Christopher T. Saunders/HBO

Nucky suffers astronomical losses from his war with Charlie "Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lansky, but will he redeem himself by next week's series finale?

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October 20, 2014 at 02:01 AM EDT

Gillian has committed plenty of despicable acts over the years, from incest to murder, but between the flashbacks and this last-ditch effort letter, at least now we have a better understanding of how that one decision made by Nucky in 1897 changed everything. By choosing to boost his career rather than help a lonely little girl, Nucky—and Nucky alone—was the catalyst for Gillian’s self-destruction. That harrowing final shot of her 13-year-old self on the boardwalk, in her ruffled pink and white dress, asking, “Please help me” is all we need to forget her years of manipulation, greed, and fantasy worlds. She’s got our sympathy now, but it might be too late. The letter concludes with a terrifying shadow approaching Gillian at the asylum: Will Nucky come to her rescue before Dr. Cotton begins removing her organs, “piece by piece”?


–Anyone else interested in a Benny “Bugsy” Siegel spin-off? Michael Zegen demonstrated the results of his Vincent Piazza-level patience this week, stealing every single scene he was in. He single-handedly renewed interest in the old 1931 double entendre tune “My Girl’s Pussy” (you know it has to be the spin-off’s theme song), and showed that you can be an adulterous, murderous gangster while still observing traditional Jewish customs like kissing the mezuzah on the doorpost (both before and after shtupping his friend Morris’ wife) and promising to be home in time to celebrate Lag b’Omer.

–Piazza’s Luciano reclining in a barber’s chair early on in the episode was a nice little throwback to another Prohibition-era gangster classic, The Untouchables.

–For the first time in the history of the series, Boardwalk utilized vintage black and white photographs to drive home the deadly nature of the era it’s been dramatizing for the past five seasons. The episode’s opening montage of U.S. Attorney Robert Hodge (Willie’s boss) delivering a sobering radio address about the criminal gang wars terrorizing the country is augmented by these real-life 83-year-old documents, which, interestingly enough, are much more chilling than much of the full-color makeup and CGI magic 2014-era HBO can provide.

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Steve Buscemi stars in HBO’s sprawling Prohibition drama set in Atlantic City.
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