Boardwalk Empire, "To the Lost": knowing Nucky

Quick Take: Boardwalk Empire, "To the Lost"
“Flip a coin. When it's in the air, you'll know what side you're hoping for.” – Arnold Rothstein

to the lost

Review: Boardwalk Empire, "To the Lost"
The Season Two finale of Boardwalk Empire knocked the wind out of me. Watching Jimmy finally man-up and apply a little problem-solving skill filled me with hope of a reunion with Nucky. It felt like such a virtuous effort. And after Nucky’s ostensibly sincere proposal to Margaret and rejection of Manny’s offer, I would hesitate to believe anyone could have predicted the season would end with him shooting Jimmy in the face.

It was so upsetting to see Jimmy go out like he did, and just when he was finally becoming someone to really watch. But in this story of historical fiction we can be pretty sure how it will ultimately end and it couldn’t go on with Jimmy running the city. If only the HBO dream team could rewrite history. Well maybe that’s going too far but despite this epic and unnerving ending, this was a beautifully full circle wrap-up. Here’s how we left our favorite characters:

Nucky – Reclaims his boss status with a mad and alarming vengeance. Guess this is the real Nucky? We thought we knew by the end of season one but as it turns out we may ‘not have ever really known him at all.’  Looking back I think that was one question that actually needed to remain unanswered this season. There have to be some surprises left in him if we want at least four more seasons.

Jimmy – Finally! This is the real James Darmody we’ve been waiting to see. After watching him whine and f—k up all season he finally grows up just to be taken down. The writers certainly have big shoes to fill now.

Margaret – Bad ass housewife is really the best fit for her right now. Definitely some open-enders regarding her relationship with Nucky this season and after signing his nest egg over to the church, God only knows what will become of her next season.

Agent Nelson Van Alden – Flees to Chicago completing his metamorphosis from evangelist to outlaw.

Chalky White – Bringing Dunn Purnsley into his world in time for revenge on the KKK was gratifying indeed but why did we stop so short on his storyline?

Richard Harrow – Still the sweet Frankenstein’s monster who won the hearts of so many fans in "Gimcrack & Bunkum". He warns Jimmy that Nucky will never forgive him and we can only hope that there will still be a role for him beyond Jimmy’s extinction.

Gillian Darmody – Her reaction to Jimmy’s death is definitely something to look forward to in season three. In terms of ambition and wit, she might be able to match Nucky and she might also have some powerful men in her corner such as Richard, Leander Whitlock and maybe even Lucky Luciano. 

Eli Thompson – Back in Nucky’s good graces if only by default. Eli will take the not-so-hard fall and serve one year hard time for the murder of Hans Schroeder.  More sibling rivalry to come.

Owen Sleater – Nucky’s new and most promising sidekick? Still has a jones for Margaret which could definitely be a threat to his career.

Mickey Doyle  Uncharacteristically wise when he reminds Manny that Nucky, “ain’t in jail yet.” My biggest question about this character is whether he’ll continue to be a mere middle-player spectator despite the fact that he’s based on one of Atlantic City’s most notorious real life gangters, Mickey Duffy. Surely there’s more here.

Arnold Rothstein  Stayed sage through the very end. His advice for Nucky to “flip a coin” resulted in season two’s shocking outcome.

Lucky Luciano and Al Capone – Set their sights on the heroin market. History tells us the best is yet to come with these two.

Season Two definitely picked us up just to put us down with several key characters including the Commodore, Lucy Danziger, Angela Darmody and not least Jimmy. There’s no denying this was pretty bewildering but I have faith that the weird mix of character inconsistencies and unanswered questions will prompt some solid season three content.

Let’s not forget the cleverly delivered themes offered up this season, from religion and politics to parallels in history and literature, the references and messages always run deep. Daddy issues definitely stayed a central theme with Margaret’s daughter calls Nucky daddy so naturally and Nucky’s words of supposed consolation to Jimmy, “He was your father, nothing looms more.”

It was the Commodore’s idea, it was Eli’s idea. The writers really did make us believe that Jimmy had just barely escaped direct responsibility – just enough to allow for a reconciliation between him and Nucky. I was on the edge of my seat hoping for it for about 50 minutes straight.

The season finale did feel a little too epic at times and I found myself faced with more than one option for the cheapest shot, unusual for a show this good. Edward Copeland hit it on the head when he said the last few episodes, “played liked the end to a series instead of the end to a season.” But I’ll forgive the cinematic overindulgences for maintained authenticity and richness which held from beginning to end. Perhaps it was all too easy to evolve characters when the main question of the season was 'who am I?’ but they did transform beautifully.

We still don’t know whether Nucky killed Jimmy out of sheer ego-centric revenge, disgust with the ruthless way Jimmy does business, to provide for his new family as he claimed or purely to reclaim his turf.  This, while incredibly confusing two seasons in, could actually be pretty important to future episodes. But there better be a ‘rosebud’ at the end of this.

Burning Question: Just who the hell is Nucky Thompson?

Cheap Shot: Jimmy’s last words to Richard, “This is something I gotta do myself” cue CU.

Oh Yes: “It’s a suicide note.”

By Brittany Ryan

About the author

Brittany Ryan is a corporate copywriter with passions outside the 9-5. When she’s not jetting around the world working for the man, you can find her on the couch indulging her fiction addiction. As a modern working woman and ‘80s baby, she enjoys a variety of boob tube offerings from the complex commentary of Mad Men to the shameless fun of Flavor of Love.

More From Brittany Ryan

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3 Comments
On: Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Totally agree, Jimmy's final reckoning with Nucky is devastating, yet very satisfying as I think about it over the course of this week. I think that Boardwalk Empire has gained new respect and ascended to a new level heading into next season. That is, now we can look back and look at this season -- and the series really -- as a long lead-up to Jimmy's tragic end. And the last several episodes, including the revelations about what happened with Jimmy and Gillian at Princeton, give everything a deep and powerful and moving flavor. 

On: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Indeed said:

Oh -- seems that netiquette about spoiler alerts no longer applies, bravo.

On: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Yep, it doesn't for reviews sites for the large part (find me a reviews site that labels every single review with spoiler alerts). That said, for major events we try to keep that info out of the title and quick take and first few sentences generally so that people finding us via search or other means don't get spoiled. 

But bottom line: if you're reading a review of an episode that you haven't seen and don't want to be spoiled... don't read that review :-) 

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