Boardwalk Empire: Goodbye Half-Moon

Defending the death of Richard Harrow.

Let me first say, I do not intend to piss off Boardwalk Empire fans. (Also, if you haven’t seen the finale, if you’re saving it up for a binge viewing, wait on this). I loved the Richard Harrow character. Same thing with Jim Darmody. They were great. I rooted for them. I worried about them when the music got tense or the camera angles got forced. As I’ve said, I cheered, out loud, scaring the cat, when Nucky and Richard got together to discuss business in the last episode. But, their deaths are brilliant TV-Cinema.

I know, I know, I saw all the commentary online, people are swearing off Boardwalk Empire because of all this. But they’re missing a very important chemical element of the show, you can’t get too attached to any character. It’s a show about gangsters and gangsters die. Most of the gangsters on the show have their own pre-determined end to play. Some don’t. Some live long past prohibition, where Boardwalk will probably end. But the fictional characters, the Jim Darmodys, the Owen Slaters and the Richard Harrows, the writers have carte blanche with them. They hang by a thread, just because they can. They’re not locked into a time-frame. They are made to be expendable. I don’t know if this is comparable to what’s happening on Family Guy, as of this writing I haven’t seen it and I’m pissed that I already know it.

I cheered when Jim Darmody died. He wasn’t even a rat. But I cheered because of the genius of approaching it. I cheered even louder, at the “Red Wedding” scene in Game of Thrones. And wished they’d gotten Jon Snow too. Fans went nuts and if they were real fans, which I’m not, they probably read the book and knew it was coming. They got rid of all the pains in the asses (You conjugate that verb) before they served the espresso. It is an HBO specialty and I am an avid HBO fan because of it. They whacked beloved characters on The Sopranos. Actors departed at their heights in Six Feet Under. I wonder if HBO thought about killing an anchor on the air in Not Necessarily the News.

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I didn’t cheer when Richard died. I kept rooting for him all the way through. When he got shot, I gasped, shit, is he gonna make it? When he made it under the boardwalk, I thought he was going to blow his brains out because he killed an innocent. And not just an innocent. The light in the life of the very person he was out to protect. Richard is nothing if not loyal and that is a royal fuckup that I was convinced he wouldn’t let himself live with. Harrow was no Roman, but I was sure he was going to throw himself on his sword for honor. When I saw that he made it to the wilds of Wisconsin, I was relieved. I probably even exhaled audibly. And when I saw he was standing on railroad tracks, I thought fuck, he’s had it. Then I saw him at the house and I was fully relieved. And then he was whole and I knew.

Jack Huston is a phenomenal actor, from a great movie family. In Richard Harrow, he’s playing an actor’s dream job: a character who hides more than he reveals. His face is half-covered, not fully covered, by a mask. Not hidden fully like V in V for Vendetta or the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera, though he is a direct acting descendant of both. Added to that is the fact that speaking is an effort. All those things not said. Ever rejoinder, every single thing that he decides is too much effort to speak out loud, it’s still said. Huston’s half-face, that one eye, says it all.

I sometimes wondered whether Huston was always fully made-up under the mask. The bottom half of his face, definitely, because his mouth was always constricted, but Huston, the actor, did he sit through hours of latex applications for every shot? I can’t help it, I get distracted by stupid shit. I stood on top of the screen to see behind the mask a few times. Science was never my strong point. I assume there were two different sets of prosthetics, but in my heart, I see the poor fuck sitting in that chair every day.

Listen, they kill people in movies all the time. HBO doesn’t see itself as a television network, they used to run that as their slogan for a kick-off. They are small-screen filmmakers. Movies kill main characters all the time. Or at least they used to. They do that less and less lately and that’s another reason to love HBO. And it’s a gangster series. SPOILER ALERT: The Godfather, in The Godfather. He dies. Janet Leigh, in Psycho, she is our focus. We love her. We root for her. She’s a criminal and we want her to get away with it. Twenty minutes into the movie – she dies. The Red Pony dies on page 32 of The Red Pony and it’s a 90 page book. Live with it. Or don’t. If you’re going to change the channel because the character Richard Harrow died, then he fictitiously died in vain.

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