Sky TV review: Boardwalk Empire Final Season, Episode 4 (Cuanto)
Neil Brazier | On 08, Oct 2014
“We’ve had all the fights we’re going to have,” Nucky (Steve Buscemi) says to his estranged wife, Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), as they share wine with lunch. As the two discuss Rothstein’s blackmail, which has brought them together after so long apart, it’s easy to see how far they’ve come in the past seven years, while losing none of their chemistry.
They’ve both aged and Margaret has grown more confident in herself, not fearing prohibition and unafraid to stand up to her husband or even verbally abuse him – but that might just be the drink talking. This new, flirtatious Margaret has breathed some positivity into a situation where she has essentially gone back to her husband, tail between her legs, seeking help. It’s quite peculiar to watch the two rekindle, almost happy, but their interactions leave a warm contentment.
As much as the old Nucky might have revelled in keeping more than one lover, the older Nucky has changed. After sharing a kiss with his wife on the boardwalk, he knows he still has a lover in Havana to whom he wants to remain faithful. The problem for the writers lies in how to resolve this issue with the reduced season run. There was never going to be time for them to work things out in a satisfying manner so a choice had to be made. It is unfortunate that it feels too blunt and detached from the rest of the plot.
The same can be said of flashbacks, again. As we’ve said before, these don’t add anything to the show that we didn’t already know. Yes, Nucky’s father was awful, which forced him to learn things from other people and families that he coveted. But why Boardwalk needed to take time out, in its final season, to tell us this is just beyond belief.
Flashbacks account for lost time that would be better served elsewhere, namely Chicago. Once again, it’s Michael Shannon’s perfect deadpan that steals the show. Offset against Al Capone’s (Stephen Graham) anarchy, Shannon’s resolve and stoic disposition mean you can’t take your eyes off him, no matter how hard Graham tries; Al Capone’s destiny may be set in stone, but that doesn’t stop Graham from having a blast in the process.
Shannon doesn’t get enough screen time but makes full use of it when he does. While the interrogation with Capone is a delight, it is the throwaway line afterwards that shows Boardwalk Empire has more strings to its bow than bloody violence. Unlike Capone, Nelson Van Alden’s future is not yet written and so could face an untimely demise at any moment. This creates real dramatic tension in a storyline that has been brewing since Episode 1. Other shows should take note: this is how you build character development in the long game.
It’s hard to believe that there are only four episodes left when there seems to be so much more to tell. Therefore, it’s important that the show keeps momentum up. Hopefully, it won’t find itself bogged down in too much of Nucky’s childhood. It’s had all the fights it’s going to have there.
Not got Sky? You can watch Boardwalk Empire Season 5 online in the UK on NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – no contract. The subscription includes Seasons 1 to 3 of The Walking Dead ahead of the new season, which will also be available on NOW from October.
Photo: © HBO