Everyone, autumn has arrived, and, with it, “Boardwalk Empire!” Sadly, this is the last season for “Boardwalk Empire” and we will only have eight episodes in total. In case you forgot anything from last season, here’s a recap:
This year, we go back in time to Atlantic City in 1884 where we see a young Nucky trying to fish out gold coins thrown by Louis “The Commodore” Kaestner into the ocean. Unfortunately for Nucky, the coins are always just out of reach or some other boy gets it first. This is a running theme for Nucky – no matter how hard he tries, the other boys always get there first. He realizes, though, that it takes more than size and speed to get ahead. The biggest example is when he fetches a man’s hat that had flown away; all the other boys he was with had retrieved the lost hats for the other men and women in the open carriage. A man approaches Nucky, expecting him to find his hat. When Nucky can’t, the man leaves. Shortly after, Nucky does find the hat – and a fifty dollar bill folded inside. Instead of keeping it and helping his family, he leaves the money in the hat and returns it to the man the next day. The man is friends with the Commodore and asks Nucky why he didn’t take the money: he wanted to get ahead. A few days later, Nucky and the other boys are outside one of the hotels and Nucky gets into a fistfight over a boy taking away a woman he could have escorted into the hotel with the hope (and unspoken expectation) of a tip. The fight is broken up, but Nucky has gained the attention of Kaestner and begins his first job with the Commodore: sweeping the wooden platform out in front of the hotel.
Meanwhile, in 1931, Nucky is in Cuba with Sally Wheat, working on a deal with US Senator Wendell Lloyd of Pennsylvania. Over Présidente cocktails, and breaks down the damage caused by the Volstead Act: after 11 years, it remains an unenforceable law and was a large part the Great Depression in America as moneys going toward liquor licenses and taxes are no longer a part of the economic flow of America. Since the Volstead Act was made the 18th Amendment in 1920, over $900,000,000 was lost over Volstead and the stoppage of the alcohol. Currently, that would be $10,352,461,591.65. Yes, ten billion dollars in our time would have been lost. To be frank, the Volstead Act was one of the main factors the Great Depression occurred, but it’s not the only factor. We’ll get into that more this season, I’m quite sure. At this point in history, President Herbert Hoover was very unpopular, especially after the Stock Market Crash of October 29th, 1929, and so was the Republican party. Nucky firmly believes that Volstead is going to be repealed but Lloyd makes a good point: amendments don’t just go away overnight; they’re basically in the Constitution forever. Nucky, however, is still optimistic and wants to be legally in the business of selling alcohol the day that Volstead is overturned. That won’t happen until 1933, but at least Nucky was optimistic enough to know it would happen – but what will happen before then?
During the years that have past since last season and this current one, Chalkie White has done something to out himself in prison. We see him in black and white striped clothes. Even though he’s on a chain gang, he manages to break free and run for his life after other prisoners begin to rebel and a few others. Just what Chalkie did in wind up in prison is still a mystery and I am looking forward to that to learning what he did,
In New York, Margaret’s boss regales his employees with a story about going out to the movies with his family the previous night. There was a Mickey Mouse cartoon that played for a bit and he was fascinated with the little guy… until he pulled out a gun. He assured everyone that everything was all right and then killed himself. That kind of thing was a tragic reality during the Great Depression: people would jump from buildings, shoot themselves, poison themselves – any way to escape the crumbling world around them. Considering that Margaret’s employer was doing real estate work, it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to realize how much of a dead end road that job would be in 1931.
If you didn’t notice or know, Arnold Rothstein will not appear this season. He died on November 4th, 1928, after leaving a card game in which he likely had lost money and hand’t the money to keep playing. The shooter was never found, though it was likely a bookie or someone’s hitman taking revenge over a gambling debt. Sadly, not even his name was mentioned in the season 5 premiere: in Cuba, Nucky ran into Meyer Lansky and acknowledged they had not seen each other since the funeral and Lanksy says something along the lines of “Yeah, AR.” Rothstein and Harrow were my favorite characters on the show and now both are gone. As the trailers for this season have shown, though, not everyone will make it out of their business deals alive.
For those of you looking closely at the screen, you probably saw that Charlie “Lucky” Luciano had a droopy right eye. In 1928, after Rothstein’s death, Lucky moved into Joe Masseria’s gang because he knew that he was too weak to play with the big boys without a mentor like Rothstein. Masseria’ style was completely different than Rothstein’s, and Lucky had to make a few adjustments before fitting in. At the time, Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano were engaged in turf warfare over New York City. Some of Maranzano’s men captured Lucky in October of 1929, took him to the beach, beat him to a pulp, and left him to die. He was permanently left with that droopy right eye and more than a few scars. That didn’t stop Lucky from eventually joining Maranzano for a price: Lucky had to kill Masseria and, in exchange, he would become Maranzano’s right hand man and share in the racket profits. While Winters and the other “Boardwalk Empire” powers that be had Lucky leave the room and two unknown gunmen kill Masseria, it’s widely been accepted that Lucky killed Masseria on his own. After killing Masseria, Lucky presented himself before Maranzano’s people and took a blood oath to promise his fealty. As was customary, all the men in the room had to cut their right palm, too, and shake Lucky’s hand. It’s one of the grosser things I’ve seen in quite a while. Back then, the study of blood-born pathogens wasn’t a big deal but still I could’t decide who was the most unlucky: Lucky getting everyone else’s blood in him or the last guy to shake Lucky’s hand for the blood oath. Either way, gross.
Ratings for the premiere were up slightly to 2.2 million viewers for the premiere of Boardwalk Empire’s final season. We won’t go into detail this time but we will say the first episode was a wonderful start. Look for full reviews of each episode as the season moves on.
VL Vanderveer is a graduate of East Tennessee State University’s Department of Literature and Language. Aside from her blogging for HBOWatch.com, she can be found in the Marketing department of InnLink Central Reservations Services.