THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
I believe it was back during one of my True Detective reviews where I mentioned that time jumps are a really tricky thing to pull off. Sometimes they can be just what a show needs to further the story, while others act as a cheap ploy to revitalize a show or to move past certain events without having to actually show them. Boardwalk Empire goes big and bold with their final season, with seven years having passed since we last saw our favorite Atlantic City residents. I thankfully knew about the time jump in advance, but I’m sure there were a lot of people incredibly confused with what exactly was happening during “Golden Days.” A lot of historical events have been passed by, such as the assassination of Arnold Rothstein and Al Capone’s rise to power, so time will tell whether this time jump will work out or if it will affect the legacy of a really great show.
Another storytelling device that can be hit or miss is the use of flashbacks, but I felt that they worked quite well here. Considering that we may be witnessing the fall of Nucky’s empire, it was good to go all the way back to the moment where he first started off down this path. Seeing young Nucky struggling to get ahead of the other children, and then learning that doing the right thing won’t always be rewarding, spoke volumes about the man we know today. Another thing to note is we didn’t see Atlantic City in the main timeline at all, with it only appearing in these flashbacks. There may be a chance that we don’t see much of the Boardwalk at all in this final season, with all of the main players currently residing outside the city.
While plenty has changed around him, Nucky himself seems to remain unchanged. There are a few mentions of going legitimate, but he’s still doing what he does best: strong-arming people to get his way, only he’s living in Cuba now. Now that the show has jumped forward seven years, we’re reaching the end of the prohibition era, with alcohol sale soon becoming legal again, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Nucky if he does intend to go legit. However, a thrilling assassination attempt that nearly ends with Nucky’s death hints that he has a lot more problems than he seems to. Meyer Lansky’s appearance in Cuba earlier in the episode can’t be a complete coincidence, especially considering he had a fake wife in town and mentioned an unlikely rift between himself and Lucky Luciano.
Speaking of Luciano, he found himself moving up the food chain a little after betraying Joe Masseria and pledging allegiance to the new boss, Salvatore Maranzano. The killing of Masseria played out exactly like old mafia lore describes it, with Luciano excusing himself to go to the bathroom the moment before a group of men enter unopposed and fill Masseria with lead. My mafia knowledge only extends to a few select events and people, but it would seem we’re seeing the birth of the organized crime groups we’ve witnesses countless times in movies and television over the years. Whether there’s a place for Nucky in competition with these enterprises remains to be seen, and the assassination attempt could have been an attempt to stop him before he could get back in business.
Chalky was another character who found his circumstances radically different from that of when we last saw him. Now imprisoned for an unknown crime, he finds himself part of a chain gang. Chalky has always been a lively character, unafraid to speak his mind, but the Chalky we see here appears to be almost broken. He’s silent and sullen with nothing but a coat and a pair of shoes to set him aside from the other prisoners. Even something as simple as a drink of water seemed set to brighten up his day, but that was dashed as the water ran out before reaching him. The Chalky we know would have taken matters into his own hands there, but this Chalky seemed hesitant, although he certainly took his opportunity when another prisoner started an uprising. Chalky’s escape with a fellow, dim-witted prisoner is an interesting plot for our once dapper club owner, so I think it holds a lot of promise.
A few other things were touched on in the episode, including a fantastic scene involving Margaret’s Wall Street boss blowing his head off in front of his staff. It was an almost absurd scene, with him talking about Mickey Mouse cartoons before pulling out a gun. It really shows how desperate times were for people back then. Most telling were the people not included in the episode, with Eli, Gillian, Van Alden, and others yet to make an appearance. I’m a little worried that the short episode order (only seven episodes left to finish the series) may mean we only get to spend a short amount of time with some of these characters, but hopefully this short season was planned out well in advance and will lead to a satisfying conclusion. “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” was a solid start to the final season that leaves us with a whole lot of questions. Let’s hope they’re all answered before the fall of the Empire.
Who do you think was behind the assassination attempt on Nucky? Will it turn out to be an already established character or another enemy he made during the time jump? Let us know in the comments below.
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