"After today, I'm not making plans."
After a fantastic and fateful fourth season finale, it's only fitting to include the titular "Farewell Daddy Blues" in the background. So, press play before proceeding...
Perfect. Now that a depressing mood has been set with the authentic period piece, it's time to discuss the sensational season of Boardwalk Empire and its firmly stuck landing. Its sad, sad landing. HBO's drama brought out the big guns for the finale, with "Farewell Daddy Blues" directed by Tim Van Patten and written by series creator Terrence Winter with the help of Howard Korder, the latter having left his fingerprints on seven of Season 4's installments including last week's equally excellent "Havre de Grace." And as I said the last time Van Patten helmed an episode (he does several a season, Boardwalk Empire's number one guy since Martin Scorsese shot the pilot), the audience is always in safe hands with him behind the camera and can probably expect some fireworks. Some beautiful and strikingly composed fireworks. And with last night being the last show of the season, of course things were going to pop off.
"I will see you in three days."
There's no point in wasting any time in getting to the biggest development, if you want to call the devastating death of everyone's favorite character a 'development.' The writing was on the wall, with the anti-hero and former murderer for hire finally getting everything he wanted before returning for one last job. That makes it sound cliché and, to be completely honest, the execution contained a few (like the aforementioned last job, the ensuing hesitation shakes and his picturesque dying dream complete with a completed face) but as Umberto Eco once said, "two clichés make us laugh, a hundred clichés move us" and I was moved. At least his actions in court and the deal to reveal the real Jimmy Darmody's body ensured that Tommy wouldn't fall back into Gillian's hands. He's such a good (titular) dad. I also see why the series saw fit to introduce us to Richard's awesome sister Emma, so that we know Julia and Tommy are in good hands. Jack Huston's performance as the half-faced, tortured veteran over the last four years has been wonderful, making audiences deeply care about a mass (masked) murderer is no easy feat.
"Yeah. I'm sure you're right."
Speaking of masked murderers, "Farewell Daddy Blues" did make me think of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's Scream because every character seemed to have their 'I'll be right back' moment. I mean, I tried my best to use most of them in the block-quotes included throughout and one character that I was shocked made it out of "FDB" alive was Greg Antonacci's Johnny Torrio. Not for lack of trying on Al's part. (Right?) And to keep up with the film references, the failed hit on Torrio had shades of the attempted assassination of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Maybe it's just because both of the tough old Dons can take a lot of bullets. In this case it was one for the driver and the rest for the boss, all after the tension filled talk with his number two earlier. I mean, who else could it be, right? I'm still not too sure why Torrio went after Capone in the first place since he had pretty much already handed over the business but these mobsters and their pride. Al made his point though, it's Europe for Johnny. That leaves Chicago ripe for the picking and the Capones are not the kind to show restraint, especially with Nelson and Ralph on his side. And Eli?
"Tell your mother I'll be late."
All season long I've been predicting that Eli would be the one to bite not bullet not Richard but it turns out he's just taking an extended vacation to Chicago. So, he'll still be late but not, you know, 'late' late. The younger Thompson brother set up the meeting of the mob bosses as requested by Agent Knox (Tolliver) but Nucky is no dummy and, thanks to last week's dinner table outburst, is able to piece together the lawman's plan. Too bad Knox wasn't informed of the discovery because he asked his school chum turned hard-ass boss for a few too many men and things don't look good for his career. I've been boasting for some time how I thought Brian Geraghty's Bureau of Investigation Agent was going to be a formidable adversary and in some ways he was but not nearly to the extent I was expecting. I figured his involvement would continue over multiple seasons until they began to paint him with the outsider brush which, well, makes anyone easier to kill. The fight between him and Eli was incredible. Intense, raw and vicious. The saw, man, the saw.
"This is only my career, Harold. I'll relax when it's over."
As for his older brother, her didn't have an easy time this week either almost having to shoot another important person in his life in the head. Right when my brain was telling me that there was no way Nucky was going to kill Eli, I thought of the body that they had recently exhumed and the surrogate son he buried. All the talk of family, Nuck does kind of have one of his own but Jimmy's gone and who wants Gillian? Sorry, Gillian. And then there's Margaret who just moved into the place set-up by Redstone, uh, Rothstein. I wonder if her connection to the world will bring her back to Nucky? Oh, Sally's also left waiting for him to not show up in Tampa. Nope, the plan for after he took care of that particular final piece of business changed and now he and Willy taking a trip to see pops in Chicago. As for the business, well, it had to do with helping out an old friend. Chalky has been put through the wringer this season and he still has the will to see Nucky face to face even if that means effectively ambushing the Albatross. His new country crew doesn't mess around.
"There is no wedding."
I wonder if that's the direction things are heading for Mr. White? I mean, how awesome would it be to see him running things in the backwoods as a moonshiner at the beginning of next season. He looked mighty comfortable on that porch, with Daughter singing somewhere nearby, even after the devastating events that led him there. The central conflict this season has resulted from the introduction of Harlem which, while adding rich new thematic territory to explore also, pitted Jeffrey Wright's Dr. Valentin Narcisse against Michael K. Williams' Chalky White for Atlantic CIty's north side. Interestingly enough, by the end of the season both men stand defeated, although the nature of and reason for their respective falls is quite different. While Chalky's fate is quite sad with him losing his entire family (and Maybelle her life) because of the war with Narcisse and, well, following in Nucky's footsteps, the Doctor's was one of the few things about the episode that brought a smile to my face. It's only fitting that the 'peddler and pimp' now has to snitch on his hero Marcus Garvey and call the whitest of all the white men, Director Hoover, sir. It's also exciting to know that Wright will probably be back on the Boardwalk and I imagine the director of the BOI will also play a larger part.
"That way all of us can be together..."
Boardwalk Empire has already been renewed for a fifth season, expect it to air sometime next fall, probably Sundays 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 Michael Stuhlbarg.
"I think it's time, considering the respect the position deserves, you begin referring to me as Director Hoover."