It’s been nearly 72 hours since the Boardwalk Empire finale. And like Shane says, you search for 3 days & then you give up the search & assume whatever you’re searching for is now a zombie. I’ve spent the past 3 days searching & here are my conclusions.
I am going to forgive Nucky. I must. I realize now that my initial reaction to hate Terence Winter for having one of my favourite characters kill my very favourite character was my childish heart mourning the loss of Pitt’s sweet face. I realize now that Beast killed Beauty, and I must accept that Beast is a fierce warrior and Beauty didn’t have it in him to wage a war, in fact, he was a terrible boss. Nucky, aged, poor posture, a face only a Paz could love stood taller and prouder than James, who has the face that artists feel compelled to sketch, the fullest pinkest lips in all the land, and shoulders that beg to be embraced and sweetly kissed.
Jimmy, though an excellent soldier, was too soft, too kind to survive the war he was in. I don’t believe he survived the war he had returned from. His body remained in tact, but he was already one of the lost, and only he and Richard knew this frightening fact. If you look at the people who raised Jimmy, one of them was bound to kill him eventually. They abused him his entire life, it was only a matter of time, the war was just a respite, a place for Jimmy to run to and be alone for a time.
I may be in a good place with losing Jimmy right now, but I wasn’t for a good 48 hours of my search because I did not see his death coming, not even a bit. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I wasn’t even slightly worried about Jimmy, but I truly wasn’t. For one, I thought that Game of Thrones was the only show that kills leads early in the series. I felt safe that Nucky, Margaret & Jimmy would survive the bulk of the series. Now I realize that this is Nucky’s story & we Pitt-enthusiasts let his full lips distract us. I also realize that when Terence Winter and Tim Van Patten get their evil genius heads together, they often kill beloved characters in beautiful tragic ways. Jimmy’s death scene is one of the most beautifully shot scenes I’ve ever witnessed. It was brutal and gorgeous, the perfect combination for a death scene. It’s what I hope my untimely demise resembles.
James was a player in Nucky’s game, and Nucky decided he was no longer necessary. I don’t think Nucky came to this decision lightly, but he won’t regret his decision; he looked at Manny, at Owen, at Eli and at Jimmy and realized, correctly, that Jimmy was the weak link. Owen & Eli may not be as likeable (or beautiful) as Jimmy, but they are cold and heartless and just as skilled killing machines as Jimmy. Manny is too good a character to say good-bye to just yet. William Forsythe is the Ian McShane of Boardwalk Empire. He’s smart and cruel and terribly wise. Manny cannot die, not yet, and not by some boy in his 20s whose selfish confidence in his bad-ass swagga caused his gentle wife and her lover’s death. I absolutely agree with Manny that Jimmy is the reason Angela died. Jimmy is the reason Jimmy died. Jimmy had two options: leave the world he was raised in or excel at the world he was raised in. Be a Don, or be a Tony. If he had made either of these choices, he would have survived.
I do believe Jimmy knew he was going to die. The episode was filled with farewells. To Richard he said, “Time to come home. Promise me you’re going to try.” One of the reasons I loved Jimmy and Richard’s relationship is because Jimmy always saw Richard as a whole person, someone capable of providing friendship, companionship, someone deserving of love. Jimmy helped heal Richard, and because Richard didn’t go into the war as damaged as Jimmy, he has more a chance of making a life after the war. Jimmy helped heal Richard as best Richard can be healed. I’m excited to see how Richard will be when Boardwalk Empire returns, and how his character will evolve. I am also desperate to see his twin sister. Make that character happen, TV people!
To Gillian, Jimmy trusted her with Tommy. Gillian is a whole person, not just a victim of her abuse or an abuser herself, and maybe the son she abused so terribly trusting his son with her will help her realize her sins and not repeat them on Tommy.
To Tommy Jimmy told a story about running off and being alone, playing, pretending to be someone else. He said to Tommy, “It was just me, myself & I” and when Tommy said, “Can I do that?” Jimmy replied, “Sure.” He gave Tommy his independence. He said to his son, when you no longer have me, you’ll have yourself. You’ll always have yourself and you can always be alone inside your head. This is a message all parents should give their children. You cannot protect children from witnessing, becoming victim of, or participating in evil, but you can build them up and assure them that they are strong within themselves. Jimmy gave this message to Tommy, and Tommy chose to be a soldier.
Giving Tommy his dog tags gave his son a tangible talisman to hold when he needed to channel Jimmy’s strengths, because, though we focus a lot on Jimmy’s mistakes, he was a strong, admirable man, and in some ways, it’s good that his weaknesses were that he wasn’t bloodthirsty and that he asked forgiveness for his sins and offered repentance. If anything, Jimmy’s acts of repentance – paying his debt to Chalky, helping Nucky the way he would have if he hadn’t turned on him – were good things, even if they contributed to his death. Jimmy felt guilt for trying to have Nucky killed, Jimmy felt guilt for making decisions that led to Angela’s death, for not working with Chalky’s reasonable requests for retribution.
In the end, Jimmy came to Nucky unarmed like a man on trial; as a disgraced soldier who had turned on his captain. He arrived to accept his judgment with honor. Richard understood this, which is why he didn’t follow Jimmy. Jimmy was not setting off to battle Nucky, he was there to learn his sentence. Nucky shooting Jimmy? That shows strength in Nucky. Strength on one level that Nucky has elevated himself from wise man to wise guy. He’s in the game, not just pulling the strings. He proved himself an unwavering killer and he has to be just that in order to survive the life he’s immersed himself in. On another level, it was honorable of Nucky to execute Jimmy himself. Remember on Game of Thrones how the unerringly honorable Ned Stark believes he should be the executioner of men who commit crimes on his land? Jimmy admitted guilt, re-paid his debt & it was in Nucky’s hands whether or not to forgive, which is why I love Nucky’s final line to Jimmy: I am not seeking forgiveness.
This is why Nucky didn’t kill Eli, not because he was more loyal to his blood brother than his ward, Nucky would have killed Eli. I believe Nucky would kill Margaret. Nucky’s survival instinct is animalistic, it knows no bounds. Nucky didn’t kill Eli because Eli didn’t ask forgiveness. Eli connived. Eli lied. Eli sacrificed the life of a sweet dumb employee. Eli’s survival instinct matches Nucky, but Eli is starting to realize his place, to accept that Nucky is his captain and he is Nucky’s soldier. As for Manny, Nucky had no personal reason to kill Manny or deliver Manny to Jimmy and Jimmy never asked that of Nucky. He’s just another player who Nucky saw more potential in than James.
I still have issues with Michael Pitt no longer being a part of the series. I think a lot of fans are going to be distrustful of the show and a lot of people were there mostly for Pitt. Luckily we have Richard to transfer all our love onto. I hope that man is ready to be fiercely adored, though I honestly don’t know how I could love him more. I’ll soon find out.
Jimmy’s death does not take away from the phenomenal performance from Pitt in both seasons. He gave us magic and I’m so appreciative of actors like Pitt. I hope his next project satisfies us all as well as this one has. I hope we’re all able to love his next character this much, because as hard as it’s been to let go, he was an exciting man to watch. I am forever appreciative of the performers, writers and directors of this show. I’m grateful that The Sopranos was able to give birth to Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. All three shows provide constant inspiration. We are lucky they exist.