Season two of Boardwalk Empire ended with a controversial bang Sunday night. (Warning: Spoilers lie ahead.) In the final moments of HBO's '20s-era crime drama, Atlantic City gangster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) ruthlessly shot and killed his former protégé, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt). Not only was Darmody one of the show's most prominent characters, but he was also one of the most popular. Boardwalk fans flooded Twitter with dismay following the shocking death, some vowing never to tune in again. Many critics maintain that the "mind-blowing" twist made for one of the most captivating hours of TV this season. But was that worth killing off a fan favorite for?
This episode was brilliant: Not only was this a "game-changing finale," says Kevin Fitzpatrick at TV Overmind, but it's an episode that "will undoubtedly go down in TV history." Jimmy's death was that shocking. "I must have sat in disbelief for a solid twenty minutes" afterward. But in hindsight, it's clear this had to happen. Jimmy "made his bed with his season-long betrayal of Nucky." Most other shows would have given Jimmy a last-second reprieve in order to keep the character around. The audacity to follow through with the logical story line, at the risk of alienating fans, elevates Boardwalk Empire to "the boldest of TV series."
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And proof that HBO is the bravest network on TV: Jimmy's death marked the second time in a year that an HBO drama dared kill off a main character, says Tim Molloy at The Wrap, after Ned Stark was famously beheaded during season one of Game of Thrones. If nothing else, HBO deserves kudos for allowing its shows the creative freedom "to get away with this kind of thing."
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But it doesn't bode well for the show's future: This was a "thrilling conclusion to an uneven season," says Louis Peitzman at TV.com. But it failed to make up for a "meandering, unfocused" season bogged down by too many characters and an overly complicated web of plots. Killing Jimmy "wowed me," but it also gave me "serious reservations about what's next." Of all the show's many, many characters, Jimmy was the one I actually latched on to. Great television isn't all about "jaw-dropping moments." It's also about keeping viewers excited about what's to come. "Given season two's unevenness, I'm not incredibly eager to see what that is."
"Boardwalk Empire: A thrilling conclusion to an uneven season"
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