Who else can’t wait for Sunday night’s Boardwalk Empire season finale? It was a slow start, but now every thread of the narrative is coming together. It’s a perfect storm (between Nucky, Chalky, Capone, and Richard, many heads are set to roll). We’ve already lost Owen Slater and Billie Kent (so Nucky and Margaret are sans their illicit lovers; can they find their way back to one another and should they?). I think we’re due for one more death. Remember, this is the show that killed off Angela and the Commodore prior to last season’s finale when Nucky put a bullet in Jimmy. So who gets it on Sunday night? Discounting the factual characters (I doubt that the show will suddenly revise history and do away with Capone or Rothstein), anyone is fair game (with the possible exception of Eddie; if he was set to die, it would’ve happened last week when Chalky’s soon-to-be-son-in-law performed impromptu surgery). Here are the major players who could leave the canvas.
Nucky Thompson: But he’s the lead, you say! Well, so was Jimmy. One could argue that the first two seasons of Boardwalk were really Jimmy’s story. And yet Nucky did away with his surrogate son as payback for Jimmy’s attempt to take over Atlantic City. Nucky as a memory is unlikely, but since the show moved forward and, in many ways, improved following the departure of Jimmy, I would enter Season Four with sorrow and confidence if Nucky heads for the grave.
Margaret Thompson: She was so cool at the start of the show, plucky, resourceful, and even willing to help Nucky fight his enemies. Now she’s a sanctimonious mess, turning her nose up at Nucky and Billie as she knocked boots with Owen. He’s gone, but Margaret is carrying Owen’s child. So perhaps she turns to her doctor friend for an abortion and things go very, very wrong. If it were to happen, Nucky would have even more guilt to carry (storyline possibilities abound), but I doubt the show would do away with its female lead (unless Richard’s Julia is set to step closer to center stage).
Chalky White: After a season spent mainly on the sidelines, Chalky is back and poised to claim a space on the boardwalk. His dream of a club is too delicious an opportunity to pass up, but maybe that’s the point. Chalky and Nucky are finally on equal footing, and there might be a tragic irony in the fact that Chalky, just before he takes a huge step towards acceptance, is felled by Rosetti’s crew. This would be truly shocking and unfortunate given what Wire fans know Michael K. Williams is capable of. Probably not gonna happen, but anything is possible.
Nelson Van Alden: If anyone was going to meet their maker last season, the obsessed Prohibition agent seemed a very likely candidate. But Van Alden fled to Cicero under an alias, expanded his family with the help of the clever Sigrid, got a job selling irons, but ultimately left the firm when the work was no longer to his liking (who hasn’t wanted to smash a co-worker’s face with a hot iron?). Now, through several twists of fate, Van Alden is mixed up with Al Capone. Does Capone bring Van Alden back to New Jersey and his ultimate end? Probably. Eventually. But next week seems too soon to play that particular card.
Eli Thompson: Nucky’s formerly traitorous brother worked his way back into Nucky’s good graces. And Eli brought Capone to assist in the fight against Rosetti. With Jimmy and Owen gone, Nucky needs a right-hand man. Eli is filling the bill nicely, and he and Nucky have one of the most compelling sibling relationships on TV. Will the show throw all of that away? If it makes Nucky an even angrier gangster, more determined to spare no one, perhaps. And Eli has more than enough children to fill the the Thompson familial void. But I’d hate to lose the character.
Dunn Purnsley: Chalky has his own second, but he’s had even less to do than Chalky this season. That’s a shame when you remember how he went toe-to-toe with Mr. White in their jail cell. If Chalky were to come to an untimely end, Dunn could step in and pick up his mantle. But Dunn is the more likely victim from the Chalky camp. You might think that his death would do little to the fabric of the series. But giving Chalky yet another chip on his shoulder is tantalizing.
Gillian Darmody: Jimmy’s mother, far too loving, already took a life this season, her late, beloved son’s doppelganger. Don’t be surprised if she’s at it again on Sunday (Gyp doesn’t know who he’s tangling with). But Gillian could also meet her maker. At some point her treachery is bound to catch up. It could be now, paving the way for Richard to save young Tommy and make a family with Julia. I love to hate Gillian, but you don’t label Mr. Harrow “not a complete person” and get away with it.
Richard Harrow: Please, please, please don’t let it be Richard. He is one of the most compelling characters on television. And he’s finally found love! But despite the fact that he’s one of the few people who does not have it out for Nucky, he might get caught in the crossfire. It would be a tragic end for a tragic hero. And it wouldn’t shock me at all if the show dispenses with him in order to have Nucky and Gillian lock horns over young Tommy.
Gyp Rosetti: At first I thought that Gyp was set to become Boardwalk’s Ralphie Cifaretto, set for one more season before Nucky slices his head off. But Gyp’s number is up. Whether Nucky survives or not, too many forces are closing in on the Sicilian. Long and short, if he can’t even strap the bottles down properly, he can’t be a player in this game. I get Gyp; wanting what’s dangled before him, just out of his reach. But he doesn’t play well with others. It’s an obvious choice, but I bet Gyp doesn’t make it to Season Four.
Place your money on Gyp, hold your breath for Richard and Eli, and prepare to be shocked if it’s Margaret. Or Chalky. Or Nucky.