At last, the season finale. How will everything come together. Will they tie things up? Will they leave us hanging on anything? And who will die? This felt like the season of death, so I can’t help but think somebody else is going to get whacked.
We open as always with the previouslies and this week they touch on: the Commodore’s maid poisoning him with arsenic is season one; Jimmy’s negotiation with Chalky to end the strike; Nucky’s land transfer to Margaret; Van Alden’s shenanigans and the attempt to arrest him; Margaret getting subpoenaed; Angela’s death; and finally Jimmy attacking Gillian and killing the Commodore.
And now… the season finale of Boardwalk Empire.
Two men with scarves wrapped around their heads, drive to a clearing in the woods where several Klansmen are gathering. They get out and approach with guns and we can see by their hands that they’re white. Their voices soon reveal them to the audience to be Jimmy and Richard. Jimmy fires a shot to get their attention and demands names and addresses of the men who were at Chalky’s. They’re initially met with refusal, but when Richard moves forward with a shotgun and shoots a man in the chest and says “five seconds” another man steps forward and starts naming names.
In Philly Manny Horvitz is smoking and talking to Nucky and Doyle about what big men do and his past. Owen stands off to the side. It seems Manny is hiding in the basement of a synagogue for the safety of his family. Owen says he’s had a bit of bad luck and Manny says his bad luck has a name — Waxy Gordon. Manny says if Nucky gives him Waxy, Manny will give him Jimmy in return. And then Manny cops to killing Angela. Nucky at least seems uncomfortable with the Angela reveal, but he says he’ll consider it. He has to be careful with everything going on with the federal prosecutor.
Richard and Jimmy pull up to Chalky’s warehouse. Jimmy’s got $5000 (instead of the requested $3000) for each family who lost someone. And in the back of the truck he’s got the men responsible. Chalky says his case was dismissed and to tell Jimmy’s daddy that he’ll call off the strike. Jimmy says he will and then asks for something in return: “Tell Nucky I wanna talk.” Jimmy leaves and Chalky’s men, including Dunn Pernsley, pull the men from the truck and begin beating them. They close the barn doors behind Jimmy.
Richard’s waiting in the car and tells Jimmy, “Whatever you do… to try to change things. You know he’ll never forgive you.” Jimmy smokes and looks sad (his specialty) then says he feels like a steak.
Emily’s walking with her braces and crutches from the Nanny to Katie. She worries she’s going to fall, but Katie says she’s got to try. Nucky comes in the front door and Emily says, “Daddy!” She’s clearly happy to see him, and I find myself smiling at how attached he’s become to these children. Nucky asks after Margaret and we learn she left the house 20 minutes earlier and didn’t say where she was going.
Well, it turns out she’s at Esther Randolph’s office. And she’s brought Father Brennan with her “for moral support.” Father explains that she has left her children to be here, including her sickly child. He goes on to say how she’s widowed and doesn’t know about the law, blah blah blah. Randolph says she didn’t realize they taught law at seminary and Margaret dismisses him so the ladies may speak in private. He gets a little testy, but he does leave them.
Margaret asks if it’s difficult to become a lawyer and Randolph talks about her past as a public defender for the kind of women “who don’t have any other choices.” Margaret tells her about her husband being abusive and a drunk and a philanderer. Margaret asks if she’ll have to appear in court and Randolph says yes but she can paint her as an innocent who was duped or as a gold digger. Margaret asks if it matters if neither of those images is true and Randolph replies, “It matters that Enoch Thompson goes to jail.” Then she asks, “What has he given to you besides money” and Margaret says he’s never been cruel to her. (I’d say he’s done more than that, Margaret. She’s so frustrating this season!) Then she says she’s got children to consider, she wants to know what will become of her if she testifies. Randolph says she’ll never have to see him again and that she’ll feel so much better by setting herself free. (Which is total crap, but Randolph seems to actually believe it.)
Nucky’s talking to his lawyer who says they need to talk to Eli, make him an offer through his lawyer. But Margaret’s the real problem even though Nucky says she doesn’t know anything. Fallon’s concerned that her testimony may corroborate other testimony, even if only through inference. The phone rings a few times and Eddie comes in to say it’s Chalky on the line.
At the Darmody house, Jimmy’s upstairs sitting in a window smoking. The only sounds are seagulls and windchimes. Then a car pulls up outside and Nucky gets out, accompanied by Owen. Jimmy’s got a gun in hand when he comes down the stairs. They meet in the parlor and Jimmy puts his gun down. He tells Owen he can wait outside, “It’s okay. I used to do your job.” Owen replies, “You’re the reason I’m doing it now,” but he does step out at Nucky’s nod.
Nucky says he’s sorry about Angela and Jimmy replies that it was Manny Horvitz. Nucky lies and says he’s never heard of him and Jimmy explains he used to work for Waxy Gordon. Manny came for Jimmy and found Angela instead. Nucky says if he hears anything he’ll let him know. Jimmy pours a drink and Nucky declines. Jimmy then says the Commodore’s dead and that he should have killed him the moment he suggested betraying Nucky. He says he’d considered it since he was a kid. Nucky seems surprised at the outpouring, but it also seems to be too little too late.
Jimmy say when he visited the Commodore last year when he was sick, daddy dearest told him he was a good son. And that threw him. (Poor Jimmy only ever wanted to be loved. Violins play and baby Jesus weeps.) But seriously, Jimmy’s sorry. Maybe there’s something he can do for Nucky. It turns out there is. Nucky says he can tell him the truth. Jimmy’s truth is that he never meant for the shooting to happen. But he doesn’t answer the question, “Then why did it?” And he doesn’t confess to be responsible for the shot only hitting his hand or the Treasury agents being on scene. He just gets quiet. “It was Eli,” he finally says. Jimmy asks to make things as right as they can be: “Just tell me how to help you.”
Nucky finds Margaret knitting in the kitchen — a scarf because “it will be winter soon enough” and if that’s not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. He needs to speak with her and takes a seat at the table. He mentions that while they were both raised Catholic, they have different approaches to their religion. Margaret says he’s lost his faith. He says that his relationship with God is about loving his family, caring for and protecting them. “There is more God in the love I feel for you and those children than in all the churches in Rome.” (Anyone whose significant other utters words like these and means them? Is a lucky person. I’m just saying…)
Nucky acknowledges that Margaret’s been struggling and in pain and tells her that if they stick together it will get better. “I adore you, Margaret. I adore our family. My entire universe… it’s inside these walls.” He’s so sweet with her and the contrast to the ruthless man he can be outside of the home blows my mind. Then he blows it a little by saying he “needs” her to marry him so she won’t have to testify. She says, “Need?” and he explains why but then also says he “wants” her to marry him.
He goes on to confess that he’s done horrible things in his life, that he had convinced himself were okay at the time. He can see how wrong these acts were and God or no God, he’s sorry. He doesn’t want to die or spend the rest of his life in jail. And she’s the only one he can admit this to. “You’re always surprising,” she says. Truer words…
At the Commodore’s, old mutton chops (Leander) has managed to procure a death certificate that says “accident” on it rather than the true cause of death. He’s also got the Commodore’s will from 1914, which was never revised. Gillian, of course, wants to see. I’m pleased and not the least surprised when we learn that the bulk of his estate was left to his servant Louann Pratt (the one who’d tried to poison him). If there’s no will, the estate would pass to his son. And in Jimmy’s death, to Tommy. Jimmy tears up the will and I refuse to see what this probably means.
Ward Boss Neary and a couple others arrive and Jimmy tells them he’s rethought his position on Nucky. They should go after Eli instead. The other men, including Leander, wish to stay the course. Jimmy’s encouraged to take a trip, clear his mind, when he comes back it’ll all be over. Jimmy soaks it up and I think there’s no way he’s going anywhere voluntarily but I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be exercising free will.
Margaret wakes to the sound of Nucky out in the yard with the kids. He’s encouraging Emily to walk to Daddy. Telling her she’s strong and she can do it. He’s so positive and amazing and he’s got Teddy cheering her on as well, being a supportive big brother. And I think he’s going to be the one to get Emily through this and raise her to be a strong woman.
Later the children and Nucky are having breakfast on the veranda, Margaret comes out and asks Nucky to come with her. They’re going to church where she will make a “full and complete confession” and then after Father Brennan will marry them. She gets Katie to go with them.
Randolph is practicing her opening statement before her bedroom mirror as she dresses. The scene flashes back and forth between her preparations and Margaret in the confessional. Randolph presents the murder of Hans Schroeder. As Treasurer Nucky enlisted his underlings in graft and extortion and violated the Volstead Act. Katie and Owen are present as witnesses and the wedding begins.
In the middle of this Jimmy and Richard are walking down the hallway of what looks to be City Hall (it’s hard to tell since Nucky never really spent much time in his office there).
Nucky was lining his own pockets instead of the city coffers. And the wedding ceremony is full of words about wives obeying their husbands (how far we have come, ladies).
Flash to Neary screwing a woman I presume to be his secretary over his desk.
Back to the wedding and Randolph’s words. Election rigging and they’ll hear from James Neary, interim treasurer.
Jimmy and Richard enter Neary’s office and Jimmy pulls a gun from inside the newspaper he was carrying. Jimmy tells the secretary to “take a coffee break, don’t come back.”
At the church the words turn to marriage being a sacred covenant, while Randolph says Nucky “orders murder like you and I order coffee.” The “I do’s” are exchanged.
With a gun to his head, Neary types a confession stating that Eli ordered him to falsify voting records. It’s not just a confession. It’s his “suicide” note. Richard shoves the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger.
“You may kiss the bride.”
“Accordingly, there can be only one just verdict. Guilty.” Randolph finishes her practice, she’s fully dressed now, and she turns around to the clapping of Lathrope lying in her bed having a smoke.
Neary’s body is found by a woman with a great scream. And then we hear a judge calling the courtroom to order. Randolph comments about a sudden marriage, a supposed suicide, and the recanting of sworn statements (proving you only have to kill one to get the others to shut up). She claims witness tampering and Fallon objects to the insinuations. She can’t prove anything and the judge calls them forward to tell her as much. He gives her the option to go forward and risk losing and not be able to bring charges again because of double jeopardy or to take what she’s got and rebuild her case. She chooses the latter and the defense motion for mistrial is approved.
Eli’s attorney steps forward and asks that his client be released on his own recognizance and the judge grants it. Nucky and Eli exchange a serious look. Halloran’s attorney then steps forward asking the same and is denied because Halloran confessed to murder. The attorney says they had a plea deal and the judge replies, “Then I suggest you read it.” It was conditional on Nucky’s trial going to jury. Halloran’s remanded to federal prison, Leavenworth. I feel really bad for the guy; he’s always been a dupe.
Out on the beach somewhere, Jimmy and Tommy are looking at a pony. A handler preps the pony with a saddle for Tommy to ride. Gillian’s over at the car smoking. Jimmy tells Tommy about coming out here when he was a boy on his own, even Memaw (Gillian) didn’t know where he’d go. They get him on the horse and the handler has two hats — cowboy or soldier? Tommy chooses soldier and gets a nice pony ride on the beach. As the handler guides Tommy away, Jimmy looks briefly at his mother then back to the water. He looks so broken and I imagine he worries about her involvement in raising his son. I worry about it too, Jimmy.
Margaret’s preparing the bed when Nucky comes in and says, “You’re awake! And I’m drunk!” And they say romance is dead. Nucky tells her he had nothing to do with Neary’s suicide and Margaret says she believes him. She’s a little too cheery for my comfort. He goes on to defend himself and she repeats that she believes him. He then shows her the newspaper. Congress has approved the road improvements, which will be good for them given all that land they own. And by the way, he’ll need her to sign it back over to him.
At Eli’s house of a billion children, he’s sitting on the porch getting his morning drunk on when Nucky pulls up. Eli looks scruffy and not a little pissed off. He offers Nucky a drink and Nucky pours one then sits. “Hot enough for you?” Eli asks and Nucky replies, “Yes. And how about those Phillies and my brother tried to have me killed?” So much for small talk. Eli looks over at him. Nucky makes a Julius Caesar reference — et tu, Eli? — that goes completely over Eli’s head.
“I told you I had nothing to with that. The shooting.” Nucky says that’s not what Jimmy said. Nucky asks him to at least be honest after everything. Eli claims that he tried to stop it and that everyone else threatened him and that he went to Nucky for help. Nucky tells him to plead guilty to all of it. He spoke to the attorney general and Eli will get 2 years and serve only half of it. Nucky’ll take care of his family. Finally, Eli gives a small nod.
At Rothstein’s home, Meyer and Lucky have presented him with a sample heroin. They discuss the posibility of an “import” business. They tell him they’ve come to Rothstein first with this proposition, “out of respect.” The weasels. The phone rings and it’s Nucky. Rothstein congratulates him and asks what he can do for him. Nucky’s inquiring if it would be a problem for Manny Horvitz to be taken out of the picture. Rothstein says if Manny were to go, he would have no opinion one way or the other. Nucky’s got a decision to make.
Van Alded, Sigrid, and the baby are being shown into an apartment by their new landlady. She tells them about a nearby church and then says the town is a quiet one for quiet people “like most of the Midwest.” They look like a happy family and after Van Alden hands over two months rent in advance the landlady welcomes “Mr. and Mrs. Mueller” to Cicero. I can’t wait to see how long it takes for Sigrid to end up with child.
At the Commodore’s home (now Jimmy’s home I guess), Jimmy and Richard are having a drink as Jimmy jokes around about his time in the army. In the other room Gillian is playing with Tommy. Richard talks a bit about his own time away from camp as a sniper, never speaking at all while he was out then returning to camp where the boys were joking. He felt the war was where he was meant to be. Jimmy says nobody was meant to be there and Richard replies that they’re still there. Jimmy asks him to promise to try to “come home.” This is one and Richard’s conversation with Angela when she sketched him have to be two of the most honest moments in television history.
The phone rings and Jimmy answers. It’s Nucky, he’s located Manny. Jimmy’s to meet them at the war memorial in one hour. Richard says he’ll go with him, but Jimmy stops him. Richard offers to take care of this for him, but Jimmy says he’s got to do this himself. He pulls the door behind him in time with a roll of thunder.
Gillian looks up and asks if Jimmy went out. Richard says yes and that there’s something he has to do. There’s more thunder in the background. Gillian gets Tommy up for bed and discovers that he’s got Jimmy’s dog togs. It seems to sadden her at first, then as she leads him away she says, “You’re going to be a big man in this town one day. Just like your father.”
It’s raining hard at the memorial site. Nucky and Owen pull Manny from their car when Jimmy pulls up. There’s a man behind Jimmy with a shotgun pointed at him. What’s going on? Well, Manny’s not tied up after all. Owen goes over and checks Jimmy for weapons and he’s not armed. Nucky and Jimmy face off in the middle of it all. “This is the only way we could have ended it, isn’t it?” Jimmy asks before saying he died years back in a trench. I’d say he died before he even got there, before he enlisted.
Now he’s prepared to die and just wonders who’s going to do it. On a closer look we see the man with the shotgun is Eli. And there’s Owen, who certainly has the experience. And Manny. But Nucky says he’s going to do it. He’s got a pistol in hand now.
“My first time I vomited after,” Jimmy says. The second time he didn’t even think about it. He tells Nucky to be calm, to breathe through it. He tells him when he runs out of booze, he’ll run out of company and the only one left to judge him will be himself. Nucky shoots him in what seems to be the head and he falls back. I might have said, “Oh. My. God.” because I kept telling myself they wouldn’t do this to us. There’s coughing and choking sounds from the ground.
But the close-up shows it got him in the cheek when Nucky goes over and looks down to say, “I am not seeking forgiveness.” Then he shoots again, this time right in the forehead. Nucky looks straight at Eli who nods at him. Then the camera pans down to Jimmy.
There’s rising music and the sounds of war. We see men in the trenches of a WWI battlefield. Bayonets in the air. Bombs and gunfire and men waiting at the edge of the trench for the alert to move out and forward. There’s Jimmy up and over the side then white.
It’s morning and Margaret’s consoling Emily about the storm the night before. Nucky’s leaving early for a meeting and Margaret asks where he was last night. He says he ran into Jimmy and they cleared the air. He says Jimmy’s reenlisting and has even already left.
The rain broke the heat at least,” he says. “Yes, it did,” she replies. At Nucky’s desk, Margaret pulls out the land deed and looks at the section of land on the map. It’s a long segment right with a dotted line for the proposed road running right through the length of it.
Nucky meets up with some other politicos out on said land. The site of the new highway. “The road to riches.” The Harding Highway.
Back at home, Margaret takes pen and signs the transfer of dead with her new name. But she doesn’t transfer it to Nucky. She transfers it to the church and then gives it to Katie to deliver to Father Brennan. At the same time Nucky and his cronies are toasting to the future.
I’d like to have more coherent thoughts, but I’m still processing. All I can really focus on is wondering who’s going to be in season 3? Jimmy and Angela are dead. Neary’s dead. The Commodore is dead. Van Alden’s in the Midwest. Eli’s going to jail. Dunn Pernsley’s supposed to go back to Baltimore. Perhaps they’ll jump ahead in time. They could start with the repeal of Prohibition maybe. We shall see. For now, I shall have to go back to rewatch my favorite moments and imagine everything is still perfect for Angela and Louise on the beach. And for Jimmy and Tommy having pony rides. I shall not dwell on thoughts of what will become of Tommy and Richard now that the people who love them are gone.