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'Boardwalk Empire' Season Finale Recap: Focus on the Family

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With Tollinox no longer a nuisance, we shift our focus back to Chalky and Narcisse, who have a tense meeting at the Onyx Club that night. Chalky, still trying to acquire "safe passage" to Maybelle's wedding, offers Daughter's location in exchange. It's an empty deal from the start, because no one knows where Daughter is, and Narcisse, through a smirk, informs Chalky that there is no wedding – presenting a terrified Maybelle as proof. "A nod from me, and she's gone," Narcisse intones. For a brief moment, it seems Chalky made a mistake coming back to town. And then for another brief moment, as he looks to the ceiling, there's a glimmer of hope as we see the other half of Nucky and Richard's deal. The former sniper is about to take out Narcisse (proving that Nucky did have Chalky's back after all). Except in a twist worthy of the character and that put this season finale into the "best ever" category, Richard discovers that he's no longer the killer he once was. Between his hand injury (from narrowly escaping Carl Billings) and his decision to give up what he does best in exchange for a settled married life, he's literally lost his touch. He tenses up, loses focus, and instead of Narcisse, it's Maybelle who takes the hit after she unexpectedly walks into Richard's field of vision. The gravity of the scene is heightened by the directorial decision to have everything go quiet – and it's not until a female patron notices blood on her neck and Narcisse feels the blood on his forehead that we realize what's happened. An overhead shot shows Maybelle's lifeless body, Chalky crumbling in response, and only then does the aforementioned female patron scream and the inevitable chaos ensue, with federal agents entering looking for Eli. Chalky's and Narcisse's men fire gunshots toward the ceiling, hitting Richard in the torso – his bloody fingers suggesting he's not long for this world. He manages to escape unnoticed, while a devastated Chalky is unwittingly pulled away from his daughter's corpse – and Narcisse is taken away by the feds. Richard limps his way to the beach, clutching his abdomen and settles in a poetic spot under the boardwalk, the place where he and Julia first made love.

While in jail, Narcisse is visited by Hoover, the only man who succeeds, where so many others have failed this season, at cutting the arrogant Narcisse down to size. We learn that Narcisse has lived in the U.S. for 26 years, yet has never become a citizen. "The exiled does not choose his Babylon," responds Narcisse. But Hoover has no patience for the Doctor's syrupy biblical bromides. In an incredible scene in which Narcisse and Hoover spar magnificently, the Bureau of Investigation director forces the Trinidadian to become an informant – on the man Narcisse considers a "hero," Marcus Garvey. If Narcisse doesn't comply, Hoover "will make sure [he] never [sees] daylight in America again." Having become the thing he most despises, Narcisse reluctantly grumbles in agreement, only to be reminded by Hoover that he is not his equal: A slow zoom in on Jeffrey Wright's face and a look of bitter agony conveys Narcisse's defeat as he slowly utters, "Yes, sir."

Following a brief scene that establishes the cancellation of Nucky's plan to exit stage right and instead stick around Atlantic City, Margot Bingham's luscious voice fills the air as she sings "Farewell Daddy Blues" over the season-ending montage, filling us in on where our favorite characters stand: Eli has gone to Chicago for his safety, where he's picked up under an elevated train by a familiar face – Nelson Van Alden. An instant look of recognition between the two men hints that we may not be calling Van Alden "George Mueller" for much longer. Margaret, carrying Emily, with Teddy by her side, walks through a gorgeous courtyard in an upscale neighborhood, where she is welcomed into her new home by Arnold Rothstein, who remained true to his word. Sally, alone and depressed, pours herself a drink, leaving her relationship with Nucky rather open-ended. Chalky has made his way back to Oscar Boneau's house, sitting on the porch and throwing back whiskey, his next move a big question mark. But in the next shot, of a sad-looking Daughter performing in a juke joint – she obviously did not return to Narcisse – we're reminded that there is still hope yet for these two lovers.

As the song finishes, things go eerily quiet, and we see Richard walking toward his family's farmhouse, now surrounded by sunlight and bright green grass instead of a harsh Wisconsin winter. Waiting for him out front are his sister, Emma, her newborn baby and her husband, Hubert, Julia, Paul and Tommy. Julia walks toward Richard, smiling – it's as if he's finally reached heaven. What's so heartbreaking is that's exactly where he was. We cut to Richard, and his face is whole again. And then we cut back to the boardwalk, where Richard's bloody hand and mask rest on the sand, his dead body the last thing we see as the credits roll over the sound of crashing waves.

Sad as it is to see Richard go, it was the only way out. If he had survived, Chalky would've come after him for killing his daughter – if Richard hadn't beaten him to the punch by committing suicide. There is no way he could have lived with himself after botching his task. He died in peace, knowing he had the love of a family he so desired, and most importantly, whether we see them again or not, that Tommy and Julia are out of danger. Mission accomplished, and RIP, Richard.

Previously: Susquehanna Blues

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