Episode Review: Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale

  • Publish Date: December 12, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 9 user comments

Boardwalk Empire, Episode 212: "To the Lost"
Original airdate: December 11, 2011 on HBO

Spoiler warning: This page contains descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Boardwalk Empire's game-changing season 2 finale ended with a major character (and most critics' favorite character and actor on the show) dead, a gutsy move by showrunner Terence Winter but one that leaves many people wondering what the series will be like when its third season arrives next fall. Despite bemoaning the loss of a beloved character, however, most critics greatly enjoyed last night's finale. A sampling of their reviews is below; click on any publication name to read the full article.

Liked it The Atlantic Wire / Richard Lawson
it was a thrilling way to end an already plenty exciting season. We'll miss Michael Pitt's tortured Jimmy, but his character had basically run his tragic course and this was a fittingly grim and final way to say goodbye to him.
Liked it A.V. Club / Noel Murray
I want to take a moment to stand back and admire "To The Lost" for the crisply written, beautifully shot, superbly acted and—most importantly—brilliantly edited hour of television that it was. [Grade: A-]
Liked it Entertainment Weekly / Lanford Beard
This episode was very likely Michael Pitt's finest hour. From his haggard hollowness during the meet-up with Nucky to the simple, sorrowful moment when Jimmy took little Tommy for a horse ride and, finally, his unflinching statement, "I died back in the trenches," Pitt was brilliant tonight.
Liked it HitFix / Alan Sepinwall
Well, that was not at all what I expected. And several days after seeing it, I'm still processing exactly how I feel about it. I respect the hell out of it; I'm just not sure it's what I wanted. ... [But]if we're judging "To the Last" just as an episode, and also as the conclusion to this season, then it was terrific. If anything, Jimmy's death gives this whole season much greater weight.
Liked it IGN / Matt Fowler
But even though I'm a bit confused about the killing of the show's second lead, it was still very well done. [Grade: 8.5/10]
Liked it Newsday / Verne Gay
I expected a very different finale last night, and am not entirely pleased with what we got.
Liked it Screen Rant / Kevin Yeoman
Given the events of the last two episodes, the finale 'To the Lost' had a lot to live up to, and it dutifully and eloquently delivered the end to what has been a masterful season.
Liked it Slate / June Thomas
I've had my issues with Boardwalk Empire—six weeks ago I called the show "thoroughly inessential"—but, as so often happens on premium cable, the final two episodes of the season were spectacular. And the final twist was absolutely brilliant—one of the best y'all come back nows I've ever seen. ... I can’t think of a smarter season-finale cliffhanger.
Liked it Time / James Poniewozik
I can just say with you: Holy crap almighty, they actually did that. ... OK, I'll venture an initial thought, which I reserve the right to change: it feels like Boardwalk Empire just aired an excellent series finale. It just happened to do it, very likely, several seasons before the show will actually have to conclude.
Liked it TV Fanatic / Teresa L
Unfortunately, this episode was not the best representation of the drama as a whole. For the most part, there were no surprises. Yes, Jimmy's death was shocking, but it wasn't unexpected... not even for Jimmy. [Grade: 4/5]
Liked it TV Overmind / Kevin Fitzpatrick
"To the Lost" doesn't move quite as quickly as last week's "Under God's Power She Flourishes," but offers up one hell of a game-changing finale that will undoubtedly go down in TV history for its shocking character death.
Liked it Variety / Brian Lowry
Pity the season finale of "Boardwalk Empire." The penultimate episode was so good, the payoff -- while still outstanding -- felt like a bit of a letdown by comparison.

In addition to the above reviews, both Alan Sepinwall (at HitFix) and James Hibberd (at Entertainment Weekly) have interviews with Terence Winter about the finale.

What do you think?

What did you think of last night's episode, and of the entire second season? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (9)

  • MarcDoyle  

    I think it was an extremely effective finale, but, like many critics, I thought James (Pitt) was the most interesting/compelling character on the show. I can't imagine how things go on without him. So sure, Boardwalk Empire did what Sons of Anarchy wouldn't do (kill off a central character), but can it survive? I hope so. Perhaps his wounded warrior friend will rise in prominence and take over. Incidentally, I thought James' last words were powerful - that he died in the Trenches and really didn't fear the "true" death. And finally showing Thompson's true character by his pulling the trigger without difficulty was chilling.

  • pirs  

    To the lost.

  • MrAvery  

    "Jimmy" may be dead, but you have to realize who they left alive, Jimmy's partner Richard, the sniper. Curious to know his role now!!

  • sandysue  

    I love Boardwalk Empire! But I was in total shock last night, when Jimmy was killed. I think Michael Pitt was perfect for the role. I do not like the fact that the Jimmy character is no longer a part of the show.

  • RichieBoy  

    This was beyond television. 'To The Lost' is the finest written and most exquisitely shot piece of film art since the finest moments of 'The Godfather.'
    With both hands in the Francis Ford cinema jar, Micheal Pitt established himself as one of our best screen actors. In addition, the entire production was flawless.
    This episode was not an easy trick to orchestrate. Most attempts at American Shakespearean morality sagas fall short.
    This hour hit a home screen bullseye rarely struck with such devout power.
    My instincts had been telling me that the character of Richard Harald would take a center stage position sooner as opposed to later. His creation can shine next season along with the continued brilliant work of Micheal Shannan's Van Alden..
    Bravo to all involved.

  • itsmejoshwilson  

    The reviewer from Time Magazine said it well. I enjoyed this entire season, but they just killed off the best character in the show (even the killing was predictable and anticlimatic). The only intriguing characters left are Richard, and Chalky White (aka Omar from the Wire). The show was incredibly boring in the 1st season until Jimmy and Richard became more involved. I have a feeling that next season will be very boring.

  • outsidein  

    Tele-opera's finest The first season of the tele-opera Boardwalk Empire promised much and delivered a bit less in its tragic tale of prohibition boss Nucky Thompson. The second season can be compared to the best season of the Sopranos, the first. It was operatic in the best sense of the word - boasting a novelistic style, utilizing many fine actors, whole sub plots wriggling underneath the main story, and an ultimately brave approach to story resolution.

    Too many highlights shine - the sparkling scripts, the A list performances, the brilliant editing, the ability to shock within the story, the amazing resolution - all of these make this series the best dramatic television series on air today - and one of the best ever aired. For me, Michael Shannon and Steve Buscemi deserve special mention - the first, for being the most demonic religious figure ever shown on television and the other for being a credible, unscrupulous villain you can just about relate to.


  • LordJulian  

    First of its just an amazing series. I cant wait every week for the next episode.
    The ending was well little sad actually even if Jimmy new it and did not even try stopping it.
    But Nuk had earlier told that he was both mother and father for that kid. You atleast he could had killed MAnny from Philly who killed Jimmys wife. Wife killer dont deserve to live in the mob wifes are not to be touched, And Eli that pus.. he was the one that mad Jimmy say yes to try killing NUk, but Nuk belived him over Jimmy.
    Then its that ok we are used to that in all american series and movies but series special, the main characters never die so thats sort of good and make it intersting.'But I really thought Nuk loved Jimmy but I was like Jimmy said just guilt and duty not love. And Jimmy wel said it him self died in WW1 But he played a good character and I liked the friendship with him and AL Capone alot it was awsome. But great series best since Sopranos and MArried with Children hehe

    Rip to the great character of Jimmy D

    Hope Manny get whats should be coming to a wife murderer like him.

  • uz45  

    You destroyed the only character who wasn't a caricature. You developped his life, his feelings, his dark history, and then, you kill him. What for ? To prove that nucky is awfully bad ? To shock the audience ? Well, you succeed. Now, I'm gonna stop watching this show, and I'm really sad because it could have been a real masterpiece. Bitterness and anger.

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