Boardwalk Empire: Havre de Grace – The End of the Road

**SPOILER ALERT**

It was on the surprising side what was done on the penultimate episode of Boardwalk Empire’s 4th season. While many other HBO programs tend to have the climax of a season happen in the second to last episode of the season, The Wire and The Sopranos included, the Steve Buscemi fronted prohibition series appears it will continue its trend of going all out in the finale. With only one of the many story lines truly appearing to have been wrapped up, there will be plenty to try to fit in during the last hour of the season. For now, let’s focus on the character run down for Havre de Grace.

Nucky Thompson

Enoch is having a pretty difficult time in this episode coping with his sudden loss of power, among a few other things. He voices his frustration of having to answer to Dr. Narcisse towards his brother Eli, not knowing that his brother appears to be headed down the path of betrayal for a second time in order to protect Willie. But that’s not all. Nucky know in all likelihood that the events from the previous episode do not have him in a favorable light with Chalky in hiding. If that’s not enough, Nucky receives a call in the episode from Gaston Means (played by the always wonderful Stephen Root), informing Mr. Thompson of a “skunk” in his operation, referring to, more than likely, Agent Knox.

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While I’ve been a champion of Nucky being a selfish character who only concerns himself with business, this episode was the most convincing in this season that there may be something more to his character, although it may just be his desperation to save his own skin is starting to come through. An important scene displays Nucky’s concern as he eats dinner with Eli and his family when Eli’s wife mentions the insurance salesman (agent Knox) who got under Eli’s skin. As one could imagine, especially after what happened in season 2 with Eli, Nucky was noticeably rattled by story when Eli tried to cover it up in such an untactful manner.

The question with Nucky in regards to this situation now is whether he will become the ruthless gangster again and get rid of his brother for good, or if he is going to turn the whole thing to his advantage (my money would be on the latter). The ending of the show suggests that Nucky is now aware of what is happening with Eli as the episode closes with Nucky calling Sally Wheet and telling her, “I want out.”

While Nucky is referring to the Florida business, this may also be a character who is fed up with the risk he is taking on and the people he is losing around him. It’s possible Nucky wants to be completely out of the business. In an early scene he hinted that the whole thing may have been meant to be handed over to Eli (although that is certainly in doubt now), and Willie seems to be growing up quickly. Eventually though, Nucky’s pride will lead to some sort of downfall (not death, but he’ll definitely hit some tough times, more than likely due to greed as well).

Eli Thompson

Eli is visibly in rough shape, both physically and mentally. He’s exhausted and his wife (and just about every scene) reveals he’s been drinking an awful lot. Poor Eli just never can catch a break and the divide between him and his brother has never been more pronounced. It seems as though they are even visually divided in most scenes. In one particular scene there’s even a giant column in between Eli and Nucky as they have a discussion on the porch. The bottom line with Eli is that he’s pretty much screwed.

Gillian Dormady

This was the only story that appears to have come to an end, and it was a very strange and quick ending when Roy finally gets a confession out of Gillian about the boy she killed in order to inherit her house. After the confession, Roy has his own confession for Gillian. He was a private detective hired by Junior Soprano… I mean, Leander Whitlock (Dominic Chianese), and this was when Gillian was taken by Roy and his group, presumably to go to prison.

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While it is arguable Gillian deserved her ending after what she did, this writer felt some sympathy towards her character. It was tragic. I do not believe I’ve ever seen a show turn such a hated character (she seduced her son for crying out loud), into a sympathetic character in such a short amount of time. I know I’ve probably already mentioned this, but Gillian wasn’t really given much of a chance to live her life after she was impregnated at age 13.

By the way, I feel like I should touch on Ron Livingston’s role this season. I would assume Roy is coming back, otherwise it may go down as one of the most unbalanced and odd extended roles ever, which could have been played by anybody.

Getting back to Gillian, I really think this was a strong season for Gretchen Mol and she’s turned into one of the more reliable regulars on the show. Although her story did seem tacked on a little bit this year, I’m glad she was around this year. She was really able to eat up a few scenes, especially I this episode with her sort of brutal moments with both Richard Harrow and Roy.

Chalky White

Much of this episode was comprised of going back and forth between Chalky and Nucky, with a few breaks in between provided by Gillian. With no Narcisse and no Chicago or New York, the audience is given ample screen time with Chalky and Daughter Maitland, who are hiding out in Havre de Grace (very appropriate for the circumstances since the two lovers could use a whole lot of grace at this point).

The hideout is the house of Oscar Boneau (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) an old blind man with whom Chalky shares some history. Throughout the episode the atmosphere is tense and the audience is given a look at some of Chalky’s past and possibly what his future could have been like. Oscar encourages Chalky to rid himself of Daughter Maitland during his stay at Casa de Boneau, however Daughter makes the decision easy as she flees and leaves Chalky to the (metaphorical) wolves. If not for a timely rifle interruption, Chalky would have certainly met his end here.

Alas, Chalky survived, albeit very likely with a broken heart and damaged ego. He’s likely to wreak havoc and continue with his recklessness he has so often displayed this year. It appears he’ll be making it through this season, however his propensity for rash decisions and angry retaliation certainly haven’t made things easier for him. He really needs a psychiatrist after this year.

Chalky; alone in the dark.
Chalky; alone in the dark.

That’s pretty much it for this week. It was an episode that focused very heavily on Nucky and Chalky, taking a page from Game of Thrones once again by leaving a bunch of characters out. It’s set up to be a jam packed season finale; one that may greatly influence the direction of the series as a whole.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Kevin Licht, a graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor emphasis in Film Studies. When I'm not working I watch and write

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8 Comments

  1. W-Wells
    0

    With all the tension with Eli, Willie and Knox is going to end up with someone close to Eli dying, maybe June. It will break Eli, and I think Knox is going down as well, but Willie is gonna be a bad ass next season.

  2. It would be a nice change of pace if Narcisse somehow survived and this year’s finale wasn’t an all out bloodbath. Sort of a subversion of expectations. Also, it would be a shame to lose Michael K. Williams or Shea Whigham and for Jeffery Wright to only be on board for one season.

    • Christopher Marshall
      0

      I think Narcisse will definitely be the one going down for the whole thing, which would make me so happy because he thinks he’s so clever. It’ll be nice to see him fall flat on his face…and then eventually come back in a future season to exact revenge.

      I hope Eli won’t die since I’ve grown to like him, plus who’s going to take care of all his children? I’m thinking from the spoiler for next week’s episode, that Chalky and Nucky will once again join forces.

      I actually don’t think it’ll be a blood bath, but it’ll be interesting who Nucky gets Richard to kill.

  3. Good review! I thought it was one of the weakest episodes of this season, especially after the excellent “payoff” episode last week. The biggest thing this week was that the pacing just dragged so badly in this episode. This was one of the first episodes in which I looked over and checked the clock and still saw there was twenty minutes left. The scenes with Chalky and his mentor were almost surreal to me and kind of “dreamlike”. It reminded me of a few seasons back with Richard in the Pine Barrens though I thoroughly enjoyed that little side-story.

    Maybe another reason I didn’t like it is that, after leaving the Gillian storyline on the backburner for the last few episodes, this was basically her “send off” and it just felt kind of… hollow. It just wasn’t very surprising (aside for Leander’s involvement) and rather underwhelming imho.

    Hey, the Nucky/Eli/Knox stuff was fine but really, that was just 1 out of 3 for the storylines handled and the latter two were really duds in my opinion.

    • Kevin Licht

      Hollow may be a good word to describe Gillian’s section of the story. While I liked Mol’s performance, her part didn’t feel like it was very well connected to anything else in the show.

  4. Erma Pa...
    0

    Where the heck wer Daughter running off to in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t it be just like the writers to allow our precious, sweet Daughter to become the femme-fatale that tries to put the final nail in Chalky’s coffin? Where did she run off to? Rather timely don’t you think? This could lead rather nicely to two things happening. One, another Nucky/Chalky parallel (one of many this season) sees Chalky having to show the exit door to the one he held nearest and dearest (Nucky and Jimmy), i.e. Daughter.

    And two, this inflames into an all out war (next season unfortunately) between team Chalky/Nucky/Richard and team Narcisse/Masseria and just about every other Nucky-hater in the show, with assistance from perhaps Owney Madden.

    • I do not think Chalky is a big enough piece of the puzzle to wage a war over.

      Obviously he’s going to come back and fight for his turf as most indications are his people haven’t left him yet.

      Nucky could indeed deal himself out of Florida and just let Masseria have it and Masseria has no need at all for Narcisse except as a suppplier to the black communities he doesn’t want personal involvement in. Again, not something to war over.

      Daughter leaving was the best thing to happen as I thought he was doomed with her. One scenario is (With Nucky’s help) he comes back, deals with Narcisse, gets the mayor to change his tune, & may become even bigger…Or he still dies.

  5. Happy they managed to arrest Gillian, she was such a crazy and dangerous bitch, that even the most dangerous gangsters look like reasonable people in comparison. Since her character appeared on the show I really wanted her dead. It was a pleasant surprise for me, when suddenly she was arrested. She obviously was so much crazy, to think that it was ok to talk about what she did with someone she barely knew. The only thing I find implausible is that a Pinkerton agent would have sex with her even if she is a suspect. I think it was too much. Anyway her arrest was a great twist.

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