HBO has a history of reinterpreting history through some of their original programming. In Rome a Roman soldier rather than Julius Caesar supposedly impregnated Cleopatra. Deadwood revisited the murder of Wild Bill Hickok along with the annexation of the camp. The Wire was a bit subtler, introducing the idea of drug legalization just as former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke actually did. The second season finale of Boardwalk Empire continues this trend, though sacrifices must be made.
There were many things to love about this season: More Chalky (Michael K. Williams, again, my personal fave) more Richard (Jack Huston, grandson of John Huston) William Forsythe (You mean J.R. just like the TV show? That’s good.), and the excision of several key characters for the greater good.
The volatility of Nucky and Margaret’s (Kelly Macdonald) relationship is further tested as her daughter is suddenly stricken with polio, which gives Margaret a bad case of Catholic guilt leading her to assume her collusion with the man who had her husband killed is the cause. This leads her to nearly betraying Nucky, until she decides they should get married, and they do.
The main hitch in this season is Nucky’s (Steve Buscemi) upcoming trial for election rigging that escalates as new evidence and nervous witnesses come forward. Nucky’s bold move to literally make a federal case out of his case nearly backfires with new prosecutor Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson). Her efforts are eventually derailed by former Judas Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt). Jimmy attempts capitulation with Nucky after betraying him all season, but do these actions come too late?
Jimmy’s olive branch comes on the heels of great personal tragedy. First the murder of his wife by Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe), the realization that went to War after he slept with his mother, and the subsequent murder of his father (Dabney Coleman), who was about to knock Nucky out of the ‘Who wants to be Jimmy’s Daddy’ contest when Jimmy suddenly threw in the towel on his insurrection and killed him.
Things eventually go Nucky’s way, as they always do. His case is dropped and the road deal goes through which means all that property Nucky invested in will be worth millions, once Margaret signs it back over.
Then what needed to happen happened. Jimmy goes to meet with Nucky, appropriately at the unfinished war memorial, where Jimmy ironically quips ‘I died in a trench. Years back. Thought you knew that.’ Jimmy came unarmed, and never showed a hint of surprise as Nucky himself calmly shoots him twice in the head. Who’s your daddy now? (I almost went with ‘Jimmy boardwalked the plank’)
This had to happen for several reasons: Firstly, Jimmy’s soul was void after the death of his wife, and honestly, could you have kept up with the nuances of his character while simultaneously imagining him schtupping his mom? Secondly, Jimmy Darmody never really existed, where most of the others did. Someone had to go, and the show’s creators did not have the Ides of March or Aces and Eights to conveniently off an actual historical figure. Lastly, we weren’t really sure if Nucky had it in him. The next morning however we see him calmly kiss Margaret and the kids as he casually lies and says that Jimmy is reenlisting, ‘Already left, actually.’ Now we know more about the nature of Nucky, but Margaret sees it as well. Perhaps that is why she signed over all that prime real estate to the church.