TV Review: Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale

bill bodkin is still trying to pick jaw up off the ground …

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Boardwalk Empire has done a great job of keeping audiences on their toes as well as leaving their jaws on the ground with three weeks worth of out-of-nowhere endings.

First, the murder of Angela Darmondy (Aleksa Palladino) and her lesbian lover at the hands of the hulking Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe, who’s probably one of my favorite characters on the show) was something no one saw coming.

Michael Pitt, as the now late James Darmondy

Last week, we were left in a state of shock and awe after we discovered why Jimmy Darmondy actually entered the military due to a little incest with his mom (and how awesome was Gretchen Mol as Jimmy’s mom this year?). Then if that wasn’t enough, we watched the prodigal son knife his father, The Commodore (Dabney Coleman).

Then there is this week’s season finale. With the rain pouring down in front of the famed Atlantic City War Memorial, Jimmy Darmondy, one of Boardwalk Empire’s most important characters, stood with guns drawn on him. In my mind, I thought there was no way they’d kill Jimmy. There was no way Nucky would allow Jimmy to die — this all had to be a set-up. Nucky would have the gun on Jimmy, turn and kill Manny Horvitz, then say something smooth and threatening and walk away.

There’s no way they’d shoot Jimmy.

Seriously, he’s such a huge part of the show. He’s been this oddly charismatic, sleepy-eyed, slow-talking killer who’s captivated us with his every move. He’s the crown prince of Atlantic City, the prodigal son, returned scarred beyond repair from World War I. He’s risen from lowly driver to an emerging bootlegging kingpin, a man who was starting to run the city. Yet, we know his world was crumbling around him — losing his wife and father in the same week, dealing with his awkward and torrid relationship with his mother and trying to be a good father to his son while trying to handle the complicated ins and outs of AC.

Steve Buscemi literally and figuratively killed it as Nucky Thompson

No way they’re killing Jimmy — if anything, Nucky would turn on Eli (Shea Whigham), his treacherous brother, before Jimmy.

Then Nucky uttered the phrase that will forever define Boardwalk Empire:

“I … am … not … seeking … forgiveness!”

And with that he shot Jimmy — the child he raised into a man — not once, but twice, ending his life.

What Boardwalk Empire did here was create an unforgettable moment in television. It took a massive risk, ending the life of one its main characters, barely two seasons into its run. And even if this risk doesn’t pay off and Boardwalk Empire suffers from the loss of this character, one can never forget how beautifully written Season 2 was.

In fact, if we Tarantino this whole season and start from the end and re-examine the entire season, we realize this season was painted with a brush of Shakespearean tragedy. The rise and fall of the prodigal son, the man who was to be king. Watching Jimmy as he mercurially rises to power and the struggles he has with it was nothing short of genius. This season was steeped in classic tragedy, and to look back on it with everything we now know only amplifies the tragedy even further.

How much will her Catholic guilt influence Margaret Thompson next season?

In the wake of Jimmy’s whirlwind season of sorrow, violence and death, we remain with the man with the smoking gun in his hand — Nucky Thompson. The unsinkable and unflappable (at least in public) Thompson, played to perfection by Steve Buscemi, was one of this television season’s most compelling characters. We watched as his empire fell apart, yet we knew there was no way Nucky wouldn’t pull something out, there wouldn’t be some sort of lucky break or grand scheme that would benefit Nucky. And last night, he took matters into his own hands, he became the master of his own fate and relied on himself to tie things off in a bloody bow. Watching Buscemi’s eyes, gun pointed, while Michael Pitt’s Jimmy talked about how killing someone gets easier the second time around was awe-inspiring. That was a highlight reel moment if there ever was one.

So as young James Darmondy, his wife and his father have been killed off from Boardwalk Empire, we still have plenty of questions and characters to work with for Season 3. Will we see the return of the bootlegging butcher Manny? Will Esther Randolph (Law & Order Criminal Intent’s Julianne Nicholson) continue her case against Nucky — especially if new evidence comes to light? What of the new marriage between Nucky and Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) especially now that she’s signed over Nucky’s massive land deal to the church? And will her affair with Owen Slater (Charlie Cox) come to light? And what’s to become of the now on the run Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon)?

So many questions to be asked, and sadly we must wait until September to find out.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

  1. Jimmy was the audience. Nucky said it to Jimmy in the last scene, “You don’t know me Jimmy. You never knew me.”. With that he shot Jimmy the first time.

    The line cited above was said before he shot Jimmy the second time, in the face.

    End of series. Season 3? Why?

    As Nucky said, the whole time we have not really known him. He really is utterly ruthless, with out any redeeming qualities, or much charisma. And this is who we are now left to identify with, as an audience? The relationship between Jimmy and Nucky was the show, basically. I guess the writers missed that in their attempt to better the Sopranos with daring plot twists.

    What strikes me as unforgivable about the show was the hype of historic ties with the plot and characters that were going to be explored (with liberties, understandably) in the show. But there is no semblance of anything that actually took place, and what is in the show. Buscemi himself is the physical opposite of the real life character, and from there the show gets looser and looser with anything that actually happened.

    What a waste.

    • Hi Sean,

      After having a week to think about the finale, I really feel if Boardwalk Empire ended with the murder of Angela Darmondy, then Season 3 would be fantastic. It’d be Jimmy’s quest for vengeance, they really could’ve gotten some great stuff on it.

      The end of this season was a huge risk, I’m interested to see how they’ll be able to go forward.