‘Boardwalk Empire’ Season 2 Finale Review

Published 3 years ago by

Michael Pitt Steve Buscemi Boardwalk Empire season 2 HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale Review

1921 has been a rough year for the characters of HBO’s period drama Boardwalk Empire. After ending season 1 on a bit of a high, season 2 has been something of a downward spiral for Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and by association, all the other factions vying for control of Atlantic City and a piece of the black market booze trade.

The ensemble drama has taken some surprising steps during the course of its second season, the most important of which has been the apparent usurping of Nucky’s power by upstart Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), through the puppet mastering of his father, Commodore Louis Kaestner (Dabney Coleman). Whether it is the lure of money and power, or the wish to see Nucky no longer seated at the head of the table, Jimmy and the Commodore have managed to assemble an impressive cadre of criminal types – many of whom, like Sheriff Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham), have come directly from Nucky’s own camp.

This betrayal by Nucky’s brother (Eli) and the young man he helped raise (Jimmy), has left Nucky against the ropes, with numerous legal charges pending against him that even the collective might of all his various contacts and favors cannot stop. So, showing he is, indeed, smarter and more dangerous than Jimmy and the Commodore give him credit for, Nucky relinquishes his role of Atlantic City treasurer and begins to flood the booze market in and around the area through his new Irish contacts – courtesy of right-hand man, Owen Slater (Charlie Cox).

While Nucky is fighting back, and refuses to take this downturn of events lightly, the confluence of circumstances has not affected him alone. As season 1 featured the building of the various characters in the world of Boardwalk Empire, season 2 has largely been about tearing them down, exploring the notion of consequence for the various acts of malfeasance and lack of contrition enacted by nearly every major player in the series.

This notion was made abundantly clear in the penultimate episode of season 2: ‘Under God’s Power She Flourishes’. Following the death of his wife Angela (Aleksa Palladino) at the hands of Manny Horvitz (William Forsythe), Jimmy recalls the succession of events that led to the couple’s son, Tommy, and the disturbing incestuous turn that led him to give up the promise of a Princeton education to join the war. Despite the horrors he witnessed overseas, Jimmy’s Oedipal transgression remained unfinished — that is, until Jimmy killed his father after nearly strangling his mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol).

While those events were no doubt meant to shock, they also served to explore just how far Boardwalk Empire would go to seek punishment for its major characters. And no one is more cognizant of this than Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), who is convinced that her relationship with Nucky and tryst with Owen has led god to send punishment by way of Polio – leaving her daughter Emily without the use of her legs.

Micheal Cumpsty Kelly Macdonald Boardwalk Empire season 2 HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale Review

Now, with the threat of Nucky’s trial looming, Jimmy finds himself in the precarious position of seeking to make amends with the man he betrayed. Meanwhile, Margaret, in search of penance, is asked to weigh an offer from prosecutor Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson, The Amazing Spider-Man), which could spell doom for Nucky. Given the events of the last two episodes, the finale ‘To the Lost’ had a lot to live up to, and it dutifully and eloquently delivered the end to what has been a masterful season.


Coming full circle, the finale opens with Jimmy and Richard rounding up the Klansmen responsible for shooting up the warehouse run by Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams). Utilizing Chalky’s relationship with Nucky to arrange a meeting, Jimmy offers to pull Nucky out of the proverbial noose he put him in – basically admitting he no longer wants, or was never fit, to lead.

Later, as Nucky tends to Margaret’s sympathetic nature, asking that she help save his life by marrying him (so she cannot be compelled to testify), Jimmy and Richard secure a confession from the newly appointed treasurer of Atlantic City, shortly before making his death look like a suicide.

Perhaps putting the well-being of her children first, Margaret agrees to the marriage. That, coupled with the forced confession/suicide note effectively forces a mistrial in the case against Nucky – which also sets Eli free, but sends traitorous Deputy Halloran to prison for murder.

Having tied up nearly every loose end, Nucky confronts Eli about his role in the assassination attempt that left a hole in Nucky’s right hand. The two agree that Eli’s confession and subsequent jail time for the murder Nucky had been charged with, will be penance enough for the betrayal of his brother.

Michael Pitt William Forsythe Boardwalk Empire season 2 HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale Review

Later, Jimmy meets with Nucky, Owen and a seemingly captive Manny Horvitz to apparently seek vengeance for Angela’s murder. Despite the duplicity, Jimmy is not caught unaware (having come unarmed and excusing Richard from joining him), and stares down the barrel of Nucky’s gun while explaining his death means nothing – he died years ago in trenches.

Nucky responds with a bullet, saying, “You don’t know me, James. You never did. I am not seeking forgiveness.” 

After the season premiere, it was obvious that the characters would be in for a tumultuous period. And as Boardwalk Empire brings its second season to a close with such a dark exploration of guilt and consequence, it is Nucky’s refusal to repent, while others wallow in attrition, that oddly steadies the series’ aim at the future.

Michael Pitt’s Jimmy was not only a major character in the show, but also, largely because of the talent in Pitt’s performance, proved to be one of, if not the most, interesting character in season 2. To do away with him is not only a bold and shocking way to end the season, it also points to the strengths of Terence Winter and his writers, and their belief in the material that no change is too big for them to handle.


Boardwalk Empire returns to HBO with season 3 in the fall of 2012.

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  1. I was shocked when Nucky killed Jimmy , I can’t wait to see season 3…but I have to say I will miss Jimmy

    • You are a total retard… why the f*** you told me the end in one sentence!!? FU

      • Seriously? You’re stupid enough to read a review of the episode before watching it, and you blame the person above for talking about it? You are impressively dumb.

        • lol. I thought the exact same thing.

  2. this show should have ended after season 1…. it just keeps getting *****ier and *****ier…. nucky is no more than worthless dirt, why would i want to see what he does next? he has ruined all of the quality characters within the show. such a waste…

  3. This is not a review, it’s a fan boy summery with spoilers.

  4. This series is so boring, what a waste of time and talent. Better to watch the PBS Documentary series Prohibition (2001). Also, this ‘so-called’ review is all hype.

  5. Oo JIMMY You excite The HELL out Of Me. (Goodness) Please Kidnap Me

  6. The show sucks now without Jimmy!!

    • I agree with Emily…as soon as i realised that was where they were going, i was so disappointed. When the protagonist becomes nothing but cruel, is the same feeling at the end of godfather 2, why am i interested in a character like this? I can’t even watch season 3…

  7. I just started watching Boardwalk Empire a couple of weeks ago(yeah, I’m behind). Having just finished Season 2, I was utterly shocked that Jimmy Darmody was killed off. I know the main character is Nucky, but Jimmy was a close second. Heck, he was on-screen just as much as Nucky.

    Jimmy is to Nucky as Jesse Pinkman is to Walter White on Breaking Bad. Ironically, in Breaking Bad, Jesse was “supposed” to be killed off in Season 1, but he became a fan favorite and it was decided to keep him. Sadly, that’s not the case with B.E. Jimmy was the most interesting character and now he’s gone. Tragic.