This is a Recap of the Boardwalk Empire Season 1 Finale, entitled “Return To Normalcy”, originally airing December 5th, 2010. It contains spoilers, so if you don’t want to know if Warren Harding wins the election, do not read on.
It’s the Boardwalk Empire Season 1 Finale AND Halloween Episode, all rolled into one:
The Finale opens on Agent Van Alden, who, after drowning his partner Agent Baby to death last week in a baptism gone stupid, has decided to leave Atlantic city and begin auditioning replacements:
His supervisor asks him to stay but Van Alden refuses, saying “There’s nothing for me here. No knocked-up one night stands, no…I don’t know, other things. Nothing.” He tells his wife he feels “unfulfilled,” and wants to leave the department to buy into his uncle’s feed business in Schenectady, aka FULFILLMENT CITY. (p.s. – I’d watch Michael Shannon in that HBO show instantly. Feedwalk Feedpire? Get on it.) He adds that if God wants to keep him in Atlantic City, he’ll give him a sign. And by “God,” he means this guy.
Nucky and his cohorts, meanwhile, are working on rigging the upcoming election — can these guys seriously accomplish any task without being corrupt? Do they bribe their dry cleaners in exchange for shady, under-the-table getting their shirts pressed?
Their plan includes, among other things, having a mortician enlist dead people to vote Republican…
In the meantime, Nucky and Sheriff-For-A-Minute O’Halloran confront the Commodore’s housekeeper Louanne about poisoning the Commodore. She initially pleads ignorance, keeping open the possibility that Jimmy’s mom is pinning the incident on her, and then she slightly changes her story and says she did it cause “If I used a shotgun, I’da had to clean the mess up myself.” Clearly, the show’s writers came up with a badass one-liner, high-fived each other, and gave it to the maid to say way out-of-character (wouldn’t she have been a little more afraid of admitting to poisoning the crotchety co-head of Gangstertowne USA?)
As if to directly spite the Commodore, Nucky gives Louanne a wad of bills (reimbursement for the poison and her work-related cabs), and tells her to leave:
Margaret is still entertaining Warren Harding’s mistress, and they decide to attend the Walk Of The Old Hallow’s Eve This Couldn’t Sound More Old Timey If The Word Victrola Was In The Name Of It. There, in the graveyard, Margaret stumbles upon a harrowing revelation:
She realizes that Nucky never told her that he too lost a child at six days old, and using her sleuth kit, she deduces that this psychological detail may have soooome reason why Nucky initially sympathized with her situation. Well, that, and Lucy saying anything, ever.
She goes to talk to Nucky on Halloween night, and the two scamps are back up to their old tricks, flirtily insulting each others’ costumes. Get an ill-bought luxury home, you two!
She tells Nucky she wants to know the real Enoch Thompson, and Nucky sits her down and tells a story about how his wife gave birth to a child and he was afraid to hold it cause it was so tiny and frail, and after a week, he finally gained the courage only to find that the baby had died and his wife had continued caring for the dead baby for days, and in her subsequent dementia, ended up slitting her wrists. Well, yikes. Move over Roger from Rent, cause we have a new…
Over at Tensehouse, Angela finally pleads with Jimmy, “How long are you going to keep doing this?” Jimmy replies, “You mean putting on Harrow’s face mask and singing ‘Music Of The Night’? I can stop.” Angela’s like, “No, I mean the obviously-gonna-kill me tension every time we’re together, because I know you read that letter.” Jimmy explains that they both did things they’re not proud of when they were apart — “You took a female lover, I blew the Kaiser, things happen” — but says he wants to make a fresh start.
Jimmy then accompanies Nucky on a meeting that’s a veritable ad for the American Music Awards of gangsters, with Torrio, Al Capone, Rothstein, Luciano, and a special performance by India.Arie. A surprisingly calm, surprisingly non-pool-playing Rothstein asks Nucky to get him out of his impending Chicago indictment, which Nucky agrees to help with in exchange for $1 million in cash (2/3 of the world’s money supply) and the last known whereabouts of the D’Alessio brothers. Rothstein says, “I heard Russ T. D’Alessio was last seen eating gumbo in the country shaped like a boot. Kidding! I’ll do it.”
Nucky then calls a giant press conference to announce that people should vote for the Republican mayor because their tireless work has uncovered that the D’Alessios were working under Hans Schroder in a giant murder conspiracy, which is the earth’s least true sentence. While Nucky is giving this speech, Jimmy, Al, and Harrow are taking turns killing the remaining brothers:
Speaking of “Did It”s, the scene of the gangsters murdering people while their boss attends an unrelated, nonviolent event seems awfully familiar… AHA! Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. The part with the Klumps.
Back at Van Alden’s office, the twist of the season – a “young lady” is there to see the Agent, and Van Alden gets ready for her entrance:
It’s Lucy! What could she possibly want? Ooooh, is the finale twist that she’s decided to testify against Nucky, and she knows all his pillow-talk secrets? Nope. She’s pregnant. VAN ALDEN GOT LUCY PREGNANT! Hilarious. For a show that just talked about a mother caring for a dead child then slitting her wrists, this show seriously does have a sense of humor. And they certainly can’t have an abortion, plus coat hangers probably didn’t exist back then. Baby Van Alden is coming! Throw that devoted-to-being-slutty baby on Feedwalk Feedpire and I’ll order the DVDs on Amazon TODAY, HBO.
Margaret and her kids are eating their barmbrack cake — a cake with a ring, a coin, and a rag baked inside it to symbolize marriage, wealth, or poverty for whoever gets it in their piece — and after Harding’s lady finds the ring, Margaret reaches into her piece and pulls out this guy:
Oh jeez. Time to go back to Nucky.
Ed Bader wins the election — corruptions for all! — and as his first order of business, re-instates Eli as sheriff, instantly re-confirming that he’ll be no less of a puppet than the previous mayor, and irking both Jimmy and Eli with the transparent nonchalance of this fact. Jimmy is tipsy and argues with Nucky in the hallway about his own upbringing, realizing that Nucky raised him dispassionately out of obligation, and fails to get Nucky to admit he loves him. Nucky is taken aback:
Jimmy leaves and goes to see his father, and in the episode’s strongest scene, Jimmy bonds with the Commodore, dutifully refilling his glass with alcohol and finally hearing him out about his past with Nucky. The Commodore again tells Jimmy that they have to re-take the city, and Eli arrives to join them, asking “Did you tell him what we talked about?” The Commodore replies, “I was just about to.” Season Two, y’all!
During the Bader victory party, they announce that Warren Harding has won the presidential election (another twist!). Margaret shows up to the party and talks to Nucky, telling him the kids “miss their Uncle Nucky,” and the two of them reconcile for the time being (hopefully she didn’t read about his latest Hans Schroeder speech). The episode concludes with a long montage set to the saddest old timey song ever, ending with a long, crazy shot of Nucky and Margaret standing on the boardwalk staring off into the ocean. My HBO is gonna go up another $45 a month because of that shot, but I don’t care.
So, that’s Boardwalk Empire Season 1. Some ups and downs, like all shows, but very watchable, and with occasional moments of legit transcendence. If Season 2 involves Jimmy and Eli trying to overthrow Nucky while Lucy Van Alden attends lamze classes with Lori Grimes, then damn, we’ve got nowhere to go but up.