"The past is past. Nothing can change it."
Like so many of its characters, Boardwalk Empire is now deceased. "Eldorado," the eighth and final episode of the shortened final season, marks the end of a spectacular five year run. The current season had some missteps, but the bootlegging drama's finale packed a satisfying emotional punch, not to mention a few surprises. Oh, and deaths. The show obviously couldn't go out without a 'bang.' Or two. "Eldorado" was a(n almost too) fitting end for what's been one of television's most consistently compelling and exquisitely crafted series.
”Remember, all I did was for you. To leave you with something better.”
If you had told me beforehand that the most emotional storyline in the Boardwalk Empire finale would belong to Al Capone, I wouldn't have believed you; and yet the scene between him and his hearing-impaired son was heart-breaking. Having a character we haven't seen in a while resurface also fit perfectly with the season long exploration of the past.
And Al explicitly letting us know what he's been doing it all for only manages to highlight Nucky's loneliness. Earlier this season, Joe Kennedy said it right to his (and our) face(s), and a lot of the events in "Eldorado" reinforce the sad idea of building so much but having no one to inherit the empire. Capone's tip of his cap to Agent 'D'Angelo' (and us) in his last scene was a nice way to say goodbye to a character that's been around since the first episode.
”Anybody that ain't on board, and I mean anybody, they fucking go.”
Almost all of "Eldorado" was spent with characters introduced in the very beginning of Boardwalk and Lucky, Meyer and Benny are probably the only ones to get a happy ending. After managing to survive several bloody feuds and tense stand-offs over the years, the threesome have found themselves in a very powerful position advocated for peace. And they are willing to kill as many people as it takes to get it.
Lucky and Meyer taking over also ties into the generational themes that are at play in the finale. Whether it's handing over the torch, having no one to hand it to, or simply taking it, a change is coming. Gone are the Julius Caesars like Maranzano; instead, the seven 'businessmen' sit at a round table. Oh and, I probably wasn't the only one happy to see that Dr. Narcisse wasn't 'on board.' If only we were getting a Lucky, Meyer and Benny spin-off.
”Think about the things you want in life and then picture yourself in a dress.”
One could argue that Margaret also got a happy ending, and to some extent that's true. But hers is still tainted by her ties to Nucky and the rather slimy way that she plays the stock market. She just didn't start out as the type who would willingly bend the rules solely to make some money. Although, I guess this is still significantly better than her years living under Nucky's roof. And lightyears ahead of her time with Hans Schroeder.
You remember him? Well, she's definitely not under anyone's thumb anymore, able to go toe-to-toe with businessmen like Joe Kennedy and Nuck. Sometimes toe-to-toe means dancing, as it did in a final lovely scene to showcase the actors' off the charts chemistry. And to make Mr. Thompson's death all the more sad. The two people dancing could have had a nice life together but he always wanted the dime instead of the nickel.
”An act of charity.”
For the second week in a row, the flashbacks were actually compelling, probably because they were no longer focused on planting the seeds for things we already know were going to happen, and they instead finally showed us the things we already know were going to happen. I made that sentence repetitive on purpose to stress how boring and unimaginative flashbacks like these can be.
Having said that, it was still pretty devastating to watch Nucky talk Gillian into seeing the Commodore, especially since it stressed just how important pimping her out was to him securing the job as Sheriff. It's a pivotal moment in both of their lives and one that I was sure he would seek redemption for after receiving the letter from Nellie Bly. Nuck did pay her a visit but it was too late. The damage had already been done. Several times over. Is she Boardwalk's most tragic figure?
”Who are you?”
"Eldorado" also explained the ultimate reason why they based Boardwalk Empire around Nucky Thompson and not Nucky Johnson. I'm not saying Terence Winter planned on killing his protagonist in the final episode right from the beginning but it allowed for the showrunner and head writer to do so if he saw fit. Still, I always kind of figured they would stick to the historical script. That was until the theory that Joe Harper was actually Tommy Darmody turned out to be true.
I think it was around the time Nucky was bailing the drunk kid out of prison that I realized 'the blast from the past' was probably going to be the end game, especially given this season did everything it could to stress that history repeats itself. The reveal feels a little too perfect. Too writerly. It also means that Richard and Julia failed in their attempts to bring him up to be better than his father. That's far more tragic than Nucky getting gunned down. He had it coming. He wanted the gold.
"The old way of doing things, it's over."
HBO's Boardwalk Empire was created by Terence Winter and starred Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Vincent Piazza, Anatol Yusef, Michael Stuhlbarg Stephen Graham.
"To the lost!"