“Everyone has reasons. *Murderers* have reasons.”
The series finale is now one week away. With Charlie Luciano’s hostile takeover of criminal activities across the tri-state area and with the dismantling of Nucky Thompson’s empire, it’s now clearer to me how this is going to end for him.
The episode begins with New York City district attorney Robert Hodge giving a radio broadcast about the mafia. His voice is imposed over a visual montage of mob murders. The scene then shifts to Willie Thompson working on criminal prosecutions while juxtaposed with his uncle Nucky in his own office at the club like a general whose troops are awaiting his orders. He goes downstairs to seek consultation from visiting mob boss Salvatore Maranzano. It’s been several weeks since Nucky confirmed his war with Luciano. With heavy bloodshed on both sides and no end in sight, Nucky remains furious and wants Luciano killed. Receiving word that two of his liquor trucks were firebombed only served to enrage him further. As Maranzano leaves, Nucky has Arquimedes and Mickey Doyle head to New York City since he can be “impestuous” as well. Cut to Benny Siegel.
Seemingly notorious around his neighborhood, Siegel makes a ‘house call’ to a married woman. As he departs from his tryst, he gets ambushed in a shootout. He appears to have the upperhand until he’s subdued and kidnapped by Arquimedes. Torrio, Luciano and Lansky are conducting business in one of their brothels when they receive a phone call from Benny, who’s roped and bound, and annoyingly garrulous. He’s in Atlantic City at Nucky’s club, being questioned and tortured by Doyle and Arquimedes. At first, Luciano hangs up the phone under the belief that Siegel’s joking around. When Thompson calls back, he has their full attention. During the interrogation, Nucky receives a call from Margaret regarding his stock in Joseph P. Kennedy’s Mayflower Grain Corporation. He’s shorted 50,000 shares of the company and now wants to short another 50,000. Margaret warns him of the attention that this will bring, but he wants to go forward regardless.
On a literally related note, Willie receives a phone call from his father who’s asking for help. They meet and Willie is so shocked by his father’s disheveled appearance (his unkempt stubble and buzzing flies were a nice touch) that he can’t even bring himself to show affection or even greetings. He tells his oldest son about how he’s made terrible mistakes. Willie offers him money and a place to stay (albeit reluctantly), but Eli doesn’t seem to want the offer. He just wanted to see his son for what seems to be “one last time” if you read into the subtext. As he’s walking away, he seems resigned to suicide. But seeing Willie get kidnapped in broad daylight instantly re-invigorates him. Back in the club, Nucky and Doyle discuss and Lansky and share a laugh with one another. It’s interrupted by Eli, whom Nucky is none too pleased to see. As expected, Willie was captured by Luciano and Lansky. They question him and he shows that he’s well-versed in the shared personal and criminal history between both men. They torture him, mirroring Siegel’s torture at Thompson’s hands earlier. Right on cue, Nucky calls and tells them that they’ve crossed the line by kidnapping his nephew. They meet in a remote location for a hostage exchange. During which, Mickey negotiates control of the club from Nucky and an additional 5%. When Mickey shows surprise, Nucky’s typically dry response for agreeing to the deal is “You caught me in a good mood“. Luciano & company arrive and the exchange is going as planned until Luciano reneges on his end. He shoots both Arquimedes and Mickey Doyle dead. To end the war and save Willie’s life, he offers all of his businesses in Atlantic City to them. But that isn’t good enough. They humiliate him further by putting Nucky on his knees and tell him they’re taking his Cuban business as well. They plan to kill him to cement the takeover, until he talks his way out of death by offering them Maranzano. They keep Willie, but give Nucky 24 hours to kill Maranzano. Eli, along with some goons disguised as Internal Revenue officers, get access to Maranzano in his office and stab him to death. Upon word, Luciano releases Willie in front of the district attorney’s office. While inside, he learns about Maranzano’s death and, from the look on his face, surmises exactly why he was released. With Maranzano gone and Siegel returned, Luciano and Lansky celebrate their victory in their whorehouse. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mike D’Angelo presents his case and gets an approved warrant to arrest Al Capone.
With Nucky now witnessing the fall of his empire, Joel Harper (Mickey Doyle’s protege) meets with him and is eager to offer services to Nucky. But what he receives is $1,000 in cash to get out from the criminal lifestyle.
In the parallel story in 1897, a young Gillian Darmody takes center stage. Played by Madeleine Rose Yen, she has her stolen items confiscated by Deputy Sheriff Enoch Thompson. He makes her a deal: Got to jail or a vaguely-stated “I could help you” offer. What’s more is that Enoch is intrigued by Gillian’s spunk and sense of etiquette. He brings her into his home for the night, telling Mabel (and perhaps himself) that he wants to do the right thing. While there, Gillian dresses in more feminine garb and wants to repay the Thompson’s kindness. By law, Nucky has to send her back to her hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. But after getting to know Gillian and the abusive background she came from, Mabel’s resolve is to help the child and pleads for Enoch’s support in doing so. Gillian later tells Nucky personally about why she doesn’t want to go back to Trenton when Sheriff Lindsay shows up at his home and tells him he’s needed. Lindsay resigns from the department and hands down his badge to Enoch. In reference to his desire to work more closely for the Commodore, he tells Enoch, “You said you want to help“. Enoch walks through the Commodore’s den of iniquity and is informed that he wants a secret job done. He wants Enoch to deliver a young girl back to her mother discreetly. Arriving back home, he and Mabel argue after Gillian runs off in the night. In the present, the older Nucky reads the Nellie Bly letter that was sent to him by Gillian. She desperately wants Nucky’s help and the episode ends with looking both contemplative and sad.
THOUGHTS: The endgame is almost at its end. Nucky Thompson knows it which is why he gave up almost all of his business rather than continue fighting a war that he’d inevitably lose. He’s holding on to his stock in Joe Kennedy’s company. But, beyond embarrassing Kennedy, it remains to be seen what his final design will be. And this week’s flashback of Nucky’s life gives a more clearer explanation for his present-day guilt and sense of regret. With young Gillian Darmody and his subsequent ascension to being Atlantic City’s top cop, we see why. Sheriff Lindsay quit rather then have his position be used to satiate the Commodore’s thirst for underage girls. Nucky takes up the reigns and, overwhelmed by his need for approval from those higher, he gives Gillian to the Commodore. As a child, she asked for his help. This is what he did for her. In many ways, meeting Nucky is what brought her to where she’s been and where she’s at now. With her pleading for his help once again, he may be inclined to help her. The overlapping effect of her voice narrating the letter only adds to her desperation. He’s getting nearer and nearer to the end of his rope and may want to do something good before he dies.
Benny Siegel’s kidnapping was the funniest part in the episode. Michael Zegen’s spontaneity and comedic timing were much-needed moments of levity. As was Paul Sparks acting with Steve Buscemi in their final character movements. The ‘friendless child’ that the title refers to is Nucky, Eli and Gillian. Nucky’s backed into a corner and now has next-to-zero allies, Eli is disconnected from everyone (even his own family to an extent), and Gillian (in both of her incarnations) has no one to turn to except for Nucky. Also, I no longer believe that Joel Harper is Tommy Darmody. For one, the ages don’t match. And secondly, he possesses too much of a naivete to not know what Nucky’s involved in. That’s probably why Nucky gives him the money. He sees himself in Joel, around the time he assumed Sheriff Lindsay’s position. In hindsight, he may wish that someone had given him money to get out instead of becoming a whore herald for the Commodore.
Lastly, rest-in-peace to the characters of Mickey Doyle and Arquimedes. The latter wasn’t given much character depth, but he put Mike Tyson to shame when it came to ears. The former was always a wisecracking weasel, but that’s why I enjoyed him. To be honest I didn’t expect him to last this long. As for the episode itself, it was OK. For a penultimate episode, I was slightly disappointed. Some of the other episode’s were something to write home about, but this one falls short of its predecessor’s glory. Grade: B
Sy L. Shackleford is a jack-of-all-trades columnist for Action A Go Go. A University of Connecticut graduate with a degree in both psychology and communication sciences, he is a walking encyclopedic repository for all things Marvel Comics, movies, hip-hop, et. al.
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