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"Two clichés make us laugh. A hundred clichés move us. For we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion." Umberto Eco
At the end of "Farewell Daddy Blues," the fourth season finale of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, the great Italian writer's famous quote came to mind. The way that the drama chose to write off one of its more popular characters was fitting and emotional, and yet also exactly the kind of interplay of clichés Eco is talking about. Richard Harrow's death was handled in such a way that was ultimately so familiar, so expected that it was almost comfortable. Like coming home.
Early in Season 4, Jack Huston's Richard began to turn away from violence and try to put that side of his life behind him so of course there would be a final job that needed doing before entering retirement. And with the last hit, came the emotional goodbye at the train station and the promise he'd soon follow. Of course, at the pivotal moment his hands quiver, there's a fateful misfire and, after four seasons and many murders without a scratch, he finally took a fatal bullet himself. But he couldn't die without first having a reassuring dream in his final moments, making it to the train and being reunited with his new family. And the other half of his face. To use another cliché, it writes itself.
"It occured to me, the basis of fiction is that people have some sort of connection with each other..." Richard Harrow
Aristotle said that the perfect ending for tragedy should be both 'surprising and inevitable,' a pairing, by nature, that's rather difficult to achieve. I didn't see Richard's death coming until the HBO preview for the finale and then, once it clicked, well, it was really the obvious conclusion to what had preceded. There wasn't much Terence Winter could do with the character besides saying a truly final goodbye, him having increasingly felt a bit extraneous to the action since Jimmy was put in the ground at the end of the second season. Don't get me wrong, Richard continued to be one of the main reasons to tune into Boardwalk Empire, somehow remaining the emotional core and even moral center of the series despite being a cold-blooded killer.
Richard's first episode, "Home" (S1E7), offered an incredible introduction to his character, perhaps one of the best ever with the chance meeting of Michael Pitt's Jimmy resulting in the pair ditching a psych-eval for a drink before working together on a key hit. Who else makes that kind of first impression? Not to mention the fact that he's only rocking half a face and speaks in the hypnotic mumble. The two swap stories and traumas. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. A short friendship, and bloody, but still beautiful in its own way.
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.
"To the lost." James 'Jimmy' Darmody