Boardwalk Empire’s fifth and final season inevitably meant that things had to end; after all, it was tagged with the phrase “All Empires Must Fall”. In Devil You Know, two empires do. The end of the series has become more of a reality than ever.
Our Chicago comedy duo of Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) and Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) continue to headline the show, as they provide laughter even in the most dire of circumstances. The Chicago adventure may be over, though, which is really quite disappointing, as it’s been the highlight of the past few episodes. The falling empire here might not give us the blood-fuelled revenge we may have hoped for, but it does suit the character that’s been boiling pent-up aggression since Season 1.
The flashbacks continue to follow the story of young Nucky and continue to repeat what we’ve been told before. We’re introduced to a young Gillian Darmody (Madeleine Rose Yen) this week, which might finally tie together with the present, assuming present-day Gillian (Gretchen Mol) can get out of the nuthouse. These flashbacks were meant to compliment the Nucky plotline this season, reminding us of how he grew to be whom he is, but they remain wasted time; when Eliot Ness was introduced, for example, he had no part in the remaining Chicago thread.
More time is spent in Chicago and New York than in the company of Buscemi’s lead, but it’s welcome time devoted to the departure of two other characters integral to the show. Unfortunately, Nucky’s spell of grief, be it over Sally or the recent attempt on his life, seems out of place thrust between these other two threads. He would be better off plotting his revenge, but instead drowns himself in alcohol, spouting drivel and leaving himself vulnerable.
While Chalky’s (Michael Kenneth Williams) story throughout Season 5 has been slow and underused, he stars this episode in a brilliant three-way dialogue with Narcisse (Jeffery Wright) and Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham). Each wants their own freedom, each having their own scores to settle with one another. The tension is palpable. While the standoff is gripping, though, Chalky’s handling and sealing of his own fate is weak compared to the five seasons of emotional investment we’ve put into his character.
With empires falling around him, Nucky must prepare for his final fight. Attention will now surely shift to Atlantic City for the remaining two episodes and refocus on Nucky, Boardwalk Empire’s backbone. Seasons past have seen an all-out gang war take place and with this possibly being his final fight, Nucky must put everything into making a thrilling finale.
Not got Sky? You can watch Boardwalk Empire online in the UK on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – no contract. The subscription includes The Walking Dead Season 5, Soderbergh’s The Knick and (from 30th October) Arrow Season 3.
Photo: © HBO