Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
The early stages of Boardwalk Empire’s final season had felt a little bit predictable at times, with a couple of moments and deaths telegraphed in advance. We turned a corner last week with the deaths of Van Alden and Chalky, and “Friendless Child” continued the unpredictability by giving us a gripping episode where even Nucky didn’t seem safe. Of course there’s a big chance that Nucky could get offed in the finale, but killing him this week would have been quite the twist. It looked oh-so possible for a minute there while he grovelled in front of Luciano and Lansky, but Nucky somehow managed to talk his way out of there.
The show has found itself handicapped by history a little over the years, with certain characters untouchable from the very beginning. With all the marketing for this season focusing on falling empires, it was safe to assume that Nucky’s empire would be the one crumbling. The excitement was going to come from how it would fall, and having it be because of family seems completely appropriate. After Nucky made the impulsive move to kidnap Bugsy Siegel, Luciano retaliated by having Will snatched up. This was also a really good way to bring Eli back into Nucky’s orbit. The hostage trade-off was one of the most intense scenes the show has done. As I mentioned earlier, everybody seemed to be in danger and it was only surprising that more bodies didn’t drop. In the end, Nucky chose to give up everything he controlled just to save his nephew’s life.
Mickey and Arquimedes bit the dust here, with Arquimedes going out in a wonderfully angry way. I was surprised to see Mickey killed off here though, as I thought he might have ended up outliving everyone else. One interesting thing to consider here is the life insurance policy that was taken out on Mickey all those years ago. Perhaps that will end up coming into play somehow. Nucky seems to be completely down and out after these events, with his executed hit on Maranzano the only thing seemingly stalling his death. That hit was a great scene too by the way, with Eli and a couple of other guys repeatedly stabbing a flailing Maranzano. Eli actually managed to get something right here when his son’s life was on the line, and I’m hoping to see him by Nucky’s side in the finale.
The flashbacks have almost reached their conclusion, and it seems quite clear now what their purpose is. We’ve got to witness young Nucky’s gradual fall from grace and now that Gillian has entered his life, we can all guess where it’s going next. Nucky failed Gillian and left her to suffer a terrible fate at the hands of the Commodore, which set her on a truly tragic trajectory. With the reveal that Gillian was writing letters to Nucky from the asylum, we’re all set for Nucky to find the only bit of redemption left possible for him. Freeing Gillian from the mad house would bring their story together full circle, and I really hope it happens now. Gillian’s final moments of the episode pointed towards something sinister happening to her, so it may be a matter of too little, too late for Nucky.
I’m very impressed with how the writers have handled Boardwalk Empire’s send-off. The shorter episode order was a little worrying, but this season has been paced rather well. The final episode is set up perfectly now, with very little in the way of loose ends to tie up. Nucky’s stock market plans with Margaret stands out as the most intriguing one for me, but the main crux of the episode will likely revolve around Nucky and Gillian, and whether Nucky will make it out alive. I loved nearly everything about this episode, from the intense scenes to Nucky rejecting all alcohol throughout. “Friendless Child” was a great penultimate episode that only managed to make me more depressed that this wonderful show is coming to an end so soon. Let’s hope it gets the fitting send-off it deserves.
Will Nucky make it out of the series alive? If not, who will kill him? And with all signs pointing towards Nucky coming to Gillian’s rescue, is there a happy ending in-store for Mrs. Darmody? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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