‘Boardwalk Empire’: A Way Out and a New Beginning?

Published 1 year ago by , Updated November 19th, 2013 at 10:43 am,

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Episode 11 Boardwalk Empire: A Way Out and a New Beginning?

[This is a review of Boardwalk Empire season 4, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]


New beginnings don’t come easy, and they come that much harder for the characters of Boardwalk Empire; on this is series, making plans for changing your future is tantamount to inviting the Grim Reaper into your home. But sometimes the opportunity presents itself and when faced with the possibility of starting over somewhere new – a place where the events of the past can stay buried – most of the inhabitants of the series take pause and consider.

Then, in the case of Gillian Darmody, there’s the utter possibility of renewal and rebirth with Piggly Wiggly exec Roy Phillips (Ron Livingston) somewhere new, like California. In addition, after some soul-searching and coming upon the realization that she’s not in any place to raise a child, Gillian willingly gives up the fight to continue the battle for her grandson Tommy. Such a change of course was an immediate sign (along with Roy’s cryptic phone call from last week) that something wasn’t quite right, and that an unpleasant fate would befall the former Madame.

Roy has been little more than a symbol for unease all season long; his appearance and dealings having been only with Gillian made it difficult to pin him down, as the Darmody-centric storyline only occasionally crossed over with Richard Harrow and no one else. But by the time she said her goodbyes to Tommy, it was clear Boardwalk Empire was preparing to write an exit for Gillian, by first offering her a chance to start over, and then pulling the rug out from under her with the reveal that Leander Whitlock (Dominic Chianese) had colluded with Roy and his fellow Pinkerton detectives to extract a confession of murder from the beleaguered woman.

Gretchen Mol in Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Episode 11 Boardwalk Empire: A Way Out and a New Beginning?

Endings that don’t come via the business end of a handgun, knife, or some bludgeoning device are hard to come by on this series, so, in that sense, what appears to be the last we’ll see of Gillian Darmody (and Gretchen Mol) can either be seen as the series easing back on the violence, or going full throttle on a character who has been incessantly wronged by men, and ultimately became a nasty product of that horrific, sustained mistreatment. And somehow, Roy calling her “courageous” only served to underline Gillian’s dark journey since making the acquaintance of the Commodore.

Of course, Gillian’s not the only one presented with an exit strategy not to their liking. Chalky White and Daughter Maitland find themselves in the company of Chalky’s former mentor Oscar Boneau (played by Louis Gossett Jr.). While there, the opportunity to start anew down in South Carolina presents itself, but that winds up being upset by all the loose ends back in Atlantic City – which sets Chalky on a collision course with Narcisse and Nucky, who he understandably believes betrayed him.

But the end of ‘Harve de Grace’ belongs to Nucky, who sets up the season finale by telling Sally Wheet he wants out of the game. Of course, with an hour left, Boardwalk Empire won’t just let Nucky Thompson go quietly into retirement – especially since Agent Tolliver has so much riding on Eli and the big meeting he’s about to set up. Chances are, with all those people coming to the table, season 5 will look a little different, cast-wise.


Boardwalk Empire will conclude season 4 next Sunday with ‘Farewell Daddy Blues’ @9pm on HBO.

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  1. well Nuckys wish to leave the game, I would argue, comes primarily from the fact that he doesn`t want to end his brother. at least that`s my feeling.
    I`m glad Gillian had a larger role in this season, though it was telegraphed pretty early that he might be a Pinkerton. the only real question in that regard was who hired him. but even with her in custody I don`t think that`s the last we see of her.
    all in all a nice setup for the finale. after the subjectively disappointing 3rd season this one was way better in my opinion. can`t wait to see how things play out for all of these sociopaths :D

  2. This was an okay episode. It seemed like another filler episode in which much of the last 2 episodes could have been done in 1 but overall it was okay.

  3. I enjoyed the episode. Expected it to be a little more action heavy (in the past it felt like episode before the finale was very action packed, while the finale acted as a coup de grâce for the antagonist and served as a clean-up/set-up for the next season).

    Also would like to mention that the Gillian thread ended(?) quite well. The pacing was a bit slow there for my taste, but the pay-off really took me by surprise. So if it is her end on the series, it was a good end.

  4. I did think that this season would go like the previous 3; with a lot more action in the final episodes. It started looking different since the 10th episode so I’m not so surprised by this slower episode, it was still very solid and brought us the end (maybe?) to a character. The show succeeded in making me care about Gillian even though she had meant trouble all the time in the previous seasons. Tragically we see her fall victim to men once again, this time she’s paying for her crimes but she was still manipulated.

    I was disappointed at first when Roy shot the other executive out of the blue; it seemed too much of a stretch that even characters you encounter by chance in this series have guns and end up killing other people but did they turn that around! I did not see the twist coming at all!

  5. Another great episode and it’s always enjoyable to see the underrated Gretchen Mol give her subtle disturbed performance. I think this season has been very good and am looking forward to the finally.

  6. Where’d that ‘easy rider’ go?

    • I know right, either she set him up or she left him because of his family.