Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale: Bye Bye Jimmy Darmody
Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire ended in bloody fashion last night as series creator/writer Terence Winter elected to kill off his 2nd principal character James “Jimmy” Darmody in a decision that has sent shockwaves through the shows legion of followers.
When I first heard of the premise of Boardwalk during the summer of 2010, I couldn’t have been more excited for the show to start. Given Winter’s success cultivating The Sopranos into must-see TV it was not a stretch to think Boardwalk would become a hit, and I immediately bought into the visual creations and characters they created in order to accurately depict Atlantic City during the Prohibition Era. Despite the fact that the interactions of the various historical figures portrayed in this show is fictional and done primarily to spruce up the storylines, as a fan of pretty much any show or documentary highlighting gangsters I still enjoyed seeing the young versions of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Meyer Lansky conspire on screen. Casting Steve Buscemi in the lead role as the corrupt and powerful “Nucky” Thompson was a logical decision based on his pedigree (for my money his greatest performance to date is still his Wedding Singer “best man/better man” diatribe), and with Martin Scorsese directing the premiere episode last year Boardwalk scored the highest rating for an HBO pilot since 2004.
My friends and I had been anxiously waiting for a suitable Sunday night replacement for The Sopranos for years now, and for at least half of Season 1 we thought we had found what we were looking. While still a decent watch, as a result of a few convoluted episodes and storylines my initial enthusiasm for Boardwalk has waned with each passing week. One of the few characters that kept me interested in the series was James Darmody. Formerly serving as Nucky’s driver, protégé, and enforcer, Darmody cast a dark shadow over practically each scene he was in. A World War I veteran haunted by his brutal experiences in the Great War, his character gave the show an element of danger. He seemed to prone to violent outbursts, routinely handing out beatings and murdering his fair share of people. Season 1 ended on high note for Darmody, as he joined forces with his father (The Commodore) and Sheriff Eli Thompson (Nucky’s brother) in an attempt to take over Atlantic City from Nucky.
As Season 2 wore on, it became evident that Darmody was conflicted. He wanted to take the next step and become the next boss of Atlantic City, but his betrayal of Nucky weighed heavily on his mind and created conflict with his co-conspirators in the booze trade and with those in his father’s inner circle. Darmody was unable to talk his group out of the attempted hit on former mentor’s life, which continued a trend of having his decisions questioned by those around him. His world seemed to be caving in, and for whatever reason Winter decided it was time to push him towards the path of no return. Jimmy’s wife Angela was killed off by his rival Manny Horvitz, and the history of his bizarre relationship with his mother Gillian was examined in last week’s disturbing episode that made me think very strongly about never watching another minute of Boardwalk again.
Last night’s finale started off on an encouraging note with Darmody and his fellow war veteran/friend Richard Harrow taking out a few Klansman. The Darmody/Harrow combination had become not only one of my favorite television enforcer duos of all time, but also one of the few bright spots still left in Boardwalk, as they killed off numerous characters in their two seasons of mayhem together. Jimmy apologized to Nucky for his various transgressions and tried to make amends by doing him one last favor, him and Harrow forced Boss Neary to recant his previous statements about Nucky before they murdered him. With Nucky avoiding jail due in part to Jimmy’s actions, I figured the season would end on a good note for the show’s two main characters. I was wrong on all counts. Jimmy is summoned by Nucky to a meeting to supposedly gain his revenge on Horvitz, but elects to show up unarmed and without Harrow, apparently resigned to his fate. In Season 1 Darmody famously told Nucky he couldn’t be half a gangster anymore, and on this rain-drenched night the Nuck showed his true colors by killing Jimmy.
This move was definitely a bold decision by Winter, as he eliminated arguably his most popular and polarizing character. I will definitely miss Darmody’s on-screen persona, and feel slightly robbed that we didn’t get to see him fulfill his potential or at the very least murder Horvitz. As Boardwalk moves into a new era with Season 3, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the primary antagonist to Nucky in Atlantic City. Hopefully the Capone/Luciano/Lansky contingent will be active going forward as the new generation of mobsters continues to make waves, and what becomes of Harrow is anybody’s guess. At this point in time my interest in Boardwalk is officially lukewarm, but as always I will probably give it a few episodes next fall to see if my interest can be renewed again.Follow us on Twitter:@PACsSports