‘Boardwalk Empire‘ ended after five seasons with Sunday’s (Oct. 26th) series finale, ably wrapping up most of, if not all, lingering storylines from the final run of the series. In the end, it comes down to choices. Why the choices are made at all, whose benefit they are made for, and where you end up because of your decisions in the long run.
For some, it turns out adequately. Margaret learns a new way to make money – not a particularly legal way, but who’s to judge – and is comfortable with the morality of it all. She gets to push the limit of legal parameters without outright doing anything wrong and still getting to experience the thrill of making money the dirty way. Eli is left alone in his shack by the sea, but in possession of a bag of money and the knowledge that he got to see his brother one last time before they sever ties completely.
For most, the world comes crashing down around them despite years of carefully made plans and alluding tragedy. Nucky talks to Eli and others about past decisions but focuses more closely on enjoying his last days on Earth before getting gunned down by Tommy Darmody as revenge for his father’s killing, even if he doesn’t completely know his fate. His opening swim in the ocean and visit to the boardwalk booth are two murky scenes in the episode, compared to the rest of the crisply shot scenes.
They all but betray his fate in the end, setting his journey to tie up loose ends on a backdrop of blues and blacks instead of the usual brightness of the boardwalk. This also goes for his apartment hunting with Margaret, their last dance backdropped by an empty room and a terrace leading to the dark night sky.
Dr. Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) also comes to a bloody end in the street, but does not get the same benefit of finishing all relevant business beforehand. One of the best scenes in the episode is Al Capone (Stephen Graham) apologizing to his family and bidding farewell to his son before hamming it up on the courthouse steps en route to life in prison. (Just a general reminder for everyone to pay your taxes, always.)
The only people truly happy in the end are the mob families who have won this bloody war and now look to the future in anticipation of the next one that will surely come. Their confidence can be easily compared to Nucky and his associates’ demeanor in early seasons, proving that the cycle never ends in this world of violence and crime and one day they too will be gunned down in public or left to reminisce about their glory days.