The biggest news heading into the fifth and final season of Boardwalk Empire is that we are off to the future. Kind of. The somewhat less distant past, at least. The show will jump ahead seven years from where it left off at the end of Season 4, to 1931, which puts it outside the comfy confines of the Roaring ’20s and squarely inside the Great Depression. If the trailer is any indication, things are going to get mighty bloody.
All of this leads to a number of questions. Here are a few that are burning me up a bit.
What’s Nucky up to now?
Nucky Thompson has been very much a creature of the 1920s to date. Walking around in his fancy suits, flashing a wad of cash, providing speakeasies with illicitly obtained alcohol, etc. The Great Depression is going to put a damper on some of that, one has to believe, in part because the Great Depression put a damper on everything, and in part because the people paying him for his services are going to see a drop in well-funded clientele. Also, 1931 puts us two years away from the end of Prohibition, and that’s going to be quite the adjustment, too. Things are a-changing everywhere.
It’s also worth noting that Nucky’s fate is very much up in the air. The real-life person he’s based on, Nucky Johnson, lived to the ripe old age of 85, but truth and fiction have been going their separate ways on that front for a while. Johnson was never the gangster this Nucky has become, and gangster stories generally do not end well for the protagonist. (Breaking Bad, Scarface, The Sopranos, depending how you interpreted the cut to black.) Could be curtains for Ol’ Nuck.
How are things going with Eli and Mueller/Van Alden in Chicago?
Season 4 ended with Eli beating an FBI agent to do death in his living room and fleeing to Chicago. He was picked up for this trip by “George Mueller,” formerly Agent Van Alden, who also fled to Chicago after murdering a government official with his bare hands. Apparently you could just do that in the 1920s. Who knew?
Anyway, both of them presumably work for Al Capone now, who just offed Dion O’Bannion and took over for Johnny Torrio. The seven years between seasons were big for Capone, as by 1931 he was easily the biggest and most famous gangster in America, thanks in no small part to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. (I can’t believe the show is skipping over this. I’m so disappointed.) But 1931 is also the year the government tried him for tax evasion, so…
Wait, do historical facts count as spoilers?
What’s the rule here? Is there a rule? Because this isn’t like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones where the secrets of the upcoming seasons are tucked inside other works of fiction. These things actually happened, assuming the show sticks close to the story of its real-life characters. One pretty important character actually dies during the seven year time-jump between seasons, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it. This is strange. I do not like this.
What ended up happening with Gillian’s murder trial?
When we last saw Gillian she was in jail for murder after an incredibly elaborate investigation by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. (I mean, the undercover agent wooed her, nursed her through heroin withdrawal, and staged a fake shooting in a parking garage to get her to confess. That’s thorough.) But in the brief glimpse we see of her in the trailer, she doesn’t appear to be locked up. So… wha’ happen? She didn’t have a lot of powerful friends left at the end of the season, considering she and Nucky had a falling out and Uncle Junior — I’ll learn Dominic Chianese’s character’s name on this show one day, I promise — was the one who brought in the Pinkerton agent to set her up, so I am dying to see how she weaseled out of this one, if that is the case.
The Chalky/Narcisse thing … that still going on?
Chalky White and Dr. Narcisse butted heads spectacularly in Season 4, with the result being the death of Chalky’s daughter and the Doctor agreeing to become an informant for Hoover and the FBI to avoid prison. They really did not like each other, and I imagine they still don’t. Murdered family members and turf battles will do that to a relationship. So the question isn’t so much “Do they still want each other dead?” as much as it is “Are they both still actively trying to kill each other?”
If Chalky starts hunting Narcisse and his men while whistling “The Farmer in the Dell,” it will make me unreasonably happy.
So did anybody ever find Richard Harrow under that boardwalk or what?
The fifth and final season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire premieres Sunday, September 7.