A Towering, Twisty ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Finale

“Boardwalk Empire,” which established itself as a first rate historical drama in its first season, only to give way to a full season of double-cross and retribution, presented its finale with a couple of neat twists Sunday – unexpected turns that plotted new course for the Atlantic City saga when it makes its return.

The stage was set with a brilliant episode last week, in which a shocking backstory matched an equally shocking murder in the present day to present an Oedipal full circle for Jimmy Darmody, the tortured former No. 2 for Nucky Thompson who betrayed him and went to work for the Commodore, attempting to take over the bootleg liquor racket that controlled the rest of the underworld there.

Darmody tried to right the ship that had gone wrong all season, trying to make it up to Thompson for not only wrecking his buisiness but nearly having him killed. It was up to Thompson to decide whether he would. But he had a lot on his mind – his trial was nearing and his female companion, suddenly finding religion, was almost willing to testify against him.

This led to a wedding that had less pomp than some of the fancy dinners they’ve had in Atlantic City. Still, the former Margaret Schroeder had a last trick up her sleeve as well.

Can I start with the spoilers yet?

Schroeder seemed to succumb to Thompson’s practical yet heartfelt (for as much of a heart he had) proposal. She seemed seemingly convinced at least of his devotion to her kids, one of whom was struck with polio, causing her own crisis of faith.

But then Thompson was not entirely truthful about where he had been at night, calling Darmody out to the war memorial building site to hand over the man who murdered his wife, only to turn against his former protégé ultimately. Thompson is less forgiving than it would seem and here for the second week in a row came the death of a major character.

For Darmody, it may have been a death wish. He had been dead since the war, he admitted, and the episode kept flashing back to how damaged he and his friend the mask-faced bodyguard seemed to be by the foreign conflict of World War I.

In the end, he imagined himself back in the trenches, extinguished by another meaningless bullet.

But as Thompson celebrates the next day not only the dissolution of the case against him (as Margaret decided to marry him to keep from testifying as she had threatened; and another potential witness had an untimely suicide). He also was celebrating a big highway deal along land he had long since been tipped off would pay off. He had signed it over to Margaret before the trial, just in case anything happened to him, and he crassly suggested she sign it back to him right away. She signed it, but over to the church that had already been a beneficiary of a windfall she had skimmed from Nucky.

What will be the retribution for that next season? Or will the savvy Margaret start her own rival gang? At least she was considering going into the law with the prosecutor she seemed impressed by. Together they could go after that weird G-man who was absent the episode altogether after shooting other feds and fleeing custody last week – only to see him land in Cicero with his new family, just before that town became its own bootlegging crime world capital.

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