"Golden Days for Boys and Girls" is the first episode of the fifth season of Boardwalk Empire, and the 49th episode overall. It was written by Executive Producer Howard Korder and directed by Executive Producer Tim Van Patten. It first aired on September 7, 2014 and drew 2.37 million US viewers.
Season 5 opens in 1931 with Nucky in Cuba, where he presses a U.S. senator on the likelihood of Prohibition's repeal and eyes a future business deal with a rum magnate. Meanwhile, Margaret witnesses a casualty of the Great Depression on Wall Street; Luciano makes a bold career move; Chalky catches a break to get out of a bad situation; and in a flashback to 1884, a young Nucky makes an impression on the Commodore.
(Minor spoilers within, as the seven-year gap between seasons of “Boardwalk Empire” means that some of its historical characters have passed on.)
The world of 1931 is vastly different from 1924, when the roaring twenties were in full swing and fatcats like Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) were getting rich off of prohibition. Cut to seven years later, and the party’s over. The Great Depression has decimated the country and the landscape has totally changed. Nucky Thompson is now operating in Cuba, laying the groundwork to go legitimate as the end of prohibition approaches. Alongside Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette), Nucky meets with a U.S. Senator to forge ties with the Cuban company behind Bacardi Rum.
Meanwhile, since “Boardwalk Empire” and its creators choose not to toy with history the way Quentin Tarantino did with “Inglorious Basterds,” Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) is out of the picture (murdered in 1928 after failing to pay a large debt resulting from a fixed poker game). Pour one out for A.R., but in the wake of his death, his protégés, Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) —now estranged from each other— are trying to make up that lost ground.
Knowing an opportunity when he sees one, Lansky conveniently turns up in Cuba to meet Nucky. Meanwhile, Luciano turns his back on former boss Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi), selling him out to rival Italian gangs, having him killed and swearing allegiance to the opposing team.
The only other familiar character in this episode —aside from a brief cameo from Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), Nucky’s estranged wife who feels the effects of the depression when her boss kills himself in front his entire staff— is the african american gangster Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams). When we last saw Chalky, he had just survived an assassination attempt by his nemesis Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) which claimed the life of his mentor. Cut to seven years later, and Chalky is doing the convict shuffle; working on a chain gang, imprisoned for some crime or another, and is beaten and abused by his guards. When a prison riot starts on a work release trip, Chalky seizes the moment and escapes, with another convict by his side. Where they are going is presently unknown.
But “Golden Days For Boys & Girls” is marked by the past, figuratively. As Nucky lays out his post-Prohibition plan in Cuba, the slow-moving episode spends much of its time in his head, flashing back to his childhood when he first met the Commodore (now played by John Ellison Conlee). With only seven episodes to go, it’s frustrating to watch “Boardwalk Empire” leisurely go down memory lane in prequel-like fashion when there are so many unanswered questions.
Many major characters are still missing: Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon), Nucky’s brother Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham), Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and Chalky White’s bête noir Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright). Given the massive jump in time and truncated nature of the final season, it would be understandable if some of characters would be written out of the show —especially Narcisse, who was only introduced last season— but they’ll all be back. How and where and under what context? What’s the state of their lives now? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out.
I’ve been a longtime supporter of “Boardwalk Empire,” but my patience is beginning to run out. With only eight episodes this season, many were expecting a dash for the finish line, but the seven-year jump forces the show to reorient itself to a new beginning. Nucky’s remembrances feels a little navelgazey, almost as if the showrunners are feeling nostalgic for everything they’ve accomplished, rather than getting the new narrative in gear.
Perhaps it’ll pick up, but as a first episode of the final season, anyone who’s griped about the pace of the show’s narrative won’t find much reprieve here. On the flipside, Terence Winter and his writers are evidently sticking to their guns no matter what. Empires always fall, as will Nucky Thompson’s reign, but how and when? “Boardwalk Empire” hasn’t even introduced the central conflict that will take us there.
- Salvatore Maranzano - new Boss of New York.
- Mr. Bennett - Committing suicide.
- Joe Masseria - Shot by Benjamin Siegel and Tonino Sandrelli.
- unknown numbers of prisoners and guards
- Unnamed Meyer Lansky's hitman.
- Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson
- Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Thompson
- Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden / George Mueller (credit only)
- Shea Whigham as Elias "Eli" Thompson (credit only)
- Stephen Graham as Al Capone (credit only)
- Vincent Piazza as Salvatore Charlie "Lucky" Luciano
- Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White
- Paul Sparks as Mickey Doyle (credit only)
- Jeffrey Wright as Valentin Narcisse (credit only)
- Ben Rosenfield as Willie Thompson (credit only)
- and Gretchen Mol as Gillian Darmody (credit only)
- Patricia Arquette as Sally Wheet
- Anatol Yusef as Meyer Lansky
- Ian Hart as Ethan Thompson, 1884
- Chris Caldovino as Tonino Sandrelli
- Ivo Nandi as Joe Masseria
- Boris McGiver as Sheriff Peter Lindsay, 1884
- Michael Zegen as Bugsy Siegel
- John Ellison Conlee as Commodore Louis Kaestner, 1884
- Erin Dilly as Elenore Thompson, 1884
- Giampiero Judica as Salvatore Maranzano
- Patch Darragh as Mr. Bennett
- Paul Calderon as Arquimedes
- John C. Vennema as Lawrence Conors
- Danny McCarthy as Pat Halligan, 1884
- Nolan Lyons as Enoch Thompson, 1884
- Oakes Fegley as Elias Thompson, 1884
- Marcus Anturri as Jim Neary, 1884
- Onata Aprile as Susan Thompson, 1884
- Roberta Colindrez as a Cuban prostitute
- Roberto De Felice as Gerardo Scarpato
- Michael De Nola as a Maranzano Gangster
- James Engel as an Atlantic City Tourist, 1884
- RJ Fattori as a Street urchin, 1884
- Jorge Ferragut as Rogelio, the waiter
- Lee Godart as Maxime Ronis
- Olli Haaskivi as Conor's Assistant
- Brian Haley as the Lead Guard
- Joseph Huffman as a Stock Broker
- Eliud Kauffman as a Cuban Army Captain
- Elisha Lawson as a Chain Gang Prisoner
- Rachel McPhee as Lady in Wagon, 1884
- Warner Miller as Milton, prisoner
- Juan Mirt as a Cuban business child
- Valentino Musumeci as an Atlantic City urchin, 1884
- Julia Osborne as an Atlantic City Tourist, 1884
- Donald Paul as a Chain Gang Prisoner
- Sarah Shankman as Alice, Margaret’s co-worker
- Michael Siberry as Senator Wendell Lloyd
- John Talalas as a Chain Gang Boss
- Laura E. Taylor as an Atlantic City Tourist, 1884
- Daniel Wolfe as a Chain Gang Guard
- Maxwell Zener as a Havana Tourist, at the protest
- Jonah Young as a Chain Gang Guard
- Bree Branker as a dancer
- Lou Brockman as a dancer
- Eva Carrozza as a dancer
- Heather Gehring as a dancer
- Natalia Lepore Hagan as a dancer
- Stephen Hanna as a dancer
- Melana Lloyd as a dancer
- Manuel Rojas as a dancer
- Jeffrey C. Sousa as a dancer
- Ian Klein as a dancer
- "Golden Days for Boys and Girls" on HBO.com
- Boardwalk Empire Season 5 on Wikipedia
- "Golden Days for Boys and Girls" on IMDb
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