It seems like everyone associated with Boardwalk Empire, from the fans to the show’s creator Terence Winter, has accepted as a foregone conclusion that the series’ main character, Nucky Thompson, has died.
I, for one, am not quite ready to declare Nucky dead, even if the person who invented his character says he is.
Thank you, Mr. Winter, for bringing Nucky into our lives. But he is no longer yours – he is ours, he is the world’s. And even though you think you know what Nucky is – and even whether he is dead or alive – you could be wrong. After all, I think you’ve been wrong before, and I think many fans would agree with me. For instance, when you said that in the Season 4 finale, had Will not walked in the room, Nucky would have killed Eli. I disagree. In the end, the good in Nucky would have prevailed.
Sure, Nucky had a close relationship with Jimmy Darmody, too, but killed him anyway, some will say – so why not Eli? It’s different. First, Eli was Nucky’s own brother, his flesh and blood. His beloved mother’s son. His beloved nephew’s father. That bond is a little different than measured affection for a boy he nurtured out of guilt for pimping out his mother, Gillian. Second, Nucky easily could have killed Eli later on, but never did. All it would take would be one phonecall to Al Capone, during those seven years when Eli was in Chicago. No one would even connect Nucky to it.
Getting back to Nucky’s supposed death…Jimmy’s son, Tommy, who broke through into Nucky’s circle long before he broke into the Ritz Carlton, with the alias Joe Harper, shot Nucky twice in the body and once in the left cheek. Not nearly as many shots as those that felled Johnny Torrio, who make a full recovery – save for a new nagging ailments he used for excuses when it suited him. As for nearly having one’s face blown off and living to tell about it and then some, well, look no further than the man who helped to raise a young Tommy after Jimmy died – Richard Harrow. And since Boardwalk has taken so many cues from the Godfather all season long, here’s another comparison: In Godfather 1, Vito Corleone was shot five times, and lived. His son, Santino (Sonny), was riddled with bullets from countless machineguns. Clearly, he was dead. Nucky’s shooting, by comparison to Sonny’s and Torrio’s, was like getting hit by a snowball.
Look, I’m saying Nucky is alive because I want him to be alive, just like I want the series to be alive. But I also don’t want the ceiling in the room from which I write this to crumble and fall on me in the next three seconds, and I believe it will not (three…two…one…there, it didn’t, I was right). Therefore, just because we would like something to be true, doesn’t mean it’s not.
Besides, all this “leave the fans wanting more” that Terence Winter and other modern-day showbiz impresarios espouse is nonsense. What’s the obsession with going out on top? Look at all the great musicians, athletes, actors, and ordinary folks from all walks of life. Do they – or we – call it quits once we’ve peaked and are on the decline?
Was the paunchy Muhammad Ali, who went through the motions against the likes of Richard Dunn and Alfredo Evangelista in the late seventies the same brilliant fighter that destroyed a powerhouse like Sonny Liston in the sixties? Did Bette Davis’ performance in The Watcher in the Woods in 1980 really compare with her Oscar-winning roles in Dangerous and Jezebel five decades earlier? Are the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, and The Who as good as they were in their heyday?
More pointedly, look at the iconic television show Dallas. It broke all kinds of records in 1980, and stayed on the air for another 11 years, still a very good show but clearly past its prime, not least of which because some of the show’s more compelling characters either left the series or died in real life. The show journeyed past its prime, but lived on – just like we do.
In fact, even as Dallas – in its latest iteration, reborn in 2012 – suffered its worst blow of all – the death of actor Larry Hagman, the show’s core, who played J.R. Ewing – it persevered. It lost millions of viewers, but retained millions more. Yet TNT, demonstrating it didn’t deserve the honor of hosting Dallas in the first place, decided to cancel the new Dallas after its third season concluded. But Dallas fans are not done, and neither are the cast members. The fight goes on.
At the end of Season 8 of the original series, actor Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby Ewing, decided to leave the show. Season 9 went on without Bobby.
But Hagman convinced Duffy to return, and voila – season 10 began with Bobby in the shower, saying good morning to his beloved Pamela. Season 9, apparently, was all a dream that Pamela had – poof! Just like that, it was gone.
Maybe some other network will come to its senses and realize what an incredible show Boardwalk Empire has been, and what waste it is to end it after merely five years. There is material ample there to do another 10 great seasons, at least, and with so many great actors, even the show’s star – Steve Buscemi, who plays Nucky – can depart, and the show would suffer a tremendous blow, but still be great.
Nucky can easily survive his gunshot wounds and live to see another day, and another bunch of seasons.
Better yet, bring back Richard Harrow, too, and Arnold Rothstein, Eddie Kessler, and Chalky White (Mickey Doyle can stay dead, for all we care). Let Margaret, or Sally, or Billie, or whoever, find Nucky in the shower (did they even have showers back then?) in the morning, and say: “well, you sure tossed and turned all night,” as a hung-over Nucky responds: “that was some dream I had – don’t ever let me drink that much again.”