“Boardwalk Empire” Season 4 Episode 12- Not with a bang, but with a wimper

Here we are! The season finale! It had some good moments, but it was a bit “meh”. Here we go!

The Real City of Brotherly Love- The AC

The scene opens with a storm brewing off the coast of the AC. Nucky’s on the phone with Sally, practicing Spanish. She’s much better at it than he is.

Meanwhile, Nucky’s men are rounded up by Chalkie’s men. Chalkie’s pissed. He pulls a gun on Nucky. They agree to get Narcisse, despite the confrontational nature of the conversation.

At the FBI, J Edgar and Knox are chatting. Knox is very pleased with his ability to manipulate Eli, and he wants more agents for the Big Meeting. J Edgar is skeptical, but he’s in a good mood because it looks like Marcus Garvey is going to stay in jail! So he gives him 8 agents. He also insists that Knox refer to him as “Director Hoover”. J Edgar is kind of a dick as a boss.


Gif from here.

Eli is planning the sting operation with Knox and another agent. He’s not pleased, but Knox insists.


Gif from here.

Knox is a bit on edge as he oversees the details of the sting operation. We find out the agent from the prior scene is named “Harold”. Also, Knox is a bigger pain than any Bridezilla about the whole thing.


Gif from here.

Nucky calls Eli’s house. He needs to bum a ride with Eli to the Big Meeting. Willie overhears, and because he’s not an idiot, he’s a bit suspicious.

Nucky’s house is very dark as Eli enters. Nucky reveals that he’s going to Cuba. Moreover, he cancelled the meeting.

Nucky’s new bodyguard enters and gives Nucky a gun. Then, the Thompson brothers have yet another incident where they almost kill each other and express jealousy.


Gif from here.

Laura: Hee, I used this gif, too!

Even Eli seems rather nonchalant about the whole thing.

As Nucky’s about to pull the trigger, Willie comes in to break it up. Unlike the audience, Willie seems to be taking the whole “Nucky tries to kill Eli after Eli betrays Nucky” thing seriously. Poor boy.

Eli spills the entire story about Knox to Nucky. Nucky is unimpressed, but all he does is storm out of the room.
At the hotel, Knox is being stood up at the altar. Then, he throws an epic tantrum! Harold asks for his firearm, which Knox refuses to give him.

At Eli’s home, June is pretty spooked. Knox arrived, and she’s finally caught on that he’s probably not really an insurance salesman. Eli roughly gets her out of the room.

Knox immediately picks a fight with Eli, intimating that Willie will end up raped in prison. Eli gets angry, and Knox pulls a gun on Eli. Knox is enjoying his power trip, when Eli swats the gun out of his hand and starts to beat the crap out of Knox.

The fight goes on for a bit, and it’s pretty gruesome. June accidently sees part of it, but Eli lets his rage flow. Eventually, Eli gets the upper hand and strangles Knox with his own tie. Then, he punches him a lot. Then, he bashes in his face with a vase.
June is going to be pissed about the vase.


Gif from here.

Laura: Leslie Knoooooooooooooope!

Nucky’s at the train station, ready to go to Cuba and have a really relaxing time of it with Sally when he’s confronted by Knox’s fellow agent Harold. Harold wants to ask a few questions about the murder of Knox.

Talking to the FBI or going to Cuba with my hot and dangerous girlfriend? Damn! Image from here.

Willie carries Eli’s bags to the car with Nucky. Eli is leaving town. Nucky makes it pretty clear to Willie that he has responsibilities now. Willie finally seems to understand that perhaps murder and gangster activity isn’t so cool.


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Willie point-blank asks Nucky if he would have pulled the trigger and killed Eli. Nucky gives a vague answer that implies that he wouldn’t have done it, but that’s the beauty of a vague answer.

A Kind of Pathetic Retirement Party

Al and Ralph Capone are chatting with Van Alden about the shooting. Torrio comes in to check on things, and it is implied that Al might suspect that Torrio tried to set him up.
Of course, that red herring is pretty quickly dispelled when Torrio is shot by a goon in a suit. He really just wanted to discuss the garden with his wife.

“This is way more fun than getting shot!” Image from here.

Fortunately, Torrio survives. His pet gangsters are waiting in the hospital when he asks for Al.

They discuss the joys of morphine. Al is genuinely sweet with Torrio, trying to keep up his spirits and making him feel safe. Torrio turns serious as he announces that he’s done, and Al gets to be in charge of their operation. Torrio is off to Europe.  Not a bad retirement!


Poor Maybelle

In addition to Chalkie’s visit in the first scene, Dr. Narcisse is causing more problems for Nucky. His payments from Doyle are light. Doyle, in typical fashion, is over-explaining why it’s light.


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Enter Harrow. He offers to help Nucky out in exchange for something. . .

Dr. Narcisse and Nucky have a meeting in Mayor Bader’s office. Nucky plays nice, and pretends that he really just wants to have things run smoothly. Dr. Narcisse agrees to a meeting with Chalkie, who is claiming he knows where Daughter Maitland is hiding.


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At the Onyx, Chalkie and his new men are ready for the meeting with Dr. Narcisse. I’m kind of wondering where he got all of these new men. Maybe they were Oscars.

Chalkie and Dr. Narcisse engage in some insincere negotiations. There is some talk about Daughter and daughters, which actually has a purpose. Dr. Narcisse reveals that he’s got Maybelle who he’s holding hostage.
The dancers are on stage, and the band plays “Shimmy Like a Sister Kate”. This is to cover the close up on Harrow on the balcony with his sniper rifle and a silencer. He is about to shoot Dr. Narcisse when his hand starts to shake. He recovers and takes his shot.

Unfortunately, Maybelle walks in the way just in time to take the bullet.

Chaos erupts in the club as the white patrons realize a dead black girl is in their midst. Narcisse’s men begin shooting randomly, hitting patrons. .. and Harrow.

Chalkie is deeply distraught as he is pulled away from Maybelle’s lifeless body.

Despite the episode itself being a bit lackluster, I do need to give the writers, actors, and director credit for this scene. The banter between Chalkie and Narcisse isn’t as great as earlier in the season, but the tension is wonderfully developed, and the reaction to the sudden violence feels very appropriate. Additionally, Chalkie’s face as he’s being pulled away from the table is heartbreaking. It’s like he’s finally realized the toll his infidelity had on his family, and he’s consumed by the pain and guilt.
Outside the club, Harrow manages to hobble away to beneath the boardwalk. The more conspicuous Dr. Narcisse is picked up outside the door by law enforcement.

Because J Edgar Hoover is more interested in maintaining institutionalized racism than bootlegging and drug dealing, he comes in to personally question Dr. Narcisse. He threatens deportation, but then turns the story back to Marcus Garvey. Dr. Narcisse feels that J Edgar is over-simplifying Garvey’s philosophy.

Finally, J Edgar gets to the point. He wants Dr. Narcisse to find a black man to take the blame for Knox’s death. He also wants him to spy on Marcus Garvey. Dr. Narcisse insists that Marcus Garvey is a hero. J Edgar points out, “But you are not. You are just a peddler and a pimp sitting in a jail cell.”

Dr. Narcisse insists that he’s a “businessman and a follower of Christ”, but you can tell his heart’s not really in it anymore. J Edgar broke him, and in a symbolic gesture of caving to institutions run by white men while betraying his own deeply held values, Dr. Narcisse says, “Yessir.”

Gillian and Harrow as an Afterthought

Richard Harrow is testifying in Gillian’s trial. Defense counsel is actually rather effective in his cross, despite going down the inane route of focusing on Harrow’s glasses. Gillian decides to help herself and pipes up about there being no body. Despite her having a point, everyone tries to shut her up.


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Of course, she doesn’t. She makes some comments about being tricked before she gets to an astute observation. “Why does a man get to do anything he wants?”

While this reminds me of a bit out of “Chicago”, she kind of has a point. While Gillian is certifiably nuts, on the murder-scale, she’s really not nearly as bad as most of the characters we root for in this show. Harrow is almost universally beloved, and he’s committed more murders than I can count!


Gif from here.

LAURA: My very favorite gif!

So, remember that problem Harrow went to see Nucky about? He wants Nucky to reveal where Jimmy’s real body is buried. Apparently, he sees Gillian’s point about the lack of a body for the murder she committed.


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The morning after, the body is found, and it’s identified as Jimmy! Apparently, they don’t need to worry about her anymore!


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At the train station, Harrow sees Julia, her father, and Tommy off. They’re headed to Wisconsin to stay with his sister Emma. Harrow has a touching goodbye with Tommy, but Julia calls his bullshit. She makes it very clear that he better stop that maudlin behavior and meet them in Wisconsin!


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It’s sweet.

The Closing Credits Attempt to Pull it All Together

Daughter Maitland’s voice sings a simple blues song with only an acoustic guitar to accompany her. We see images from our various plotlines this season. It’s a forced attempt to tie them together. At least the song is good.

Eli arrives in Chicago. He recognizes the driver Capone sent him. It’s Van Alden!

Gillian sits in a jail cell as a guard delivers the bad news to her.

Margaret is carrying Emily into her new apartment complex and Rothstein hands her the key. A porter carries her bags.

Sally is bummed that Nucky stood her up and drinks a bunch.

Chalkie is sitting on Oscar’s porch, drinking and looking depressed.

Finally, we get to the image of Daughter herself. It’s a far cry from her glamorous look at the Onyx, but the rural crowd seems to be quite pleased with her anyway.

But Wait. . . It’s Not Over Yet

We last left Harrow injured and hiding under the boardwalk.

He walks along train tracks. Eventually, he gets to the farm house where Julia, Tommy, Paul, Emma, and Emma’s husband and new baby are waiting for him. Julia gets up to greet him. The camera pans back to Harrow, and his face is whole. Then, your heart breaks.

Are you in tears, yet?  I am!   Image from rickey.org.

Are you in tears, yet? I am!
Image from rickey.org.

Harrow’s mask is by his hand as his lifeless body looks toward the ocean. He died under the boardwalk.

Credits roll to the sound of the ocean.




Rating- B (This episode had some pretty bad parts, but it’s good parts were amazing, so I’m being generous and giving the episode a B. Nucky and Eli were dull. Dr. Narcisse and Chalkie’s final scene was well done, but the plot could have ended in a more interesting way. Harrow’s final scene was emotional and heartbreaking, even if it did feel a bit abrupt.)
Gratuitous Violence- A+ (This was a pretty bloody episode. The Knox and Eli fight was pretty graphic, and the violence at the Onyx was also pretty bloody. This is the HBO I know and love!)
Gratuitous Nudity- F (While the violence is back, what happened to the nudity? Come on, show, don’t you like boobs anymore?)
Overall Season Rating- B-(The season was pretty uneven. I loved many of the early scenes at the Onyx, and I was psyched by how they turned this testosterone-driven show into a musical. I also really liked Gillian and Harrow’s arcs this season.

Eddie’s death was beautifully treated. Patricia Arquette made a great addition to the cast, too! However, despite the interesting look at the position of African Americans at this point in history, the Chalkie and Dr. Narcisse storyline fizzled.

Moreover, the Nucky and Eli rivalry has been done to death. In fact, I’m even bored of saying how bored I am about this plotline. Margaret had almost no screen time, which made me sad because I have a huge girl-crush on Kelly MacDonald. In the end, while this season had a lot of good elements, the plot lost momentum, and the focus got fuzzy.

Here’s to hoping for a more solid Season 5! Maybe Eli and Van Alden will get up to fun hijinks in Chicago!)

“Boardwalk Empire” airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO.