Four years ago, Terence Winter and legendary film director Martin Scorsese began collaborating together on the exquisite gangster series Boardwalk Empire. The show, which focuses on the story of criminal Nucky Thompson’s control over Atlantic City during the 1920s, has been a renowned hit for HBO but like so many great television series, it all must come to end. Granted Boardwalk has suffered a little with its final run being reduced to eight episodes compared to the usual thirteen but we can blame those darn (expensive!) dragons from Game of Thrones for that! Nevertheless, Boardwalk can hold its head up high as one of the best series of the past decade especially for merging such an extraordinary cast and the carefully-mastered production design. With the final epsidoe due to screen in the States tomorrow evening, below are my five favourite moments!
“You can’t be half a gangster, Nucky. Not anymore.”
#5 – “I ain’t building no bookcase.”
Known to many of us for his memorable role as Omar Little in HBO’s The Wire, Michael Kenneth Williams further enhanced his reputation as a bad-ass actor with his effective turn as black gangster boss Chalky White. While it was hard for many African-American people to cope in prohibition-era America, Chalky clearly wasn’t fazed by racial discrimination especially when sharing scenes with the titular character Nucky. But when the KKK begin to cause problems in a series one episode, he takes it upon himself to kidnap the leader and deliver a mesmerising monologue about his father’s own misfortunes with the group before preparing to torture him. Chalky’s coming yo!
#4 – Manny kills Angela Darmondy
While many Boardwalk fans were gutted to see the popular Jimmy Darmondy (Michael Pitt) get killed off in the series two finale, it was the murder of his wife Angela a couple of episodes previously which shocked me more. Though she wasn’t particularly memorable, she was one of the few characters to add some soul to the show amongst its violence and deceit. Her demise came during a pinnacle moment when vicious Jewish butcher Manny Horvitz (an underrated William Forsythe) turned up at the Darmondy household with the intention of killing Jimmy via Nucky’s instructions. But after mistakenly shooting Angela’s secret lesbian lover, he had no choice but to kill her too in cold-blooded fashion. Poor young Tommy became an orphan in the space of a couple of televised hours!
#3 – Eli vs. Agent Knox
#2 – Van Alden goes nuts with an iron
This well-judged series succeeded in attracting many established actors to appear on the show as well as giving underrated ones a chance to shine. That was the case for Michael Shannon who made the role of crazed FBI Agent Nelson Van Alden his own. His deranged facial expressions and calm posture made him a fans favourite on the show even when the character found himself on the run at the end of series two. The following year saw him try to rebuild his life with a new family and a new identity but a crappy job as a salesman proved to be an unsatisfying experience. This explosive moment (which put me off ironing!) sees him snap completely when a cocky colleague taunts him about his shoddy performances in work and at home which results in the poor bugger getting scalded by an iron. Shannon is simply outstanding in this scene as he unleashes his fury on those who’ve taunted him. If ever an actor is needed for a scary role, this is your guy!
#1 – Richard’s botched assassination / death
The greatest moment of Boardwalk Empire is one that produces sheer heartbreak for one character and an emotional farewell for another in the space of several minutes. In the Season 4 finale, Chalky enlists help from Nucky in taking revenge on Doctor Narcisse (a menacing Jeffrey Wright) by staging an assassination at his nightclub. As the two men exchange words at their table, the useful Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) prepares to shoot Narcisse from the curtains with his rifle but a hesitant moment proves tragic when he accidentally kills Chalky’s daughter Mabel. Chalky’s devastated reaction says it all and amidst the panic, Harrow is wounded whilst escaping from the club. As he hides away on the beach, he dreams about reuniting with his family in Wisconsin but it proves to be a fool’s hope as the final shot shows him lying dead, his mask having fallen off. Harrow became an unlikely favourite amongst Boardwalk fans and many rooted for him to find happiness but sadly it wasn’t to be. However the entire duration of this show shows how calculating and unmerciful a show like this could be!
Farewell Boardwalk Empire, you will be greatly missed!