Boardwalk Empire: “Friendless Child”

By David Pergolini on Oct 22, 2014 to Boardwalk Empire


Nucky Thompson was brought to his knees in the latest episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ War has returned to the Boardwalk, leaving 19 dead and over a million dollars in lost revenue. We haven’t seen this level of brutality since Gyp Rosetti’s onslaught in Season 3. Luciano and Lansky are on the move, and Nucky is desperately trying to keep up. With the final episode of the series less than a week away, and with many of our favorite characters dead and gone, it looks as if the Thompson family has finally been dethroned in Atlantic City.


Nucky and Salvatore Maranzano are deadlocked in a war-of-attrition with Luciano and Lansky. In a brazen move to force a sit down, Nucky orders the capture of Benny Siegel. Rather than submitting, Luciano goes on the attack. He sends his goons to capture young Will Thompson, just after he’s reunited with the decrepit, on-the-run Eli. Now, the sit down has taken a dramatic turn to a prisoner exchange.

Back in 1897, newly appointed Sheriff Thompson is at odds with his wife Mable on what to do with the young run-away, Gillian Darmody. Fearing she’ll be sent back to the abusive orphanage in Trenton, Gillian decides to hightail it out of the Thompson household. We know the history, but we’ll have to wait and see how Gillian falls into the hands of the sociopathic Commodore.

In classic gangster-noir fashion, Nucky meets with Luciano and Lansky in the dead of night, each man brandishing their manpower. The prisoner exchange is set, but Luciano has something up his sleeve. In a flash, Benny slugs Will Thompson in the face, forcing him back to Luciano’s side. Nucky is rendered powerless. He’s forced to his knees and humiliated. Now, with no cards left to play, Nucky concedes defeat, giving up Atlantic City and his operations in Cuba. But in order to save his life, along with Will’s, Nucky has 24 hours to kill Sal Maranzano.



After five years on the ‘Boardwalk,’ things are finally coming to an end. So how well does this episode, which is notorious for being Nucky’s low point in past seasons, set up the finale this coming Sunday?

In every past season, the episode before last is always my favorite, showcasing our characters on the brink of defeat. But this episode felt sadly mediocre and anticlimactic, which is hugely disappointing considering the circumstances. We have just one episode left on the ‘Boardwalk,’ and many of our favorite characters have already been killed off. The episode surely succeeded in bringing Nucky to the dark night of the soul, but the lack of fight and determination leaves much to be desired. He’s completely given up. There is certainly plenty of room for reprisal in the finale, but as things stand right now, I fear that Nucky’s downfall will continue without much resistance. ‘Friendless Child’ is a solemn reminder that Nucky’s demise is all but imminent.

Now, I’m not saying Nucky will be killed off, I don’t think Winter is willing to get too historically out of context, but I am concerned that he’ll go out without a fight – that he’ll just slowly fade away. That’s not the Nucky we know and love. In this final episode, I want to see the Thompson family push back one last time.


There are certainly a lot of loose ends that need to be finalized this Sunday — Capone’s fall from grace, Margaret and her stock market moves, Gillian in the insane asylum, Nucky’s past, Dr. Narcisse and his… well, I don’t really know what he’s up to now. But that’s my point. Everything seems so jumbled and randomized this season. I like the fact that the trim down to eight episodes really helped pick up the pace of each episode, but so many characters have been killed off this season that I’m starting to feel a bit numb. It all happens so quickly and so abruptly that by the time I process the plight of one character, another is getting picked off.

So who will survive the series finale this Sunday? Tune in next week and find out, on the last episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire.’  Here’s the final preview:

Still need more to say Goodbye?  HBO put out this 30 minute tribute to the series that you can watch for free on YouTube.

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