As befitting a drama focused on Prohibition-era bootleggers, it was a bloody finale for the fourth season of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
Who survived, who died in Episode 48 (“Farewell Daddy Blues”)?
Gangster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is alive and well. But his plan to quit the crime biz and join speakeasy owner Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette) in Florida is put on hold when he’s detained by Agent Harold Selby (Jacob Ware) from the FBI.
The feds don’t arrest Nucky for racketeering, but they do want to know the whereabouts of his brother Eli (Shea Whigham). That’s because Prohibition Agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty) was brutally murdered by Eli while his terrified wife and children cowered nearby.
Knox attempted to topple Nucky’s multi-state criminal network using inside information supplied by Eli, who cooperated to keep his son Willie (Ben Rosenfield) from going to prison. But Knox’s gambit collapsed when Eli failed to get the bad guys together in one room.
Nucky got wise to the scheme, canceled the meeting and probably would have put a bullet in Eli’s head if Willie hadn’t burst in at the last moment.
So where is Eli? He’s in Chicago working for mobster Al Capone (Stephen Graham), whose power is growing at the expense of aging mafia boss Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci). Torrio stepped down after barely surviving a hit by one of Capone’s hoods.
Sitting in jail is Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol), charged with drowning a man then claiming it was her son and that he had died of a drug overdose.
During Episode 47, Gillian confessed to her lover Roy Phillips (Ron Livingston) that she committed murder. Wrong move, because he’s an undercover Pinkerton detective.
Gillian hoped to prevail in court, however, because the man’s body was cremated along with the evidence. And her real son, Jimmy, was buried in an unmarked grave after being shot by Nucky.
Testifying against Gillian is disfigured war veteran Richard Harrow (Jack Huston). Richard and his new bride Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) want to retain custody of Gillian’s grandson Tommy (Brady Noon), and a murder conviction would seal the deal.
That’s why Richard asks Nucky to reveal the location of Jimmy’s body. In exchange, Richard agrees to kill Dr. Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), the heroin kingpin who wrested control of the Onyx Club from rival Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams).
Part of Richard’s plan works perfectly. Investigators dig up Jimmy’s body and identify him from a war injury. And Julia, her father Paul (Mark Borkowski) and young Tommy join Richard’s twin sister Emma (Katherine Waterston) on her farm in Wisconsin.
Part of the plan tragically misfires, however. Richard takes aim at Narcisse in the Onyx Club, but Chalky’s teenage daughter Maybelle (Christina Jackson) steps in the way. The bullet meant for Narcisse kills Maybelle instead.
Shot by one of Narcisse’s bodyguards, Richard stumbles outside and collapses under the boardwalk. At first it appears he recovers from the wound and reunites with his family. But that turns out to be a dream – most likely a dying dream.
As for Narcisse, he’s blackmailed by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin). To avoid prosecution, Narcisse must secretly report on the “radical agenda and ties to foreign powers” of activist Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Assn.
“Brother Garvey is a hero dedicated to the liberation of a great people,” Narcisse protests.
But unless he cooperates, Narcisse will “never see daylight in America again.”
Ever the pragmatist, Narcisse agrees to Hoover’s demands, thus launching a key plotline when “Boardwalk Empire” returns next year for Season 5.