After coming off what was arguably its best season to date, series creator Terrence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street) and HBO have decided they will bring the 1920s-set bootlegging drama Boardwalk Empire to its conclusion with season 5 this fall.
The announcement was made during the network’s TCA panel yesterday, during which it also announced the start dates of returning programs like Game of Thrones, Veep, and the sophomore season of Vice, as well as upcoming programs and movies such as Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers and The Normal Heart from American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy.
That announcement was then followed up when president of programming at HBO, Michael Lombardo very succinctly said: “It has been an incredible honor to bring this powerful and groundbreaking series to our subscribers. Terry Winter has created one for the ages.”
While there was no specific reason given for why the series was ending with season 5, it’s safe to say it wasn’t for lack of performance. Boardwalk Empire, though down somewhat in the ratings with season 4, was still a strong performer, as it came in behind the aforementioned Game of Thrones and the soon-to-be-ending True Blood, in terms of overall viewership. And while some of the larger awards eluded the series during its run, Bobby Cannavale did manage to pick up a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his portrayal of lunatic gangster Gyp Rosetti in season 3.
Oddly enough, Cannavale might wind up being one of the primary reasons Boardwalk is ending its run after five seasons. Although there has been no official announcement yet, one of the prevailing theories as to why Winter and HBO came to such an amicable (and seemingly sudden) agreement on when to close out the show is that they are both eager to begin production on another period drama: The ’70s-set rock ‘n’ roll series Winter has cooked up with Boardwalk executive producer and Wolf of Wall Street director, Martin Scorsese, and producer Mick Jagger.
As reported, Cannavale has been linked to the lead role, in what was formerly titled History of Music, playing recording executive and lover of illicit things, Richie Finestra. With a leading man in negotiations, it’s understandable to think the project has become a primary concern for the network. At any rate, we’re awaiting information from HBO regarding the status of this program.
Without mentioning future plans, Winter had this to say about the decision to see his current series to the door:
We’re thrilled to get the go-ahead for a fifth season of Boardwalk Empire. After much discussion with my creative team and HBO, we’ve decided to wrap up the series after such a great run and look forward to bringing it to a powerful and exciting conclusion.
For audiences, the primary concern now is how Winter and his creative team plan to wrap things up. At the end of season 4, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) was eager to throw in the towel, Eli (Shea Whigham) had been exiled to Chicago, and Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) retreated to Maryland to mourn his daughter and pick up the pieces of his business that’d been left in tatters, thanks in large part to Jeffrey Wright’s criminally good performance as Dr. Valentin Narcisse.
Though it’s rooted in history, and has to adhere to fact when it comes to certain characters like Al Capone (Stephen Graham), Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Gaston Bullock Means (Stephen Root), Winter is technically free to end many of the other stories in any way he sees fit. When you look at it, there are as many possible approaches as there are stories still needing to be wrapped up, so the scope of any potential final storyline will likely depend on how many episodes HBO orders.
Boardwalk Empire season 5 will air on HBO sometime in the fall.