Boardwalk Empire: Friendless Child
This is where we have been heading all season. Our central character humbled, let down, and disappointed, but with a barely recognizable path to redemption. Will Nucky Thompson be the dirty, testy, unscrupulous man who we have seen veer the path from seedy politician to a gangster in full? Or can we truly view him as a good man in the end?
**step beyond the break and I will submit you to conjecture. It’s too late for anything else.**
After all, even Mickey Doyle is dead now, done in by his own duplicitous nature…and his big mouth.
These qualities took him down so suddenly in such a tense scene that it was difficult to process what it meant. Make his death last 15 minutes and you’ve got Shakespeare. No character has had a more fitting demise in this series, shot down for opening his mouth and choking, unable to offer another unwelcome quip. Goodbye Mickey Doyle, you’ve been a favorite. I only hope Paul Sparks will find another character so fitting in the future.
The real-life figure Doyle was possibly based on was also shot down in a skirmish in 1931, but many other series regulars with more concrete historical identities are wearing a sort of armor that points to a largely hopeless end for our fictional Boardwalk Empire friends. Thus far, such folks have had a hard time indeed. We lost Van Alden and Chalky White last week and Sally Wheet not long before that. While we have seen real-life gangsters like Dion O’banion, Joe Masseria, and now Marranzano fall to gangland violence, they have each gone down in what passes for historically appropriate times and manners.
We finally got a little more time with Benny Seigel this episode, and I gotta say I wish we’d had more of him all along. His filthy song while tied to a chair in Nucky’s office was one of the highlights of a great episode.
The continuity Terrence Winter and gang have built through this truncated final season has been impressive, bringing series-long relationships to full understandings and putting them all in recognizable landmarks from the series. We see young Nucky scale the same stairway where Jimmy and Eli plotted against him in season 2, the same stairway where Richard shot down two of Gyp Rosetti’s men in season 3, the same staircase where Gillian unwittingly gave away her freedom just last season. We see the Commodore stocking his new mansion, the same one that would become a high-rent bordello and the site of murder and mayhem.
It’s particularly appropriate that we see he has selected to hang Henry Fuseli’s gothic masterpiece “The Nightmare” there.
Is this all to be Nucky’s nightmare?
At episode’s entry we see that every gangster we know is on edge every time a door opens. A war is being raged and any one of them could be butchered at any moment. Only Nucky seems at ease in his upstairs office, despite the tenuous position he is already in before things get really bad. With allies like Doyle and Marranzano he should be more worried. What he is, is impatient, and that leads him to force the action, dooming both. He can’t possibly think that the deal he has struck with Luciano and Lansky by the end of the episode will save him, even with Eli putting the killing bullet in Marranzano’s noggin. This may be revealed as karma coming to bite him. After all, didn’t Jimmy and Richard do a killing on Nucky’s say-so to make his life easier just days before turning around and murdering him himself?
As we see Nucky’s empire falling down around him, we also get to see his initial relationship with Gillian and his doomed wife play out many years earlier. Gillian’s 1931 letter to Nucky has sat unopened for most of the season, but he finally reads it tonight and it gives the viewer hope that he may be able to do one last good deed of substance, the sort of deed that would make Mabel proud of him. In the meantime, it would be foolish to ignore that high finance deal he made through Margaret in the middle of all the confusion. Will he be able to buy himself out of trouble one more time? The real-life “Nucky” Johnson maintained his hold on Atlantic City until 1941 when he was arrested and incarcerated. My guess is that the “friend” Luciano is ordering the hit on in the preview for next week’s series finale is one Valentin Narcisse.
We’ll see, won’t we? It has been a lot of fun so far.