Boardwalk Empire: Farewell Daddy Blues

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**This article will discuss the finale of season 4. There will be spoilers. BIG spoilers.**
Okay, so I got this one about half right. Click below and we’ll have a heart to heart about it.

After four seasons of following Boardwalk Empire episode by episode, the HBO gangster drama finally hit its emotional peak. The tension throughout the final show of the season was palpable, and like a good drama we got some of what we wanted and some of what we didn’t want.
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The same can be said for the show’s central character Nucky Thompson. As he schemes and pushes and double-crosses, Nucky gradually, but surely pushes everyone away. He has great instincts for business and power plays. This is how he figures out that the meeting with the other big gangsters from New York and Florida is a set-up. It’s also how he conspires to solve his problem with Narcisse. But no matter how adept a man is, he cannot account for chance or for the human element.
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With the meeting a complete bust due to Nucky’s prescience, he has set two of his problems against one another. Was he ever going to personally kill Eli? I don’t think so. Why do that when he can allow Eli and Knox to sort half of the problem out themselves when he’s not in the room? The fight to the death that ensues between the men in Eli’s home had real suspense, because it has been clearly displayed that Boardwalk Empire is willing to leave important characters behind. The battle twists and turns and each time one man would gain the upper hand it seemed possible that he would prevail. Earlier this week I gave Knox my number one prediction for death in the season finale, and I am very glad to have been right on this count. He was an interesting character for a single season, but Eli continues to energize the show and Shea Whigham gives an under appreciated performance in the role.

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And now the show has placed him in exile, like Darmody before him, in Chicago with Capone’s organization and side by side with Nelson Van Alden. Can we have this as a spinoff series please?
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Nucky’s machinations to do away with Narcisse are far less successful. He sets up a meeting between Narcisse and Chalky, with Richard Harrow in place to assassinate the good doctor from afar. But Harrow now has something to lose, and we’ve already seen him turn away from one assigned killing this season. He has a shot on Narcisse, but he trembles and needs to reset his grip on his rifle. It is a momentary weakness which proves fatal. When he finally gets off his shot, it is a split second after someone else has stepped into the path of the bullet.
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That someone is Chalky’s own daughter, Maybelle, whose wedding he was bargaining for safe passage to. He did not know that the wedding had been called off. But he did appear to know that a shot was coming. When she goes down, Richard is so horrified that he leaves himself exposed and is shot in the gut by return fire. He stumbles unnoticed out of the club as Narcisse and his men are arrested and down to the beach.

As we are shown where the characters have gone, we see Daughter singing in some blues club in some far-off city. We see Eli being picked up by Van Alden in Chicago. We see Chalky exiled at Havre de Grace.

Then we see Richard again. On a train. Then walking a train track. Then approaching his sister’s home where Julia and Tommy and Paul and Emma wait for him. But the formerly barren farm is now nestled in a beautiful green wood. What month was it when Johnny Torrio was shot? It was January. Then we see Richard’s face as it was before his terrible injury and we know what is happening. Richard Harrow, perhaps the most popular character the show has, has died. It is a brave move, but it makes sense to the story. And it was done beautifully. Get ready for lots of upset fans.

- Harrow took the job in a deal with Nucky to ensure that Jimmy Darmody’s body was found as proof that the body Gillian  had incinerated was not his, but Roger’s. In trying to secure his family’s future, he throws it away.
- Narcisse agrees to inform for Hoover on Marcus Garvey in exchange for not being charged with agent Knox’s murder. I had a feeling Narcisse would be fed to Hoover, but I did not anticipate this arrangement. Interesting.
- Knox and Harrow are both clearly not returning for next season, while Eli clearly is. But what about Narcisse and Chalky? What about Gillian? Or Julia and the family left waiting at that farm? Each could easily disappear from the series. Each could just as easily return.
- Now that Jimmy’s body has been found, I’m sure people will start asking about who shot him. Do we know where that gun is? Eli might.

Posted on November 24, 2013, in Boardwalk Empire, TV. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Danielle Charney

    I have an early day but will be back later- I am ill that Narcisse is still alive- and Chalky’s daughter gone- cannot stand that Harrow is gone- but hope they write him in some way- I oddly want Jillian to get off- maybe it’s Mol’s genius – she is hard to resist no matter how evil but more later-

    • I made the mistake of not even addressing Chalky’s daughter when I made my predictions. There are too many characters to cover them all and I guess I figured when she got out of that room with Narcisse before that it meant she was safe. Her death was tragic all around. For her and for Chalky and for Harrow.

      Considering that they’ve found Jimmy’s real body now, I’m thinking lots of questions will be asked and Gillian will most surely have her say whether anyone listens to her or not. Gretchen Mol is really great in this role.

  2. I’d say you made the mistake of not addressing Johnny Torrio.

    • Hi Stoich! Thanks for reading!
      I made the decision not to “guess” at the mortality of the historical figures because I happen to know a little about gangster history and I didn’t want to provide spoilers based on something anybody could look up on line.
      Torrio was indeed shot several times and survived, only to hand over his business to Capone. Boardwalk Empire made it seem like the attempts on Capone and Torrio’s lives came from one another, but their feigned guesses about the hits coming from North siders Moran and Weiss are actually accurate. We’ll see if the show addresses that next year.

  3. This is a simply fantastic show and the way they have handled Harrow throughout is proof of that. He was going to be a one-episode, near-cameo, reminder of the cost of war. But they saw the potential in Huston’s portrayal, and his character became a strong plot-driver and the pivot to some fantastic scenes, instead.

    One of my favorite parts is how the writers weave in how the Great War shaped these events. A lot of the low-level gangsters of the twenties learned how in the trenches.

    • Thanks for adding your 2 cents, Pamela!
      I agree that they did a great job in developing the Richard Harrow character patiently over the last 4 years, and it makes his demise all the more upsetting for fans. But that is the trade-off we make for quality sometimes.
      There are many films and other stories about how the combatants in other wars were effected by their experiences. World War II and Vietnam veterans in particular have been covered in this way quite significantly. The “War to End All Wars” deserved a little more attention, though, and I’m glad that Boardwalk Empire has been able to cast a little light on their own struggles to adjust.

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