Boardwalk Empire Season 5 Review “Devil You Know”

Boardwalk Empire Season 5 Episode 6 "Devil You Know" 04
I love Boardwalk Empire, but one of my biggest pet peeves about the show since the death of Jimmy Darmody in season 2. On a show like Boardwalk Empire, where the writers have brilliantly woven fictional characters into story lines with characters based on larger than life historical figures like Luciana, Lansky and Capone, the fictional characters become the obvious candidates as victims to violence. Similarly, characters like Albert “Chalky” White, who was based on a real person, but definitely lesser known than a Capone or a Seigel, also become likely candidates when the writers decide to show the fatal consequences of being so deeply engrained in the criminal world.

I was devastated to see the last of my Boardwalk Empire favorite characters, Nelson Van Alden and Chalky join Jimmy and Richard in the great beyond. Of course, I love what Stephen Graham has brought to Al Capone and the portrayals of Lansky, Luciano ans Seigel have been great, but I admittedly have a special affection for the brilliantly crafted fictional characters.

Chalky and Van Alden were both very different characters who existed in very different worlds over the last five seasons, despite their common ties to Nucky and Capone. In the end, however, the characters found themselves in the similar, unenviable position of being on the fugitives from justice.

Although Chalky and Van Alden were quite devilish and dealt out their fair share of violence and pain. In their final moments, however, it looked as though they were trying to make some amends and content with risking their lives to do so.

Knowing that nothing good would become of pairing with Naracisse was as apparent to Chalky as those of us watching the show at home. Chalky couldn’t save his daughter Maybelle from the fallout of his violent ways, so he decided to make amends by trying to save Daughter Maitland from a lifetime of cleaning toilets and delivering her into the freedom of a successful singing career that would benefit her and their child. Is it safe to assume the kids is Chalky’s? Even if it didn’t come as a surprise, it was devastating to watch Narcisse’s men line up to kill Chalky. Chalky’s final words were fitting, ominous and sounded undeniably like foreshadowing – “It’s all a dream to begin with. Ain’t nobody ever been free.” If this were The Wire, that would have totally been the quote to start the episode. This is now my second time watching Michael K. Williams embody a captivating, complicated character who manages to be loveable while being flawed. I want so much for him to get another opportunity to bring another character like Chalky or Omar Little (The Wire) to life and I can’t wait for his next project. I’d love to see him working with Jeffrey Wright again.

Van Alden’s exit was a little less poetic than Chalky’s, but it was still powerful nonetheless. At times, Van Alden really came off as the luckiest character on Boardwalk Empire. The idea that this rogue agent could kill his partner, escape to Al Capone’s backyard and work his way up in the criminal underworld were sometimes frustratingly unbelievable. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Van Alden made it easier to overlook his unrealistic circumstances because as a viewer, you didn’t want to face the prospect of this show without Shannon. Unfortunately, Van Alden’s luck ran out last night, as he protected D’Angelo’s identify and took a bullet for his efforts.

Nucky’s grief over Sally and his attempt to cope with his grief and deal with the aftermath of escaping yet another attempt on his life by drinking copious amounts of alcohol was slightly overshadowed by the last, grand stands of Van Alden and Chalky. There were, however, some important developments in his flashbacks, including the introduction of a young Gillian Darmody. By the episode’s end, Doyle found Nucky an army and it looked like Nucky was ready to lead his new men into war. With only two episodes left, it will be interesting to see if Nucky every fully realizes and embraces what he’s fighting for. He says he wants to be legit, yet his actions say otherwise. Again, Jimmy’s words about being half a gangster continue to shape Nucky’s story.

Until next week!

What did you think of this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire? Any predictions for the final two episodes? Sound off below!