UK VOD review: Boardwalk Empire Season 5, Episode 8 (Eldorado)
Neil Brazier | On 02, Nov 2014
In a thrilling season finale, Boardwalk Empire bows out, not in a flurry of gunfire and blood, but in an act of redemption. It’s what this season has been plugging away at the whole time: what can you do to redeem yourself, when your life has been based on cheating and lying? What will you leave behind?
How Nucky (Steve Buscemi) would meet his maker was teased in Friendless Child, with the young ruffian’s hand hovering over the gun that would fire the fatal bullet, as Nucky stood in the background. The reveal that the kid who once wanted to emulate Nucky was actually Tommy Darmondy was striking and, although far from a happy ending, a fitting one for the series.
The flashbacks work well in the final episode, interwoven beautifully to play each beat of the story. They do tell us what we already knew, but actually seeing it adds to the emotional impact of the scenes that follow; the moment Nucky decided to hand Gillian to the Commodore to further his own career was the moment that not only his life would change, but also those of Gillian, Jimmy and, now, Tommy.
As a finale, Eldorado ensures it checks off a number of elements and rather quickly. “We danced once,” says Nucky, as he and Margaret hold one another in a futuristic apartment overlooking New York. For a moment nothing else matters, the differences they shared forgotten. Not even the money from the shorting of stock matters here. Gillian (Gretchen Mol) gets one final encounter with Sheriff Enoch, but their emotional interchange seems lost on Gillian, Nucky too late to rescue her. He knows he is too, his eyes welling up as the years of having to live with his decision weigh heavily upon him.
Eli (Shea Whigham) is also paid a visit, as Nucky prepares to leave for good. Leaving a parting gift of money and a razor, Nucky says Eli will be forgiven by his wife, eventually. Eli has been strong this season, his fall into alcoholism and loss of self wonderfully told, stealing many scenes in the Chicago storyline. Before he parts ways with his brother for the final time, they share a cold embrace, which tells their entire journey in one fleeting moment.
Arguably the best scene of not only the finale, but the entire series, once again belongs to Al Capone (Stephen Graham). Resigned to having to pay for his crimes, he has a farewell with his deaf son. This season has focused on the overly macho gangster playing up to cameras and Hollywood executives but this one scene shows that, for all Capone is, he is also a very loving father. Graham is at his finest showing his range here, forcing viewers to reach for the tissues when his son asks his father to put up his dukes – a mirror of Al telling his son to toughen up in Season 3. Now, the father must be the tough one.
For what has been a fairly standard season, the last ever episode of Boardwalk Empire leaves us feeling contented. Nucky had to die; that was his only salvation. He fell at the hands of the grandson of the woman he condemned and the son of the man he murdered, dying on the boardwalk he used to own. Nucky’s narrative in Season 5 might have been overshadowed by the gripping storytelling and acting coming out of Chicago, but the show’s finale is firmly rooted in the Boardwalk. The Empire now finally fallen.
Not got Sky? You can watch Boardwalk Empire online in the UK on NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription – no contract. The subscription includes The Walking Dead Season 5, Soderbergh’s The Knick, American Horror Story: Freak Show and Arrow Season 3.
Photo: © HBO