Nothing says a television show is coming to an end more clearer and louder than main characters getting killed off. It’s like leaves turning colors or someone getting their prosthetic leg stolen outside an Eagles’ game– a fact of life. So we say a fond farewell to Chalky White and Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller. And we move forward with strong words of caution to Nucky and Eli Thompson. And maybe even to Mickey Doyle. You three lads are the three of last remaining characters on the show who are not real people, i.e. you’re expendable. Al Capone is not dying on Boardwalk Empire. Neither are Luciano or Lansky.
Let’s just ask all of the questions that need to be asked and subsequently answered as we wait for the show’s final two episodes.
Will Nucky Thompson die?
I don’t think so. I’ve never really thought he was going to die, except for maybe a brief moment during the Rise and Fall of Jimmy Darmody in season two. I just figured he’d end up alone. Completely alone. With everyone he’s ever cared about gone. He’d have money, his digs at the Ritz and a new dude to drive him around, but it’d be empty happiness. I mean, all of these main characters on these kinds of shows have holes that need to be filled. On Breaking Bad, Walt needed to be respected; to feel important. Don Draper wants to feel whole. Tony Soprano wanted to feel happy. Nucky wants power; to finally reach that level of society he has apparently been striving for since he first started working for the Commodore. Ultimately (and we’ll see what happens with Don) none of these things end up happening. So I don’t think this will be any different for Nucky.
Have the flashbacks changed the way you feel about Nucky?
Not at first, alth0ugh I’m turning a corner. The flashback in last night’s episode, “Devil You Know,” was probably the most effective in terms on influencing my opinion on Nucky. He was just looking to get ahead, to make a name of himself and to do what so many other’s were trying to do during that time; during anytime, change his station in life. He saw how the other half lived; he remembers how he lived growing up and in making a choice, he chose the greener grass. Unfortunately he’s going to get his hands dirty (turning Gillian over to the Commodore will end up being his Original Sin) and from there, he goes down the path that has led him to rising up another army of goons to fight an outside force threatening all that he has worked for. Nucky has never looked comfortable because he is both an outsider and constantly fearful of losing everything and ending up back in the Pine Barrens, scraping by with nothing like his father did. Flashbacks can be a cheap way to make an audience sympathize with a character, but it’s now obvious it’s what the Boardwalk Empire folks needed to do to make Nucky sympathetic.
Does that mean we are rooting for Nucky now?
I’m not. But you can. Just because I’ve started to feel for the guy, doesn’t mean I’ve started to cheer for his success.
Plus, at this point, what is his success going to look like- unless the producers and writers of the show go Tarantino and elect to change history? And I don’t see them doing that. They haven’t so far, so why do it now? It seems far more lucky for Nucky to end up dead than either Luciano or Lansky, mainly because both don’t die in 1931. That’s not a spoiler, that’s a fact.
One prediction for the finale?
One other prediction for the finale?
Eli reunites with his family.
So Eli finds happiness but Nucky doesn’t?
Maybe it comes down to choices and the severity of those choices. Nucky has been the aggressor since day one on the show, whereas Eli was basically a follower. He wronged, but not in the way Nucky wronged. His intentions weren’t seeped in power and dominance. He just wanted to provide for his family. Maybe I’m being naive here, but if the punishment fits the crime, then I think Eli has served his periods of punishment for his crimes. He has been through the ringer; has been Nucky’s pawn for long enough. I think he ends getting the chance to be his own man and live outside of his brother’s shadow. That alone would be happiness enough.
Does that mean Eli is the one we are rooting for?
We’re not rooting for one single character on Boardwalk Empire. It’s not like Breaking Bad where we were rooting for Jesse. On Boardwalk we are at both different and the same times rooting for Chalky White, Jimmy, Richard Harrow, Margaret, Angela Darmody, Daughter Maitland, Willie Thompson, Eddie, and occasionally Nucky. So yes, we are rooting for Eli, but no more than we were rooting for Chalky and now rooting for Willie.
Hey, big ups for Chalky. I didn’t totally understand his plan and don’t for a second trust Narcisse to follow through on his end of the deal, but Chalky was able to die in a peaceful state of mind. He died happy knowing that he was able to at least right one of the wrongs he caused.
And Poor Van Alden.
Eh, not really. He got what was coming to him. And I disagree with Vulture, when the argue that Van Alden sacrificed himself for Eli. Van Alden was a cornered, rabid dog who saw no way out besides raging at the dying light of Al Capone. All his pent up rage- over a decade’s worth!- finally came bubbling to a vicious head and he couldn’t contain it anymore. That’s what happened there. Not some last gasp, heroic gesture in saving Eli, someone he never really liked in the first place and who most recently boinked his wife, albeit the wife he couldn’t stand anymore. No way man. Van Alden embarked on a suicide mission to save himself. No one else.
With Eli leaving Chicago, is the last we’ve seen of Al Capone on Boardwalk Empire?
I bet we get a couple minutes in the finale, maybe scenes of him getting arrested*. But I bet that’s it.
* Capone was arrested in 1931 for tax evasion. I just looked it up.
Have your Dead Character Power Rankings Changed?
Yes they have.
10. That dude Gillian killed that looked like Jimmy
9. Gyp Rossetti
8. Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller
7. Dunn Purnsley
6. Chalky’s daughter
5. Owen Sleater
4. Eddie Kessler
3. Jimmy Darmody
2. Chalky White
1. Richard Harrow
What’s left for Gillian to do on the show?
I don’t really care. But pretending I do- get out of the looney bin, find a nice dude (who’s not an undercover detective looking to arrest her,) not murder said nice dude, become a florist, stay away from drugs.
Will we see Margaret again?
Yes. But only to tie up Nucky’s story.
Will Nucky and Margaret get back together?
Last question, is that new kid, Joel Harper, really Tommy Darmody?
Joel Harper is that new kid working for Nucky at the club run by Micky Doyle. He says he’s sixteen. Tommy Darmody is the son of the murdered Jimmy Darmody. When we last saw Tommy he was in the custody of Richard Harrow’s wife, I think they were headed out of town, at the end of season four. I don’t know exactly how old Tommy was when season four ended, but it’s not inconceivable to think he’d be at least around 16 years old in 1931. But why the assumed name? And is he back looking for revenge for the killing of his father? How would he even know Nucky killed Jimmy? Richard wouldn’t have told him. Richard never really begrudged Nucky for killing Jimmy because it was war, Jimmy was a soldier and soldier’s die. Plus, it’s not like you tell a five year old that no, you’re dad didn’t peace out and go back to war, but he was actually murdered by the town kingpin. So I don’t think that’s the case. And thinking about it, I also don’t think Joel Harper is Tommy Darmody.
But I could be wrong.