“Boardwalk Empire” finished its second season Sunday evening with a twist that, in a world where shocking cable show finales (and even midseason finales) are almost an expected norm, has viewers up in arms.
(Please, I beg of you, do not read on if you have not seen the episode and plan to. Many spoilers are below.)
Jimmy Darmody is dead.
Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) shot his surrogate son and former protégé, ending the troubled life of a major character who, despite all the murders he committed, was well-liked by viewers. (I mean, people want his haircut and everything!) Jimmy’s shocking demise is not sitting well with some of the show’s fans, who are declaring in comments sections across the Web that they will not tune in for season three. It’s easy to see why they’re upset.
In the season’s penultimate episode, we finally learned why Jimmy left Princeton, where he was actually excelling academically, to enlist to fight in the first World War: he slept with his mother. It explained a whole lot about his character and left the door open for many different plot trajectories in season three. But alas.
Seth Colter Walls writing for Vulture feels these fans’ pain: “It’s somewhat frustrating to have Jimmy removed from the show so soon after he became intelligible as a character — though it’s also the case that he didn’t have many paths left to pursue.”
The Atlantic Wire’s Richard Lawson agreed with Walls’s latter statement, that Jimmy’s time was up: “We'll miss Michael Pitt's tortured Jimmy, but his character had basically run his tragic course and this was a fittingly grim and final way to say goodbye to him.”
I see this point. Jimmy betrayed Nucky in a way Nucky couldn’t let stand. But while it’s true that Jimmy didn’t have much joie de vivre, he did have a son who is now 100 percent orphaned. (Jimmy’s wife Angela was murdered.) It seems that Jimmy knew Nucky was going to kill him, but he went along with it. Was he really that lost?
“Boardwalk” creator Terence Winter told The New York Times that Jimmy’s death was necessary to turn Nucky from “half a gangster into being a full gangster.” Winter said he didn’t fully commit to killing Jimmy until he wrote episode nine and also considered killing off Nucky’s brother, Eli. In this context, Jimmy’s death makes sense. (Although, I’m sure a lot of fans would have preferred to see the sheriff’s death over Jimmy’s.)
For his part, Pitt is (publicly) okay with his character’s death, telling Entertainment Weekly, “As much as I will miss working with everyone on this incredible project, I thought that it would be very shocking and I’m always drawn to that.” (The commenters on that site strongly disagree.)
So “Empire” fans, what did you think of Jimmy’s demise? Will you tune in to see a post-Jimmy show, or will you abandon the “Boardwalk” forever? Vote in our poll and weigh in with a comment.