Boardwalk Empire – Finale Recap: Richard Harrow’s Dream
Boardwalk Empire aired its Season 4 finale tonight with an episode packed with three jarring deaths and more than a few death threats. As usual, the game has been changed forever.
Episode 12, the finale, of Season 4 of Boardwalk Empire, “Farewell Daddy Blues,” was packed with suspense, chock-full of gasp-worthy moments, and ended with a scene that saw one of our favorite gangsters biting the bullet for good. While Gillian (Gretchen Mol) and Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) dealt with her recent murder charges, Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) made his way back to A.C. in order to settle the score with Nucky (Steve Buscemi). Meanwhile, Eli (Shea Whigham) prepared for the meeting requested by Knox (Brian Geraghty). In Chicago, Al (Stephen Graham) sought to figure out who’d attempted to shoot him dead during last week’s penultimate episode. Can’t Nucky Thompson just make his way to Cuba with Sally (Patricia Arquette) in peace? Here is the Recap and Review of Season 4 Episode 12 of Boardwalk Empire, the finale, “Farewell Daddy Blues”!
I’ll just say this to begin the recap. It’s the finale of Season 4, and we know how this show operates at this point. Nobody is ever allowed to be happy. Happiness has become a blatant giveaway to a massive dose of despair to follow.
First, Al, with the help of Van Alden (Michael Shannon) and Ralph (Domenick Lombardozzi), attempted to figure out just who’d attempted to murder him during Episode 11’s window shooting. Van Alden, who seems to have gained a bit more of Al’s trust, suggested that only someone comfortable enough to maneuver their territory could have attempted such a hit. Also, they knew exactly which phone to call to lure Al into plain sight from across the way. Thus, it seemed Al’s crosshairs were set on none other than his own boss, Torrio (Greg Antonacci), who’d recently become privy to Al’s growing lust for the top spot. Al is hotheaded, of course, and before we knew it Torrio was taking bullets outside of his own home.
Now, it’s important to note that much of this was implied. Al has other random enemies that were mentioned, and we weren’t too familiar with the men who’d shot Torrio in broad daylight. Still, the scene that would result in the hospital later during the finale put an end to things. Torrio, who’d miraculously survived the barrage of bullets, beckoned Al to his hospital bed for a private talk. There, Torrio announced his retirement, recognizing the business as a game for young folks willing to sling a gun. Torrio, in the end, made the decision to head for Europe. Good for Torrio, right? Al, either surprised or ashamed, accepted the top spot from his mentor. There’s no real telling whether Torrio suspected his protégé of anything, but Torrio seems like a forgiver, in any case. It was a nice sendoff.
Meanwhile, Gillian stood trial, and Richard Harrow was asked to take the stand to offer his account of how things had transpired. Richard, who knew the real Jimmy well, testified against Gillian openly. The only truth Gillian could offer up to defend herself was that there wasn’t any body for the court to take into account. If you recall, Roger had been cremated as “Jimmy.” Gillian, however, caused enough of a ruckuss to be ejected from the court, howling about how the men of her world get away with anything at all as the crowd laughed her out of the room. In truth, she’s right! Gillian has done some despicable things, but it is sort of strange that she’s surrounded by men, Richard included, who perpetually get away with countless crimes. Richard, desperate to find Jimmy’s body in an effort to keep Tommy safe from his scary grandma, turned to Nucky for assistance. In exchange for an “anonymous tip” to the press regarding Jimmy’s actual buried body, he’d offer Nucky any favor of his choosing in return. Nucky, making good on his promise, revealed the coordinates of Jimmy’s location. Boardwalk Empire, did we really need to see Jimmy’s skeleton, complete with the bolts in his bad leg? Can’t Jimmy Darmody rest in peace already?
The real meat of Episode 12 of Season 4 focused on both Chalky’s quest for vengeance and Eli’s attempt to rescue his son from prison. First, here’s the recap of what went down with Eli. Nucky had pretty much clued us in to the fact that he was on to his brother’s crooked scheme to expose his operation, eventually choosing to lure Eli to his beachside home prior to hitting up the meeting he’d “planned” with Masseria, Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), and those higher up in the dealings going on in Florida. Eli, confused as to why they couldn’t simply meet up at the hotel with the others, eventually walked straight into Nucky’s clutches. As Knox and his team sat restlessly at the hotel, Nucky revealed the truth to Eli.
This was the second time Eli has attempted a massive attack on Nucky. Of course, the circumstances were different this time around. Nucky cares for Willie (Ben Rosenfield), too. Still, all that Nucky initially knew was that Eli had attempted to set him up. I appreciated the conversation between the two, though, and this was the point where the tides began to turn in Eli’s favor, at least for this reviewer. Everything Eli earns, Nucky seems to take. This season, we witnessed Nucky repeatedly acting as Willie’s father, even if it was in the boy’s best interest. Eli, on the other hand, was left in the dark regarding nearly everything until Knox chose to inform him for purely selfish reasons. It was nice to see Eli stand up to Nucky, even with a gun pointed square at this head. Though, Nucky isn’t really to blame for the fact that Eli hasnt been quite a match for his brother past their childhood. In the end, Willie swooped into the scene to thwart Nucky’s threat, promptly ending the argument between the brothers and Eli’s possible execution. Eli, confessing the whole truth to both Willie and his brother, was left to “drown in” in the sticky situation he’d essentially created with the feds.
Eventually, Eli made his way back to his home without Willie. There, he found an off-his-rocker Knox terrifying his wife and kids. After shuffling his family upstairs, Eli faced his enemy. Knox, who’d been humiliated in front of his team yet again after Eli had failed to deliver on his end of the deal, fired off an aggressive rant that led us to believe he was about to explode. Again, Eli faced the barrel of a gun, but something would snap inside that eventually led to a turning of the tables. I’m thinking it was the moment when Knox alleged to what kind of horrors would happen to Willie in prison. Before we knew it, Eli had disarmed Knox, and the two rolled straight into a brawl that quite resembled the fight between Dunn and Chalky that went down prior in the season. After a brutal series of attacks, Eli eventually got the upper hand on Knox, killing him brutally in a scene that ended up being one of triumphant satisfaction. Still, how would Eli come to deal with this new predicament?
Chalky’s first stop during Episode 12 was an unplanned visit to Nucky’s home after nightfall. There, he pointed a gun at Nucky (many gun-pointing moments during this finale!), furious over what he’d been put through all due to Nucky’s strange new deal with Narcisse. Nucky, who indeed wanted the same thing Chalky coveted most, pleaded with his old partner to give him a shot to set things straight. There was no telling whether Nucky would come to aid Chalky as promised to begin with. Eventually, a meeting with Narcisse at the mayor’s office seemed to display the contrary. Of course, we were privy to the fact that Narcisse had been getting Nucky’s goat as of late. Once Nucky falsely promised that Chalky knew the location of the missing Daughter (Margot Bingham), we almost certainly knew which side he’d truly taken.
The plan was to lure Narcisse into the club under the false assumption that all Chalky wanted was simply the permission to witness his daughter Maybelle’s wedding before skipping town. The two sat at a table alone while the performers continued with their routine on stage. Unfortunately, all did not go according to plan. Chalky hadn’t considered the fact that Narcisse had become aware of who, in truth, Maybelle is. If you recall, the two had a conversation previously in which the girl confided in Narcisse that her wedding had been called off. Narcisse, looking to exchange a daughter for a Daughter, revealed his captive Maybelle’s presence behind a door. Chalky, on his part, had no Daughter to swap for his little girl’s safe return!
From the cover of a room high above, Richard Harrow waited for a clear shot at Narcisse’s head. Richard, who’d promised Nucky a favor, had previously sent Julia (Wren Schmidt), her father, and Tommy off to his sister’s house in Wisconsin for safe keeping, promising to meet them in a few days after taking care of business. Richard bid Tommy farewell with a hug and an “I love you.” One more kill, and Richard was free to live the happy life he’d always dreamed up with his wife and adopted son. Unfortunately, the true terror of the Season 4 finale began here. Just as Richard pulled the trigger on his sniper, Narcisse yanked Maybelle into the crosshair. Thus, Richard Harrow mistakenly killed Chalky White’s daughter, sending the club into a frenzy and White into a complete meltdown. Chalky was dragged away by his crew, and Narcisse eventually ended up in custody. Richard, shot in the crossfire that followed, stumbled under the boardwalk, devastated by his fatal error.
Narcisse was subsequently interrogated by Hoover (Eric Ladin). In yet another twist, Narcisse eventually got what was coming to him. Narcisse, an avid supporter of Marcus Garvey, was given the choice between deportation and acting as a rat against his own cause. Hoover, whom Boardwalk Empire has turned into quite an unlikeable real-world character in his own right, requested a “yes sir” from Narcisse to close out his Season 4 arc. Could there have been any worse fate for Dr. Narcisse than that?
The Season 4 finale, Episode 12, ended with a montage of clips that clued us in on the whereabouts of each character as this set of episodes closed and plots were set up for Season 5. Gillian was alerted to the news of Jimmy’s discovered corpse, sending tears streaming down her face. Gillian, of course, always held out hope that her son was alive. Now, she simply faces a jury for the murder of an innocent boy. Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) popped in for just a moment during the finale to show us Magaret’s new high-end building, and Sally drank a shot in the bar down in Tampa alone. Will Nucky ever make it to Cuba with Sally? Time will tell. Chalky, meanwhile, moved out to Oscar’s old home for some solitude, while Daughter Maitland sang us out from the tight dark quarters of an African American bar.
Nucky and Willie had a final conversation outside of Eli’s home. There, Nucky reminded Willie that he now had the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. Willie, curious as to whether or not he’d prevented Nucky from actually killing his father, had his mind set at ease. According to Nucky, he had no intention of actually murdering his own brother. Eli, for what it’s worth, was scooped up by Van Alden in an interesting twist. Is he actually heading out west to avoid murder charges for killing Federal Agent Knox? Probably not, but the government is out to get him.
To close the recap and review, Richard Harrow boarded a train to Wisconsin. After walking a ways down the track, he caught sight of his family home. On the porch, the entire group sat patiently waiting for his arrival. In a heart-stopping moment, the camera cut back to Richard, whose face was perfectly intact sans the mask that had been a constant source of mockery since returning from war. In this moment, we realized something was amiss. Boardwalk Empire then cut to reality, where Richard Harrow sat dead under the boardwalk. It was a completely tragic scene, but at least the viewers know that Richard saw his dream recognized, if only for the briefest of moments.
What did you think of Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Episode 12, the finale, “Farewell Daddy Blues”? Will you miss Richard Harrow (Why am I even asking this?)? Did his goodbye kiss to Julia and “I love you” to Tommy tip you off? Will you miss the craziness of Agent Knox? Is Narcisse out of the game? What’s going on with Eli? How did you interpret the situation in Chicago? Is that it for Narcisse? Will Nucky make it to Sally?
Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Episode 12, the finale, “Farewell Daddy Blues”!
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Got Something to Add?
They're definitely on the same page as I am when saying, "Boardwalk Empire, did we really need to see Jimmy's skeleton...?" They just opened that old wound and poured the salt right in! For the last three seasons they have killed someone dear to my heart in the show! First Jimmy, second and even more heartbreaking, Owen, and now Richard! I'm grieving!
The killing of Maybelle was unnecessary orverindulgence by the writers. All the rest was OK, but that scene was overdone and ridiculous.
@DavidDenton As much as that was probably the most shocking moment of the season, I think you might be right. Chalky had a rough year. Did they really need to punish him like that over his affair?