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Recap: ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Season 4 Finale “Farewell Daddy Blues”

by Rodrigo Perez
November 24, 2013 9:58 PM
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Gun still to his face, Nucky forces Eli to tell his son what’s really going on: he’s sold out his brother to the FBI, but the full confession provokes Nucky’s sympathies as Eli only did it to save his son. “Nothing will fill that hole that you have inside you,” Eli says, intimating that Nucky’s greed extends as far as trying to appropriate his brother’s son for his own. Nucky tells him this is his mess to figure out and walks away. William, aghast at what his father has done, runs away into the night.

So when Eli comes home to find Knox there again, he’s none too happy. Before Eli can even explain what went wrong, the men are at each other’s throats and a threat forces the embarrassed and unhinged FBI man to pull his weapon. “My partner Agent Selby thinks I’m crazy,” Knox says, unraveling more and more with a gun to Eli’s head. “What do you think?” Before anyone can answer any questions, a melee ensues; one of the gnarliest and most vicious fist-fights-to-the-death we’ve seen in recent memory (easily the most violent and ugly we’ve seen on TV in years). The living room is practically destroyed, the Thompson family is terrified, and it all ends with Eli exploding in a cathartic fury, beating Knox to death with his hands.

Moving back to the Gillian Darmody storyline, what’s missing in her case is a body, and if Richard Harrow wants to put his life of crime behind him and become a true father figure to Tommy Darmody (Brady Noon), he needs proof. He comes to Nucky hat in hand for a favor: he needs to know where the body of Jimmy Darmody lays. Why should Nucky put himself at such risk for Richard? Because Richard, in exchange, will do anything the mobster needs, and it turns out Nucky’s in the market for a favor. Soon after, Harrow sends away his new family, his wife Julia Sagorsky (Wrenn Schmidt), Paul Sagorsky (Mark Borkowski) and grandson Tommy until this new action dies down.

Where have Narcisse and Chalky been all this time? Earlier on, Nucky and Narcisse broker a meet. The Harlem gangster is aware that Chalky’s still alive and he wants answers. Nucky tries to clean his hands of all of it, he’s here to be the middle man. Chalky just wants assurances of safe passage to return for his daughter’s wedding. In exchange for? Nucky’s not here to make deals, just pass on information. “The only thing your people have in common is we both know what a dollar’s worth.” Nucky tells the doctor that he doesn’t care which “of you coloreds” rules the northside. The conclusion? Playing into Narcisse’s assumed belief that all white men are racists, Nucky sells him a story of Chalky coming at him in the middle of the night with a gun and wants to be assured that this will never happen again (i.e. do with him what you like).

Chalky and Narcisse finally come face to face at the Onyx club, but it’s not quite the upper hand deal the former club owner had intended. While hurling threats and insults at each other across the table—the Doctor wants to know where Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham) is, for one—Narcisse pulls an ace from his sleeve, Chalky’s daughter Maybelle (Christina Jackson). Of course, no one’s come to this fight without a fix in the game. Up in the rafters sits Richard Harrow, his sniper rifle in hand dead-aimed at Narcisse’s head (the favor Nucky needed; using Harrow’s deft assassin skills). What Nucky and Chalky haven’t allowed for is the once ruthless Harrow losing his nerve. Perhaps becoming a family man has cost him his edge because Harrow hesitates and when he does finally regain his wits, he doesn’t see Maybelle wandering into the frame of the shot.

Blood spatters across Narcisse’s face, Maybelle drops like a stone, a bullet through her head right in front of her father who is in agonized disbelief. Pandemonium breaks out at the sound of gunfire. Chalky and Narcisse run for the exits while Harrow has to fight off a hail of bullets. Both men, however, are apprehended in an FBI raid and tagged. A bloody Harrow makes his quiet escape. And then the walls close in for everyone.

Nucky, trying to set sail for Cuba, gets nabbed by the FBI: he’s not under arrest, but he’s being questioned in the murder of FBI agent James Tolliver (Knox) who was found dead in the Eli Thompson household. J. Edgar Hoover has a bigger plan for Narcisse. He threatens him with jail time for life unless the Dr. agrees to narc out the dangerous, negro dissident Marcus Garvey (the seditious political leader Hoover’s been more consumed with than gangsters all season). Out of options, Narcisse must agree.

Daughter Maitland sings us out to the titular episode title in some dive club. Over montage, the various fates and conclusions of our characters are revealed. On the run, Eli turns up in Chicago, George Mueller picking him up under a bridge. Chalky’s back in Maryland brooding, thinking about his daughter’s death. Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) is seen showing Margaret Schroeder/Thompson (Kelly Macdonald) to her new apartment after the deal they struck. And most tragically, we find Richard Harrow in his dreams. He’s with his new family and his face is no longer disfigured. But when we’re shown the reality of the situation, Harrow is lying dead under an Atlantic City boardwalk pier. Mask fallen off his face, his bloody hand evincing the wounds that took his life. A man who had seemingly changed his ways caught in the crosshairs of criminals and the fateful choices he made to ensure his new family stayed together. Cruelly, Harrow, of all the immoral snakes this season, pays the grandest price for trying to go straight.

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  • TedG | February 21, 2014 3:09 AMReply

    "Capone’s boss, the head Chicago mobster Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci), who interrupts, assumes its Earl "Hymie" Weiss (Will Janowitz)—Dean O'Banion’s second in command whom we haven’t seen since last season"

    Hymie Weiss was in several episodes of season 4.

  • Ashleycc | November 26, 2013 8:55 PMReply

    Such a great movie, I was able to watch The Hunger Games catching Fire for free, check it out!

  • Humble Frank | November 26, 2013 4:47 PMReply

    As I watched Richard Harrow's final moments my thoughts flashed back to Ambrose Brice's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and the wonderful short French film made from it.

    All over the web everyone seems upset over Harrow's death but the death of a total innocent "Chalky's daughter) upset me even. But this is the sad nature of Boardwalk - innocent people (Nucky's girl friend last season, Tommy's wife and her girl friend and so on.).

  • marc balco | November 26, 2013 1:02 PMReply

    did not want to see Richard die. too many good characters are killed off. he was the best character by far.

  • cdsbooks | November 25, 2013 10:40 PMReply

    a trite review from a spic critic.

  • wow | November 27, 2013 2:55 AM

    cdsbooks, you actually used the word 'spic'?
    i imagine you typing that while sitting in a small, dirty smelly apartment..
    harsh overhead florescent lighting bringing out the stains in the carpet, the crumbled fast foods wrappers strewn across the floor, your bloated gut and your pale, tiny little dick.
    it probably made you feel really excited to type that for that one second, but then you returned to your miserable reality so i hope it was fun while it lasted. prick.

  • mary | November 25, 2013 4:33 PMReply

    sorry huge nucky fan ...not lucky.

  • mary | November 25, 2013 4:32 PMReply

    who cares about the names or terms they use... what about the killer finale, I hate that it's over, I don't think there's another show on, that the characters are so compelling, I am a huge Lucky fan, and and chalky and richard fan, and I love to hate jillian and narciesse, It is just a awesome show and great acting, I want more.. and patricia arcette was the best possible choice for nucky.

  • steve | November 25, 2013 12:25 AMReply

    what a great episode! but i am saddened at the loss of my (and i'm sure a lot of people's ) favorite character--richard harrow

  • Feev | November 24, 2013 11:00 PMReply

    What's so horrible about the term "Negro?" I understand that it's freighted with a certain amount of baggage, but in its essence it's just Spanish for "black." Sticks and stones...maybe in the twenty-first century, it's time for all of us to stop looking for the pettiest of things to take offense about.

  • really 23 | November 24, 2013 10:56 PMReply

    The reviewer is pretty liberal with his verbatim racially degrading terms in 2013 regarding this period piece...

  • Petar | November 24, 2013 10:49 PMReply

    If you are to write on a show based on history it's best you know the history wouldn't you agree. As you do not I can only assume this first sentence needs to be further explained. In the sixth paragraph on Chicago you should read up on both Torio and Capone, and maybe you may learn something about a George Moran. Also Arnold Rothstein has a gambling problem and will later be killed for it in next season.

  • No, F oFF | November 25, 2013 6:20 AM

    No, he's reviewing a show, nothing more. There's absolutely no reason to look up anything.

  • FEEV | November 24, 2013 11:11 PM

    I agree with your wider point, but this show has already departed from history to a significant extent. It's not the real-life "Nucky Johnson," but the fictitious "Nucky Thompson." Are we holding Chicago to a stricter historic standard than we are New Jersey?

  • dudetb3 | November 24, 2013 10:29 PMReply

    "the most vicious fist-fights-to-the-death we have scene in years," go watch Banshee episode 8 and tell me otherwise (or go on youtube and go watch "olek vs. Ana Fight scene,"

    Anyways this was a great finale and that final scene was perfect

  • steve | November 25, 2013 12:31 AM

    it was glorious when after the multiple punches eli threw at knox--he takes big glass vase and crushes his head!

  • Rosie | November 24, 2013 10:28 PMReply

    ["The Atlantic City negro mobster presume . . ."}

    The Atlantic City "negro" mobster? Negro? Are we still living in 1963?

  • Lord, dummies | November 25, 2013 6:21 AM

    Y'all, as usual, are regarded.

  • Susie | November 24, 2013 10:58 PM

    If the term "negro" is so offensive these days, perhaps the "United Negro College Fund" hasn't gotten the memo. Get a grip. The word "negro" is no more offensive than the word "caucasian."

  • FYI | November 24, 2013 10:42 PM

    The show is set during prohibition and this is how the characters are described.

  • samson | November 24, 2013 10:41 PM

    My thoughts exactly. I think this was the author's of this article's sly way of trying to be provocative. No excuse for the use of the term even when reviewing something from a period piece.

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