How the dramatic time shift will affect the acclaimed HBO drama
Note: There will also be history-related spoilers below.
Fans of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire already unsettled by the news that the upcoming season will be the show’s last might not be too thrilled to learn that it will also be jumping forward by a full seven years. In an interview with Den of Geek, Michael K. Williams, who plays Chalky White, says that Season 5 will take place in 1931: “The Depression has set in. The days of the shiny shoes and fancy suits are long gone.”
When we last saw Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and the rest of the gang, Atlantic City had been turned upside down by Eli Thompson’s cooperation with the FBI, the war between Chalky and Dr. Valentin Narcisse and the all-out war in Chicago. Seven years is a long time to allow that dust to settle, but if the real-life history provides any guiding light, there may be even more turmoil in 1931 than there was in 1924.
The real-life Enoch Johnson was facing even more intense prosecutorial scrutiny by 1931, though he wouldn’t be convicted and imprisoned for another decade. Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) died in 1928, so if Williams is correct and the show does skip seven years ahead, that will have happened off-camera. 1931 was also the year that Al Capone (Stephen Graham) was convicted of tax evasion, meaning fans wouldn’t see much of his reign as Chicago’s most powerful crime boss beginning in 1924 (though it’s possible that Michael Shannon’s Nelson Van Alden could play a role in his demise).
Though the show will certainly be missing some important events from its seven-year jump, it also allows showrunner Terrence Winter to jump right to the final days of Genovese crime boss Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi), who was assassinated in 1931 as part of a power-grab by one-time ally Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza). Oh, and prohibition will be just two years away from its demise in 1933.
Of course, it’s hard to know exactly what form the alleged time-jump will take place, but as Williams pointed out, the Atlantic City of the Depression Era was a very different one from the Roaring Twenties. One of the series’ defining characteristics has been its ability to deftly balance the era’s opulence with the show’s grittier subject matter. On the other hand, Winters and Co. have certainly earned viewers’ trust over the course of the Boardwalk Empire‘s first four seasons — there’s little reason to believe the show won’t find similar success in a new decade and its final season.