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Boardwalk Empire - 5.06 Devil You Know - Review - What Was It All For? Love!

The stakes are high and the writers aren't messing around with this diabolical 6th episode of the final season. Loosing two series regulars whom stem from the first season in juxtaposing scenes, while main character Nucky Thompson seemingly hits rock bottom, only solidifies the urgency of the final battles, last calls, and final words of series.

Tragic Heroes
So often in Gangster dramas certain main characters are pegged as either an anti-heroes or a tragic heroes not unlike Greek Tragedies or even certain plays of William Shakespeare. Boardwalk Empire has taken so many pages from those literary classics for many of it's characters and it has never been as clear as it has been in this episode.   

It wasn't too big of a surprise that Chalky White would come to meet his end before the series was over, but Van Alden's death was the one that really got to me. It wasn't that I didn't think Van Alden couldn't or wouldn't die, but rather I expected something more epic than an office scene where he looses his self control in one final effort, being one of the few people to come close to killing Al Capone, whom I think has been put more in more of a villainous role in Boardwalk, than most other gangster dramas tend to make him out. The suddenness and that fact that D'Angelo would be the one to pull the trigger was shocking (although understandable because he doesn't want his cover blown and because he wants Capone alive!), but I think it also left a deep impression, because of the way Eli reacted, repeatedly apologizing to June and giving Capone agent Ness' name.

The process of eliminating of these two characters does serve the plot in a good way. If we want to get to bottom of the entity and soul of Nucky Thompson, then it makes sense to close in on characters whom should be more important to him such as Eli and Gillian, while also leaving Nucky in a more precarious situation.

The flashback with Gillian was also a nice twist and it leaves one to wonder how she went from a thieving tomboy to being a woman with tact, taste, and refinement? Is it possible that Nucky was a major influence on her? Will he be responsible for putting her in an orphanage in which she will still end up looking beautiful in Neptune's parade or was that all a lie? At the very least it continues to put Gillian and Nucky in parallel, but also adjacent tracks with the series feeling like it's going to come down to them and not just Luciano.

I also want to apologize for a possible mistake I made in the last review. I thought the character (an allusion to Jimmy), who calls himself Joe Harbor, was named Joe Hawk. I'm starting to think that those who think that Joe may be Tommy Darmody looking for answers are on the right track considering they are giving him more screen time. I also am amused by the surname harbor, not just because it goes it thematically goes with the series water front aesthetic, but also because it's a word that can be used as a verb to describe holding onto or guarding something, like one's feelings.

Sally Danzigers
This episode also really lets us see Nucky loath in the slums, as he seeks the company of two course woman in a less than average venue, whom both noticeably speak like his season one girlfriend, Lucy Danzinger. As dirty, gritty, and contemptuous as these scenes were, it still shed light on things. Nucky, despite hitting this low, still remains cheerful full of riddles and poems and for the first time really asks himself what was everything he doing for? Why did it matter that he wanted to get ahead? In fact the contrast between his witty charm and the darkness that surrounds him made for a really memorable scene.

Piece of the Pie
The flashbacks give us a bit of an answer. At that time in Nucky's life, it's easy to see that part of his drive was for the love of his life and where Nucky's innocence or rational still seems in tact, but knowing what happens to Mabel, Gillian, and eventually Jimmy marks some specific change. We know from Nucky telling Margaret in earlier season's that Mabel comes to have a nervous breakdown when she looses her infant son, but scenes of her making strawberry pies rather late at night may suggest there could already be something terribly wrong. 

[The] Devil, You Know...
One thought I had was that perhaps that child was not Nucky's at all. They made a point to have young Nucky eye the Commodore escorting a young female girl presumably into his establishment. Given what we think we know about what will happen to Gillian, perhaps the Commodore has been a pedophile all along and that even Maybel has been at the expense of the Commodore's fetish. This also would add some really tragic weight to Nucky's father-wanna-be story line, where I still hope much like Chalky sacrificed himself for Daughter and her daughter, that Nucky would have sacrificed himself for others too or that maybe he will have a son before all is said and done. In any case it also makes whatever is coming between Gillian and Nucky seem inevitable.

Note: Chalky's sacrifice also points out that love is the answer there as well. He wanted to give another daughter a chance after loosing his own and this was his way at attempting to give back what his previous actions had taken away from his beloved Maybell.

This also makes me wonder what Willie's role is going to be. Viewers haven't seen Eli's son since the second episode and considering Ben Rosenfield is a series regular, one would think that he is meant to have some major important role. Perhaps he will act as a final judgement call for Nucky?!

Another fun twist was with Mickey Doyle. A character who's been so disloyal and never seems too serious, seems to show something more genuine and constant this season, but will it last or is it the truth? 

The Great Scapegoat 
The episode title is also a good one. Devil You Know is a saying that implies that in the end it all comes down to those unethical or immoral deals we make in order to survive or get ahead and that often people will fall onto their own demise in getting what they "deserve". In other words, The Devil always wins and/or the devil made me do it! However, the phrase could imply a contradictory meaning depending on if any of the characters are in fact pegged as the devil himself, rather than all characters being at the expense of some bigger force. Nucky Thompson could end up surviving or coming to realization upon death that there is no devil, only the one he and others let themselves create, as this episode both touched again on dreams ('this is all just a dream') and/or "going home" (heaven).

As for Dr. Valentine Narcisse it's anyone's best guest what will come his way and/or if Nucky Thompson will learn what happened to Chalky and if that will add fuel to his battle with Luciano? I hope for Chalky's sake, especially since Valentine couldn't even do it himself (and a juxtaposing scene to Jimmy's murder scene), that there is some retribution for his sacrifice and that Valentine will find himself at the mercy of Mickey or Nucky, or better yet, Luciano.

Did you enjoy the episode? How do you feel about the deaths of Nelson Van Alden or Albert "Chalky" White? Have any guesses to where everything is going as we approach the penultimate episode of the series? Let us know in the comments below!!

About the Author - Darthlocke4
Laura Becker (Darthlocke 4) is a long time commentator, TV addict, and aspiring writer participating with other fans on SpoilerTV. She writes reviews and analytic type articles. Some of her other interests include philosophy, cultural anthropology, reading, drawing, and working with animals, as she grew up and continues to work on her family's horse farm.
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