Boardwalk Empire Watch: The Season Finale

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Macall B. Polay/HBO

Stephen Graham (center) on 'Boardwalk Empire'

We begin this week with a crucial spoiler alert: Watch season finale “Margate Sands” before reading another word.

Atlantic City is in chaos, and the war has become a dirty street fight. Men trying to surrender are shot dead; shotguns are deployed against those who haven’t so much as a pen-knife. One guy is killed while he reads a newspaper, and we see at least one actual back-stabblng.

This season of Boardwalk was about Nucky’s evolution from splendid huckster to cold gangster. That evolution began with last season’s finale, when Nucky made the choice to shoot his protege Jimmy in the face. At the end of this season’s finale, Nucky reclaims his empire but tosses his signature carnation onto the boardwalk. He was never a soft man, but he will from now be a hard man.

His victory is won at great cost—so many guys die that Atlantic City in the 1920s seems more dangerous than Gallipoli. In Chicago, At one point, Torrio Masseria asks Rosetti a good question about all the killing: “For what?” Twelve of Torrio’s Masseria’s men have died—but why? Rosetti gives an answer you might hear during a game of Monopoly: Rosetti has control of Nucky’s warehouse and his hotel.

(MORE: Boardwalk Empire Watch: The War Begins)

One of the most skillfully wrought story lines of this season was the reconciliation of the Thompson brothers. Beginning in “Sunday Best,” the extraordinary episode in October, Nucky began to make an uneasy peace with Eli. By the finale, he knows he needs his brother, and he also seems to have an affection for him that we’ve never seen.

One moment of tenderness comes at what may be Nucky’s lowest point. When Rothstein calls to offer a deal to end the war, Nucky holds the receiver so that Eli can hear: Rothstein will require 99% of Overholt distillery’s profit in exchange for arranging Masseria’s retreat.

Meantime, Margaret is in Brooklyn to get Owen’s baby aborted. “I’m completely lost,” she says—something the rest of us have known since the beginning of the season. It will be interesting to see how the writers work around her departure from Nucky—and what I imagine will be her eventual return to him.

(MORE: Boardwalk Empire Watch: The Crate)

I’m going to skip over the history lesson involving Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein and the rest. It’s artfully written—and beautifully shot, as usual—but the New York City mobster story line always seems a bit forced.

What didn’t seem forced was the elegant scene at Artemis in which Harrow effortlessly executes what’s left of Rosetti’s army. The music fades; the building creaks; Harrow kills people. The scene shot rotating over Harrow’s head was both horrifying and exhilarating. I watched it at least three times.

Finally, good riddance to Rosetti—one of the most overwritten and least interesting characters ever to appear on HBO.

See you next season.

MORE: Boardwalk Empire Watch: My Ears Are Ringing

6 comments
rmendez960
rmendez960

I was really hoping that Gillian and Rosetti would kill each other, but I’ll settle for him dead and her becoming a junky. I also watched this episode a few times because there were so many deals being made that I had a hard time following. I’m relieved that I took one of my DISH coworker’s advice and organized all the episodes of BE on my DISH Hopper DVR because they’ve been much easier to go through. The writing on this show has been so intricate, and I guess I never really noticed because I was too busy complaining that there wasn’t enough action. I’m definitely enjoying this season a second time around and I’m looking forward to the next!

Jasmine432
Jasmine432

The Harrow gunfight that you are so lavishly praising is an almost direct lift from Walter Hill's LAST MAN STANDING.  Isn't there such a thing as visual plagiarism?  Aren't  critics supposed to notice this kind of stuff?

galens
galens

Wasn't as good as last weeks, but very intriguing.

All ready looking to next year!

ParisofAmerica
ParisofAmerica

The most interesting thing about last season was that on both sides of the conflict you had characters you cared about and while you knew Nucky was going to win, you still cared about Jimmy and his group. This season the group of characters never really came together and the story lines were really fragmented. Also there was just a universal hatred for Rosetti so his death meant nothing and wasn't a surprise unlike Jimmy's. Hell I felt more shocked when Manny died. However, I will say that this was the season of Richard. I really hope he finds a place in the story lines outside of Gillian (although I am glad she is still alive and possible addicted to heroine?). Good recap! I hope there is more Capone, Van Alden and Richard next season.

KenReports
KenReports

You made two mistakes in your recap.  First, it was Masseria who spoke to Rosetti about losing 12 men.  And second, it was in Atlantic City (at the Artemis Club) where this conversation took place, not Chicago.  Otherwise, thanks for the insights all season long.  And Harrow's Massacre (as I will call it from now on) was probably one of the best scenes in the show.  Ever.

JohnCloud
JohnCloud

@Dexterest Errors fixed. Apologies--it was a long night. And thanks for all the great comments from everyone throughout the season.