"Boardwalk Empire" -- Episode 12 "A Return to Normalcy"

12/07/2010 Posted by Admin

"Boardwalk Empire" -- Episode 12 "A Return to Normalcy"

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

After twelve episodes of trust and betrayal, violence and salvation, Atlantic City hopes for, as President Warren G. Harding put it, "a return to normalcy."

Nucky's empire lays wasted as his power slips. His future in-office uncertain, he makes moves to restore his kinship with Jimmy, his brother Eli, while his former hunter, Arnold Rothstein, offers peace. Things change quickly to restore the status quo, but knowing what we already know, there's not really any going back.

As such, episode twelve makes no bones about how little a chance remains for a return to any kind of normalcy. Nucky's relationships have all but soured. In the case of Margaret, who finally accepts her place by his side to avoid poverty, she learns the full truth about the man--although she still disapproves of his violent actions.

Much is made about Nucky's sorted past in this episode, but it's rarely anything the show hasn't already implied. After Margret comes across the grave of Nucky's dead wife and child, we learn of his tragic affair. It certainly expands Nucky’s character, yet it didn't feel like the payoff their relationship deserved. It's a scene that could have happened earlier this season, and because we already knew of both their deaths, it wasn't much of a revelation.

The episode’s centerpiece comes in the parallel editing of Nucky’s crime crackdown speech and the murder of the D'Alessio brothers. Once again, we see Nucky’s private and public, criminal and political sides juxtaposed--but again, it’s nothing we didn’t already know about the man.

And that's the biggest problem with "A Return to Normalcy."  Rather than tying up loose ends from this season, it repeats itself and in an effort to set up the next season. Obviously, the producers must give reason for people to come back, but it just didn't feel like the fitting farewell to what's been a fantastic first season. We're given a gorgeously photographed montage that shows our characters on the verge of a new beginning, but that gives us only a semi-colon rather than the hard period the season deserved.

That’s not to say the oncoming change isn’t compelling. It’s a wonderfully shot and acted finale, which shows off the fine work of the show’s entire production. The episode’s final shots of Jimmy looking out over the beach, symbolically taking up Nucky’s mantel, as Nucky and Margaret warily look over the same water, indicates that the best is still yet to come.

Grade: B

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