Boardwalk Empire Postmortem: Who Made It Out of the Season 4 Finale Alive? Who Didn't?
Steve Buscemi | Photo Credits: HBO
[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from Sunday's Season 4 finale of Boardwalk Empire. Read at your own risk.]
If there's one thing you can count on in a Boardwalk Empire season finale, it's a pile of dead bodies.
And although Season 4's final hour certainly delivered some brutal (and in some cases, heartbreaking) send-offs, the episode was most significant for the number of characters who managed to escape the mayhem. Perhaps the most notable survivor was Eli (Shea Whigham), who, despite being forced to conspire against his brother Nucky (Steve Buscmemi), was spared thanks to his son William (Ben Rosenfield).
"If Willie hadn't walked in, it would have been the end," executive producer Terence Winter tells TVGuide.com. "Nucky would have put the bullet in Eli's head. He was prepared to do it, making a very persuasive argument that Eli had it coming. But the fact that his son walked in at the moment is what saved his life."
Of course, Nucky didn't just let Eli live. He also set up his escape to the Midwest after Eli killed Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty), who forced Eli to betray Nucky in the first place. Even though Eli's hands were tied by Knox, Winter says Nucky isn't likely to forgive Eli, who previously betrayed him in Season 2.
"I don't think that relationship is ever going to be the same again," he says. "Nucky feels a certain amount of responsibility toward June and the other kids. [He and Eli] have business interests in common, but for the most part, I think the brother relationship as they know it is over. That's something [Nucky] can't forgive."
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Also living to fight another day is Dr. Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), who, after surviving an assassination attempt ordered by Nucky, was arrested and turned into an informant for J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin) and the Bureau of Investigation. Winter says that unlike other recent antagonists, viewers can expect more of Narcisse next season. "Cutting a deal with the FBI, if anything, is only giving Narcisse more power," Winter says. "He has got friends in very high places now."
Narcisse's nemesis, however, is weaker than ever. After all, it was during a meeting with Chalky (Michael Kenneth Williams) that Narcisse's planned murder was accidentally thwarted by Chalky's daughter Maybelle (Christina Jackson), who stepped in front of the sniper's bullet without knowing it. "Chalky is very much a broken man by the end of Season 4," Winter says. "But he is extremely resilient and will come back from this in some way, shape or form. There is a lot of damage done to Chalky psychologically, and how he and Nucky work through it will be the stuff we'll be exploring as we move forward in the series."
Of course, the episode's biggest tragedy is the death of Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), who was the unwitting sniper who killed Maybelle and was fatally shot in the aftermath. Despite spending the entire season trying to shed his days a gun-for-hire, Richard was forced to pick up his gun one last time as part of a deal he made with Nucky that revealed where Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) was buried in order to put Gillian (Gretchen Mol) away for murder.