margaret agrees to marry Nucky in order to avoid testifying against him in court. Anyone can tell by her nonchalant way of going along with things that she thinks Nucky is a terrible person and she is only complying in order to provide for her children.
Jimmy asks Nucky to come over to his house and meet him so he can tell him the truth. He admits that he betrayed him because he was angry and felt like life was unfair. He says all it took for him to be loyal to the Commodore was to hear him acknowledge him as his son. And he claims that he did not want Nucky shot, but rather he stood up for him while Eli crafted the plan of Nucky’s demise. All Jimmy wants is a chance to make it up to Nucky and to make sure Horvitz gets his in the end.
In order for this to happen, Jimmy must sway Nucky’s enemies into testifying of his innocence. Richard and Jimmy make a stop by the county treasurer’s office and make him sign a testimony, then stage his death as a suicide. Esther Randolph’s case is kaput and Nucky is off the hook. This means that Eli is also off the hook but Deputy Ray is off to jail. The shit always falls to the bottom wrung of the success ladder.
Van Alden has set up another new life with his Norwegian nanny and as far as we can tell, it’s going to work out for awhile. That is unless he catches wind of activities in the area he cannot morally avoid sticking his nose into or unless Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) finds him to claim her little scoop of ice-cream. Only time will tell.
Nucky asks Rothstein if he is okay to off Manny Horvitz. Horvitz is connected to Waxy Gordon who is connected to Rothstein. If Nucky kills Horvitz he cuts off most of his business connections. It’s easy to see where Nucky ends up investing his loyalties. He calls Jimmy to have him meet up in the middle of nowhere.
Prior to this, Jimmy took his son to the beach and helped him learn to ride horseback. He spent real time with him. He made sure that his assets were secure by destroying the Commodore’s will. He had some drinks with Richard Harrow and made him promise to move on with his life and leave the war behind him. When he received the phone call from Nucky, he left his son with his pedo mother and hit the road. Richard knew what his departure meant. Gillian knew what the dog tags he left with his son meant and she didn’t even bat an eyelash. She already has her next predecessor under her control.
Jimmy went to Nucky with nothing left to lose. Last week I mentioned that Angela was Jimmy’s only sense of connection to himself, the only thing he chose on his own accord. Even his son was thrust upon him by accident. But Angela was someone he chose, regardless of their relationship’s triviality. Now that his only sense of authenticity is gone, he has nothing left.
Something I respect about this show is that they don’t feel a need to comply with most prime time audience demands. If this is a period piece which must connect to real events, characters have to go, even if they are the ones we love most. When Nucky chooses to kill his only real ‘son’ Jimmy over his business it opens up an entire new narrative in which Nucky has to face himself just like Darmody.
“You never knew me,” Nucky says to Jimmy before he shoots him. But really, Jimmy is satisfied because he has been forced to face his demons with the death of Angela. Nucky hasn’t hit bottom yet. It’s obvious that Jimmy is the beginning of the end for Nucky. Margaret Schroeder made sure of that when she signed over the bulk of his wealth and investment to the Catholic church.
This show isn’t just interesting anymore, it’s an investment similar to that of any character’s on the show. If we’ve learned anything from ‘Boardwalk Empire’ thus far, it’s that you have to be willing to break a few eggs in order to get one amazing omelette.