Boardwalk Empire Series Finale Review “Eldorado”

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The influence of Terence Winter’s history as a writer and director on The Sopranos was certainly apparent on Boardwalk Empire during the over the five seasons of the series. Much to my relief as a fan of both shows, Winter took a completely different direction from The Sopranos in bringing Boardwalk Empire to an end that left very few questions for viewers.

When Boardwalk Empire premiered, the series was touted as a show loosely based on the life of Atlantic City politician Enoch Johnson. Although the series introduced viewers to a sprawling cast of characters that included real life gangsters like Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and Myer Lansky, all roads inevitably ended with Nucky. One of the aspects of the show that immediately captured my attention was the dynamic between and a young soldier who just returned home from the war named Jimmy Darmody. Much to much shock and disappointment, Jimmy was killed at the end of season 2. Admittedly, it took me awhile to readjust to a show that focused on a larger group of characters to whom Jimmy was barely even an afterthought. Through the use of flashbacks this season, the writers brought the focus back to Nucky – who took a backseat to Michael K. Williams and Jeffrey Wright in season 4. In just eight episodes, the writers added layers to Nucky and ultimately brought viewers back to the relationship that started the series – Nucky and Jimmy.

What was not apparent to viewers when Boardwalk Empire first premiered was how Nucky found himself in the role of mentor and sometimes father figure to Jimmy. We learned over the course of the series that Nucky felt a sense of obligation to Jimmy because of his role in “handing over” an under-aged Gillian Darmody to the Commodore, who raped her and impregnated her. It appeared that whatever obligation Nucky felt he owed to the Darmodys dissipated when Jimmy aligned with the Commodore in an attempt to take control of Atlantic City from Nucky.

Whatever contempt Nucky felt towards Jimmy when he killed him in the season 2 finale did nothing to lessen the importance of Gillian (and by extension Jimmy) to the man Nucky eventually became. With the war in New York over, the episode was heavy on flashbacks as Nucky tied up loose ends with his brother and Margaret. The scene with Margaret was really great and I’m glad that the writers included a final conversation between the estranged couple.

The series finale was a perfect illustration of this season’s theme, “no one goes quietly.” Indeed, very few of the central characters went out quietly. Al Capone found himself in the cross hairs of the law thanks to the IRS. The writers made another great choice in the finale of including a scene with Capone and his son, who recalled the conversation from a past season when the father spoke to his son about standing up for himself. Stephen Graham was brilliant in his ability to depicting Capone as someone capable of both extreme acts of violence and quiet moments of humanity with his family. Narcisse was also one of the casualties in the series finale, gunned down in front of his church by Luciano’s men.

And then there was Nucky. In the weeks leading up to the finale, there has been rampant fan speculation that Tommy Darmody had returned to Atlantic City to avenge his father’s death. The theory seemed likely enough, particularly with the seven year time jump between seasons. It looks like Gillian took a page from the Tywin Lannister playbook and sent a few letters to her grandson about the man responsible for killing his father and ruining her life. Sadly, yet another generation of the Darmody family was doomed as Tommy took the fatal shot that ironically hit Nucky in the cheek in the same way Nucky shot Jimmy in the cheek. Tommy was immediately taken into custody and likely facing a long time in jail. As students of history may already know, the real life Enoch Johnson was not gunned down on the boardwalk. Johnson served time in prison and upon his release, led a quiet life with his family until his death at the age of 68.

The actor that portrayed Tommy did an excellent job at channeling Michael Pitt’s portrayal of Jimmy. All of the flashback actors did an excellent job this season. The casting was great, but so was the effort to capture mannerisms and tone.

Overall, Eldorado was a strong ending to a well-written series that showcased some of the best acting on television over the last few years. The writers did a good job at wrapping up the major storylines. I would have liked to have some follow-up on Narcisse’s agreement to cooperate in season 4, as well as Will’s true intentions at the U.S. Attorney’s office. These are just minor nitpicks, as the writers did a great job at bringing things full circle and creating a satisfying end to the series.

What did you think of the Boardwalk Empire series finale? Sound off below!