If you were hoping for some closure after last season’s finale, think again. Rather than deal with the aftermath of Chalky’s (Michael Kenneth Williams) war with Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), Dr. Knox (Brian Geraghty)’s brutal beat-to-death murder at the hands of Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham), Gillian’s (Gretchen Mol) institutionalization, and of course, the tragic but inevitable death of our favorite sensitive masked assassin, Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), Boardwalk Empire has skipped forward seven years to 1931. Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is in Cuba with Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette), Chalky is incarcerated, “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazzo) is making moves in the Italian Castellammarese War, and Margaret Thompson is still plugging away at that Wall Street brokerage firm. 1931 also means The Great Depression, and, as always is the case with Boardwalk Empire, the times, they are a-changin’.
Though, you know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nucky’s in Cuba with his partner/tough-as-nails ladyfriend Sally, trying to set up a deal with Bacardi Rum and a US senator in the hopes that Prohibition will be overturned. After the serious Hoover ruckus last season, it appears as though Nucky’s learned his lesson and is trying to go legitimate, but the senator’s not as convinced. Even though technically, TECHNICALLY, Nucky’s only ever been arrested for alcohol possession once, we – and the Senator – all know better. And though Nucky is clearly trying to turn things around (again), he still finds himself in the middle of an assassination attempt (this time, in the bustling streets of Havana!) by a machete-wielding madman. Luckily, Lucky’s got a new valet, an eerily silent fellow with a penchant for ear removal. (Yeah, he cut off the assassin’s ear. And put it in his pocket. Gross.) Could this have anything to do with Nucky spotting good ol’ Meyer Lansky “on a trip with his totally-real-not-hired-wife” earlier that day? I perish the thought.
We also learn that the last time Meyer and Nucky’s paths crossed was at Rothstein’s funeral. Yes, our beloved mensch, The Big Bankroll himself, has kicked the bucket. That not-so-little time jump didn’t just hit the reset button on Atlantic City’s infamous gangsters by putting them in entirely new circumstances – it also bypasses several of the era’s famed events. Like, say, Rothstein’s death. We know, we know: it’s history. Rothstein has a serious gambling problem and it got him a couple of holes in the gut. And it makes sense to end Boardwalk Empire’s final, shortened season near the end of Prohibition. But we can’t help but mourn the loss of powerhouse actor Michael Stuhlbarg. Pour one out for Rothstein, guys. (Unless we get some flashback action. Then make sure we save that sweet, sweet nectar for our reunion.)
Speaking of flashbacks, “Golden Day for Boys and Girls” sees Nucky reflecting on his youth, from diving for coins in the ocean to his first interactions with a middle aged Commodore. We see a shrewd, opportunistic Nucky, but one who is also striving to just be “good.” I wonder if he’ll get there before the end.
Meanwhile, back in the good old US of A, Chalky White is a dejected member of a chain gang. When we last left him, he had just witnessed his daughter’s accidental murder at the hands of Richard Harrow (RIP), who was intended for the slimy Narcisse. We’re not quite sure how Chalky got himself into the chain gang, but by the end of the episode he and the rest of the gang have overtaken their guards and escaped. We don’t know much about what’s happened to Chalky over the past seven years, but Narcisse is presumably still out there. Will he seek revenge and go out guns blazing? Only time (and seven more episodes) will tell.
On the Italian side of things, that wily Lucky Luciano is, as always, making moves for himself. After Rothstein’s death, Luciano quickly ran back to Boardwalk Empire’s most irritating Italian, Joe Masseria. (Seriously. What a jerk.) Luciano seems a little more tired, a little more stressed, as he meets with Masseria for the last time. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that Masseria famously met his end in his favorite Coney Island restaurant, gunned down by the Castellamarese Mafia family. Boardwalk Empire plays it straight: Luciano dines with him, excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and, you know, bullets fly. (No, he doesn’t grab a gun from the bathroom and run out to join the action. This isn’t The Godfather.) Lucky ends up swearing his loyalty to Don Salvatore, the newly minted leader of the Castellamarese Mafia, complete with a super macho/Italian blood oath. History points to a lot more exciting stuff for Luciano, so I hope we see a good chunk of it in this final season.
Lastly, we’ve got Margaret, who, amidst all these assassination attempts and successes, gets one of the more exciting moments of the episode. We’re in the middle of The Great Depression, after all, and that means Margaret’s place of employment – a Wall Street brokerage firm – is still feeling the sting of the crash. So much so that Margaret’s boss starts on a strange, rambling tirade and punctuates it with a bullet to the brain. Yeesh. In the aftermath of her boss’ suicide, Margaret is called in and lightly questioned about her relationship and oh, hey, does she happen to know where the key is to that filing cabinet? Margaret feigns ignorance, a storm brewing behind her quiet demeanor.
Turns out Margaret’s still got a few tricks up her sleeve, as we catch her combing through the cabinet for A. Redstone’s file – a/k/a her deceased co-conspirator, Arnold Rothstein. Interesting. Looks like Margaret’s going to get back in the swing of things this season. (I know Kelly MacDonald had a baby last year and all, but man, did I miss Margaret. Glad she’s back.)
So where does this leave us? What will the end of Prohibition bring? Where are all the others, like Gillian, Eli, and Al Capone? (Also, no Valentine’s Day Massacre? BOO.) Again, this final season is also a shortened one, so we only have seven more episodes to find out exactly how Nucky’s story will end. While the past several seasons have had to recover from killing off their young, audience-beloved characters (Jimmy, Owen, Richard), this year the gang’s skipped ahead to sing its swan song. To put it simply: ain’t nobody got time for that. Boardwalk Empire’s got a story to tell, and we suspect it — and Nucky — will not go quietly into the night.
We won’t be recapping each episode this season, but we will be back at the conclusion to see how it all went down. In the meantime: if you’re watching each week, feel free to chat with me about those kooky gangsters and their pesky shenanigans on Twitter @RachelHeine.