Boardwalk Empire Season 5 “King of Norway” Review

With only eight episodes in this final season of Boardwalk Empire, things have begun to move very quickly as the series heads into its final stretch.

The words of Jimmy Darmody to Nucky in the first season of Boardwalk Empire continue to loom large – you can’t be half a gangster. Jimmy’s challenge to Nucky several seasons ago speaks to one of the central themes of tonight’s episode, which was who are these characters and what is their end game? Or as Mabel’s father observed to Nucky “I don’t think you know what you are.”

To begin, it turns out that viewers at home aren’t the only ones who see Eli for what he is. I was surprised to learn that even Capone is aware of Eli’s serious drinking issues. That says a lot for a guy who does copious amount of drugs. It’s not clear if this is a testament to Capone’s intel or a reflection of how reckless Eli has become since arriving in Chicago.

Based on what we saw tonight, it looks like it might be more of a testament to Eli’s reckless actions when under the influence. As if the dinner with Van Alden’s family wasn’t already awkward enough, Sigrid decides that it was a great opportunity to reveal to everyone that she and a drunken Eli had sex in the kitchen while Van Alden was out collecting money for Capone. The awkward dinner and shocking revelation were easily among the episode’s most shocking and entertaining moments. When we saw Van Alden and Sigrid before the time jump, she seemed to be slightly annoyed by the delay in construction of their dream home, but she also seemed to be firm in support of her husband’s budding criminal career. Post time jump, however, Sigrid seems to have lost all patience with her husband and firm in her support of whatever needs to be done to humiliate him. As a viewer, I find this storyline interesting because the viewers are the only ones who fully know the extent of Van Alden’s dark side. Sigrid has a sense of it, but we watched him callously drown a partner who was not on the same page with him. I have a hard time believing that the Van Alden who drowned a partner and beat a co-worker with an iron no longer exists.

It’s also shocking to see the full extent of Eli’s alcoholism. He was so drunk at the time he slept with Van Alden’s wife that he didn’t even remember it. For now, Eli and Van Alden have no time to address this awkward issue because they’ve been scooped up and enlisted by the feds thanks to Luciano recognizing Van Alden last week. I suspect that Eli and Van Alden may soon find themselves part of a larger storyline involving Elliot Ness and that one or both might be collateral damage in the feds pursuit of Capone.

Speaking of characters with uncertain futures, Chalky Thompson made his way back to Atlantic City in tonight’s episode. Thanks to an assist from Mickey Doyle, he got a face-to-face with Nucky and managed to evade capture by the feds who know all about his break from prison camp and the murder of his unstable post-prison camp partner. As much as I want to root for Chalky in his bid to get revenge against Narcisse, the odds do not appear to be in his favor. Returning back to the theme of knowing who you are, it would appear that Chalky needs to do a bit of self exploration. Nucky gave him the information he needed to find his family, but I don’t think Chalky is inclined to play the role of the contrite husband/father who returns to his family begging for forgiveness. Likewise, I don’t think Chalky is the man who fell in love with Daughter last season. For now, it looks like Chalky is the man set on avenging the death of his daughter. Although he clearly feels a measure of guilt in his role in her demise, it doesn’t look like that guilt is going to lead him to make more sensible choices at the moment.

Finally, there’s Nucky, who we continue to view in current day and who we learn more about through flashbacks. With Margaret back in New York dealing with her widow of Rothstein issues and his partnership with Joe Kennedy non-existent, Nucky turned his full attention to the brewing war with the New York crime syndicate. It is an understatement to say things reached an impasse when Torrio sold Nucky out and helped in yet another attempt on Nucky’s life. I certainly do hope that Lucky and Lansky are getting refunds on all of these failed assassination attempts. After the failed attempt on his life and the news of Sally’s murder, Nucky seems poised to double down on the gangster lifestyle and ready to put up a fight against Lucky and Lansky.

Other thoughts and observations . . .

– Favorite quote: Eli: I don’t know about you, but my life is a fucking shipwreck. Van Alden: Well land ho.

– From a historical perspective, Gillian’s incarceration is quite insightful and there’s no denying the dire conditions in which she and her fellow inmates are being incarcerated. From a plot perspective, however, I still hate the character and don’t care about what happens to her. The character has resorted to such unforgivable lows, which make it hard to remind myself of the horrible things that happened to her as a child. I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer for young Gillian to make her way into the Nucky flashbacks. It will be necessary to feeling compassion for what Gillian is currently going through, which by the way, looks absolutely terrifying.

– So many questions about the casting and false teeth choice on 20-somthing Nucky. It is such an interesting reflection on modern day Steve Buscemi.

Until next week!

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