Boardwalk Empire Season 5, Episode 8: “Eldorado”
Written by Howard Korder & Terence Winter
Directed by Tim Van Patten
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO
“Too late” was the operative phrase for Boardwalk Empire‘s final hour. Too late for salvation, too late for romance, too late for redemption, and ultimately, too late for survival.
That it seemed obvious for the series’ finale to send Nucky out was a bit of a given, considering the telegraphed nature of the flashback conceit which had been building for the entirety of this season. There were glimpses of hope, and chances for atonement but the clock had already run out by the time Nucky took his final stroll down the boardwalk.
It was an hour filled with subversion. The entire nature of the season seemed to be tailor-made for Nucky to come to Gillian’s aid, only it would appear that this particular outfit was sewn for another purpose entirely. Instead, as might have been predicted from Gillian’s final scene in “King of Norway” a few weeks back, she had been damned by her own devices. As Nucky said when he visited “You saved your skin, that’s more than some can say.” Alas what’s left for her is not much to look upon; like Nucky himself, her glory days are long gone but at her end she lacks even the capacity to see it. As he often has throughout this ending run, Nucky really speaks only for his own ears. He laments his legacy offers his condolences, and again calls back to the almighty dollar, all while Gillian simply watches an insect and examines it with detached indifference. Perhaps there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
Lucky Luciano established the fabled seven families to close out his arc. As Meyer and Bugsy looked on, Omerta was made and the syndicate was created. There is a certain poetry to it in that much of Boardwalk‘s creative talent hails from The Sopranos mighty shores, while this very moment is paramount to the entirety of the empire which its descendants were able to make.
In that sense, it is in some ways an hour for those to come, as much as it is for the lost. The fact that Tommy Darmody was the one to put Nucky down certainly speaks to such a notion. It’s hard to know what must have been going through Tommy’s mind through his arc but it seems like it would likely be akin to that of a different Scorsese joint, Gangs of New York, another story where a young man must struggle between his quest for vengeance and his surprising respect for a man he should hate by all accounts. In the end though, hate and vengeance did indeed win out, and the revelation of Tommy’s identity was established as the real reason for the buildup of this narrative.
That Nucky went like he did was one of the finale’s only real surprises unfortunately, as with so many spinning plates to account for, the end did have a bit of a “checking the boxes” feel to it. Set up the seven families? Check. Kill off Narcisse? Check. Make amends between Nucky and Eli? Check. Have Capone give himself up? Check. It was a predictable hour in a lot of ways, especially for anyone well-versed in history, but, hey, at least they made good on the Kennedy subplot.
“Eldorado” is a bit of a mixed bag as far as series’ finales go. In terms of satisfaction, it comes to hand like the coin a young Nucky was seeking in the final shot: even as the cold and flighty steel touches your palm, you wonder what you ought to do with it.
To the lost, and to what we’ve found in their place. It’s been a good five years Boardwalk.