Boardwalk Empire Season 5 Premiere Review “Golden Days for Boys and Girls”

Boardwalk Empire returned last night for its fifth and final season. It’s hard to believe in just seven more episodes, the series will wrap for good.

In the premiere, the show jumped to 1931, which meant major changes for the Boardwalk Empire universe:

– No more Arnold Rothstein. With the announcement of the time jump, I suspected that we’d learn of Rothstein’s death, which took place off screen. It will be interesting to see if the characters discuss how Arnold died. I won’t “spoil” it here, but it’s not too shocking given the characters love for gambling.

– We’re about two years after the stock drops in 1929, which started the Great Depression in the United States.

– Despite the economic downturn for many, including Margaret’s boss, the bootleggers were still living well off of their ill-gotten gains. However, with rampant rumors of a prohibition repeal, Nucky was in Cuba with Sally looking to diversify his assets and find new sources of income.

I applaud the writers for not being scared to take their time and stick to the slower pacing of the show, despite a reduced episode order. I also respect the writers for not feeling pressured to check in with every single character – no matter how much I wanted to know what my favorite former FBI agent, Van Alden/Mueller was up to in Chicago. Here’s what happened with the characters we did get a chance to see in the premiere:


After a season in which Nucky was more of a background player to the conflict between Chalky and Narcisse, it makes sense that the final season would get back to the character around whom this show was built. It was no surprise to see Nucky in Cuba working new angles and not exactly broken over the prospect of alcohol once again being legal to consume. Nucky has always been able to see the bigger picture.

The show also spent a considerable amount of time on flashbacks to Nucky’s childhood. Admittedly, I’m feeling a little weary about flashbacks after they were so poorly used on the final season of True Blood. Boardwalk Empire, however, is a much better, well written show and the flashbacks were an interesting insight into Nucky we now see in 1931. It’s clear that no figures loom larger over Nucky than his father and the Commodore. The flashbacks showed a more human side of Nucky’s father and showed how charismatic the Commodore was in his prime. The show did an excellent job finding an actor who could pull off a young Dabney Coleman. With Gillian still having more story to tell, I’m guessing the flashbacks will lead to the fateful moment in which Nucky took Gillian to the Commodore.

Although Jimmy is now long gone, his warning to Nucky about being half a gangster continues to be a relevant theme on Boardwalk Empire. One of the biggest questions of this final season will be if Nucky manages to transition into legitimate business endeavors while avoiding the fallout of his criminal past. Although there’s been countless collateral damage around him, he’s been fortunate to have avoided jail and to have walked away from several attempts against his life.

Life After A. R.

With their mentor gone, Charlie and Meyer continue to lead their expanding crime syndicate, but the men have settled into very different personal and professional lives. Meyer was in Cuba, wooing his wife and networking for new opportunities. Like Nucky, Meyer understands the bigger picture and I wouldn’t be shocked if he too has taken interest in the rumors about the repeal of prohibition. Charlie is still living the single life and he finally broke free of Masseria’s rule – by killing him. The divide between Charlie and Meyer clearly runs deeper than their relationship choices. Charlie has now joined with Maranzano, thus deepening his connection to the Italian mob. Despite their longstanding friendship and multiple business endeavors, there is no place for Meyer in the Italian mob. It will be interesting to see if the show explores that at all.

Rothstein’s death had a much different impact on Margaret, who had to watch her boss struggle to effectively deliver his suicide speech over the sound of construction in the background. Interestingly, Margaret walked away from Nucky because she was tired of his criminal lifestyle (and excessive cheating). She went to New York to make a new life for herself and once again, found her livelihood dependent upon a partnership with Arnold that was not what one would consider a “legitimate” business endeavor. With Rothstein’s death and the loss of her job, it will be interesting to see where Margaret goes from here.

Chalky And The Chain Gang

So for reasons unknown to viewers, we found Chalky locked up on a chain gang. I’m never going to complain about screen time for Chalky, but I was genuinely relieved that by the end of the episode it was clear we would not have to spend any more time watching him on the chain gain. More importantly, it was very clear that despite everything that’s happened to him, Chalky still has some fight left in him. I’m excited to see him catch his second wind and make one last grand stand this season – as soon as he gets rid of the very unstable Milton. Milton must go. Soon.

Until Next Week!

Overall, the season premiere did a great job at piquing my interest about what lies ahead. I’m looking forward to heading over to Chicago and seeing what’s new for the Capone family. What did you think of this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire? Sound off below!