"A Return to Normalcy" is the twelfth episode of the first season of Boardwalk Empire, and the season finale. It is the twelfth episode of the series overall. It was written by series creator and executive producer Terence Winter and directed by executive producer Tim Van Patten. It originally aired on December 5, 2010.
Agent Van Alden has requested a transfer out of Atlantic City, although his supervisor asks him to reconsider. The Commodore's maid admits she tried to poison him because of his mistreatment. Nucky lets her leave Atlantic City quietly over the protests of the Commodore. Nucky is increasingly stressed about the election, which the Democrats stand a good chance of winning. Chalky White offers to deliver the black vote for $10,000, a new car, and an invitation to the (whites only) Election Night victory party.
Margaret and the children are staying with Nan Britton, who insists that Warren Harding will send for her when he becomes President. Margaret does not have the heart to tell her otherwise, but is preoccupied with taking care of the children and deciding whether to leave Atlantic City.
Rothstein is about to leave for Chicago to escape an indictment for fixing the 1919 World Series when Lucky Luciano and Lansky suggest setting up a meeting with Nucky to end the war. At a meeting brokered by Johnny Torrio, Nucky agrees to end the war and use his political connections to quash the indictment for $1 million in cash and the location of the D'Alessio brothers. As Nucky calls a press conference blaming the D'Alessio's for the robbery of Rothstein's shipment, Jimmy, Richard Harrow, and Al Capone murder the gang.
Margaret discovers Nucky had a son who died shortly after childbirth. After talking with him, she becomes convinced he is kind at heart. Jimmy describes his life in the trenches to Angela, and the two agree to go back to the happier times before the war. However, when she receives a postcard from Paris, she cuts her long hair that Jimmy was so fond of, disappointing him. Van Alden, who vowed to leave Atlantic City unless he received a sign from God, learns from Lucy that she is pregnant.
On election night, Bader is elected. His first decision as Mayor is to reinstate Eli as sheriff, as per Nucky's wishes and to Halloran's visible disappointment. Spoiling the celebration, a drunken Jimmy confronts Nucky, accusing him of pimping out his mother to the Commodore. At the Election night party, Margaret and Nucky reunite before Harding wins the Presidential election, while at his mansion, the Commodore reveals to Jimmy his plan to dethrone Nucky with the help of Eli.
The end montage shows the characters contemplating their decisions and futures. Margaret and Nucky leave the celebration and stand out on the boardwalk, gazing out towards the ocean as the sun rises.
A detailed recap of the episode scene by scene.
- Ignacious D'Alessio - Shot by Richard Harrow under orders of Nucky Thompson.
- Pius D'Alessio - Shot by Richard Harrow under orders of Nucky Thompson.
- Sixtus D'Alessio - Shot by Al Capone under orders of Nucky Thompson.
- Leo D'Alessio - Throat cut by Jimmy Darmody under orders of Nucky Thompson.
- An unidentified bootlegger - Shot by Lucky Luciano to steal his cargo.
- George Wilson - "El Capitan" plays as Chalky tells Nucky he's been approached by the Democrats.
- Art Hickman's orchestra - "Along the Way Damascus" plays as Jimmy tells Angela he's sorry and that he wants to go back to the way they were.
- Ehud Asherie - "A Ragtime Nightmare" plays as Torrio arranges a meeting with Nucky and Rothstein.
- Gypsy Queen - "At A Georgia Camp Meeting" plays as Torrio arranges a meeting with Nucky and Rothstein, Margaret arrives and asks Nucky about his son.
- Gypsy Queen - "My Wild Irish Rose" plays as Margaret arrives and asks Nucky about his son.
- Belgian Band Organ - "My Old Kentucky Home" plays as Margaret arrives and asks Nucky about his son.
- Gypsy Queen - "Over the River and Through the Woods" plays as Margaret arrives and asks Nucky about his son.
- Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks - "D'Alessio Drums" plays as Nucky and Rothstein makes peace, Nucky holds a press conference, the D'Alessio Brothers are assassinated.
- Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks - "Stars and Stripes Forever" plays as election day is held and Nucky greets the voters on the Boardwalk.
- Alice Green & Harry McDonough - "They Didn't Believe Me" plays as Jimmy comes home, Sees Angela's shorn hair, she tells him his father called.
- Henry Davies - "Back Again" plays as Jimmy broods while the Republican supporters party, Eddie announces Rothstein won't be indicted, Eli tells Nucky there are consequences to his actions.
- Original Dixieland Jazz Band - "At the Jazz Band Ball" plays as Jimmy confronts Nucky about his mother.
- Neapolitan Trio - "Idyll" plays as Margaret and Nan eat the barmbrack cake, Margaret gets the rag.
- Victor Herbert and His Orchestra - "Naughty Marietta Selection" plays as the Commodore tells JImmy he's going to help him take back control of Atlantic City.
- Victor Herbert and His Orchestra - "Jubel Overture" plays as The Commodore tells Jimmy he's going to help him take back control of Atlantic City, Eli enters.
- Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks - "Ostrich Walk" plays as the election night party ensues, Margaret comes to see Nucky.
- Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks - "Tada" plays as the news of Harding's victory is heard over the radio.
- Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks featuring Stephen DeRosa - "Life's a Funny Proposition After All" sung by Eddie Cantor as Nucky and Margaret look out over the water, the King and Queen of Atlantic City.
- Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks - "Rose Room" played during the end credits.
The season finale rose two tenths of a point a 1.3 adults 18–49 rating, and added about 300,000 viewers vs. last week. "A Return to Normalcy" had a viewership of 3.294 million.
IGN gave the episode a score of 8.5. The website said, "As Harding's victory speech calls for a return to normalcy, despite Margaret back in his life, Nucky is poised to return to anything but. 'Everyone of us must decide how much sin we can live with.' The amount Nucky has chosen for himself threatens to bite him in the ass, despite the episode's 'happy' ending. For Boardwalk to raise the bar it's already placed quite high, this consequence thing will have to get more play in a second season. For the only thing that can be better than Nucky getting away 'fast, [and] totally devoid of any emotion' is watching him squirm when there are no clean getaways."
- "A Return to Normalcy" at HBO.com
- "A Return to Normalcy" at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
- "A Return to Normalcy" at TV.com
- "A Return to Normalcy" at Wikipedia
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