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The Unforgiven – A Recap of Boardwalk Empire’s Season 2 Finale, “To the Lost”

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Television show writers always walk a fine line when drafting a game-changing season finale for a series they know will be returning in the fall.  On one hand, there’s a lot of pressure to “go out with a bang,” and “shock people.”  And modern TV viewers are notoriously jaded, and hard to shock . . . because, basically, we’ve seen it all before.  So, if you really want to get people talking about your show over a long hiatus period, you can’t pull any punches.

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On the other hand, if you go too far, or change things up too much, you risk alienating the very audience you worked so hard to keep.  After all, your fans have certain expectations regarding shows they love.  And they need to know that the show to which they are returning is the same one they fell in love with, in the first place.

Undoubtedly, this is the quandary Terence Winter and Co. found themselves mired in, when drafting “To the Lost.” It was, by all accounts a spectacular season finale, one that will undoubtedly have fans talking about it long after the final credits have rolled.  But now that things have changed so dramatically, will fans have a reason to return?

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Let’s review, shall we?

“Welcome back, fellas!”

Jimmy Darmody spent this episode much like Queen Latifah’s character did in “Last Holiday,”  (only without the fancy dresses   . . . and all the food  . . . and certainly without Cuba Gooding Jr.)

What I mean, of course, is that Jimmy spent the entire episode behaving as a man who knew he was marked for death.  He tidied up his affairs.  He righted wrongs.   He gave people important pieces of advice.  Jimmy assured himself that when he left this world, he would do so with as few regrets possible, given the life he lived.

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“I’m no one’s idea of a hero, least of all mine,” Jimmy said to the masses, during his impromptu speech on Veterans Day.

But Jimmy sure seemed like a hero, this week, which is how we all pretty much knew he was a goner.  Let this be a lesson to you actors, out there.  If you ever get a script, where your typically flawed, or under-used character, suddenly starts looking like the Messiah, chances are you aren’t making it out of the our alive .  . .

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I just realized he’s still wearing his wedding band .  . .

Anyway, the episode begins with Jimmy and Harrow fulfilling their promise to Chalky White, by hand-delivering to him and his men, the three KKK members responsible for shooting him, and his family.

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“We gonna SCHOOL THESE CRACKERS SHEET-HEADS!”

 In addition to these fine specimen, Jimmy also offered additional money to the families of the people the KKK had murdered during their raid.  In return, Chalky agreed to end the labor strike,  and broker a meeting between Jimmy and Nucky.  Now, I’m not usually one who condones violence, but I have to say, I got a bit of thrill watching Chalky and his former-foe-turned-bestie,  Purnsley, gleefully kicking the crap out of these racist bastards.  Those sheet-heads had it coming . . .

 

They sure are dapper and perky, psycho killers,  aren’t they? 

As Harrow and Jimmy drive away from the fray, Harrow turns to Jimmy and tries to offer him some sage advice / tough love.  “You know, no matter what you do, he’ll never forgive you for everything you did,” he says, clearly referring to Nucky, and Jimmy’s newfound, almost compulsive need to make things right with him.

And how does Jimmy respond to his most loyal comrades eerily prophetic words?  “Let’s get some steak,” he says.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you!” 

It sure is good to see that Jimmy has his priorities straight.  I mean, you can’t eat when you’re dead, right?

Meanwhile, Nucky is meeting with that poopface, Angela-killer, Manny Horvitz, who is seeking the opportunity to kill his bitter rival, Waxy Gordon, in exchange for allowing Nucky to kill Jimmy.  Nucky doesn’t seem particularly interested.  At least . . . not at first . . .

“Might I instead interest you in a fresh cut of man meat?” 

After his meeting with Poopface, Nucky arrives home to find Dangerous Maid Katie, and Anonymous Maid helping Emily walk with her new braces.  He asks where Margaret has gone.  Dangerous Maid and Anonymous Maid don’t know.

But we do . . .

“Set yourself free.”

One thing I definitely won’t miss about Boardwalk Empire is that ugly ass hat Margaret’s been wearing, ever since she got enough money to afford it.  I HATE that hat!  You know what else is kind of annoying?  That self-assured, independent Margaret suddenly needs to consult her priest about every single decision she makes.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he also accompanies her to the bathroom . . .

“Fa-ther, should I wipe myself with my right hand, or my left?” 

So, Margaret ended up paying the federal prosecutor a visit, after all.  And she did so, with her trusty priest at her side.  That said, I found it a bit suspicious that the priest, of all people, seemed to be the one trying to convince Margaret not to speak.  This makes me wonder if Nucky has this guy in his back pocket too.  (Nucky’s back pocket is a crowded place, indeed.)

It was interesting seeing Margaret face off against Assistant D.A. Esther Randolph.  After all, in many ways these two women are alike: intelligent, strong, judgmental to a fault, and somewhat cold and aloof.  But they have vastly different value systems.  As a result, the strategies these two women use to succeed in the male-oriented world in which they live are diametrically opposed to one another . . .

Margaret attempts to engage Esther in conversation by asking her whether it was difficult to become a lawyer.  “Not if you are willing to do what it takes to achieve it,” replies Esther staunchly.

And yet, later she admits that it was, in fact, difficult for her to achieve.  Margaret has little trouble admitting to Esther that her first husband was a drunkard, who beat her and her children.  However, she becomes noticeably uncomfortable, when Esther notes how much better Margaret is doing for herself, now that her first husband is out of the way.  “He’s never been cruel to me,” Margaret says of Nucky, clearly already having doubts about the decision she’s made.

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“Though, admittedly, the sex leaves a bit to be desired . . .”

“But he’s been cruel to so many others,” Esther retorts.

“I’ve never seen it,” Margaret replies.

“But you know it to be true!”

The conversation really reaches its breaking point, when Esther suggests its wrong for Margaret to not testify against Nucky, because this would be better for her children.  “You would put their well being above all others?”  Esther asks.

Obviously for Margaret, as I suspect, for most mothers, the answer to that question is “yes.”  And this is where Esther loses Margaret.  Because of all the “sins” for which the latter feels guilty, protecting her children is definitely not one of them.  (At least, she’s not . . . you know . . . kissing their winkies  . . .or anything like that)

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 “Set yourself free,” Esther says, in a last ditch effort to convince Margaret to testify against her funny-looking gangster lover.  “You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.”

And Margaret does end up “setting herself free,” by the end of the hour . . . just not in the way either Nucky Thompson or Esther Randolph would have expected . . .

Elsewhere, Nucky is meeting with his lawyer, who is instructing him that he needs to “take care” of the Margaret situation, before she ruins everything for him.  But could Nucky really murder his Margiepoo. . .

 . . . or does he have a more peaceful solution in mind?

“Let me make things right.”

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Jimmy Darmody is smoking by the window, and looking decidedly broken, beaten and bereft but still hot.   When Nucky’s car pulls up in his driveway, his first instinct is to grab a gun.  (It’s a good instinct.)  But Nucky’s new driver / Number 1 Henchman, Owen, a.k.a. Jimmy 2.0, also has a gun, and this prompts Jimmy to put his down.  (Though, if it were me, I would probably have the opposite response in this situation.

“You can wait outside.  It’s OK, I used to do your job,” says Jimmy, a statement that is equal parts friendly and patronizing.

You’re the reason I’m doing it now,” retorts Owen, as he reluctantly leaves the house.

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Touche, Sexypants!

Solemn and respectful, Jimmy pours his former father figure a drink, and proceeds to tell him about all his dearly departed family members, and who is responsible for each of their deaths, “To the Lost,” he toasts, holding his tumblr aloft.  (I smell an episode title!)

The conversation quickly turns to Jimmy’s father, and murder victim, the Commodore.  “I should have killed him the moment he suggested betraying you,” Jimmy admits “And I did kill him . . . it just happened to be a few episodes too late.”

Poor Jimmy . . . sexually molested by his mother .  . . this was clearly a man in need of a healthy parent-child relationship.  And you can’t help but feel bad for him, when he confides in Nucky that he was nearly brought to tears when the then-ailing Commodore once told him, “You’re a good son.”

“He was your father.  Nothing trumps family,” Nucky says, echoing Margaret’s sentiments from earlier in the episode.

In hindsight, this statement was a hefty little piece of foreshadowing.  But more on that, in a bit . . .  “What can I do?”  Jimmy pleads, seeking forgiveness from Nucky, as if the latter is his personal priest.

“Tell the truth,” Nucky exclaims.

“I was angry,” is all Jimmy can say in response.

He does manage to tell Nucky that the shooting was all Eli’s idea, which, of course, we know it was.  But whether Nucky truly believes this of his own personal Fredo, will surely be a topic of discussion, over the next few weeks  . . .

“Let’s make things right  .  . . as right as they can be,” Jimmy insists, finally.  “Tell me how to help you.”

I know how I can help you, Jimmy.  Here’s a little piece of advice:

“If there really is a god, would he have given me this mug?”

As big of a crock of sh*t as Nucky’s tail-between-his-legs, “I need you to marry me, so you can’t testify against me, due to spousal privilege . . . so I’m basically going to blow all this religious smoke up your ass that I don’t really give two craps about . . . but, hey, at least I’m not going to MURDER you . . . YAY!” speech to Margaret ended up being, it gave me a lot of respect for Steve Buscemi.  I mean, clearly, someone wrote that script with the actor in mind.  Especially since, from what I’ve heard, the real Enoch Johnson was quite the looker, back in the day . . .

My favorite people in the world are the ones who can laugh at themselves.  Obviously, Steve Buscemi is one of these people . . .

While Ugly Mug Nucky is trying to “make things right,” on his end, Jimmy is busy preparing for his future, or rather, his lack of one.  When the Late Commodore’s lawyer, Uncle Junior from The Sopranos, tells Jimmy that the bastard left all his wealth to the maid that may or may not have tried to poison him, Jimmy proceeds to RIP UP THE WILL, while Uncle Junior watches, secretly impressed.

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“I’m strangely aroused.”

Jimmy’s morbid inquiry as to whether his son will inherit the Commodore’s money when he dies, does give that baby f*&ker Gillian some pause.  But the big dollar signs in her eyes prevent her from giving the matter the attention that it deserves . . .

After disposing of the Commodore’s will, Jimmy meets with the alderman who will be testifying against Nucky, and politely asks them to recant their statements.  An offer they all, at least, initially refuse, though one of them, might end up being sorrier about that decision than the others . . .

Meanwhile, Margaret awakens to see Nucky helping Emily walk with her leg braces.  She’s so touched by the gesture that she ultimately agrees to marry Nucky, provided she can make a full confession to her good pal, the Priest first . . .  (See what I mean, about her consulting that guy about EVERYTHING!)

“Fa-ther, does marrying Nucky mean I can’t have delicious sex with Owen, anymore?” 

“Nahhhhh!” 

“I’ll take the ducks” 

The opening statement / wedding / murder montage was probably my favorite part of the entire episode, because it reminded me so much of the last twenty minutes of all three Godfather movies (even that super sh*tty third one), as well as some of my favorite Sopranos episodes.  The montage begins with a nervous, but fiercely determined, Esther Randolph practicing her opening statement against Nucky Thompson, in front of her bedroom mirror.

While she rehearses, her case slowly unravels, right before our eyes.  First we see Margaret give her confession, and marry Nucky, with Owen and Katie, of all people, as witnesses (AWK-WARD!)

As for Esther’s former star witness, Van Asshole, he’s taken his sweet little foreign nanny, and baby Abigail to Cicero, Illinois, where they will live as husband, wife and child, under the name “Mueller.”  (Wow!  I wonder what he told that Nanny to get her to agree to that?   Surely, the explanation didn’t involve the BAPTISM FROM HELL!)

Meanwhile, Jimmy and Harrow storm into the courthouse, like the bad asses they are, promptly securing seven recantments from all of the Alderman’s set to testify against Nucky . . . well make that six recantments, and one . . . SUICIDE NOTE.

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Should have said, “Yes,” the first time he asked you to recant, Neery!

At trial, Esther is both furious and humiliated by this recent turn of events.  The judge gives her two options, proceed with her now-joke of a trial against Nucky, or come back later, once she has her ducks in a row. “I’ll take the ducks,” replies Esther.

Good choice! 

Speaking of lame ducks, it’s not easy being a Friend of Fredo!  While Eli was released from jail, immediately after the trial, it was the beaten-up and extremely pathetic-looking Deputy Halloran, who ended up taking the fall for him.  (And I mean that, literally.  The guy could barely stand up straight.)

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 Deputy, something tells me you will be “sitting there” for a looooooong time.

“Et tu, Eli?”

Oh, Eli!  You’re so lucky to have a brother like Nucky.  Not only does he let you get off, more or less, scot-free for TRYING TO HAVE HIM KILLED, he also provides you with valuable lessons on classical literature . . .

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A true expert at trying to save his own ass, the fact that Eli tells Nucky that he wasn’t the one behind Eli’s attempted murder is not surprising.  What is surprising is that Nucky actually believes him.  Or does he?  You recall that earlier in the episode, Nucky told Jimmy that there is nothing more important than the bonds of family . . . that blood is thicker than water.  So, perhaps, it was ultimately that rationale, which prompted Nucky to choose his blood bag brother, Eli, over his watery-eyed erstwhile protege, Jimmy.

In the scene that follows this one, Nucky calls Arnold Rothstein, while the latter is discussing heroine with Meyer and Lucky.  He asks Rothstein, though not in so many words, whether he would care if Nucky wacked Manny Horvitz.  In response, Lucky and Meyer snicker, which, is more or less what these two massively underused characters have been doing all season . . . snickering . . . at everything.

(They’re still kind of sexy though.)

Rothstein pragmatically replies that he has no opinion, one way or the other.  But he does offer Nucky some sage advice, “Flip a coin, when it’s in the air, you’ll know which side you’re hoping for.”

On it’s surface, it seems as though the statement is referring to whether or not Nucky should kill Manny.  But in hindsight, it seems more like Nucky is trying to decide whether to kill his own brother, or Jimmy.  After all, Rothstein’s statement sounds surprisingly similar to the one Jimmy uttered to Nucky, right before the latter was shot.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, as long as you make a decision.”

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Nucky might know that it’s wrong to trust Eli over Jimmy.  But, rest assured, when that coin is up in the air, he’s hoping his brother’s side comes out on top . . .

Speaking of Jimmy . . .

“It’s time for you to come home.”

There’s a definite wistul nostalgia surrounding Jimmy, when he takes his son out for a pony ride, and regales him with stories from some of the brighter moments of his childhood.   Jimmy probably never expected to be a father as soon as he was, and he wasn’t a perfect one, by any means.  But it was always clear that he loved little Tommy deeply, and raised him the best way he knew how . . .

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When Jimmy gives Tommy his dog tags, it certainly feels like he’s saying goodbye to his son, forever.  And when Tommy immediately selects the solider hat, over the cowboy hat to wear while riding the pony,  Jimmy is both proud of him, and afraid for him, at the same time.  Though, if I was Jimmy, I’d be much more afraid of leaving him with that wackadoo mother of his, than about his possibly dressing up like an army man for Halloween.

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Back at home, Jimmy and Harrow are drunkenly reminiscing about their days as soldiers in the war, an experience that broke them both beyond repair, and yet, at the same time, bonded them for life.  Harrow admits that being at war was the only time that Harrow truly felt like he belonged, and that sometimes he feels like he’s still at war . . .

To this, Jimmy responds, by giving himself a sage piece of advice that, had he himself, been able to follow it, his life might have been very different, indeed . . .

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Giving Richard permission to “come home from war,” is Jimmy’s first parting gift to Richard.  His second may very well be the gift of life.  When Nucky calls the house, instructing Jimmy to meet him in a remote area, at night, in the rain, Harrow offers to go in his place, or, at least, accompany him.   But Jimmy refuses the offer, telling Richard that, “This is something I’ve gotta do myself.”

When Jimmy leaves out the back door, so as to prevent his mother and child from knowing where he is going, Richard knows for certain that he’s never coming back.  In a way, he knew it the minute he told Jimmy that Nucky would never forgive him for the crimes the former perpetrated against him . . .

 

And when Gillian finds the dog tags around her grandson’s neck, she knows it too.  “You’re going to be an important man, some day . . . just like your father,” Gillian says to Little Tommy.  (For Tommy’s sake, I sure hope not . . .)

“I’m not seeking forgiveness.”

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Jimmy arrives at the meeting spot, unarmed, and ready to die.  He is not the least bit surprised to Eli, Nucky, Owen, Manny, and a couple of random goons with guns lying in wait for him.   “I died back in the trenches,” Jimmy admits.

He no longer fears death.  In fact, he may even welcome it, or feel like he deserves it.  And when Jimmy learns that Nucky will be the one to kill him, he seems almost proud of that fact, as if taking the final bullet from anyone else would be an insult.  It sort of reminds me of how Tony killed his cousin (also played by Buscemi) in cold blood, because he didn’t want anyone else to get the chance.  In an odd way, Jimmy himself predicted this, when he made this bold statement to Nucky toward the end of the first season . .  .

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If it wasn’t so slit-your-wrist depressing, it would be almost comedic how Jimmy seems to be coaching Nucky in the art of murdering him.  “Just breathe, Nucky.  You’ll get through this,” he says.  “The only person left to judge you as you.”

But Nucky doesn’t seem to find this advice helpful at all.  In fact, it only makes him madder . . .

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For a second there, when Jimmy started gurgling, and coughing up blood, still clearly alive, having not been shot in the head, but, rather, in the mouth  (He DID tell you to breathe, Nucky!  Maybe, if you did, you would have been more efficient.), I actually got all excited, thinking my guy might just make it through this, after all.

But . . . then he shot him in the head . . . and that was the end of that.

“He’s reenlisting.”

As awful as it was to see Jimmy ripped from this world, and this show, the fact that Nucky was so smug about it the next morning, at the breakfast table with Margaret made it ten times worse.  Talk about embracing your gangster side!  But when Nucky announces that the reason he was out in the rain in the middle of the night was because, “Jimmy decided to reenlist,” Margaret finally figures out that all the religious bullcrap he laid on her to get her to marry him, was just a bunch of lies . . .

But it seems Margaret might be the one having the last laugh.  Remember when Nucky signed all his property, including that massive land mass on which he wanted to build a major money making road to Atlantic City?  Well, Margaret just signed away her rights to it . . . and deeded them over to . . . wait for it . . . THE CHURCH!

It looks like this kitty just got claws . . . make that a machine gun.

Somewhere in Heaven(?) Jimmy Darmody just gave Margaret Schroeder a big ole’ high five . . .

And that was season 2 of Boardwalk Empire in a nutshell.  But here’s my question: where do we go from here?  After all, Jimmy Darmody was just as much an anchor to this show for two seasons as Nucky Thompson.  Is Steve Buscemi strong enough, or likeable enough to carry this show on his own?  Do any of the pre-existing characters have the charisma or the fan support necessary to take Jimmy’s place?

For the show’s head writer, Terence Winter’s take on this, feel free to check out this interesting, if a bit frustrating, interview from Entertainment WeeklyAlso, check out this “scandalous” article on TVline.com, which not-so-subtly alludes to a possible less-than-kosher reason why the writers might have decided to axe the Darmody character.   As for me, I’m going to hold my tongue, and save my most opinionated rhetoric for the comment section (should anyone decide to comment ;)).  For now, I leave you with an absolutely hilarious musical number from that dude that used to play Agent Sebso on the show.  Seriously, he’s AWESOME!

Hey, Erik Weiner, if you’re reading this, CALL ME! 😉

[www.juliekushner.com][Fangirls Forever]

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