I was a bit hesitant to start watching the series …
“What Jesus Said” opens with Chalky and his loose cannon partner breaking into the house of the latter’s former employer. In what is easily the low point of the episode, Chalky’s plot consists of balancing precariously between his edgy accomplice, Milton, and the a mother and daughter whom they have taken hostage. Although on paper, the idea might sound engaging, it plays out in a mostly uninspired manner due to the fact that Chalky isn’t given a whole lot to do. These scenes, which take up roughly 1/3 of the main plots explored this week, consist widely of three other characters who we are given little emotional investment in.
There are revelations aplenty as we catch up with a few more members of the cast after the crash, and in the beginnings of the Great Depression. Gillian is seen early on under surprising circumstances; in not a prison, but a mental institution. Her initial sequence, in which she dozes comfortably in a steam bath while discussing frivolities is rapidly dissipated when one of her fellow patients loses control over a radio program, and riles up the other patients in kind.
There is an air of finality to even this first episode of Boardwalk Empire’s final season. From the opening scene to the final moments, “Golden Days for Boys & Girls” has the distinct feeling of a ticking clock. Ironically while the episode takes its sweet time, from skipping out on several of the shows most notable characters to adding in a recurring flashbacks of the childhood of the Thompsons, it only further solidifies the fact that this is the end. Like the last ruminating drink of a dying man, the simplest of things only matter more with the end in sight.
Much of this season, Boardwalk Empire has struggled with too many characters and disconnected storylines, leaving the overall narrative scattered. This week the show focuses in, following Chalky and Gillian while the other characters take the episode off, other than a few scenes setting up Eli and Nucky for the finale. However while this helps highlight these two characters and allows them to shine, the direction the writers choose to go with them makes the episode, and in one case, much of the season, feel absolutely wasted.