HBO’s Prohibition-era drama “Boardwalk Empire” aired its season-four finale tonight, called “Farewell Daddy Blues.” Since the show has been renewed, creator Terence Winter didn’t have to worry about wrapping up his story just in case.
But one never likes secrets to come out early.
Told that some writers had published “spoilers” after seeing a clip from episode, Winter says to Zap2it, “They didn’t realize that Nucky’s actually a werewolf, did they? That didn’t come out?”
While main character Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a mover-and-shaker behind the scenes and beyond the law in Atlantic City, N.J., is not going anywhere, Winter did throw a bomb last week into the life of Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol). She’s evolved from sexually abused teenager to mistress, showgirl and single mother, then through incest and murder to become a madam of a failing bordello.
Hope came in the person of a visiting business executive (Ron Livingston) — who seemed willing to marry Gillian and take her away from Atlantic City — until he turned out to be an undercover detective looking to trap Gillian into confessing to the murder of a young man she lured back to her house.
“The good thing about this storyline for me was,” says Winter, “people went into the season absolutely despising this character, and a lot of people said, ‘I actually felt sorry for her at the end of it.” I felt like we did our jobs as writers, because we wanted to paint a much fuller picture of who this woman was and what her backstory was.
“Obviously she’s done despicable things, but when you hear the tragic circumstances of her life, it is tinged with a little sadness. This is actually a horribly broken person who has done despicable things, including murdering an innocent young man.
“But it really made it a little more poignant for people when she got her comeuppance.”
If you come to “Boardwalk” looking for lovable characters, you may not have found any this season, but Winter is fine with that.
“I don’t know that we have one or that there necessarily needs to be one,” he says. “This is a show about monstrous people in a lot of ways. It’s a show about greed and ambition and corruption. Very often even the people who do start out to be nice get corrupted.”
Ultimately, it’s that unholy alliance of money, politics and corruption that interests Winter the most.
“It’s an exploration of that time in our history,” he says, “really the formation of modern America, and how something that can start out as sincerely and truthfully as Prohibition — and there was a need for Prohibition — gets turned into something completely different because of corruption and because of people wanting to circumvent the law.
“Prohibition was the single event that made organized crime possible, that made millionaires out of criminals overnight. If you trace back the roots of it, there was a real need for the law, in a lot of ways. It was just a doomed experiment from the beginning.
“The show isn’t necessarily an exploration of good people. It’s an exploration of how even good people can turn bad, and how some people were bad to begin with.”
As for season five, Winter says, “We’re going to take a bit of a break, and we’re going to get back together in the third week of December to start dipping our toes into the water of season five. We’ll get together in earnest after the New Year, on Jan. 6th or so, we’re going to get back together in the writers room.
“We’re going to start shooting again in late March.”
In the meantime, Winter is looking forward to the Dec. 4 premiere of “Mob City,” TNT’s drama about organized crime and policing in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
“I’m curious to see it,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the genre. The mob story is something as legitimate as the Western and the romantic comedy in terms of cinema and TV. I can’t wait to watch it.”