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Boardwalk Empire “Friendless Child” Review (5×07)

19 Oct

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“Dumber than I knew.”

Tony Soprano. Vic Mackey. Walter White. We’ve had our fair share of main characters with empires, characters brought down and crushed under the weights of their own powers, but what those characters don’t seem to have in common with Nucky Thompson is an opportunity to recover some semblance of morality. Yes, Nucky’s lost everything and the future belongs to people like Lansky and Luciano, but there’s a small ounce of redemption to be found here, a true confrontation of the past and all the terrible things he did.

The tagline for this season is “No one goes quietly”, but it looks like Nucky definitely will; he’s not going to be able to wage war against Luciano and Lansky like he wanted to, and he instead ends up on his knees in a role reversal with Lansky. He gives up nearly all of his business to the two in exchange for Willie’s safety, and here we see a Nucky who has made peace with the crumbling of his empire, who has decided that the way he goes legitimate is through allowing the people still in his life a chance at living their own lives. Willie and Eli still have each other–Eli ends up being the one to take out Maranzano–and rather than taking Joe Harper in like he did with Jimmy Darmody, he instead throws one last stack of money the boy’s way and tells him to get the hell out. He certainly has the past in his mind here, and we can see him quietly hoping that the boy will make something out of himself, something respectable and something unlike anything Nucky ever did.

For, Nucky went down a path that ends up in a dark and lonely office, with him in a position ironically contrasted with Joseph Kennedy’s “safety in numbers” quote. His power in this world has been stripped from him, and now, all he can do is turn his eyes toward the past, toward the one decision he made that sent him past the point of no return. That decision, as we know, was him turning over Gillian to the Commodore, in essence completely stripping her of her innocence and agency and eventually leading to her current position in the mental hospital. He’s returning to the source, to the reason he became the man he is today.

The camera hauntingly captures a young Gillian, along in a dark room that’s starkly contrasted with the rest of the house; she’s truly alone here, a victim of corruption, someone who will remain imprinted on Nucky’s mind for the rest of his life. However, it isn’t until Nucky is in a similar dark room that he realizes what he must do, what aspect of his past he must face, and the intent behind the intersection of his downfall, Gillian’s story, and the flashbacks becomes crystal clear. As we’ve seen in every single year thus far, the writers pull together various storylines beautifully at the end of the season, and it looks like that will be the case for season five.

As we head into the finale, we see a Nucky Thompson who’s listening to Gillian’s words, the words of his past and the words of his future. “There is forgiveness for everyone,” she says. Nucky has acknowledged every wrong he’s done except for this one, and Gillian is who he must face now. They’re more similar than he ever thought they were: they’re both on their knees, they’re both broken down, and they’re both looking back in a world with nowhere else to look.

“I beg you. Please help me.”

GRADE: A

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-My, is that last sequence beautiful or what?

-Another A+ casting choice for young Gillian.

-RIP, Mickey. He went out the only way he could go out: talking up a storm. Also, let’s think about the fact that Mickey Doyle lasted until the penultimate episode of the series.

-So, there’s this, courtesy of Reddit:

Screen shot 2014-10-19 at 8.58.26 PM

-RIP, Arquimedes. I really wish the show introduced you earlier, because you were awesome.

-Can we get a Bugsy Siegel spinoff in which he tries to make it as a musician with his chart-topping single, “My Girl’s Pussy”?

-I love that opening sequence. The intense, pounding music in the background is perfectly used–and later also scored to the Maranzano death–and this is also the first time we see black and white newspapers of various events.

-The promo for the final episode is incredible. I’m excited and sad, because this is shaping up to be an amazing end to the series. I’ll see you guys next week for “Eldorado”.

Photo credits: HBO, Boardwalk Empire

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