Once they’re alone, Nucky’s all paranoid again, and telling Eli that no one knows him, no one looks into his business, no one “they” don’t already trust gets near them. Eli nods and agrees with his “brother.” It may be forged on greed, paranoia and mutual resentment, but still. Aww.
Margaret wakes up in the middle of the night because he “monthly’s” back. She cleans herself up in the shared bathroom and comes out to see Nucky standing in the hallway. He just wants to talk but when he takes a step toward Margaret she instinctively steps back in fear. Nucky’s stunned and a little hurt that she’s afraid of him because “he’s the only father Teddy and Emily have,” but he says he’s willing to “forgive her” for anything she felt the need to do. Asshole.
He repeats that he forgives her and it’s time to come home but Margaret looks at her doorway. Nucky moves forward to see where Margaret and the children are living and asks why she’d submit herself to that. Spite? He tells her she belongs with him because she’s spoiled for any other life, and she needs to ask herself what she’s willing to sacrifice just to prove a point that doesn’t even matter. Yes, just let Nucky’s utter lack of self-awareness or morality prove it for you.
Margaret’s not really saying anything but clearly torn between the personal misery but financial security of being Nucky’s wife until Nucky comes over to her with a large stack of bills, just like when he had Hans killed, and tells her to take it for the children. Or herself. No one’s watching. No one’s judging. Just take it. It’s only money and it doesn’t mean anything. Margaret’s finally tipped toward a side and is disgusted with Nucky, telling him it most certainly does mean something, then walks into her room to get away from him.
While a piano plays a bittersweet version of “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” Nucky’s back on the boardwalk, all gussied up and wearing his carnation like nothing happened. Except he’s not strutting like a peacock or holding court. The doormen at the Ritz still treat him like royalty but he decides to go watch the ocean while he has a smoke. Some jamoke walks up asking if he’s Nucky Thompson. Nucky stares him down until he leaves.
Nucky heads back toward the hotel but gets distracted by his carnation and drops it on the ground. His wedding band is gone, too, and he briefly gets lost in a thought while taking a drag on his cigarette before walking off into the crowd. And we fade to black on the season as Patti Smith and the Boardwalk Empire house band, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, pick up the song and sing us out.
This has been a nervy, disconcerting season and despite the great finale, I’m not sure how well the season holds up as a whole, but damn, if they didn’t make sure I was good and on the hook with this finale. A little sad that Gyp isn’t an arch nemesis, but with Arnold brought low by Nucky, maybe he’ll be next year’s big bad. Or, really, Nucky is kind of the show’s ultimate big bad. Not sure how they’ll be able to incorporate Margaret without her compromising and being miserable, again, but, (un?)surprisingly, Winter and the writing staff really love Richard, so he MIGHT end up back with Nucky. Not that it’s written, yet. Ah. So many things that could happen, and nine months to nitpick every possibility.
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