Boardwalk Empire: The Farewell Daddy Blues, review
Here's our review of the Boardwalk Empire season four finale, which definitely got the job done.
All is not quiet on the ocean front. It’s getting so Nucky (Steve Buscemi) can’t even get Spanish lessons on the phone from Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette) without getting spooked by his own friends in the middle of the night. Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) is not in the mood for words. And why should he? Backstabbing is rampant on the Boardwalk. Empires are built on broken promises and .22s behind the ear. Chalky and Nucky share a problem, Dr. Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright). Chalky has no way of knowing that the good doctor has been lightening Nucky’s envelopes. All he knows is it looks like he was set up pretty good.
Chalky’s too smart to believe everything he sees and he’s got a wedding to go to. His daughter Maybelle (Christina Jackson) is marrying a doctor. She may be all pissed off at him because he was doing a duet with Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham), but that’s not going stop him from going. And neither is Dr. Narcisse. Nucky is the man with the plans. He’s also a very lucky man. Fortune conspires to provide him with people asking for favors. When Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) showed up at Nucky’s door, I cheered. I did, I can’t help it. I’d been waiting for the two to have that scene since, well, their last scene together. Richard is obviously the best man for any job that needs getting done.
The first job Richard is on is getting justice for his comrade-in-arms. As a witness at the trial of Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol), Richard may not be able to articulate his loyalty, but as a soldier he’s no stranger to digging, whether it was trenches or shallow graves. Truth comes at a cost but he’s a man who takes care of the things that matter. When he sent his new family off to the wilds of Wisconsin I knew he was due for a little give and take. I wasn’t sure who he was going to pop. I was kind of hoping it was going to be Nucky’s brother.
Twice in one night the ex-sheriff gets a gun pointed at his forehead. Twice in one night. Within the hour it looked like. That’s enough to make you want to choke someone with their own tie. Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) is a duped rat. You wanna know why his son Willie (Ben Rosenfield) ran out of the room after his old man was exposed? Because he was a fucking rat. It doesn’t matter why he snitched. He set his brother up for a fall with the cops and that’s reason enough. You can’t ever trust a guy who can’t stand up to questioning. That’s why they call them standup guys. Will knows you never answer questions. He learned it the hard way, but he learned it fast. When Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty) muscled in at Eli’s table, Eli should have willed that fork into his face. He should have been at least as smart as his own son and gone to Nucky. Nucky’s the fixer. Ask Chalky. He had every reason to put a hole in Nucky’s forehead, but he kept a cool head let Nucky buy his round instead.
When Al Capone (Stephen Graham) drinks, everybody drinks. George Mueller (Michael Shannon) has information and that’s a good thing. That’s a thing to be celebrated. Among friends. Friends drink together. Hymie Weiss (Will Janowitz) is no Jew, he’s a Catholic. Just like the Irish mobsters that aerated Capone’s suite. This is probably the most intimate Van Alder has even been with a co-worker. Maybe with anyone. It’s a rough bonhomie, but it’s real. He is involved and appreciated and on his way to making good with good people. Ralph Capone (Domenick Lombardozzi) is good people. He’s smart, knows angles and isn’t bad with numbers. And it looks like the numbers aren’t adding up to Weiss and Bugs Moran. I don’t know who it was who ordered the hit on Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci), whether it was Al Capone or the Northside Gang, but it was enough to retire the old man to Europe, leaving Al in Charge and fucking happy to be there.
We really should thank the FBI for modern electronics. The feds did for sound recording what the CIA did for drugs. Without the CIA, there’d be no LSD, without the FBI, there would be no stereo. Never say the government doesn’t work for you. J. Edgar Hoover, the real J. Edgar Hoover, public scumbag number one, not the one played by Eric Ladin (who reminds me more and more of Draco Malfoy) went buggy for electronic eavesdropping. In his pursuit of all things criminal, Hoover sucked up privacy protections like an ant eater at a picnic. He left no loophole unplugged. In his path, he left ham radio enthusiasts and woofers, tweeters and deep bass.
Hoover purported not to believe in organized crime. Either he didn’t think criminals were smart enough to get it together or someone had a picture of him in bed with an underling. What he did believe in was seditious, left-leaning anarchists and other threats to the state. There were commies under every bed for Hoover and they weren’t taking pictures like his Mafia friends. Or friends of friends. Dr. Narcisse as an informer to Marcus Garvey is the worst indignity he could suffer. Hoover was pretty good at finding those. To make a man absolutely abandon his principals, or his family as in Eli’s case, or whatever line it is that a person thinks they’ll never cross. That is the line Hoover wants them to cross.
“The Farewell Daddy Blues” was directed by Tim Van Patten and written by Terence Winter and Howard Korder and it did end the series with some deep blues. Chalky is shattered at the Onyx Club. Chalky’s life, the one thing that means the moon, stars and planets to him is the victim of his own ambush. I felt the life drain from Chalky even as his screams grew. Once again, Michael Kenneth Williams breaks his acting in two. He breaks down the middle in that scene, he explodes and implodes. He telegraphs both equally at the same time.
Richard is also shattered. He knew instantly what he did. Not just a bystander, but the most important bystander to the person he was doing duty for. I thought he was going to blow his brains out before he left the club. I felt relieved every scene after that. And then dread. He’s walking on the train tracks, he’s gotta be waiting for a train. Oh he’s alright, he made it to the farm. And as soon as I saw him without the scars I knew.
Boardwalk Empire ended on a blue note and with a lot of questions that are going to have to be addressed next year. But it wasn’t a cliffhanger. It was just another day in the rat race. The rats lost this time. I was wholly satisfied, even if I do already want the next course.
Den of Geek Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
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