So the final season of the criminally underrated HBO drama Boardwalk Empire has arrived, and after the show’s well publicised time jump seven years to 1931, did the narrative risk pay off? I will break down the episode in terms of main characters present.
NUCKY THOMPSON - The series protagonist and lead is rightly so the focus of the season premiere, in both the present day and in flashbacks to his childhood in the late 1800s. We saw Nucky’s attempts to legitimise his alcohol trading business in Cuba and cut deals to make it entirely above board, with the help from casual lover and business partner SALLY WHEET. Business goes well, even running into the friendly MEYER LANSKY, who makes a mention of ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN’s death years earlier (sad to see a casualty of the time jump will be Stuhlburg’s lack of on screen exit, however, the time jump seems to work effectively in a jarring manner) . However things don’t go entirely well when a violent attempt on his life is made and it’s clear Lansky was lying about why exactly he’s in Cuba. The scenes there were filmed and appeared stunningly. Nucky remains a cold fish in the present and seems as alone as ever, yet we are unclear what has happened to him in the years of the jump, with his and Sally’s relationship appearing to not have developed at all. He is trying to get out of his criminal lifestyle still it would seem. The flashbacks effectively juxtaposed this with his desire to make money no matter what, a lesson he learns from The Commodore at a young age. These scenes were very authentically done and skilfully directed by Tim Van Patten. Ian Hart’s casting as Nucky’s abusive and volatile father are also a good choice and I look forward to seeing what direction the flashbacks will take in future episodes. Their scattering throughout the episode certainly made time go faster, the only drawback being it felt like less was happening in the present. I wonder how dominant they will continue to be in future episodes.
MARGARET THOMPSON - Nucky’s estranged wife is still in a similar situation since the time jump, but it’s great to see Kelly MacDonald getting sufficient screen time after her reduced role last season. Margaret is still working in a trading office, but her excellently shocking and jarring boss’ suicide hit home how delicate the financial situation is after the crash of 1929. As Margaret tries to pick up the pieces in the office, she finds herself hiding her previous connection to Arnold Rothstein. Margaret also this episode denied having children or a husband, the former making one question if all is well with her children or if she is ashamed of her domestic situation, the latter being of no Surprise. Her inevitable reunion with Nucky will be great to see though and I look forward to seeing where her arc will lead.
CHALKY WHITE - Last seen brooding over his daughter’s death and arch nemesis NARCISSE escape and hiding out at Havre De Grace. Chalky is now seen highly subdued and broken and in a prison chain gang no less. The most shocking of changes in the time jump. He deals with irritating fellow prisoners and harsh working conditions in the forest, but ever the survivor he takes his chance at escape and runs. His situation leaves the most questions: how did he end up in prison? Where is he gonna go? And what are his goals now? I have a feeling the last question will be answered with vengeance.
LUCKY LUCIANO - The only other main cast member to appear in the premiere probably had some of his best scenes in the show. JOE MASSERIA’s once crony has grown up, another dark and brooding figure, less attitude and more ruthless. His swift and bloody betrayal of his former master leaves him in a new position of power, as he joins his fellow gangsters in the Bronx that underlines the new state of play in the gangster world now. The bloody oath was a highlight of the episode and gives some of Vincent Piazza’s best work yet. Lansky also claimed he and Charlie no longer speak. Highly unlikely considering the other lies he told Nucky, perhaps a war is coming between this young generation of New Yorkers and Mr Thompson.
We have still to catch up with main cast members NELSON VAN ALDEN, ELI THOMPSON, MICKEY DOYLE, WILLIE THOMPSON, DR VALENTIN NARCISSE and GILLIAN DARMODY. However previews indicate appearances in the next couple of weeks and I’m sure sufficient screen time is due. Overall a tremendous and fast paced start and I look forward to a great final season.