Two principal characters met their maker in the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” Sunday night on HBO — and another who we predicted wasn’t long for this world got an intriguing reprieve.
Who got whacked, and who got pegged by the producers of the HBO Prohibition Era gangster series to stick around for Season Three?
Here’s a rundown, prefaced by the usual SPOILER ALERT, in case you haven’t seen the show and wish to watch it some time this week, in which case we suggest you move on now to some other blog post.
For the rest of you who are dying to know what happened, read on:
Who’s in: The most surprising, at least to us, was the morally and ethically challenged federal agent, Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon), who escaped arrest a week earlier for the murder last season of his fellow agent (who Van Alden drowned in a bizarre “baptism” scene). In a very brief scene in Sunday’s season finale, Van Alden was seen relocating from Atlantic City to Cicero, Ill., masquerading as a married man with the Swedish nanny of his illegitimate infant daughter. Moving Van Alden to Cicero was a canny creative move: In the real history of organized crime in America, this sleepy suburban town just south of Chicago will soon achieve notoriety — a year or two after the time frame of Season Two of “Boardwalk Empire” — as the home base for Al Capone (played in the show by Stephen Graham). How Van Alden might interact with Capone next season is anybody’s guess.
Also in: The Lazarus-like Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), who returned to the pinnacle of Atlantic City’s corrupt power structure through a combination of conniving and some twists of fate that came out in his favor. Most of it had to do with Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), whose fate we’re saving for last because it was the most significant in this show’s two-season history.
Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) will also be back, as she decided once and for all to cast her lot with Nucky, agreeing to marry him so that she won’t have to testify against him — and also to secure a future for her and her two children.
Who’s out: Jimmy. We had a feeling he wouldn’t make it (as we wrote here) because (a) he went back and forth on his alliances so often that he was left with few friends and too many enemies and (b) his personality, stemming from his disastrous family history, was a shambles. We just didn’t know how on Earth he could survive to next season, and our hunch about his fate was correct: In the end, Nucky himself shot Jimmy to death after luring him into a trap.
Darmody was a crucial character this season whose story formed a part of almost every episode. In post-finale interviews conducted by Entertainment Weekly, “Boardwalk Empire” creator Terence Winter and actor Michael Pitt — here and here, respectively — explained the thinking behind the bold decision to kill off Darmody.
Mopping up: And finally, we say good-bye to Robert Clohessy, an actor we’ve liked ever since “Hill Street Blues” way back when and continuing through “Oz” and a slew of other TV shows. He played greedy ward alderman Jim Neary on “Boardwalk” and he was killed by Jimmy and the mask-wearing Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) in Sunday’s finale. Also confirmed: The Commodore (Dabney Coleman) did indeed die a week earlier, so Coleman has also left the series.
Season Three of “Boardwalk Empire” will likely start next September.