Boardwalk Empire: 10 Storylines That Were Never Resolved

HBO seems to have a never-ending list of television shows that set a new bar for what can be achieved. They seem to be constantly offering up new and unique material for their audience, and it’s rare to find an HBO show that doesn’t set the standard for all other shows on air.

One of the channel’s more unique offerings is its period crime drama, Boardwalk Empire. The series focuses on Nucky Thompson, the big cheese crime boss of Atlantic City during the Prohibition era. Although Nucky is the lead character, the cast of characters and assortment of storylines is vast, taking the audience all over the United States and spanning over a decade. It’s not a huge shock that, while Boardwalk Empire was an impressive television achievement, a few storylines were never properly resolved.

Was Gillian Ever Released From The Hospital?

Even though Gillian Darmody was a profoundly damaged and slightly deranged individual, she always seemed to land on her feet. After her son, Jimmy, was killed and Gillian found herself in a spot of trouble, she found a way out of it by killing a random stranger and passing him off as Jimmy.

Eventually, Gillian was caught; however, instead of being sent to a normal prison, she was sent to an asylum. The show left off with Gillian still in that asylum, but there was a possibility that she could have been released at some point.

What Was Gillian’s Backstory?

Gillian Darmody

After years of development with the relationship between Gillian Darmody and Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire‘s final season went to great pains to show that Nucky’s choice to hand Gillian over to the Commodore was the ultimate turning point in his life, transforming him from a cop to a criminal.

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The show was rather uninteresting about Gillian’s backstory. We know that she’s an orphan, otherwise, her childhood is left mostly in the dark. Given her importance to the entire story, shedding some light on Gillian’s journey to becoming herself would have been beneficial.

What Happened To Julia?

Richard Harrow mask

In a show that was particularly brutal and unforgiving, Richard Harrow and Julia Sagorsky’s relationship was one of the few happy spots. Of course, it’s Boardwalk Empire, so the happiness couldn’t last.

When Richard seemed like he was set up to have the kind of life and family he always wanted, he was killed. Julia was largely ignored after this point, with little attention being given to her grieving over the loss of her husband. It’s a strange portion of the storyline to overlook when considering the ultimate end of the show.

What Happened To Julia’s Father?

Once the show rid itself of Richard Harrow, it seemed to entirely forget every other character that was a part of his storyline. Of course, that includes Julia’s father, Paul. Julia’s experiences after Richard’s death are a complete mystery, but her father’s storyline was a plot thread that needed a resolution. Paul was suffering from and likely going to die from cirrhosis of the liver.

Presumably, Paul did eventually die. Regardless, some closure would have been appreciated.

How Did Tommy Even Remember Nucky?

Boardwalk Empire‘s conclusion coinciding with the end of Nucky Thompson’s life felt appropriate, and there is a kind of poetic justice to Tommy Darmody being the one to pull the trigger. It’s safe to say that he’s entitled to revenge for his father and grandmother; however, given where Tommy’s story left off before the time leap, it’s pretty fair to ask why he’s even that wrapped up in the idea of revenge against Nucky Thompson.

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Not only does Tommy have no memories of Nucky, he probably barely has any memories of his father and grandmother.

Why Did Tommy Care?


Again, given how young Tommy was when his father died and when he was taken out of the care of his grandmother, it’s pretty reasonable to ask why he’d be that invested in revenge on behalf of the Darmodys he barely knew. Understandably, he’d want to know, but being willing to murder Nucky and potentially spend the rest of his life in prison is a pretty huge risk.

Therein lies one of the many problems with the time jump. Tommy may have had life experiences in the interim that would explain his actions, but since the audience never saw them, his behavior comes out of nowhere.

What Happened In The Time Leap?

When it comes to advancing a storyline that feels a little stuck, a time jump is a plot device that a lot of writers resort to. It’s understandable because it’s a really easy way of moving things forward without having to write the story that makes that advancement happen.

When it comes to a tale as vast and epic as Boardwalk Empire, cutting out seven years worth of plot leaves a whole lot of questions. Unfortunately, as the final season of Boardwalk Empire progressed, it became readily evident those questions were going to remain permanently unanswered.

What Happened To Everyone Else?

Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire

Another obvious issue with writing a time jump is that it skips over a great deal of character development. It’s certainly convenient for the writers because taking the storyline so far into the future provides the perfect opportunity to leave behind any characters they would rather disregard.

That said, the mere fact there is an excuse to leave certain characters behind doesn’t magically erase them from the narrative or resolve all of the plot threads that hadn’t been concluded.

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How Did Nucky Become The Leader?

Nucky sitting in a chair on Boardwalk Empire

Another significant gap in Boardwalk Empire is Nucky’s transition from town sheriff to Atlantic City’s crime boss. Yes, the series showed it’s audience how Nucky transitioned from a generally decent person into someone who would hand over a child to a predator to advance his status.

Nevertheless, Boardwalk Empire never showed how Nucky went from the Commodore’s protege to his superior. The Commodore was alive at the beginning of the series when Nucky was already at the top, and there didn’t seem to be any reason why he would have ceded his crime boss throne to Nucky.

What Happened To Nucky’s Empire Afterwards?

Boardwalk Empire chronicled Nucky Thompson’s experiences as the king of the Atlantic City boardwalk. Given the dramatic nature of Nucky’s death, it’s easy to see why the writers just left the series off with Nucky gasping out his last breath on the boardwalk that he coveted.

Nucky’s abrupt death clearly would have left a power vacuum in the Atlantic City crime scene, and it would have been interesting to learn what happened after his demise. Yes, the story was about Nucky, but the show evolved to be about so much more.

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