"Good day, ladies and gentlemen. This is Robert Hodge, United States Attorney for the Southern District, speaking to you here in New York City. My fellow citizens, we are at war..."

With only eight episodes in the fifth and final season of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, the second-to-last installment snuck up on us. "The Golden Days For Boys And Girls" felt like only yesterday but, now that the events of "Friendless Child" are also in the past, there's only one week of the bootlegging drama left. The ultimate penultimate episode of Boardwalk added a few more bodies to the pile, bridging the big losses and bloody showdowns of last week with those sure to come in the finale. Of course, all the blood spilled and deals made in the build-up could mean fans are in for a more subdued finish than expected.

"You can't know until it's you. And then you'll never tell anyone."

The seventh episode of the fifth season was far more focused than the usual Boardwalk Empire, with one main thread dominating most of the action. The opening newsreel sequence was quite stunning, recalling the period (where these would precede every feature) while also adding some flashy, new touches like going from black-and-white to color. The scene caught us up on all the mayhem as well as most of our major (remaining) players and ended with Nuck in a meeting with Maranzano, one of the few allies the AC boss has left. This is only the first time Nucky steers young Joel away from a life of crime; the second comes near the end of "Friendless Child." As I said last week, it's like he's out for redemption or something. Cue the letter from 'Nellie Bly' and another stylish montage. Nice bookends.

"Benny's not here right now."

In between those bookends, Nucky receives a call from Margaret and he's still very active in the stock market, meaning he might have a nest-egg waiting for him if this forced retirement thing sticks. Will he also have a wife? Their chemistry is back, only this time he seems to respect her now that she's found some agency. I wish we got more Margaret this season. Each year. Kelly Macdonald is wonderful. Nuck had to cut their banter and business short though, because he was kind of in the middle of negotiating a trade in a tit-for-tat kidnapping situation. To try and put an end to the war, Nucky had his men grab Benny Siegel, but instead of negotiating, Lucky and Meyer decided to even things out and go after Willy. And he's been doing such a good job staying out of trouble.

"Sooner or later, you're all going to jail."

Eli showed up just in time to see his boy get nabbed by Luciano and Lansky's goons, which forced him to turn to his big brother for answers and help. Benny is a pretty hilarious captive, refusing to shut up unless unconscious. And even then, there was a lot of gargling. Willy is equally strong but carries himself quite differently. His newfound honor doesn't do him much good though, as Benny breaks from his restraints and snatches him back up during the trade. The squeaky wheel gets the grease (unless you squeak one too many times like Mickey) and the tricycle of Lucky, Meyer and Benny are riding smooth. They get all of Nuck's business in AC as well as Maranzano taken care of in one of the show's best hits. Straight from "Julius Caesar," the mob boss' favorite play. Free Willy! Sorry.

”Everyone has a reason. Murderers have reasons.”

Oh, right. The flashbacks. Actually, this was the first week where I found the flashback sequences captivating and worth the trip back in time. Mabel's secret sickness was still boring but the young actress playing Gillian (Madeleine Rose Yen) was wonderful, completely nailing the way Gretchen Mol speaks, and Nucky's trip to see the Commodore on his first night as Sheriff was terrifying. Seeing the hell that he's going to subject Gillian to only serves to make his first big sin seem that much worse. When opportunity knocks, right? Well, Nucky took the first opportunity when it came to Gillian (and we'll probably get to see that disgusting exchange next week), but will he take the second? Will he be the one to save her so many years later? And will that 'save' him?

"There is forgiveness for everyone."

The series finale of Boardwalk Empire, "Eldorado," airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Terence Winter, the series stars Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Vincent Piazza, Anatol Yusef and Stephen Graham.

Head to the next page for a look at "Eldorado"...

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